Bird Tales…

I have a soft spot for birds, and often, low IQ birds (or should I say more kindly, the underdogs). :) I once took photos of newly hatched chicks in a nest beside our balcony at the beach, here. I also wrote about birds (mostly younger ones that flew at full speed into our impeccably clean glass doors surrounding the living room at the beach as well, here and here. And even majestic hawks that dropped in at the office in Cebu, here.

But I collect and raise butterfly orchids as well. Getting them to bloom is the bane of my horticultural existence. Ever since our trusted Manang who was a plant whisperer retired a couple of years ago, the orchids have been reticent, almost belligerent about blooming. I already figured out that they preferred complete darkness at night (turn off all outdoor lights), they need an occasional plant food/fertilizer intake, they love moisture and breezes, they should face east. And well, they should bloody well be blooming to their hearts and my content. My final discovery is that these orchids like a significant drop in daytime to nighttime temperatures. So for two weeks I brought some plants in from outdoors and placed them in our bedroom which had an airconditioner on. Voila, after two weeks, I got four spikes and they were left outdoors. ONLY TO HAVE A RESIDENT BIRD EAT THE SPIKES, AS WELL AS ALL NEW ROOTS WERE ATTACKED AND EATEN BY THIS AGGRESSIVE MEDIUM SIZED BIRD. I bet it was the bird equivalent of eating young asparagus or some other delicacy, but I was not amused. Needless to say, I wanted to roast the bird, and it looked at me with a wide grin from a tree nearby, amused it was being so annoying…

I installed an ugly green net all around the orchid area and hoped for the best. Months went by and nothing happened. Then the cooler evenings of January set in. And voila, some 8+ spikes of phalaenopsis made their appearance. No more attacks from the bird, lots of blooms from my orchids. Yay!! Until today, as I was inspecting the bloom bounty, this chick in the photo up top flew straight into the net and got discombobulated. It hung on to the grills for a while, dazed. And I realized it was probably on its maiden flight. An escapee from its nest in the tree above. An early fall from grace. Or lack of grace as it were. I was just hoping it hadn’t broken anything and I went outdoors for a closer look, taking several photos just inches away from the bird. I noticed that it’s mom and dad were utterly crazed, flying just a few feet above my head amongst the branches of the tree from where they attacked my orchids months ago. If I could translate bird speak, it would go something like this:

Mom: “I just step away for a few minutes to hunt for worms and she ‘falls out of the nest’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!”

Dad: “I just fell asleep watching a Hitchcok film, so tired since they keep crying all night…”

Mom: “And look, now, that giant monster is pointing some machine at our baby, she’s going to be pulverized, do something, you twerp!!”

Dad: “OMG, that’s the dude that was really cross with me last year for eating his orchids, if he finds out that’s our baby, he is going to EAT IT.”

Mom and Dad : “FLAP, FLAP, FLAP, scream, scream, scream”

Me: “Go ahead, use the driveway for practice flights, good luck…”

And minutes later, all was well, baby was flying around unsteadily but getting places, and within a few hours, seemed to be back up in their nest. :)

As for the orchids, the eight spikes of blooms are probably the most expensive flowers I have ever enjoyed. Two years of daily watering, occasional fertilizing, occasional lectures on plant safe sex and other topics, netting to ward off predators, trips to the air-conditioned room for experiments… :)


11 Responses

  1. You might be confusing your sympathy for hapless fledglings with birdbrain-sized brainlessness in baby birds. Both are tolerable as long as they are confined to avians.

  2. you might want to fertilize 1x -2x weekly it certainly helps, also try using Soluble trace elements, they have those in QC circle, it works wonders for my phalaenopsis

  3. Thanks Jeff! Pardon my ignorance, but what are soluble trace elements, a form of fertilizer? And may I ask what type of fertilizer you use? Thanks!

  4. We use Siam brand, directions are on the container. We spray our orchids with it once a weeks. Our old gardener also recommended watering them with the cloudy water from washing your rice.

  5. My late mother used diluted pee (her own). I remember her orchids were flourishing back then, so apparently it worked quite well. However, the plants might emit a bit of an unwanted, musky smell.

  6. One for the birds!!! (pun intended) hahahaha. Good story MM. But seriously, Are those the same orchids that sell for a gazillion yen in Japan?

  7. artisan, the orchids are native to the Philippines, but as sadly common over the decades, perfected and farmed in Taiwanese nurseries. They raise them by the tens of thousands and wholesale I understand they are just PHP300-400 per pot with big blooms on them. Importers in Manila bring them in and sell them for PHP650-700 each pot, nowhere near the prices in Japan. Some local growers also raise them, but with less consistent and ebullient blooms. Even when I manage to get blooms, it is say half as big/long as the fresh plants from Taiwan…



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