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.
This bamboo fence is very popular among the birds. We can see it from the veranda of the cottage and we always check to see what’s perched on it.
One day it was Tali, the Pied Harrier. We watched him and admired his full adult male plumage. Earlier in the year he was brown, then in March we saw his black adult feathers coming in. In April, we thought he had migrated and that we wouldn’t see him in full adult plumage. Here he is in July in full male adult plumage!
After giving us good views Tali flew off. We thought that was the end of the show. Thirty minutes later a Grass Owl flew in and landed on the same spot! Maybe the Grass Owl wanted to see what Tali was looking at. There’s a path of short grass in front of the fence. It’s a good place to nab a meal.
The following week the fence was host to these Spotted Doves that decided that bamboo fence was a good spot for sex!
This year Tonji spent 21 days building ponds. He started building in February to give himself enough time to get a few ponds in before the start of the rainy season in June. He would have continued building even longer except that we were not able to go the the farm regularly for two months.
The first pond he built was Pond No. 5. It was slow-going and took him 9 days to complete because the area was wet and sticky. In March, we got an unexpected day rainy day and were thrilled to see puddles forming at the bottom of the pond!
When the real rains came around in June, the pond got filled up half way! It takes a lot of rain to make all the soil settle down and form a waterproof layer that will hold water.
It was nice to see the pond fill up with water, but had the wildlife discovered the ponds yet? Were the Philippine Ducks using it? Did they know that they now had seven ponds at their disposal? We inspected the pond for signs of life. We found lots of small feathers around the pond edge!
This month we’ve resumed our regular farm visits and are thrilled with the results from the pond building! We’ve been having the most amazing views of Philippine Ducks!
I also had a wish fulfilled. I was finally able to take the photo I’ve been dreaming of — a Philippine Duck standing by one of our ponds!
And even better, there were TWO of them! There may have been more ducks in Pond No. 5, but we didn’t want to disturb them by going closer. So all of us including Momo and Barkley walked away quietly and left the ducks to enjoy their pond.
That same morning we inspected Pond No. 7 and seven Philippine Ducks flew out of the pond. This pond took ten days to build.
The smallest of the three new ponds is Pond No. 6. It took only two days to build and we’ve also seen ducks in it!
It is so gratifying and encouraging to see our projects working! It’s a thrill to be able to share our space with wildlife.
It was cold and raining when we woke up. Gone were the plans to do chores and tend to projects. Out came the big lenses for bird photography, binoculars, and sketchbook. Might as well sit, enjoy the weather, and watch the birds!
First came the Pied Harriers. There were new black feathers showing on Tali’s back and face. Tali is a male! It takes 3 years for male Pied Harriers to assume their full adult plumage. When he does, Tali will have a black head and white chest. He looks like he is almost 3 years old. Assuming that the female is the same one we saw in 2013, there’s a good chance that this is a different offspring from the one with her in 2013.
Tali still has the string wrapped on his leg. It doesn’t seem to hinder his flight. I hope he’s able to get the string off somehow. It seems to affect his landing.
The Pied Harriers moved from the bamboo fence to a tree. Three Philippine Ducks flew past them. Then they did it again. And again! Were they buzzing the Pied Harriers? Or were they just circling the pond? Too bad we didn’t get any pictures or video.
Next came two Brahminy Kites. One was an immature. They perched on a tree and got mobbed by a Crow. This interaction definitely looked intentional!
That morning, we also saw:
Pink-necked Green Pigeon, 4
In the afternoon the weather stayed cool and cleared up for a bit so we could go for a walk, cut grass, and do some weeding.