We had the opportunity to watch a Pied Harrier grow up and acquire his adult plumage in our refuge. We spotted two Pied Harriers in our place, often perched on the bamboo fence. One of them had a string on its leg. We called it Tali, for the famous beach in Batangas and because Tali means string. Because of the string, we could easily identify it each time it showed up. Tali stayed in the refuge for almost a year.
Please disregard the date on the first three photos!
This is Tali when we first saw him in August 2017. He’s having a scuffle with a crow.
This is in September 2017. He is brown all over.
The string is clearly visible.
No photos from November and December 2017.
Then surprise! When we saw him again in January 2018, he had a lot of black markings on his face and back!
He’s definitely a male Pied Harrier! This is in February 2018.
This is Tali in March 2018. The photo has an orange cast from the sunset.
This is July 2018, the last month we saw him. His head looks completely black.
Still in July 2018, with the black extending further down his chest.
He looks like a different bird! But because of the string, we know it’s still him. It’s Tali!
August was a great month to be at the refuge. We hired people to remove the aroma growing near the cottage. We planted Amugis trees and Leea shrubs. Tonji used the grass cutter to clear the hagonoy that took over the picnic lot after my failed Hagonoy Eradication Project No. 1. We saw lots of butterflies. We started construction on a new and improved horse bathing area and we are converting the old bathing area into storage areas. I’m going to have a super cute garden shed! And most exciting of all, we had two new birds for our Bird List!
Bird # 99
Coleto Sarcops calvus
Tonji was on the phone when he saw two Coletos fly into the clump of trees in front of the cottage. They stayed for a minute, flew to the Aratiles next to the round pen, then disappeared.
Coletos are forest birds. Their habitat is described as forest, forest edge, and clearings. The pink around their eyes is bare skin! It is a Philippine endemic. We see them most frequently up north in Subic, Zambales.
Bird # 100
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca
No picture! Just a sketch and a story! Tonji was driving the car through the mango farm when he saw two adults and a chick crossing in front of him. They would go into the sides of the path and then emerge closer to him! We looked for them on our way home, but they didn’t show up. The next week we returned for a day trip so we could spend time looking for these birds. I think I saw the head of one pop out from the corner of the path as we were about to drive to a new spot. So, maybe I saw our 100th bird.
This bird is described in the Kennedy guide as uncommon. Ok, it really isn’t that common. In 2011, we drove to more than a hundred kilometers just to see this bird. The Kennedy guide also says it is crepuscular and solitary. Perhaps it behaves differently during breeding season.
We welcomed the arrival of the fast-flying migrants that eat up all the flies that multiplied during the rainy season.
We had breeding birds. We saw this family while we were waiting for the Ruddy-breasted Crake.
The new stalks of amor seco are too fine to support even a small bird like this Scaly-breasted Munia. So it grabbed onto 3 stalks of the grass with one foot so it can feast on the seeds! This red grass is the source of those sharp seeds that stick on pants, fur, and paws. The Chestnut Munias we so fun to watch that I thought I might be ok with some amor seco weeds near the house just so I could watch the munias some more. Tonji had other ideas. A few hours after I took this photo, he brought out the tractor and mowed down all the amor seco growing in front of the cottage!
On the trees
These were some of the regulars in the trees near the cottage. Two Yellow-vented Bulbuls sharing a tree with two Pink-necked Green Pigeons.
Black-naped Orioles are all over the place, even in the rain. It was a very rainy July.
Island Collared Dove. We keep our eyes out for these guys. They are becoming scarce in other areas of the country due to hunting. The ones in our place are favoring the mango trees now even if we didn’t have much of a mango season this year. Tonji has plans to make the mango area even more attractive for wildlife.
In the sky
Black-crowned Night Herons are common birds that roost in colonies. We usually just see one bird flying by.
The migratory season has begun! This is a flock of egrets, most likely Intermediate Egrets. This group did not stop over. They are probably looking for a nice fishpond or rice field.
I have this fantasy of seeing a rare migrant on the grass in front of the cottage! That would be something!
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!