It was nice to get back to the refuge after more than a month of being away! The cold wind was blowing and the trees were growing!
We bought two Bagawak Morado trees in October 2019. One died and the other two are flowering! This one is beside the pump house of the swimming pool. The other one is near the nursery. The one near the nursery was reduced to a stump when it got eaten by an insect, but managed to grow back and flower.
I missed the flowers of the Alibangbang (Bauhinina malabarica). The trees are now full of immature seed pods. I plan to collect them when the seeds are ripe so I can share with other people who want to plant this native tree. The Alibangbang tree that is usually planted in subdivisions is Hong Kong Bauhina, the one with showy pink flowers.
Our Tibig tree near the old cement bridge is covered in fruits. It doesn’t seem that popular with the birds though. There was a mucuna species of vine, most likely Mucuna pruriens growing near it. At first glance Ithought it was a Jade vine! One of our birthday trees flowered for the first time, Sterculia rubiginosa. We bought that tree in 2014. We planted Bayag Usa in July 2020 and it is flowering already!
These are Bignay wildings from the trees in our Alabang house. I collected most of them from a very neglected plant box that’s on top of the water pump housing. The soil in that plant box used to be very hard and dry. During the lockdown, I put a lot of dry leaves on top of the soil, planted some Lemon Lime Philodendron cuttings, and watered the plant box frequently. I was happy to find so manyBignay wildings growing in the plant box! Unlike the ones I harvested and planted straight from the fruit. Very few of those germinated. Maybe just one or two!
This is the plant box where I collected most of the Bignay seedlings. There are more of them growing!
This is my illustration project starring Momo, Barkley, and Lulu!
June – We are building a new pond in the picnic area. Each time we start a pond, we have hopes of it being bigger than the previous ponds. There’s a lot of space for a big pond, but is there enough time to dig before rainy season starts?
July – One of the Mangkono seedlings we planted last year has a flower! This is at the planting area near the old bridge. The seedling is still very small. From afar it looked like a rose!
August – We went inside the “foresty” part of the refuge to look for ferns! I painted Barkley holding scissors instead of a digging tool! We all had a lot of fun exploring the area and admiring the plants growing by the rocks.
September – Barkley in the lead, Momo at the rear, Lulu in the middle. More often nowadays Barkley will skip the walk to go swimming instead! Momo still enjoys going for walks. He smells so many interesting things in the grass! I think he can smell the spots where the bigger birds like ducks and rails were hanging out.
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!