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!
What a relief! One of the fields that I messed up before has been restored! In 2015 I removed the big clumps of hagonoy that were growing in the picnic lot. The next year the lot was completely covered in small hagonoy plants. They came back with a vengeance!
I was very sad to see the picnic lot in such bad shape. It looked worse than before I did my weed removal efforts. Good thing we have another hagonoy removal weapon in our arsenal! The tractor! I noticed that when Tonji makes a path through a field of hagonoy, the path itself stays remarkably free of hagonoy! Grass and other things sprout on the path, but not hagonoy!
In 2018 Tonji cleared the picnic lot using the tractor. Immediately after, it looked so much better. There was grass and a nice variety of legumes and other plants that sprouted. And best of all, the Philippine Collared Doves seem to like it! They used to hang out on the other side of the field, near the bamboo fence. This time I saw them foraging on the restored area of the picnic lot!
They really seem to like the area. Momo, Barkley, and I watched them from across the picnic lot. Then we went on our morning walk. On our way back, they were still there! When I decided to double back and take more pictures, they simply flew up into a nearby tree. It looked like they had plans to do more foraging.
Now I know what to do and what not to do when trying to removing hagonoy. It’s so nice to be able to create habitat that the birds can use.
February has been a great month for hanging out at the sanctuary. The oppressive heat of summer is still a future concern. The ground is still nice, moist, and yielding. It only took Tonji nine days to dig up Pond Number 5. I was able to clear a big swathe of hagonoy in a new area using just my hori-hori hand knife. Momo and Barkley enjoyed long morning walks through refreshing dew-covered grass, with stops every so often to admire the birds!
The Agohos are among the fastest growing of the trees we’ve planted. Their height makes them a popular perch of the orioles and crows.
We saw 5 species of doves in February. We had Philippine Cuckoo Dove, Zebra Dove, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, and Philippine Collared Dove. The Philippine Collared Dove was perched on the wires along our entrance road. We saw it on the same wire on two different weekends.
Tali and Laiya are still around. Will they stay through summer? Or are they migrants?
Tali vs Crow
There are small flocks of Olive-Backed Sunbirds high in the Madre de Cacao flowers, Chestnut Munias in the grassy areas, and jewel toned Bee-eaters on low branches.
The Malabulak trees produced buds! Last year we saw only one bud that didn’t even become a flower. Tonji thinks next year will be a great year for the Malabulak.
The hot days of summer are fast approaching. All to soon it will be time to say goodbye to the cool weather and hello summer and summer projects!