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!
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.
We are having cooler weather and rain at the refuge. There are a lot of vines, trees, and weeds fruiting and blooming this month.
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!
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.
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!
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!!
Sometimes you see birds that look “new” and you get all excited. But on closer inspection, turn out to be young birds.
Or faraway young birds.
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.
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!
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 CuckooCuculus 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!
The second one is a Ruddy-breasted CrakePorzana 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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Another view of the Rhabdornis.
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!
This Black Naped Monarch is on a fruiting Bangkal Nauclea orientalis that we planted some years ago.
This Pied Bushchat was giving me the evil eye!
And then we had plant surprises! This Mangkono Xanthostemon vedugonianus is flowering! We planted it in 2019 and it is still tiny, but flowering!
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!
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!