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!
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.
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!
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.
One year later in June 2020 we planted 16 Taluto that were almost as tall as me!
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.
Our winter season visitors are back! The Pied Harriers are very visible, flying around the cottage. This time there are three of them. The mother and immature duo are now a trio of the mother, an adult male (we think it’s Tali, all grown up now) and another immature bird. The trio is much better at keeping the crows at bay. We haven’t noticed them being harassed by the crows.
Could this really be Tali? He seems to be keeping to his old habit of hanging out on the bamboo fence. The telltale string on the leg is gone. Maybe he was able to remove it himself?
1 Label the pots before filling them up. It’s faster and more efficient than sticking tags onto pots filled with soil. Use masking tape and a Sharpie instead of plastic tags that can easily fall off. You will be very glad that you labelled the pots when you discover that a lot of the baby trees look alike!
2 Wear gardening shoes. You are more likely to go outside if you’re not worried about tracking dirt inside the house. I like easy to wash shoes that you can slip in and out off and leave by the door.
3 The first part to grow is the RADICLE. It is the embryonic root. It grows downwards. Don’t be like me, panicking when seeds arrived already sprouted!
4 Tamp down the soil in the pots firmly when you fill them up. Or else the seedlings will topple over! I like to overfill the pots, then tap the bottom on something firm so the soil settles into the pot nicely. I like to fill all the pots first, then make all the planting holes in the soil, place each seed into the hole, then cover each hole. That way you’re not wondering whether or not a pot already has a seed.
5 Use a nice watering can with a fine rose! You want a fine spray of water so the seeds don’t get washed away. It does take longer though for the water to come out of those tiny holes. Patience!
6 Use rainwater for watering the plants. This is especially important if the water in your area is highly chlorinated. Now is a good time to start a rainwater collection system!
7 Make as much compost as you can. There’s no such thing as too much compost.
8 Keep notes. I wanted to have an app where I could put pictures of the trees, their gps locations, and the date when the tree was planted. But I haven’t found that app yet! In the meantime I’m using a notebook for all my tree notes. Each species has a one page spread and there’s an index with all the names and the page numbers. Everything that goes on with a particular species is listed in its page.
9 Join a group like Philippine Native Trees Enthusiasts on Facebook to get planting tips and lots of encouragement!
Just do it! You don’t need to have a green thumb. The sooner you start planting seeds, the better! You will learn a lot and have fun. Start small and remember that everything is a learning experience. No matter what happens, you will learn something!