WHILE everybody is listening to how Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez is grilled and denied confirmation by the Commission on Appointments in the national capital, an unassuming brown heron makes its appearance for bird photographers on the slopes of Mt. Talomo in Davao City.

This appearance was enough to shake the world birding community and focus is placed on Mt. Talomo, which for avid birders is a haven.

In their two-day watch alone, they were able to record 31 species, including the very rare Japanese Night Heron (Gorsachiusgoisagi). From the very common Eurasian Tree Sparrow or mayang simbahan (Passer montanus), Asian Glossy Starling or kalansyang (Aplonispanayensis), Olive-backed Sunbird or tamsi (Cinnyrisjugularis), and Yellow-vented Bulbul or pirok-pirok (Pycnonotusgoiavier), they also recorded: Zebra Dove (Geopeliastriata), Philippine Coucal (Centropusviridi), Little Bronze Cuckoo (Chrysococcyxminutillus), Glossy Swiftlet (Collocaliaesculenta), Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphuschloris), Coppersmith Barbet (Psilopogonhaemacephalus), Guaiabero (Bolbopsittacuslunulatus), White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamusleucorynchus), Philippine Pied Fantail (Rhipiduranigritorquis), Large-billed Crow (Corvusmacrorhynchos), Philippine Bulbul (Hypsipetesphilippinus), Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapagriseisticta), Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeumaustrale), Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeumtrigonostigma), Philippine Honey Buzzard (Perniscelebensis), Grey-faced Buzzard (Butasturindicus), Purple Needletail (Hirundapuscelebensis), Mindanao Hornbill (Penelopidesaffinis), Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotusspeciosus), Mountain White-eye (Zosteropsmontanus), Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapagriseisticta), Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis (Rhabdornisinornatus), Short-tailed Starling (Aplonis minor), Coleto (Sarcopscalvus), Whiskered Flowerpecker (Dicaeumproprium), Buzzing Flowerpecker (Dicaeumhypoleucum).

For us, the urban dwellers, we may not even be aware that so many bird species can be found in our city. The problem is, Mt. Talomo has never been regarded as a critical habitat for birds. It has always been dwarfed by its giant brother Mt. Apo.

Although, while Mt. Apo is held in high regard, protection of its aves and fauna remains wanting. Much more Mt. Talomo. Thus, as Tonji Ramos of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said, when they first climbed Mt. Talomo in February 2014, there were still no houses going to, around, and past the military camp there.

On their return to photograph the Japanese Night Heron, the settlement area has already reached mid-slopes. True, it will always be a question of who or what's more important, the people or the birds, but it has been shown over and over again, that lush, biodiverse tracts of land are ultimately more beneficial to a community than unmanaged and indiscriminate tillage.

Davao City is fast growing, made faster by the popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte. Its people and leaders should ensure that the growth will not be like a runaway train, which can plough through everything that it crashes on to with total disregard. There's still time to act, but it's fast running out. We hope that somebody will heed this call and start things moving up there in the slopes of Mt. Talomo, an important watershed of Davao City.