Friday, May 2, 2014

Corregidor nature shots from the heavens to the earth

May has arrived, and the last few weeks have been hot!  We'd guess the daily high temperature has been near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 38 on the Celsius scale.  We're hearing thunder every afternoon, and have had a couple of quick thunderstorms hit Corregidor, too, which only adds to the humidity.  Sometimes it is so humid/hazy that you can barely make out Bataan, which is less than four miles across the bay from Corregidor.

The mostly rain-free weather has given us opportunities to spend time hiking and taking pictures, and we've included twenty-three recent photos in this blog, including updates on 'our' bird families for those of you who are vicariously following their progress.

We rarely get to see the actual sunrise, but have had some gorgeous morning color lately.  This past moon cycle presented three mornings with beautiful moonrises, and thanks to the birds and the monkeys we were awake in plenty of time to see them.

Early morning moonrise, April 27

The "parachute dome" on Topside was designed so that the circle of sunlight that shines through the dome's oculus would center on the altar at noon on May 6, when we commemorate the "Fall of Corregidor."  In reality, this year's actual occurrence of full-altar illumination was shortly before noon on the last day of April, and by noon on May 6 the "sun-circle" will miss by more than a foot.  Now if we could only get the sun to cooperate!

April 30 at 11:55 AM, full solar coverage at parachute dome memorial altar

One of the many interesting trees here is called "Lanete" or "Laniti."  The seeds form in a long, narrow pod, much like those produced by many leguminous plants.  However, when they ripen and burst open, the seeds are like those of milkweed plants, each with a fuzzy attachment that allows it to float through the air for a long distance.  We are aware of three lanete trees on the island, although there are likely many more than that, with one currently in fragrant bloom while another is already releasing its seeds.

Lanete (laniti) seed pods and seeds, Middleside near the house

Lanete tree blossoms, Battery Cheney

Unknown (to us) tree with red berries, along the road near Battery Geary.  Can you help???

Back in 2007, when we began contemplating the idea of living on Corregidor, one item in the "plus column" was that we'd be able to hike without constant vigilance for poison ivy and its North American relatives.  Both of us are allergic to them, Marcia more strongly than Steve.  She is also allergic to cashew nuts, which come from a tree in the same plant family as poison ivy.  Some time after we settled into life on Corregidor, we learned that one kind of tree that grows prolifically on the island is essentially a wild cashew.  Its Tagalog name is "Ligas," and it produces fruit and nuts that are a miniature version of those one can see on cashew trees.  We've heard that they are also edible.  If you have never seen how cashew nuts develop, each one attached to an also-edible fruit, it's worth a few minutes of Google time.  The following two photos show ligas fruit, green when unripe and red when ripe, and the nuts, a dark purple-blue color.  Skin-contact with ligas leaves (which look nothing at all like those of poison ivy or cashew, and are similar to leaves on many other trees here) will elicit the same rash reaction as contact with poison ivy, although so far it has proved to be a much milder reaction.  We are also getting much better at spotting the trees and avoiding contact.

Ligas fruit and nuts

Ligas leaves around clusters of fruit and nuts

There are many beautiful butterflies on The Rock, though most are not easy to photograph.  This one was cooperative, opening and closing its wings quite often and staying pretty much in the same place for several minutes, allowing Marcia to get these shots.  The light blue patches appear white in some lighting, and more brilliantly pastel blue in other.  It is comparable in size to the viceroy species we know from our years in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Butterfly near Battery Cheney

Same butterfly with folded wings
Another topic of conversation back in 2007 was the need for window and door screens for our living quarters on Corregidor.  More than five and a half years later, the metal screen fabric is so corroded that we cannot clean the dust from the screens without the metal disintegrating.  This moth found that a dusty screen provides the perfect camouflage.  (We are awaiting replacement of the screens, having had the fabric on hand for some time.)

Moth on screen

It's taken Marcia a long time to finally get pictures of  Blue-throated Bee-eaters, having seen small flocks several times on Corregidor and once on Leyte.  We were driving down the hill after hiking a few days ago when she spotted several of them in a tree near the old Topside swimming pool.  Fortunately they stuck around long enough for Marcia to take photos, although we'll hope for a better lighting angle next time.  They have very striking coloring, as well as their distinctive long central-tail feathers which are evident on the top bird.

Blue-throated Bee-eaters

Gilbert discovered a nest of bulbuls in our yard a couple of weeks ago while trimming bushes.  We are amazed at how quickly they went from hatchlings (we don't know the exact day) to being able to fly, which we witnessed on Friday morning (May 2).  That's only ten days from the first photo.

Newly-hatched bulbuls April 22

Baby bulbuls eight days later

Adult bulbuls watching their nest

In March, a pair of lowland white-eyes built a nest in our jackfruit tree.  When we returned after the April tour, the nest was in rough shape.  Either the babies had already matured, or they may have been raided by monkeys or other birds.  The parents are doing it again, as shown in the next photo, although this second nest is on a different branch from the first one.

Lowland white-eye parent on new nest

We've also been following a Brahminy kite nest, and the eggs are still awaiting hatching.  It seems like it has to be soon!  Quite often, the adult will slip from the nest and soar out over the sea, maybe hoping to attract our attention away from the nest.

Brahminy Kite eggs in nest

Brahminy Kite parent soaring over the West Philippine Sea

We also continue to monitor the white-bellied sea-eagle nest.  The two babies have grown very quickly, and we are surprised that they haven't flown away yet.  Any day they will be gone, two new juvenile eagles.  We wonder if their parents will chase them away from Corregidor, or if there is enough room for them to take up residence.  Just yesterday we saw another sea-eagle at Tailside, so it is possible that we have two pair on the island.

Eaglet in shadow at left, and adult eagle April 23

White-bellied Sea-eaglets yesterday

The same eaglets today

Eaglet in vulture pose

Yesterday Marcia spent the morning hiking with our latest new friend, Mike O'Donnell.  They visited Wheeler Tunnel, and Mike captured the following photo with his cell-phone camera.  Notice that Marcia is 'skooching' her middle finger toward her index cannot hear her telling Mike, "Hurry up - it's moving!"  These arachnids are harmless to humans, at least to those who don't freak out over spiders, but it was still unnerving to realize it was slowly sliding its longest appendage toward her finger.  It is also the largest one of them she's seen.

Marcia's hand next to a tailless whip-scorpion (African cave spider)

Monitor lizards are very shy, so Marcia got really lucky with this young one, who posed for quite some time, only about ten feet away from her and Mike.  Their estimate of its length was 18-20 inches, the last 6-8 of which is a very thin tail hidden in the grass.

Young Monitor Lizard, near Wheeler-Cheney road junction

Closeup of same Monitor with forked tongue extended

We hope that you enjoyed these nature shots, and that they tempt some of you to think seriously about coming to hike the trails with us!

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

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