The Fruits of a Summer’s Labor

This year Tonji spent 21 days building ponds. He started building in February to give himself enough time to get a few ponds in before the start of the rainy season in June. He would have continued building even longer except that we were not able to go the the farm regularly for two months.

The first pond he built was Pond No. 5. It was slow-going and took him 9 days to complete because the area was wet and sticky. In March, we got an unexpected day rainy day and were thrilled to see puddles forming at the bottom of the pond!

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March – Pond No. 5 being inspected by Momo and Barkley

When the real rains came around in June, the pond got filled up half way! It takes a lot of rain to make all the soil settle down and form a waterproof layer that will hold water.

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June – Pond No. half full!

It was nice to see the pond fill up with water, but had the wildlife discovered the ponds yet? Were the Philippine Ducks using it? Did they know that they now had seven ponds at their disposal? We inspected the pond for signs of life. We found lots of small feathers around the pond edge!

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June – signs of life!

This month we’ve resumed our regular farm visits and are thrilled with the results from the pond building! We’ve been having the most amazing views of Philippine Ducks!

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If you look closely, you can see water drops on the duck’s chest. They probably came from the pond!

I also had a wish fulfilled. I was finally able to take the photo I’ve been dreaming of — a Philippine Duck standing by one of our ponds!

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Pond No. 5

And even better, there were TWO of them! There may have been more ducks in Pond No. 5, but we didn’t want to disturb them by going closer. So all of us including Momo and Barkley walked away quietly and left the ducks to enjoy their pond.

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Two Philippine Ducks at Pond No. 5

That same morning we inspected Pond No. 7 and seven Philippine Ducks flew out of the pond. This pond took ten days to build.

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Pond No. 7

The smallest of the three new ponds is Pond No. 6. It took only two days to build and we’ve also seen ducks in it!
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It is so gratifying and encouraging to see our projects working! It’s a thrill to be able to share our space with wildlife.

Owl Pellet Project

Owl pellets are pretty fascinating. They are not poop.

Owl pellets are the hard, undigested bits from an owl’s meal that are regurgitated in the form of a pellet. Things like bones and fur that cannot be digested are formed into a pellet in the gizzard. The owl has to cough out this pellet before it can eat again.

They are also not that easy to find at the farm. We have managed to stumble across a total of TWO owl pellets at the sanctuary. Franco found the first one in July 2015 on the ledge of the round pen. We were excited to see an owl pellet!  We didn’t really know what to do with it, so we picked it up, broke it apart, and scattered the bits on the ground.

In the US and other countries, they let school children dissect owl pellets as a science activity. I never did anything like that as a child! Too bad I threw away the pellet, at the very least, I could have saved it. I didn’t know that later that year, one my biologist friends would ask me for owl pellets for her college students who were writing a paper on owls!

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owl pellet from July 2015

I also didn’t know that it would be three years until I stumbled across an owl pellet again!

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owl pellet collected on 11 April 2018

The second owl pellet was found by Momo and Barkley in the middle of the path, near the bamboo fence where we sometimes see Grass Owls perched.  There were feathers scattered on the ground.

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owl feathers

This time, I bagged the pellet and took it home for further study.   I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity to do my very own owl pellet project!

Step 1 – Observe and take notes

This pellet was large, oblong-shaped, and covered in fur. There were also long hairs that looked like whiskers. It clearly contained the remains of a rat or mouse.

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Step 2 – Prepare

Owl pellets can contain bacteria and parasites.  They can be sterilized by soaking in disinfectant or baking in an oven. I decided to bake the pellet. I wrapped it in two layers of foil and baked at 325F for 30 minutes.

I wanted to make sure the bones inside the pellet didn’t break. I soaked it in water to soften so I could easily remove the bones.

Step 3 Separating the bits

The sterilized, wet pellet smelled very strongly of urine. The fur was especially smelly. I wanted to save bit of the fur, but the smell was too strong and overpowering. It might have been better to soak the pellet in disinfectant after baking it

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It felt like the stench was stuck in my nose for days!
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Why is the tooth red?

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Step 4 Reassemble

Next I grouped the bones by shape and glued them on a sheet of paper that I placed inside a box. I put the tiny bits and bone fragments in a small plastic bag.

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And here’s the finished owl pellet project!

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Crows in the House and on the Horse!

Some birds aren’t that scared of people and will hang out near the house. Like this cute little maya or Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

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And then there are crows. I confess that I used to sit around thinking of schemes to get rid of the crows. Crows have a bad reputation. They eat other birds. They steal eggs from nests. Other birds mob them and try to drive them away. They are associated with witches and bad omens.

They are also very intelligent birds. They are part of the corvid family. There are studies that show corvids using all kinds of tools, remembering the faces of researchers at a university and then attacking them when they saw them in the campus, and solving complicated problems such as dropping pebbles into a container of water so they can get a sip of water just like the Aesop’s fable!

Now that I’m not scared of them or trying to drive them away, I can just watch them.

There’s a murder of crows that hangs out at the horse house.

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What would happen if Barkley entered the horse paddock? Would they attack Barkley?

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Ha! Barkley didn’t even feel threatened.

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They are no match for Barkley and just leave him to do his thing in the paddock.

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I thought it was so nifty when I saw a crow drinking from the horses’ water trough. I ran back to the house so I could take a photo.

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And then the other day I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was the crow really standing ON Takoy’s back?

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Yes, he was! And Takoy wasn’t bothered at all!

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The crow stayed there for a long time. What was going on? Was he going to groom Takoy? Get a bug from Takoy’s back like those Oxpeckers and Rhinoceros in Africa? Walk behind Takoy waiting for him to unearth bugs from the grass like a Cattle Egret and carabao? Grab some feed from Takoy’s bucket? I didn’t see anything like that, the crow just flew away. But who knows what I’ll see next time!

 

 

 

Farm Bird List as of March 2018

These are all the species we have seen at the sanctuary over the years, with notes on recent sightings.

 

Common Name Scientific Name Notes on recent sightings
1 Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
2 Philippine Duck Anas luzonica had our highest count in January, 23 birds at one time
3 King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis
4 Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
5 Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was common in 2017
6 Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax not common, first seen in August 2017
7 Striated Heron Butorides striata
8 Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus
9 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
10 Purple Heron Ardea purpurea there’s one individual in the picnic area
11 Great Egret Ardea alba
12 Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia there was one very close to the cottage in March, might have gotten blown in with the strong wind
13 Little Egret Egretta garzetta
14 Philippine Serpent Eagle Spilornis holospilus
15 Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis
16 Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos  Tali and Laiya!
17 Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  seen frequently
18 Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus
19 Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis moved to picnic area, no longer near cottage
20 Plain Bush-hen Amaurornis olivacea  hear them a lot
21 White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
22 Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca not common, first seen in August 2017
23 Spotted Buttonquail Turnix ocellatus
24 Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator
25 Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala
26 Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
27 Rock Dove Columba livia
28 Island Collared Dove Streptopelia bitorquata good views of them perched on a wire on our access road
29 Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
30 Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis  seen frequently
31 Philippine Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia tenuirostris  February, 2 birds
32 Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica  still haven’t taken a photo
33 Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
34 Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans they seem to be more common now
35 Philippine Green Pigeon Treron axillaris first seen in August 2017
36 Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis at the mango farm, on top of the trees
37 Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis at the picnic area and F.A.
38 Rough-crested Malkoha Dasylophus superciliosus February at the sampaloc tree when it was fruiting
39 Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus heard only
40 Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx pectoralis
41 Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris  seen frequently
42 Philippine Scops Owl Otus megalotis  heard only
43 Philippine Nightjar Caprimulgus manillensis  they used to be on the access road only, now near cottage also
44 Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis
45 Grey-rumped Swiftlet Collocalia marginata
46 Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
47 Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda first seen in September 2017 when we had my cousins over! I didn’t see it!
48 White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
49 Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris seen frequently
50 Indigo-banded Kingfisher Ceyx cyanopectus
51 Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus seen frequently
52 Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
53 Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus
54 Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
55 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
56 Philippine Hanging Parrot/Colasisi Loriculus philippensis
57 Philippine Pitta Erythropitta erythrogaster  haven’t been hearing them
58 Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida   haven’t been hearing them
59 Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea  seen frequently
60 White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus seen frequently
61 Pied Triller Lalage nigra  not near the cottage
62 Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus  seen frequently
63 Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach  seen frequently
64 Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis  seen frequently
65 Philippine Pied Fantail Rhipidura nigritorquis   seen frequently
66 Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea  takes effort to see
67 Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos  seen frequently
68 Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
69 Yellow-wattled Bulbul Pycnonotus urostictus
70 Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier seen frequently
71 Philippine Bulbul Hypsipetes philippinus seen more frequently and closer to the cottage than before, I think there are more of them now
72 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
73 Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
74 Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata
75 Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus
76 Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas
77 Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus not common, first seen in August 2017
78 Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris  seen frequently
79 Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis
80 Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis
81 Grey-backed Tailorbird Orthotomus derbianus
82 Lowland White-eye Zosterops meyeni
83 Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis
84 Stripe-headed Rhabdornis Rhabdornis mystacalis
85 Philippine Magpie-Robin Copsychus mindanensis  
86 White-browed Shama Copsychus luzoniensis heard at cement bridge
87 Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra
88 Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope
89 Pied Bush Chat Saxicola caprata  seen frequently
90 Red-keeled Flowerpecker Dicaeum australe
91 Pygmy Flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum
92 Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis seen frequently in groups in the flowering madre de cacao
93 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus  seen frequently
94 Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
95 White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra not common, first seen in August 2017
96 Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla  seen frequently
97 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
98 Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus