Flags and Tables

This year we are trying to be more organized and systematic with our tree planting and seedling production. We enjoy buying trees and seeds a lot and hope to do better at taking care of and keeping track of all the things we’ve bought and planted.

There’s an excellent guide to reforestation called “How to Plant a Forest: The Principles and Practice of Restoring Tropical Forests” by Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University. We hope to incorporate many of the practices mentioned in that guide at our project. The guidebook used to be available on their website as a free download. Their website doesn’t seem to be working anymore, so I’ve put a downloadable copy here!

This was available as a free download from the FORRU website, but I can’t find the link anymore. Click on the link above to download.

According to the guidebook, these are essential features of a tree nursery:

  • shaded area with benches for seed germination, protected from seed predators by wire mesh
  • shaded area for potted seedlings, with removable shade for hardening
  • work area for seed preparation
  • reliable water supply
  • lockable storage for materials and tools
  • fence to keep out stray animals
  • shelter and toilet for staff and visitors

We converted an old unused piggery that the previous land owners built into a new nursery.

On the right side is the lockable area for tools and equipment, the left side is the work area and storage area of potting mix materials
The tables are incredibly heavy!

The tables are a great improvement! The seedlings are now easy to see and organize. In our old nursery, the seedling bags were on bare ground. The roots of some seedlings would go through the bag and into the ground! It is hard to extricate the seedlings from the ground once this happens.

There are a lot of nursery practices described in the book that we want to incorporate into our nursery. Things like keeping better records, how to harden off the seedlings before planting them, and using root trainers.

According to the guide, these are the basic steps in tree planting:

  • Stake out the area where you will plant the seedlings. Mark the spots with a 50 cm stake. Space the seedlings randomly or 1.8 meters apart.
  • Distribute the seedlings among the people planting. Use baskets to carry the seedlings.
  • Dig the planting hole using a hoe. The hole should be 2x the volume of the container. Clear the weeds in a 50 to 100 cm diameter circle around the planting hole.
  • Remove the seedling from the bag making sure to keep the root ball intact. Slash the bag if necessary.
  • Plant the seedling. Make sure the root collar is level witht he soil surface. Fill in with loose soil. Press down with the palm of the hand to make it firm.
  • Add fertilizer.
  • Cover with mulch.
  • Water the seedling.
  • Replace the stake.
  • Clean up the site and remove the plastic bags.
Bamboo stake and flag made of and old blanket and yarn.
Using vermicast as fertilizer. Forgot to put the wood chip mulch on top!

The bamboo stakes and flags make it much easier to see where the seedlings are planted. This will help a lot in keeping track of the newly planted seedlings. Another option to making flags is to paint stripes on the stakes.

These simple improvements have made something that was already fun even better!

May Flowers: Philippine Teak and Narra

After a very hot and dry April, we had May showers and flowers!

Philippine Teak flowers
Philippine Teak flowers in May 2019

This is the first year our Philippine Teak produced flowers. We received 3 wildings from Dr. Ed Gomez in August 2016. They came from the Philippine Teak tree that he planted in the back of the Marine Science Institute in UP Diliman. We kept them in the nursery for 1 year before planting them near the cottage. Two survived, one died unexpectedly. This year, one of the two surviving trees flowered for the first time!

Philippine Teak growing near our cottage, May 2019

Our Narra trees also flowered for the first time this year! Tonji is very excited about the Narra flowers. He is already imagining a corridor of yellow blooms and the grass carpeted in fallen yellow flowers.

Narra flowers, May 2019
A corridor of Narra trees

It was such a treat to see the Philippine Teak and Narra flowers after a hot and difficult summer. In March, Barkley’s eye got injured while we were at the refuge. Something small, like a seed got embedded in his right eye. He had surgery on his eye.

Barkley’s eye was already injured here. It got worse!

In April our outdoor activities ground to a halt while we tended to Barkley’s eye. It was very hot and dry at the refuge. We just did day trips without the dogs to check up on the plants, trees, and construction projects.

It’s so dry! This is what it looked like in April.

Everything dries up in April. The ponds have no water, the grass is brown, even the big clump of bamboo in the distance turns yellow. It’s such a relief when it starts to rain again in May and everything turns green again!

Green again!

White Eared Brown Doves

I was ready to write off any chances of taking pictures of birds. We were at the refuge with all our photography gear, but I thought that our chances of taking pictures of birds were slim since we were very preoccupied by Lulu, the new addition to our family!

lulu the very cute australian cattle dog puppy
Hello Lulu!

It turns out we had a fun bird photography session after all! We got our first photos and great views of White Eared Brown Dove in our place! I first saw this species in our place in December 2016 in the mango area. I didn’t have a camera at the time. I remember feeling very excited to see it since it’s a bird that is usually found in the forest. It’s a good sign for us to see more forest birds instead of the usual garden birds.

There were two White Eared Brown Doves in the round pen. They were eating the fruits of the Lantana shrub. During the previous week, the Pink Necked Green Pigeons eating the Lantana fruits. I never realized before that Lantana was so popular with birds! I know the flowers attract butterflies, good to know that the birds like it too. In the US they spend a lot of money to remove from pastures it because it is invasive and is toxic to cattle. It is native to Central and South America.

There was also a Spotted Dove that visited the round pen. It’s what first caught my eye and made me check the round pen. When we first saw it, the White Eared Brown was mostly hidden inside the tangles of the shrub. Later on it came out more in the open and then was joined by a second White Eared Brown Dove.

The first bird stayed in the round pen for a long time. It has a visible bald patch on its back. looks like it is molting.

white eared brown dove eating lantana fruit

What a treat to take take pictures without even leaving the veranda. We got to watch the new dog and the new birds at the same time!

Birds Doing New Things

Sometimes we see birds as predictable creatures of habit. They have favorite perches that they return to day after day. Their behavior becomes familiar and part of the flow of the day.

This has become a familiar early morning sight. 5 White Breasted Woodswallows perched on top of this Agoho tree.

Other times we get to witness entirely new behavior. I thought it was unusual to see a Philippine Bulbul perched on the round pen. They usually hide inside the trees. What was it doing?

This looks to me like a young Philippine Bulbul. Based on the sounds, I think there was a nest inside the aratiles and this bird is one of the young from the nest.

The Philippine Bulbul was carefully, drop by drop, picking up dew from the fence posts.


I’ve never seen other birds do that on the fence posts before.

Soon there was a second Philippine Bulbul that was also drinking water in the same manner.

Maybe they’re really thirsty? Or experimenting?

The funny thing is I had just decided to put out bowls of fresh drinking water for the birds! The evenings and mornings are still cool enough to produce dew on the ground. The rest of the day has been very hot and dry. I thought it would be a good idea to provide an extra source of water for some of the birds.

The Collared Kingfisher was one of the first birds to use the water bowls.

It took a dunk, dried shook itself dry, then perched on a tree branch.

A second Collared Kingfisher joined it on the branch. I think they first one told the second one to try the bird bath! And it did!

If only I could read bird minds! I think it’s thinking “I learned something new today. Nice bath!”.