March 2021

Missed the entire February and did not visit the refuge at all.

March is hot, as expected. But still windy! We are trying to keep all the young trees going until rainy season. We have more than 150 Toog trees in the nursery ready to be planted during rainy season.

The birds are loud! We could hear Koels calling from different parts of the refuge. How many are there? It sounded like a lot! We also heard a Hawk Cuckoo near the cottage.

The birds also looked bigger somehow! Perhaps I’ve been away too long and have gotten used to small urban garden birds. Or I’m out of practice. On my usual walk around with the dogs, I would see a movement and think –what is that??

This Lesser Coucal that walked across the path made me think — is that a mammal? No, it’s a bird skulking stealthily into the bushes!

These Island Collared Doves looked huge!

Island Collared Dove Streptopelia bitorquata

This Scaly Breasted Munia looked regular sized. It was nice though to have one approach closely.

Chestnut Munia
Scaly Breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata perched on a Malabulak

I was also very relieved to see two Philippine Ducks! We did not see any Philippine Ducks in January and it made us wonder if something bad happened to them. Did they get shot? We saw two of them flying out from the grass. When we see them walking in the grass and flying low over the grass, it makes us think that maybe, hopefully there is a nest in the grass and they are breeding in our refuge!

Philippine Duck Anas luzonica in flight

Tara, one of our horses passed away in February. It was sad to see the mound of stones in the paddock where she was buried.

Visiting Tara’s grave

Right now there is a lockdown and we are stuck in Metro Manila. The time spent days looking at birds and trees and wondering about the next new bird we will spot at the refuge is a wonderful gift. I am grateful!

looking for birds with Momo

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 birds and plants in August

One of the great things about moving back and forth between Batangas and Alabang is that whenever you visit, everything looks strikingly fresh and new again. Each time we go to the refuge, it feels like there’s something new to see, discover, observe, and document.

EDIT: We thought we had a new bird for the farm bird list. Tonji thought it was a Black-chinned Fruit Dove but now he is not so sure. We will not count it as Bird #103 because the ID seems questionable. I think it is most likely a Pink-necked Green pigeon.

We had a new bird for the farm bird list. This is a Black-chinned Fruit Dove Ptilinopus leclancheri. It’s a fairly big dove. I saw it while walking with the dogs and wasn’t able to get better photos. I thought it looked familiar, but couldn’t really place what it was. I showed the photo to Tonji about a week later when we were already back in Alabang. He said, “That’s a Black-chinned Fruit Dove, what else could it be?” Yey, bird #103 for the refuge!

a dove, backlit and with a weird pose!

Bats are a very common and plentiful in Alabang, but there were only a few of them in the refuge. We thought that we had very few bats because we didn’t have enough big trees that the bats could use as roosts. This year all of a sudden, this year we have a lot of bats! It seems that the new swimming pool brought in the bats! We see them flying over the pool and dipping into the water. Good thing we are using a copper-based, non-chlorine pool system.

We saw a Lesser Short Nosed Fruit Bat Cynopterus brachyotis roosting in a tree with an aratiles in its mouth. Tonji was cutting the grass when he spotted the bat and told he to look at it. When I saw it, I thought the fruit was a giant tooth! I was wondering if I should stop Momo from foraging for fallen aratiles fruits near the bat.

Lesser Short Nosed Fruit Bat

Our Ipil tree has flowers! This is one of the birthday trees that our daughter Monica gave us for our 49th birthdays in 2014. This was our first time to see this tree flowering. It is so cool when a tree you planted flowers and you get to collect the seeds and plant more trees! Ipil trees have big seeds that germinate well. I hope this tree produces lots of seeds!

Ipil

Tonji found a new flowering plant while cutting the grass in the paddock.

Tonji: What is this plant?
Me: Looks like talong (eggplant).
Tonji: How can it be talong, it looks like a tree!
Calls for Ambet.
Tonji: Ambet, please look at the plant. What is it?
Ambet: Tawag namin diyan talong-talongan.
Tonji: Ano??
Me (under my breath): TALONG!!

Talong-talongan

Sometimes you see birds that look “new” and you get all excited. But on closer inspection, turn out to be young birds.

Bright-capped Cisticola, immature

Or faraway young birds.

Asian Glossy Starling

Some things remain the same. Like the amount of time I spend trying taking pictures of Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers. You know when they are around because they have a distinctive call like pebbles being tapped together. When we were starting out with bird photography, a friend brought us to his mechanic’s house so we could take pictures of Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers up close and at eye level. The birds were feasting on aratiles fruit and didn’t mind us being around and taking their pictures.

Now we have our own aratiles trees and we have Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers visiting the trees. But the birds in our place do not behave like the ones in that mechanic’s house. Ours don’t stay put and are often even hard to spot. They are my bird photography nemesis. One of them, because there are others! So far this is one of my best attempts.

Red-keeled Flowerpecker

When I’m walking on our trails I tell myself “I am open to the possibility of seeing something awesome”. And I really believe it!

Two New Bird Photos for the Farm Bird List!

This week I got photos of two birds that we’ve seen at the refuge but never photographed at the refuge before! It makes me so happy to add to our list of birds photographed at the refuge.

The first one is the Philippine Hawk Cuckoo Cuculus pectoralis that I thought I photographed during our previous visit to the refuge. This time I searched for it in the trees so I could take a picture. This bird was doing its best to stay hidden inside the tree, behind a branch. I have a lot of pictures of the branch! This still counts as a bird photo since the bird is recognizable!

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Philippine Hawk Cuckoo .. can you see the yellow ring around the eye, gray head, and white throat? That’s the bird!
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Philippine Hawk Cuckoo flying away from me

The second one is a Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca that silently showed up in the former round pen at around 6:15 in the morning. It stayed long enough for me to run into the cottage, grab my camera, and take photos from the veranda! It was walking back and forth, foraging in the grass like a chicken. I thought it was a wild chicken. It did not immediately register that this was a Ruddy-breasted Crake, a bird that is considered difficult to see. Aside from our refuge, the only other places we have seen this bird are in Tarlac and Tadao, Ilocos Norte.

Tonji first saw this bird in our refuge in August 2018. He saw two adults and one black chick in the mango area. Now, less than two years later, we have a photo!

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All that time spent trying to get better photos of the Philippine Hawk Cuckoo was not wasted. I got better photos of other birds!

I had very close views of some Coppersmith Barbets.

And I got to watch the birds hanging out, eating fruits, and catching insects!