Flags and Tables

This year we are trying to be more organized and systematic with our tree planting and seedling production. We enjoy buying trees and seeds a lot and hope to do better at taking care of and keeping track of all the things we’ve bought and planted.

There’s an excellent guide to reforestation called “How to Plant a Forest: The Principles and Practice of Restoring Tropical Forests” by Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University. We hope to incorporate many of the practices mentioned in that guide at our project. The guidebook used to be available on their website as a free download. Their website doesn’t seem to be working anymore, so I’ve put a downloadable copy here!

This was available as a free download from the FORRU website, but I can’t find the link anymore. Click on the link above to download.

According to the guidebook, these are essential features of a tree nursery:

  • shaded area with benches for seed germination, protected from seed predators by wire mesh
  • shaded area for potted seedlings, with removable shade for hardening
  • work area for seed preparation
  • reliable water supply
  • lockable storage for materials and tools
  • fence to keep out stray animals
  • shelter and toilet for staff and visitors

We converted an old unused piggery that the previous land owners built into a new nursery.

On the right side is the lockable area for tools and equipment, the left side is the work area and storage area of potting mix materials
The tables are incredibly heavy!

The tables are a great improvement! The seedlings are now easy to see and organize. In our old nursery, the seedling bags were on bare ground. The roots of some seedlings would go through the bag and into the ground! It is hard to extricate the seedlings from the ground once this happens.

There are a lot of nursery practices described in the book that we want to incorporate into our nursery. Things like keeping better records, how to harden off the seedlings before planting them, and using root trainers.

According to the guide, these are the basic steps in tree planting:

  • Stake out the area where you will plant the seedlings. Mark the spots with a 50 cm stake. Space the seedlings randomly or 1.8 meters apart.
  • Distribute the seedlings among the people planting. Use baskets to carry the seedlings.
  • Dig the planting hole using a hoe. The hole should be 2x the volume of the container. Clear the weeds in a 50 to 100 cm diameter circle around the planting hole.
  • Remove the seedling from the bag making sure to keep the root ball intact. Slash the bag if necessary.
  • Plant the seedling. Make sure the root collar is level witht he soil surface. Fill in with loose soil. Press down with the palm of the hand to make it firm.
  • Add fertilizer.
  • Cover with mulch.
  • Water the seedling.
  • Replace the stake.
  • Clean up the site and remove the plastic bags.
Bamboo stake and flag made of and old blanket and yarn.
Using vermicast as fertilizer. Forgot to put the wood chip mulch on top!

The bamboo stakes and flags make it much easier to see where the seedlings are planted. This will help a lot in keeping track of the newly planted seedlings. Another option to making flags is to paint stripes on the stakes.

These simple improvements have made something that was already fun even better!

White Eared Brown Doves

I was ready to write off any chances of taking pictures of birds. We were at the refuge with all our photography gear, but I thought that our chances of taking pictures of birds were slim since we were very preoccupied by Lulu, the new addition to our family!

lulu the very cute australian cattle dog puppy
Hello Lulu!

It turns out we had a fun bird photography session after all! We got our first photos and great views of White Eared Brown Dove in our place! I first saw this species in our place in December 2016 in the mango area. I didn’t have a camera at the time. I remember feeling very excited to see it since it’s a bird that is usually found in the forest. It’s a good sign for us to see more forest birds instead of the usual garden birds.

There were two White Eared Brown Doves in the round pen. They were eating the fruits of the Lantana shrub. During the previous week, the Pink Necked Green Pigeons eating the Lantana fruits. I never realized before that Lantana was so popular with birds! I know the flowers attract butterflies, good to know that the birds like it too. In the US they spend a lot of money to remove from pastures it because it is invasive and is toxic to cattle. It is native to Central and South America.

There was also a Spotted Dove that visited the round pen. It’s what first caught my eye and made me check the round pen. When we first saw it, the White Eared Brown was mostly hidden inside the tangles of the shrub. Later on it came out more in the open and then was joined by a second White Eared Brown Dove.

The first bird stayed in the round pen for a long time. It has a visible bald patch on its back. looks like it is molting.

white eared brown dove eating lantana fruit

What a treat to take take pictures without even leaving the veranda. We got to watch the new dog and the new birds at the same time!

Fabulous Firsts in February!

All these amazing this happened this month!

First photo of a Philippine Duck swimming in one of our ponds!

Philippine Duck swimming in a small pond
Philippine Duck

I’ve taken lots of photos of Philippine Ducks. This one is a first and very special to me because I’ve been dreaming of taking this shot ever since we made our first pond! We know we have Philippine Ducks and we know they use the ponds. We have photos and videos from the wildlife camera of Philippine Ducks swimming in our ponds. I’ve been dreaming of taking my own photograph of one of the ducks while it’s in the water.

In this particular pond, you can stand on the path, peer through the weeds, and check to water for birds. I was so excited when I saw a duck swimming! I tried to move slowly and quietly so I wouldn’t alert the duck or the dogs. Haha, the dogs had no idea that there was a duck close by! I also had to manually focus the camera because of all the weeds.

First time for our Malabulak trees to have lots of flowers!


Malabulak trees in a row Bombax ceiba
The ones with flowers are only 3 meters and 4 meters tall

In 2017 one of our Malabulak trees produced a bud, but the bud didn’t turn into a flower. In 2018 we had a few buds and flowers. This year we have lots of flowers on several trees. These trees attract a lot of birds when they are in flower. We haven’t seen any birds on ours yet, maybe because our trees are not very tall yet.

Malabulak flower

First time to see the flower of the Alibangbang tree!

Here’s the long-awaited flower!



We have lots of Alibangbang trees growing wild in our refuge. They produce seeds and sprout all over the place. Yet I never saw a flower. I wanted to see a flower because this would confirm the ID of the tree. I was assuming that the trees we have are Bauhinia malabrica, the native version of Bauhinia. The Bauhinia that is usually found in urban settings is the imported, non-native version Bauhinia purpurea that has big purple flowers. It is a popular ornamental plant. The native Bauhinia has small, yellow flowers. In 2018 I was able to definitely confirm the ID of the tree. It was a bit anti-climactic though because all I saw were unopened buds.

First time to see a Grey-Faced Buzzard Butastur indicus in the refuge!

Grey faced buzzard in flight
Bird # 101 Grey-Faced Buzzard

We now have 101 species on our refuge bird list! This bird is a migrant. I was standing on the veranda of the cottage when I saw it flying by. I hope that it uses our place as a stopover!

We still have two weeks left in February. I’m looking forward to what the next two weeks bring!

Birds Having a Picnic

What a relief! One of the fields that I messed up before has been restored! In 2015 I removed the big clumps of hagonoy that were growing in the picnic lot. The next year the lot was completely covered in small hagonoy plants. They came back with a vengeance!

I was very sad to see the picnic lot in such bad shape. It looked worse than before I did my weed removal efforts. Good thing we have another hagonoy removal weapon in our arsenal! The tractor! I noticed that when Tonji makes a path through a field of hagonoy, the path itself stays remarkably free of hagonoy! Grass and other things sprout on the path, but not hagonoy!

In 2018 Tonji cleared the picnic lot using the tractor. Immediately after, it looked so much better. There was grass and a nice variety of legumes and other plants that sprouted. And best of all, the Philippine Collared Doves seem to like it! They used to hang out on the other side of the field, near the bamboo fence. This time I saw them foraging on the restored area of the picnic lot!

6 Philippine Collared Doves and 1 Red Turtle Dove
Here they are looking more relaxed

They really seem to like the area. Momo, Barkley, and I watched them from across the picnic lot. Then we went on our morning walk. On our way back, they were still there! When I decided to double back and take more pictures, they simply flew up into a nearby tree. It looked like they had plans to do more foraging.

One Philippine Collared Dove perched on a Madre de Cacao. The rest are concealed in the native alibangbang tree on the right.

Now I know what to do and what not to do when trying to removing hagonoy. It’s so nice to be able to create habitat that the birds can use.

And here is a Purple Heron that was also in the area!