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!

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!

New bird photo records and nice trees too!

UPDATE: The bird in the photo that I identified as immature Philippine Hawk Cuckoo is a Rusty Breasted Cuckoo! That’s a new bird for our farm!

It’s time to go birding again! We used to have so much fun traveling all over the Philippines looking for birds. Our favorite birding site is of course, this place of ours! After being away for three months because of the lockdown, it was reassuring to see that the old regular birds are still there. It seems like there are even more birds now.

We used to hear Philippine Hawk Cuckoos calling in the distance. It was on our list as “h.o.” or “heard only”. This time we saw two of them in the cluster of trees right in front of the cottage and I was able to photograph a juvenile perched on a tree. It’s still h.o. for us.

It has a really distinctive and loud call that can be heard in this video.

Philippine Hawk Cuckoo calling from the trees in front of the cottage.

We had a new bird for the farm! This is an immature Rusty Breasted Cuckoo. It was perched quietly on a tree. Bird #102 for the farm list!

Philippine Hawk Cuckoo immature
I thought this was a juvenile Philippine Hawk Cuckoo, it’s a Rusty Breasted Cuckoo

There was also a Stripe Headed Rhabdornis checking out the nesting box in that same cluster of trees. It was my first time to photograph this bird at our refuge.

Stripe Headed Rhabdornis checking out the nesting box

Another view of the Rhabdornis.

Stripe Headed Rhabdornis and Yellow Vented Bulbuls in a tree
Rhabdornis with Yellow Vented Bulbuls

I had a great encounter with a Philippine Collared Dove in our mango area. It was perched on a low branch and didn’t fly away even if I was standing near it with the three dogs! It either didn’t notice us or didn’t mind that we were there!

Philippine Collared Dove

This Black Naped Monarch is on a fruiting Bangkal Nauclea orientalis that we planted some years ago.

Black Naped Monarch in a fruiting Bangkal tree

This Pied Bushchat was giving me the evil eye!

Pied Bushchat male
Pied Bushchat male and female
Mr and Mrs Pied Bushchat

And then we had plant surprises! This Mangkono Xanthostemon vedugonianus is flowering! We planted it in 2019 and it is still tiny, but flowering!

Mangkono tree flowering
selfie time!
Mangkono tree with red flowers

Another plant surprise was this row of Binayuyu Antidesma ghaesembilla that was planted by the birds! The BIRDS! We planted a lot of Talisay along this strip. This was also where Tonji made a swale to slow down the flow of water so it would have time to be absorbed by the soil. I also cleared a lot of hagonoy from this area that were choking the trees we planted. Somehow, I failed to notice that there was a row of Binayuyu that we did not plant growing in between the Talisay!

Talisay and Binayuyu trees

The young trees are in flower. They are very noticeable now! I was told that Binayuyu has male and female flowers. These might be male flowers. We noticed young trees like this all over the refuge. The Binayuyu fruits are a favorite of the birds. Birds, thanks for planting more trees!

Binayuyu, male flowers
Binayuyu inflorescence

3 Months Later…

We are back at the farm! The Covid-19 quarantine kept us away for more than three months. It felt so good to be back! The farm never fails to surprise us with new things.

Tonji was walking around when he smelt a beautiful fragrance. It was coming from this tree! This is Flueggea virosa. It is a shrub or small tree that will eventually have white waxy fruits! It is known in other countries as a medicinal plant. According to this website , extracts from the bark are lethal to mice. Our caretakers call this small tree Suliak Daga. Not sure if that means lethal to mice.

What is that wonderful scent?

It’s hard to imagine that back in September 2019 this shrub looked very pitiful and was full of hard brown galls. What a pleasant surprise to see it bounce back from its previous gall-ridden state!

This is what it looked like in September 2019. Galls are caused by insects or a virus.

One of the first things I did when I got to the farm was check the seedlings in the nursery. I was very pleasantly surprised to see so many of them were ready to be planted outside.

In June 2019 I planted 18 Taluto seeds that I got from Cel Tungol. I even sketched them. The Taluto seeds were tiny.

It was just a seed in June 2019

One year later in June 2020 we planted 16 Taluto that were almost as tall as me!

June 2020

This is a low weedy plant growing by the path to the cottage. Even this little plant has a surprise! From the top it is all stiff angles and thorns.

But when you lift it up it has dainty white flowers growing on the underside! This plant is called Canthium pedunculare.

Our trip to the farm coincided with Momo’s birthday. Momo turned 11! Happy birthday Momo!

It was so good to be back, walk around, and discover the surprises that await us.

We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.

Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind, 17.8