I love to start my mornings at our little sanctuary with a morning walk. It’s one of my favorite things! I cannot go without the essentials — a camera, binoculars, Momo, and Barkley.
Our morning walks are a little bit different now that we have 7 ponds scattered around the property. When we had only 4 ponds, we could easily bypass the two areas that had ponds. The new ponds are harder to bypass.
During our walks, I try not to disturb any of the wildlife. But at the same time, I am hoping that the wildlife are getting used to our peaceful, unaggressive presence. We’ve been to a few spots in the Philippines where the birds are decidedly more approachable and less wary of people than in the rest of the country. We are doing what we can so that the same thing happens in our place!
We hope the ducks become more relaxed and at home now that they have more ponds to choose from. It is looking promising so far. When the ducks do get disturbed, we noticed that they now silently fly off. They are no longer calling out in alarm for minutes. More importantly, more of them circle back to the ponds. The next stage in improving their habitat is finding and planting grass or grains that they like to eat.
We are also seeing the ducks in the paths! This is new behavior. I am very glad and relieved to say that Momo and Barkley did not chase the ducks. Whew. I think they were just as surprised as I was to see the ducks on the path. Or maybe my voice control works. I was whisper-shouting “Stop! Stop!”.
This week Tonji was at the veranda when he saw two ducks fly in and almost land in front of the house. They swerved away when they saw him! Could it be that when we’re not at home, the ducks are there? I hope that the wildlife feel that our home is their home!
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.
We saw a record number of Philippine Ducks at the farm! 23 ducks at Pond #1. We were happy and surprised to see them. We thought that the two Pied Harriers that are wintering in our place drove the ducks away from their usual hangout. So nice to see that they’re still there are that there are more of them!
We walked to Pond #1 thinking that it was probably not being used by the ducks. We wanted to check the water level. As we approached, the ducks flew into the air. We watched them for a few minutes, Tonji took a video, then we turned to leave the area so the ducks could go back. They were circling over us and calling out. Barkley however ran towards the pond. He ignored us when we called him back. So Tonji went to get him and was able to quickly look at the pond. The water level was high and the grass around the pond was flat, probably from the ducks sitting on it!
Seeing these birds encourages us to make new projects! When summer comes Tonji will start a new, bigger pond with either a lookout tower or a hide for observing the birds. Or maybe he’ll make a “scrape”, like a shallow rice paddy to see if it will attract birds that like to forage in shallow water.