A Tale of Seabirds and Sanctuary

In the heart of the ocean lies a sanctuary, the Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP), where the rhythm of life plays out in the dance of seabirds. Every year, as March arrives, the sanctuary awakens to the arrival of two majestic species, the Black-naped Tern (BNT) and the Bridled Tern (BT), announcing the beginning of a remarkable spectacle.

As the days pass, the air fills with the gentle cries of these seabirds, their numbers steadily growing until they reach their crescendo in July, guided by the wisdom of seasoned park stewards. Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of limestone islands, the ARNP becomes a bustling haven for these elegant creatures, their wings weaving stories of life and renewal.

In the quiet corners of Tinangkapan, echoes of life emerge through the lens of a camera, capturing precious moments of BNT and BT chicks taking their first steps into the world. These snapshots, immortalized in 2018 and 2021, offer a glimpse into the sacred bond between these birds and their ancestral home. Yet, before the dawn of regular surveys, the secrets of the terns remained hidden, their eggs and juveniles merely whispers in the wind, unnoticed by all but a few. It wasn’t until 2022 that the truth emerged, as diligent observers counted the highest numbers of these seabirds within the sanctuary’s protected zones.

Amidst the tranquility of July 2022, a chorus of life resounded across Apo Main Island and Tinangkapan, as 260 BNT eggs and 75 juveniles graced the shores, accompanied by the delicate presence of 13 BT eggs and 11 juveniles. Each sighting, a testament to the resilience of life amidst the waves.

            But the journey didn’t end there. In 2023, a new chapter unfolded, as four species of seabirds graced the skies, with the BT soaring highest at 1,417, followed by the BNT at 764. Mixed flocks painted the skies, their wings casting shadows upon the islets of Binanggaan, Tinangkapan, and Apo Island.

Yet, amidst the beauty, shadows loomed on the horizon. Illegal intrusions threatened the sanctuary’s fragile balance, reminding all of the delicate dance between protection and preservation.

As the pages turned, new characters emerged, from the elegant Barn Swallow to the majestic Pied Imperial Pigeon, each adding their verse to the symphony of life. Yet, amidst the familiar, whispers of the unknown echoed through the winds, as the Long-toed Stint and Eurasian Curlew made their debut on the island stage.

But amidst the chaos, a beacon of hope emerged. The Philippine Megapode and Mantanani Scops Owl, guardians of the sanctuary, stood as symbols of resilience in the face of adversity, reminding all that amidst the storms, a sanctuary awaits, where life flourishes and dreams take flight.”

Image Gallery

Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis), male
Black-naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana)_Apo Reef Natural Park (2)_BNatural
Black-naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana)_Apo Reef Natural Park_BNatural
Blue-tailed Bee-eater_BNatural
Chestnut-cheeked Starling (Agropsar philippensis), female_Apo Reef Natural Park_BNatural
Grey-faced Buzzard_BNatural
Mantanani Scops Owl DGTabaranza