Update: What happened? October 2021 to April 2022

October 2021 – We totally missed the month of October because Tonji’s foot was acting up again.

November 2021 – We had one visit that was cut short by Tonji’s foot acting up! This time he figured out that it was GOUT! Apparently even vegans can get gout if they have a predisposition to it and eat or drink something that triggers it. Now we know he has gout and it’s triggered by certain kinds of beer.

December 2021 – We had some very nice days at the sanctuary!

The planets aligned!

I could spend the whole day taking pictures of the dogs doing their own thing and just thoroughly enjoying themselves. There’s a lot of frolicking and rolling around.

Sketching at the farm is one of my favorite things!

One good thing about being away from the sanctuary for so long is that we get to appreciate how much things have grown! The Toog trees we planted in 2019 are thriving. We planted another batch of Toog that we had kept in the nursery until they were big enough to plant outside.

We also had sad news. Our dear sweet boy Takoy passed away on Dec 31. He suddenly collapsed and couldn’t move his back legs or tail. We had to put him down. He was buried in the paddock.

January 2022 – Tonji got COVID! Good thing it was a mild case of the Omicron variant. He was still able to go to the sanctuary once this month.

February 2022 – This is the nicest time of the year to be at the sanctuary. The weather is cool and windy and there are beautiful plants in bloom wherever you look!

The Malabulak trees deserve special mention! They have grown tall, they look like proper trees now, and have a lot more flowers than last year! The Malabulak trees shed their leaves every year, before flowering.

March 2022 – Very busy and exciting month. We got a lot done! It is also very hot. An early summer. Does this mean we will have an early rainy season?

THE BIG POND – Tonji is taking advantage of the dry weather to work on our biggest wildlife pond yet! We are hoping that this pond will hold water all year and that we can put fish and water plants. The fish to eat the mosquito larvae and the water plants to slow down the water evaporation in the pond.

This is Tonji explaining science behind it all. Putting this here so we can watch it again during rainy season and see if all he said came true! (the noisy chicken sounds in the background are from our neighbor’s farm)

We upgraded Tonji’s digging machinery from a vintage digger to a brand new skid steerer. He watched a lot of YouTube videos on digging ponds and Small Water Impounding Projects or SWIPs. SWIPS are made mainly to collect rainwater to use for irrigating crops. The online videos are very encouraging, especially the ones from India and the Philippines. The communities that have them report big changes in their environment. The water tables get restored, dried up wells become usable again, and there are many more birds than before!

TWO PONIES – Boo Boo had been an only horse since Takoy passed away. We attempted to send her to our friend Tito’s farm in Mindoro so she could hang out with his cows and goats but she refused to get into the trailer! We didn’t have much of a choice, we decided to keep her and find companions for her. We briefly thought of getting fancy goats but realized it would be difficult to keep them from getting out of the paddock. We were able to adopt two very cute female ponies. Oatly came from Doc Nielsen and Brownie came from Doc Dan. The three horses got along almost immediately.

Boo Boo became noticeably calmer with her two new companions around. Before, the dogs (usually Ollie and Wolfie) would run into the paddock and rile her up by barking at her. She would run around and sometimes try to kick them. After we got the new ponies, it was like she was a different horse! The dogs would bark at her and she wouldn’t react at all. She would just continue eating grass and not even raise her head to look at them.

Day 1 – Oatly is showing Boo Boo that she’s not a pushover
Oatly is very friendly

We harvested our first Malabulak pod from our trees! This is the first year that they produced pods. The Malabulak seed pods are much smaller than the more common and non-native Kapok.

collecting the first pod!

The first seed pod we collected was still a bit greenish. I kept it indoors at room temperature and after 10 days the pod popped open. I collected more than 100 seeds. The seeds germinate easily, no need to soak or scarify the seeds before planting. They started showing signs of life after 5 days. I plan to make a little pillow with all the cottony fluff or “bulak”. The fluff causes allergies for some people. Good thing I am ok with it.

April 2022 – The weather surprised us with rain showers when we were expecting hot, dry weather. Our attempt to sleep outside in tents was cut short since I didn’t put up the rain covers of the tents.

The campers!

We collected more pods, this time with a long stick and net. We are growing them at home in Alabang.

opening a Malabulak pod

Barkley celebrated his 12th birthday! He ate some of the carrots that were meant for the ponies and went for a swim. He is mostly blind now. I am getting used to carrying him around for our morning walks.

We also bought seedlings from Punlang Katutubo in Batangas City. They had Philippine Teak! We are excited to plant more trees!

We have been observing interesting birds at the sanctuary. We hear a lot of Asian Koels, we saw a Malkoha at the nursery, 2 Philippine Nightjars on the ground, we heard a Hawk Cuckoo and we’ve been seeing Grass Owls in the daytime! We are also looking forward to seeing more birds at the new pond, once it fills up with rain water. I think it will be the new birding hotspot at the farm.

The Island Collared Doves that are usually skittish are easy to see there. We see them together with the less shy Spotted Doves. We are hoping they co-exist and the Spotted Doves don’t push out the Island Collared Doves!

Morning Walk with Momo and Barkley and Ducks

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.

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What a good dog! Momo is great at sticking close to me!

 

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.

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No ducks in this pond! Barkley is staring at the water and wondering if he’s going to go for a swim.

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!”.

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They didn’t chase the ducks!

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circling around

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!

 

 

 

 

The Magic Fence

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!

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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.

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The following week the fence was host to these Spotted Doves that decided that bamboo fence was a good spot for sex!

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