I haven’t been out birding in quite a while. Hectic work schedules have taken away most weekends and on the only free weekends I have, I either use to rest or am confined indoors because of the rainy weather. I am saved from frustration by my newfound passion in succulents.
I have always been surrounded by plants having parents who love gardening. No matter how small the allotted space in our home, our family always had plants. I’ve always wanted to be like them with the aptitude and the “green thumb” for making a variety of plants thrive under their care. Growing up, they always supported my efforts but, sadly, I’ve always failed. I tried vegetable gardening and was rewarded with a tray full of weeds. I also studied the art of bonsai but ended up killing the poor plants! I’ve bought sunflower growing kits but was never successful in growing them and seeing them flower.
It is only now that, with Djop, I tried my hand at succulents and cacti. And, finally, I have found my inner green thumb!
We got our first batch of succulents during a plant show in February and started with 4 plants. My brother Mark added to my collection and got me an additional 2 more plants! I researched and read about the proper care for the plants and got to work. Experience is really the best teacher… most of those plants died under my inexperienced care but, with the encouragement of Djop, my family, and friends who are also into succulents, I got a new batch and this time, took extra care and learned to respond to the plants.
First batch of succulents which I named (but regretted since most of them died…)
Gifts from my enabler brother =P
Now, 5 months after we got our first plants, Djop and I have a mostly-thriving collection of succulents and cacti! Most plants we buy in the plant area adjacent to Farmer’s Market in Cubao (I included a map at the end of this post for reference), some are generously given by family members, and others are cuttings given by friends.
Another batch bought at another plant show in the Quezon Memorial Circle
We learned how to use pumice in our potting mix
and also how to do leaf propagation
Recently, we’ve spent a lot of our free time and weekends working on our small balcony garden. We’ve still had some casualties here and there and putting them on the list of “To Buy Again Soon.”
We’ve also had some pretty exciting milestones with our plants! Our frailea’s are very generous in producing seed pods and some of our plants have gifted us with their pretty flowers.
Our aptenia continues to bloom!
Thank you, mom, for our gymnocalycium!!!
We’ve just sowed our frailea seedlings after harvesting from the seed pod and we’re hoping for the best! The first batch that Djop sowed have already sprouted!!!
So, since I do not have any time and energy for birding, and because I am saddened and getting depressed and anxious because of it… our succulents save the day (and my sanity!)
To those wanting to check out the shops in Farmer’s, here’s a map to the Farmer’s Garden area with walking directions from the MRT Araneta Cubao station. I included other landmarks such as the Smart Araneta Coliseum and the LRT2 Araneta Center Cubao Station so you can orient yourself:
I had been itching to bird for quite some time now, but admittedly was feeling too tired (and yes, too lazy) to go out. The burnt out teacher in me always won, and with Djop out on field for the next few weeks, I simply stayed at home. But my lucky birding stars wouldn’t allow that so when I got an invitation from Sir Chin on Sunday to go birding in Infanta, Quezon on Wednesday, I said yes!
After some coordination, we were on the road to Infanta at 4AM on Wednesday and headed to the Marilaque (short for Marikina-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon) Highway, also referred to as the Infanta Road. We met up with fellow birders Homer and Brian who were already parked and scanning for birds.
We stood by the roadside, in front of a big hagimit tree. It was my first time to really become aware of this tree and I really did not know much about it except that birds flocked to feed on its fruits.
The hagimit we were looking at had huge branches where remnants of fruits could be seen. Were we too late? Had all the fruits been eaten up?! We were entertained by some Tawny Grassbirds and a few Philippine Bulbuls but no others birds showed up. It was quite early though, so we decided to move along the highway and search for a more birdier site.
We discovered a lot of hagimit trees in different stages of fruiting. Some had riper fruits, while others had lots of brown, unripe fruits which had huge potential to be the birds’ feeding ground in the next days. I learned later that those fruit-laden branches are called tubercles and that the hagimit is a close relative of another fig, the tibig, and they both indicate the presence of fresh water nearby.
We decided to head back to our original location and were happy to see more friends in the area. We also learned that behind the huge hagimit was a smaller one with still-ripe fruits! We joined George & Manette, Sir Wins, Sir Ed, Sir Conrad, and new friend Sir Rod in the small clearing and waited for the birds to show. Sir Fidel joined us after a short while.
A handsome Guaiabero was very evidently enjoying its breakfast of hagimit figs as we settled into our positions, its bright green plumage both blending and standing out (does that make sense?)
A few flowerpeckers were also feeding on the fruits in front of us. Pygmy Flowerpeckers, Bicolored Flowerpeckers, and Buzzing Flowerpeckers came and went while we had occasional views of Olive-backed Flowerpecker, which was almost immediately chased away by the others.
Suddenly a much bigger bird landed on the clump of fruits! My heart skipped a beat when I saw what it was: Amethyst Brown-Dove! Lifer! I’ve been wanting to see this bird since I started birding and as I approach my 8th birding birthday in April, I finally see it! It crawled near the Guaiabero, and started feeding on the fruits.
It stayed quite a while, eating beside the Guaiabero while flowerpeckers flitted in and out of the branches. Finally, it had its fill of fruits and it flew to a higher perch deeper into the trees where it rested for a few minutes, bathing in the morning sun.
We were waiting for the Philippine Fairy Bluebird to show, and it did! But only for a couple of seconds before it flew off again. It would call loudly from the surrounding trees but did not show.
The Olive-backed Flowerpecker made a few more appearances but always very quick and mostly on the branches above us. I managed a few shots of this very skittish bird!
The Amethyst Brown-Dove also made a repeat appearance, this time coming out into the open to feed. It was such a pretty bird to observe, it’s colors very muted and pastel!
It was nearing lunch time when the dove finally flew off again and we also decided to head towards the small chapel and have a lunch break as well.
After lunch, it was back on the road and in search of more birds. We stopped at another fruiting hagimit tree (there were so many along the road now that I was aware of what they looked like!) Aside from the usual flowerpeckers, there were no other birds, so we decided to just go back to our original site. We were boarding our cars when Sir Conrad approached us and showed us a photo he just took of a dove! Possibly a Cream-bellied Fruit-Dove! He was shown the bird by a friendly local, Francis. We all quickly moved to the area Francis was pointing to and he showed us the bird. It turned out to be a Yellow-breasted Fruit-dove, my second lifer of the trip! We had to squat, kneel, crouch to get clearer views of the bird, but it stayed partially hidden behind branches and leaves.
We moved back to our original site and also checked out an area where Manette spotted a Philippine Trogon earlier that day. We didn’t see it that afternoon though. We drove along and stopped by another hagimit tree along the road. It held a small flock of Sulfur-billed Nuthatches, Yellowish White-eyes, and even a White-eared Brown-Dove. A Rufous-bellied Eagle also thermalled above us for a few seconds before disappearing behind the mountain. It was past four by then and Sir Chin and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the group when the bird activity died down.
It was a great day to go birding! The weather was perfect and I got two beautiful lifers, which I honestly did not expect to see. It was a day well-spent with good company, though I wish Djop had been able to join us. I guess that only means one thing: there will definitely be a next time! 😉