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.
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.
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!”.
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!
Some birds aren’t that scared of people and will hang out near the house. Like this cute little maya or Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
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.
What would happen if Barkley entered the horse paddock? Would they attack Barkley?
Ha! Barkley didn’t even feel threatened.
They are no match for Barkley and just leave him to do his thing in the paddock.
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.
And then the other day I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was the crow really standing ON Takoy’s back?
Yes, he was! And Takoy wasn’t bothered at all!
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!
When I get frustrated with drawing birds, there’s always Barkley! You can always count on him to take a nice nap during the day. And look really cute while he’s doing it.
Barkley sleeping and sunbathing
Unlike those birds! When I see a bird perched nicely, I grab my sketching gear! Sometimes, the bird is gone by the time I’ve pulled out my sketchbook and pencil. If the bird stays in the area, then it’s a very intense few minutes of looking through the binoculars or scope and sketching and painting.
At the end, I’m always surprised when I look at my sketchbook and see how few bird sketches I’ve made. It always feels like I drew a lot!
Some things were lost, some things were gained, and much was learned.
We went on overseas trips in March and May, in addition to many local birding trips throughout the rest of the year. As a result, I didn’t get to spend as much time on the farm as the previous year. We did mostly 1-day trips to the farm/sanctuary. My hagonoy eradication project fell by the wayside. On the plus side, I learned how to do less housework type chores during my short visits to the farm and more fun things like walking around with Momo and Barkley.
In July we had two harvests of mangoes! They were absolutely delicious! We offered some of the first harvest for sale and they were gone in a flash. The next harvest, we gave away to family and friends. People were eager to eat our all natural, un-sprayed, pesticide-free mangoes! Our mangoes stayed greenish on the outside but became very sweet and orange on the inside. People told us the fragrance and sweetness of our mangoes reminded them of the mangoes of their childhood.
We treated ourselves to some very cool tools and gadgets in 2016! We got a scope for birdwatching from the veranda, a digger for making more wildlife ponds, and a wildlife camera for observing the wildlife as unobtrusively as possible.
March 2016, when Tonji was figuring out how the little digger works! This is Pond No. 4 under construction.