Showing posts with label birding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birding. Show all posts

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Different Chocolate Spread, Rufous Night Heron, and Classic VWs

So that's what happens when your fudge doesn't set. My daughter spooned some of it into a bowl and ate it like pudding while I scraped the rest of it off into a container and pretended I really meant to make some chocolate spread.

It was so serendipitous, like God working in mysterious ways, but in reality just me getting tired of all the stirring and convincing myself that the thing has lost its sheen (sign the fudge is ready for setting) when it's really obvious that it's still glossy. Making fudge the old fashioned way is not for the impatient. Or the lazy-armed.

In other news, it's so hard to type since my youngest has triumphed in his quest to denude the keyboard of my laptop. This is why I leave you with useless birding pictures and a crappy video taken at the most recent VW meetup at the Manila Yacht Club. My husband is a VW guy so you'll probably find us at most gatherings.

 There's a bird on that boat somewhere, but you won't be able to tell from this picture.

This bird? 

And this bird? They're the same kind. You don't have to take my word for it but my guidebook tells me it's a rufous night heron.

And here's a video with VWs, monobloc table legs, some cops, and Mark chasing Cameron.

It all boils down to,,, the fact that I blogged today. :D

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Green Saturday: Marilaque Highway and Palaya Natural Farm

Our weekend was really busy, which I'm glad about because the rains are coming and it would be harder to spend time outdoors.

We were able to go back to Little Baguio, Infanta to check out the weather in the summer. We went there in November for the Kombi Run and it was cold, windy, and misty. We were hoping for the same temps but without the strong winds and the thick fog. Unfortunately, it wasn't cold this time. It was cooler up there than in the city, but didn't warrant the jackets we brought along in anticipation of much lower temperatures. It's nice to be able to clearly see the view this time though. Mark, Marguerite, and I went up the bluff across the road from the bulalohan we ate at and the view was spectacular. We were even treated to a few raptors soaring above. I wish I had the binoculars with me but they were in my bag inside the car. I should just have the thing hanging from my neck all the time.

In any case, I'd like to go back for some proper birding. We saw a lot of different species while on the road, but it wasn't the kind of trip where we could stop and watch, so I have no idea what we saw. I know I saw a big monitor lizard along the side of the road, but it disappeared into the thicket before I could take a picture.

We also visited Palaya Natural Farm for its market day on the way back to the city. It was pretty much at the end of a looooo-oooo-oooo-ooong and winding dirt road. It was like a baptism of fire for my sister's new sedan! Our own vehicle has four wheel drive, but it was still a grueling ride for us. The destination was a delight though. I wish we had gone earlier in the day and spent more time there. It was heaven to see all those plants. I wanted to buy a whole bunch of them, but I didn't get the chance to shop, too busy chasing after the boys (wow, twenty-five years totally changed the context of that phrase, lol). We did get to buy fresh produce, and my mom also bought some herbs for her garden.

Because we got there so late, we didn't have time to see much of the place, just the area where the market was set up. It was still really charming with vegetable gardens, trees, huts, swings, and, more importantly, a nice, clean little river flowing right nearby. The kids loved wading in it. They would have been happy to stay in the water, but it started drizzling and we had to find shelter.

While waiting for the rain to abate, we were able to chat with the owner and his son, who happens to have also been homeschooled. They told us about the farm and its advocacy, the fascination of watching a dragon fruit flower bloom, which only happens at night, and the different offerings they have on the farm. We're certainly intrigued by the idea of non-smelly pigs and are eager to check those out. They also have a pond for fishing higher up in their property. That's something we're doing as well when we go back because, make no mistake, we're definitely giving the place a proper visit soon.

There's so much to see and experience. The whole outfit spans more than 60 hectares and consists of lovely verdant valleys and mountains. Those and the view along the Marilaque Highway are a treat to the eye. Seeing all that green truly felt like a balm to the soul.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hoarders and Birders

Last Saturday was interesting. It was the day of our church's first ever summer yard sale. We've always held a yard sale every December for almost two decades now, but this year, we're shooting for two events.

My daughter was also supposed to have drawing and painting classes in the morning, but both were canceled. It was marked in the theater (venue) calendar, too. My bad for not checking the thing out, but the teachers should definitely have informed their classes. Most of the students showed up. What a way to desecrate a Saturday morning, lol. We could have had a more "chill" start to the day. And for us homeschoolers not used to the morning prep rush, that was probably even more annoying.

We spent most of the day at church, where I spotted several of my books being sold. I had left them at my parents' house in my old room, which has been turned into the new kitchen. I had a brief struggle over that because I never sell my own books. I'd sell those that I'd bought for the express purpose of selling, but never books in my own collection. In the end, I was okay with letting them go. It was just my natural impulse to cling.

I also spotted a Betty Neels book that I missed when I was rounding the lot of them up from my mom's collection, so I had to go buy it from the yard sale. I didn't mind. The money goes to the church, and it was all of ten pesos, lol. Betty Neels is a fave of mine from my mom's romance paperback era, her and Essie Summers.

I was shocked to see my dad's fishing rods though. I'd been counting on borrowing them when I finally went fishing. They used to be his stepfather's, something Dad held onto for twenty years, but I guess my folks are serious about de-cluttering these days. I whined at my husband to buy the rods, but he sensibly pointed out, "When do we ever go fishing?" He's obviously not the hoarder in the family. I want those rods though. They're totally useful for the lifestyle we have in my head.

After the yard sale, we headed up to Timberland in the mountains of San Mateo for some birding and view-binging. We saw the usual maya (Eurasian Tree Sparrow), a couple of pied fan tails, a crested mynah, and this guy, a lifer (first sighting ever of this kind of bird) for us.

You can't see it, but the back is a layer of brilliant blue and black.

That's his profile, so definitely a kingfisher. According to my pocket guide, it's a brown-breasted kingfisher.

That's his front. It could be orange, red, or brown, but the sunset made it seem fiery red to our eyes.

Here's a view. I wish I lived here, but there's no Internet connection yet for homes. And it's far. And expensive, so I'll just keep on being a (Marikina) valley girl.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Birding in Intramuros

We joined the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines' free guided birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. We were to scout for birds at Plaza Mexico along the Pasig River, and as we approached the area, we already spotted flocks of white birds swooping up and down the water and resting on the power lines.

whiskered terns at flight
We left the car at the Maestranza parking lot and headed to the Bureau of Immigration building to meet with the other participants. It so happened, however, that that was also where legions of fire departments gathered as a starting point for their Fire Prevention Month motorcade.

As we approached the building, the motorcade began with the fire engines' sirens going off at full blast. It was pretty thrilling, but that wasn't the kind of thing that my kids found impressive, so we continued our walk to the quay where the birders had already congregated.

I was so relieved to note that the water didn't smell foul at all. I was afraid there would be a rank odor and we'd have to leave because of the kids, but it was all good. The weather wasn't too warm either, probably because it was later in the afternoon. 

All in all, it was a great trip. We saw a whole bunch of whiskered terns, a couple of little egrets, a black-headed seagull, a glossy starling, a java sparrow, a yellow-vented bulbul, a zebra dove, a brown shrike, a common kingfisher, and a pied fantail. Of course, my back will never be the same again from carrying the baby the entire time, but what else is new?

whiskered terns on power line egret brown shrike java sparrow

I also decided to become a member. I've been meaning to do it forever, but I kept on waiting for a good time. The first time we joined a guided birding trip, it was back in 2010 and Marguerite was only three, so I thought I'd wait until she was a little older, so it would be easier to take her along or leave her with a sitter. The second time, it was 2013 and Cameron had just turned two. Again, I deferred joining until he was a bit older. The third time was last Sunday and Sawyer is all of two. I got tired of my own delaying tactics, and finally made the commitment.

I expect to go birding more often this year and I'm excited. The benefits are awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

View Bingeing in Antipolo

I love nature - love, love, love it. But. I don't seem to be cut out for it. It usually triggers violent sneezing fits or the onset of hives. And then there are the bugs. They love me. They ignore the rest and flock to me. That is, unless my kids are around too. They seem to have the same tasty blood, so they luckily inherited my appeal to the bloodsuckers.

My husband and I like to take the kids for long car rides. We usually park somewhere with a nice view and eat our lunch in the car. This means that the car enjoys more than its fair share of spills and crumbs. It can get pretty disgusting. Fortunately, my husband is a car nut and is manic about maintaining our vehicles.

Recently, while we were parked along Marcos Highway, somewhere between Cogeo and Paenaan (I don't know what that spot is called, but people often stop there to take in the very green vista of the valley below and the mountains across), I suddenly felt a bite or a sting, first on my neck, and then another a bit later on the cheek. We had the windows down so we could enjoy the nice, cool breeze. I didn't see a mosquito, not even a fly. Basically, some noseeum got me. Funnily enough, there was actually a Midge in the car; she's just the human, visible kind. ;D

The good thing about those bites though is that they didn't bother me for long and they didn't leave any lasting welts. They were red while I could feel them, but the color and bump subsided when they stopped being uncomfortable.

After lunch, we took a turn and went up Sumulong Highway. We checked out some properties for sale in a couple of subdivisions up there. We spotted lots of pretty birds, black-naped orioles and many I can't recognize yet.

It's frustrating not to be able to identify the birds. I plan to remedy that and be more knowledgeable about birding. I've been saying that for the past twenty years, but it's not that hopeless. I got a little better. After two decades.

My husband also went a little crazy with all the dill out there. I don't know why he loves the plant so much. It's not like he uses dill a lot. I'll have to ask him because it's obviously a real mystery. I may never rest until I get answers.

It was a good excursion. I've found that I'm willing to suffer through bites, hives, and sneezing fits to get my kids to see nature. The rewards are definitely worth the discomfort. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Visit from a Sunbird

Hi! I had a thrill yesterday morning that I wanted to share properly, but I can't because the camera wasn't ready... and well, it flew away. I was in the kitchen when I saw this strange bird in the garden. It wasn't really strange-looking since it was similar in size and coloring to our garden regulars. However, this thing hovered! And its beak was longer, thinner, curved and pointier. Its breast was also a pretty light green. My mom and our helper Giselle were also in the kitchen so I excitedly pointed the bird out to them. It was schmoozing with a less exciting sparrow. My mom got excited too and exclaimed, "Is that a hummingbird?" It certainly moved like one. I went to the bedroom to get the camera, but it didn't have a memory card and well, it didn't take much to make me give up. It did make me shoot my sleeping husband a dirty look, before I rushed back to the kitchen to tell Mom to use her phone instead (my own phone's batt was dead. I would have shot myself the same dirty look if I could -- you know, just to be democratic about it - but that's hard). Anyway, the bird had flown away by the time Mom got to the garden. We think it'll be back. So, I just went back to the bedroom to google Philippine hummingbirds. The closest I found was this (picture taken from Wikipedia):

If I'm right, then we saw a female purple sunbird. What a treat! I should really be on the lookout for the non-sparrow birds that show up around here. The last time I was able to take a good pic (it involved a Fischer's lovebird), I was able to post it here. Marguerite and I would spend more time in the garden, but it's crawling with caterpillars right now - some pretty things, but many of them itchy worms - so forget it. We're not about to go through this again!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday at the Fort

We had a really fun Saturday in Fort Bonifacio. Marguerite's ballet class was canceled and Mark didn't have any engagement, so that meant an entire day of family bonding. We meant to check out the galleon replica, but Mark had found out the day before that viewing would only be available until noon and that children under 8 years old weren't allowed, so we scrapped that idea. We thought we'd go to the American Cemetery (a memorial park for the fallen US soldiers in WWII - this includes Filipinos who were serving under the US Army - we were a colony at that time). It's a great place for birdwatching and the whole McKinley area is known to have a community of squirrels (these aren't the local ones found in places like the Palawan, Mindoro and Bohol jungles - I think these were introduced by American expatriates who lived in that area). It's so cool how they thrived in the climate and that they don't seem to have messed up the local ecology at all.
It was raining quite heavily when we left the house, so I thought we'd have to ditch birding, but the rain was but an anemic drizzle when we reached the Fort. It stopped altogether shortly after we'd parked. That day we were mostly there to watch birds (which we couldn't identify anyway - but I think I saw parakeets, kingfishers, mourning doves and shrikes), but we did check out the hemicycles (which listed the names of the missing - more than 30,000). There were also graves marked with a cross that said "HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY A COMRADE IN ARMS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD". The next time we go there (which is soon, I hope), we'll specifically look for relatives (my dad has two uncles who were executed; my mom has one uncle who perished in the Death March to Bataan, his remains lying in an unknown grave...). Let me know if there's anybody you'd want me to find.
While we were there, the carillon sounded a couple of times (it tolls to mark the hour and half hour), the first time, it did so to the tune of "Amazing Grace". We didn't stay until closing or we would have heard it play the Philippine and American anthems as well, followed by a rifle volley and then taps, they say.
After that, we went with Mark as he visited a couple of shops, checking out their amplifiers. Then, we headed over to Chelsea at Serendra for dinner. Mark had the super fatty pork belly dish. I don't know when to start interfering. Now, right? Man, I don't want to be the food police! For starters, I'd have to practice what I preach...
We went for a stroll after dinner. Serendra (is an outdoor mall/park/hang-out place/dining strip/night spot...) is always a happening place, esp during weekends. That night it was the Mabuhay Germany event. I thought at first it had something to do with Oktoberfest, but people weren't being wild enough (for those interested, my friend told me the Oktoberfest main hub would be the Sofitel on the 15th-17th). Marguerite seems to have taken after me and digs the oldies but goodies. She wanted to just stay and watch the Bloomfields, but with church the following day, we couldn't stay out too late.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Playdate with a Bonus of Birds and Itchy Grubs

Yesterday, Marguerite had a playdate with another homeschooler. We went to a nearby park for them to run around and indulge in some outdoor play. It was a thoroughly wonderful experience marred by two unpleasant incidents. The first was about this man trying to catch this bird. It was a uncommon bird (that is, less common than the usual sparrow). It was brown, something like a mocha color, with white on the underside of its wings. It was about the size of a pigeon, but had a more slender and graceful frame. I think it also had a longish tail. I tried looking for it in the Birdwatch gallery, but I'm pretty useless matching memory with pictures. Note to self: learn more about birding. If you can identify which bird I mean from that paltry description, please let me know. I'm really quite sleepless about it. This is a bird that you can find along the Marikina River. While you're at it, maybe you can also identify the reddish brown chicken-like bird that can be found in the area too (Please don't tell me it's a chicken... unless it's really a chicken). Anyway, the first time it happened, the bird landed on a low tree branch and this man tried to grab it with his bare hands. My friend and I were seated a short distance from this, so I called out to the guy in Tagalog, "Don't try to catch it. Just let it fly freely." Good thing the bird was able to fly away. The bird later returned to the tree and this time, the man tried to hit it with a rock. I shouted at him not to do that. Fortunately, he wasn't a good shot, so the bird got away again. I hurled a couple of preachy remarks at him. Later, I saw the bird land on the concrete center of the amphitheater and a moment later, two young boys tried to catch it as well. What the heck!!! It made me so mad! The area should be better policed for incidents like this. I mean, where exactly do I go to report activities like that?
The second incident involved those wretched itchy grubs. The park was just plumb full of caterpillars, both harmless and itchy. The mosaic benches beneath the acacia trees were particularly prime spots. Anyway, one landed on my bag. They always find me, as surely as flying balls also home in on me. Bugs, balls... sigh. I don't think I even got to touch it, but I had rashes anyway. For some reason, Marguerite got rashes too and she didn't even get to hold the bag. Mine subsided right away (still there, but no longer itchy or inflamed), but Marguerite's were really bothering her tonight even after copious salves and two baking soda baths. I had no choice but to give her some Benadryl.
Also, our noses are a little sunburned.
I'll definitely do it again. We'll just stay away from acacias and put on some sunscreen next time.