Mud fights, Pomelo Harvest, Medicinal Vines, and Some Boxing Day Birding.
On the morning of December 26th, Boxing Day, we decided to take a walk and work off some of the heavy holiday meals. We headed out for the village of Buhing Kalipay (also known as Borawin) here on Siargao island and for once it was a nice sunny blue sky day (it’s been pretty wet recently).
At least the wild ducks seem to be thriving in this wet weather and there were plenty around as usual:
We saw quite a few Barred Rails today. They’re shy and always quick to run/fly away when they’re spotted. Managed to get a close-up of this one though
Rounding out the list of ‘The Usual Suspects’ was this Javan Pond Heron…
…and of course, a Purple Heron in flight:
But then we spotted something quite different far off on the top of a coconut tree. It appeared to be a raptor of some sort:
Soon, it started to take off and make repeated sorties over the rice paddies and a nearby mountaintop. We waited patiently and at last it swooped down right over our heads. The Peregrine Falcon’s diet consists mainly of other birds so I imagine that was what it was hunting for. We also got the feeling it came right at us to check out what we were up to!
Shortly after getting a thrilling view of this raptor at work we arrived in the small farming village of Buhing Kalipay. This village is home to a reservoir which supplies water to much of the surrounding area. There was some improvement work and concreting happening on the embankments. One of the workers told us there were even plans to put in a swimming pool on the side of the reservoir. That will certainly be a welcome addition; it’ll be great to take a dip there after a sunny birdwatching stroll through the rice fields. It can certainly get hot out there some days without any shade!
But the reservoir already has recreational uses. Here you can see a boy cooling off in the overflow as other village boys engage in a mock war of throwing mud clods at one another…
We were getting thirsty at this point and walked into the village proper to find something cold to drink. The local sari-sari shop had some Coca-cola and we sat down to rest. On the way we spotted a pomelo tree which had some promising looking fruit but we were told they weren’t ripe yet:
Adjacent to the shop my wife spotted a healthy cluster of the makabuhay vine (known in Visayan as paliahan). This vine grows all over the Philippine archipelago and has many uses in traditional medicine; it’s used to treat everything from malaria to intestinal worms to indigestion. One popular cure for a toothache is to squeeze the juice from the stem and put a drop or two in your eyes!
We asked the shopkeeper if he would let us take some cuttings from his makabuhay vine and he was kind enough to oblige…
Since the shopkeeper was being so helpful we asked if there were any pomelo trees around bearing ripe fruit and he directed us to a nearby tree behind his shop. We found the pomelo tree easily enough and it was indeed loaded with ripe fruit. We weren’t sure how to go about collecting it though as neither of us was up for any tree-climbing this morning. But then some local girls who were playing volleyball on a village street came to see what we were up to..
The girl in the red T-shirt introduced herself as Venus and said she’d be happy to do the climbing and harvest the pomelo for us and a few moments later she had scampered up the tree with a bamboo pole in her hand:
Shortly we had way more fruit than we expected but it was a lot of fun (though the distracted photographer nearly got beaned by some falling fruit a few times!)
There was plenty of fruit to go around and everyone took some home.
Heading back out of the village with our newly acquired medicinal vines and ripe pomelo we passed by rice drying on the main street (they don’t get a lot of traffic up here). The village chickens seemed to be enjoying the free feed:
A farmer was just coming in from the rice field with a catch of snails. These are similar to the kuhol golden snails but these particular snails are known in the local dialect as kayambuay.
On the long walk back home we saw another Purple Heron. This one wasn’t flying but rather trying to camouflage itself amongst the weeds bordering a rice field pond.
A little farther on I noticed a Spotted Dove in a very muddy patch of rice paddy. It seemed to me it was a bit out of its normal habitat as it usually collects fruit and seed from drier ground. This was more like sandpiper habitat.
And finally a White-breasted Woodswallow seen on a tree branch. These artful fliers are ubiquitous around the island and most often seen in large groups on the electric lines which run along the roadside.
Well, I think we achieved our goal today of burning off some holiday calories. We also got to witness a mud war, collect medicinal vines, harvest some ripe pomelo fruit, see a Peregrine Falcon close up in flight, and meet some very friendly Siargao people. Another great day in the field. Happy Holidays everybody!