March 2021

Missed the entire February and did not visit the refuge at all.

March is hot, as expected. But still windy! We are trying to keep all the young trees going until rainy season. We have more than 150 Toog trees in the nursery ready to be planted during rainy season.

The birds are loud! We could hear Koels calling from different parts of the refuge. How many are there? It sounded like a lot! We also heard a Hawk Cuckoo near the cottage.

The birds also looked bigger somehow! Perhaps I’ve been away too long and have gotten used to small urban garden birds. Or I’m out of practice. On my usual walk around with the dogs, I would see a movement and think –what is that??

This Lesser Coucal that walked across the path made me think — is that a mammal? No, it’s a bird skulking stealthily into the bushes!

These Island Collared Doves looked huge!

Island Collared Dove Streptopelia bitorquata

This Scaly Breasted Munia looked regular sized. It was nice though to have one approach closely.

Chestnut Munia
Scaly Breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata perched on a Malabulak

I was also very relieved to see two Philippine Ducks! We did not see any Philippine Ducks in January and it made us wonder if something bad happened to them. Did they get shot? We saw two of them flying out from the grass. When we see them walking in the grass and flying low over the grass, it makes us think that maybe, hopefully there is a nest in the grass and they are breeding in our refuge!

Philippine Duck Anas luzonica in flight

Tara, one of our horses passed away in February. It was sad to see the mound of stones in the paddock where she was buried.

Visiting Tara’s grave

Right now there is a lockdown and we are stuck in Metro Manila. The time spent days looking at birds and trees and wondering about the next new bird we will spot at the refuge is a wonderful gift. I am grateful!

looking for birds with Momo

January 2021

It was nice to get back to the refuge after more than a month of being away! The cold wind was blowing and the trees were growing!

We bought two Bagawak Morado trees in October 2019. One died and the other two are flowering! This one is beside the pump house of the swimming pool. The other one is near the nursery. The one near the nursery was reduced to a stump when it got eaten by an insect, but managed to grow back and flower.

I missed the flowers of the Alibangbang (Bauhinina malabarica). The trees are now full of immature seed pods. I plan to collect them when the seeds are ripe so I can share with other people who want to plant this native tree. The Alibangbang tree that is usually planted in subdivisions is Hong Kong Bauhina, the one with showy pink flowers.

It can get tall! How can I collect all those pods?

Our Tibig tree near the old cement bridge is covered in fruits. It doesn’t seem that popular with the birds though. There was a mucuna species of vine, most likely Mucuna pruriens growing near it. At first glance Ithought it was a Jade vine! One of our birthday trees flowered for the first time, Sterculia rubiginosa. We bought that tree in 2014. We planted Bayag Usa in July 2020 and it is flowering already!

These are Bignay wildings from the trees in our Alabang house. I collected most of them from a very neglected plant box that’s on top of the water pump housing. The soil in that plant box used to be very hard and dry. During the lockdown, I put a lot of dry leaves on top of the soil, planted some Lemon Lime Philodendron cuttings, and watered the plant box frequently. I was happy to find so manyBignay wildings growing in the plant box! Unlike the ones I harvested and planted straight from the fruit. Very few of those germinated. Maybe just one or two!

Bignay wildings collected from the garden in Alabang

This is the plant box where I collected most of the Bignay seedlings. There are more of them growing!

Doggie Diary

This is my illustration project starring Momo, Barkley, and Lulu!

June – We are building a new pond in the picnic area. Each time we start a pond, we have hopes of it being bigger than the previous ponds. There’s a lot of space for a big pond, but is there enough time to dig before rainy season starts?

watercolor of Momo in a hat and overalls driving a backhoe
June 2020 – Let’s build this pond!

July – One of the Mangkono seedlings we planted last year has a flower! This is at the planting area near the old bridge. The seedling is still very small. From afar it looked like a rose!

watercolor of Lulu in a dress admiring a small mangkono seedling that is flowering
July 2020 – Lulu admiring the Mangkono flower

August – We went inside the “foresty” part of the refuge to look for ferns! I painted Barkley holding scissors instead of a digging tool! We all had a lot of fun exploring the area and admiring the plants growing by the rocks.

watercolor of Barkley in overalls holding pruning scissors inside a forest with ferns
August 2020 – Not the scissors Barkley!

September – Barkley in the lead, Momo at the rear, Lulu in the middle. More often nowadays Barkley will skip the walk to go swimming instead! Momo still enjoys going for walks. He smells so many interesting things in the grass! I think he can smell the spots where the bigger birds like ducks and rails were hanging out.

watercolor of Momo, Barkely, and Lulu walking through a field of grass
September 2020 – The pack walk

New Bird for Us!

We had a lifer at the farm! This was our first time to see a bird at the farm that was not yet in our life list. We saw a Slaty-legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides as we were driving home. Good thing we stop for birds! We could see the bird bathing in a puddle in the middle of the road. The light was against us, so we couldn’t see too many details. Tonji saw by the shape of the bill that it looked like something interesting. He told me to grab my camera from the backseat and take pictures! I was able to pop through the sun roof (it’s really a bird photography roof) and take pictures of it. After it finished bathing in the puddle, it ran into area with the mango trees!

Slaty-legged Crake

Slaty-legged Crake bathing in a puddle
Slaty-legged Crake looking wet and bedraggled

The weird thing is that we already saw this bird at the farm a few years ago but for some reason that we can no longer remember we decided not to put it in our list. Maybe it was because we didn’t have a photo of the bird. Now it is officially and truly in our list! This is Bird #529 for our Philippine bird list and Bird #103 for the farm.

I finally got up close to the Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers and was able to take lots of photos!. Tonji set up his tripod and big lens in front of the aratiles trees. There we so many Red-keeled there and they didn’t seem to mind us at all. There were a lot of young Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers.

We had our first Brown Shrike for the season. Brown Shrikes are migratory birds and birders like to keep track of when they first arrive in an area.

Brown Shrike on the paddock fence

We are having cooler weather and rain at the refuge. There are a lot of vines, trees, and weeds fruiting and blooming this month.

Black Naped Oriole perched beside Susong Kalabaw fruit

White Throated Kingfisher on a Banaba tree

Tagpo

Ruellia tuberosa – host plant for the Pansy butterflies according to Trinket

Another fun visit to the refuge!