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

Morning Walk with Momo and Barkley and Ducks

I love to start my mornings at our little sanctuary with a morning walk. It’s one of my favorite things! I cannot go without the essentials — a camera, binoculars, Momo, and Barkley.

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What a good dog! Momo is great at sticking close to me!

 

Our morning walks are a little bit different now that we have 7 ponds scattered around the property. When we had only 4 ponds, we could easily bypass the two areas that had ponds. The new ponds are harder to bypass.

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No ducks in this pond! Barkley is staring at the water and wondering if he’s going to go for a swim.

During our walks, I try not to disturb any of the wildlife. But at the same time, I am hoping that the wildlife are getting used to our peaceful, unaggressive presence. We’ve been to a few spots in the Philippines where the birds are decidedly more approachable and less wary of people than in the rest of the country. We are doing what we can so that the same thing happens in our place!

We hope the ducks become more relaxed and at home now that they have more ponds to choose from. It is looking promising so far. When the ducks do get disturbed, we noticed that they now silently fly off. They are no longer calling out in alarm for minutes. More importantly, more of them circle back to the ponds.  The next stage in improving their habitat is finding and planting grass or grains that they like to eat.

We are also seeing the ducks in the paths! This is new behavior. I am very glad and relieved to say that Momo and Barkley did not chase the ducks. Whew. I think they were just as surprised as I was to see the ducks on the path. Or maybe my voice control works. I was whisper-shouting “Stop! Stop!”.

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They didn’t chase the ducks!

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circling around

This week Tonji was at the veranda when he saw two ducks fly in and almost land in front of the house. They swerved away when they saw him! Could it be that when we’re not at home, the ducks are there? I hope that the wildlife feel that our home is their home!

 

 

 

 

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!