Thursday, October 13

the annual rambutan-fest

Perhaps among the most popular of trees in our garden are 3 rambutan trees. They are the favorite of everyone in the family and the envy of the neighborhood when their fruits start to ripen a bright red and we get Christmas trees in September.

My mom acquired the trees in the late 80's from a local grower. Two of them are of the tuklapin (the flesh easily falls off the seed) variety, while the third is supsupin (you have to suck on the seed to get the most of the flesh, it's almost impossible to get all the flesh separated from the seed). We have one in the front yard, one in the backyard, and one at the side of the house. They were already fruit-bearing when my mom got them, through the years they have grown bigger and so has our harvest of fruit. The whole family has looked forward to baskets and baskets of red fruit, picked and eaten during Sunday family lunches, given to neighbors and officemates, and several even picked by the passersby from the sidewalk - since all 3 trees are planted so that half the tree (in other words half the fruit!) grows over the fence.  My labs had even learned to peel and eat the fruit that fall to the ground, seed and all!

I had heard from Ned L, (bird club founding member from Quezon province: rambutan and lanzones country) that the departure of backyard migrant brown shrike is timed with the start of the flowering of the rambutan early in the summer, and that his (in our case, her) return is associated with the ripening of the fruits in September.  What a wonderful way to welcome the change in seasons!  This is probably well known to those who live or grew up in the provinces, but I'm glad that I actually experience this annual event in our garden in the city. 

Beyond signalling the onset and conclusion of the migratory season, there is another very wonderful "bird" reason I look forward to the rambutan fruiting.  It's because the fruit attract a wonderful jewel of a bird to come to the garden - the colasisi. I hear these little parrots throughout the year, high pitch zzzwitzitzits, zipping past.  On lucky days, I may spot one perched in the shade of the fire (a.k.a. flamboyant) tree.  But when the rambutan are ripe, it's like a welcome sign for them to stay and eat the juicy fruit.  Even with their noisy chatter, it's sometimes difficult to spot them... they blend in perfectly with the green and red of the rambutan tree.  Sometimes they are very quiet, landing with a loud zweeeeet, then silence.  I know that they are in the tree somewhere, clambering and hopping from branch to branch, nibbling away at the thick red skin to get to the juicy ivory flesh.

The colasisis aren't the only birds interested in the fruit. The yellow-vented bulbuls, who eat anything - fruit, insects, nectar, enjoy the rambutan fruit too.  My mom has often complained that half of the fruit we pick are just empty shells of skin with the fruit eaten out by the birds.  Of course half is a great exaggeration (except in my mom's mind), and I have to argue and convince my mom to leave some of the fruit on the tree for the birds.

Last Sunday, it was finally the last rambutan harvest for the season.  The supsupin tree is most often the last to fruit, and so the last tree to have fruit left on it.  The bulbuls were hard at work at the already over-ripe fruit, picking out the flesh in small bits.  They aren't the neatest of eaters, drops of sticky-sweet juice squirted out in fine spray as the struggled with the fruit.  Wasps and other insects hovered at the fruit which had holes on the skin, revealing the soft flesh underneath.  (I have a feeling that at night, the bats get more than the birds do from the rambutan, and they help out the birds by biting off most of the skin).  All the insects buzzing about made the pied fantails very happy, and they hopped and swooshed from branch to branch as they caught these insects on the wing.  While enjoying this sight, Adri and I heard a familiar high-pitched call.  A colasisi had landed somewhere on the tree!  

Luckily, Adri spotted it at the top of the tree, a female which had landed in the middle of a bunch of fruit.  Unfortunately, our quiet observation was given away by my exuberant lab Maggie, who seemed to feel and imbibe our excitement.  After a half-hearted attempt at breaking the thick skin of the fruit, the little green parrot must have realised that she was in full view, out in the open, and calmly hopped out of view to disappear into the foliage.  (See the video below, if it doesn't load, just refresh this page please)

After Sunday lunch with the family, my brother, who was smoking his cigar in the terrace, excitedly pointed to 3 more colasisis on the rambutan tree, one of them seemingly the same female we had seen earlier that morning.  The commotion made everyone in the dining room become conscious of the fruit remaining on the tree still to be harvested, and so down came the last of the fruit.  Thankfully, they left some fruit on the tree for our feathered friends.

With this years' fruit almost gone, there is always next year's rambutan season to look forward to.

(thanks to adri for the video, all photos are by me... yay! i love our new equipment!)


  1. Wow!!! Want fruiting trees in our backyard too! :o)

  2. GO go go! Let's start planting! :-)

  3. ganda ng pics! ganda ng bagong equiptment! i want rambutan too!!! :D

  4. Hi Trinket! As usual, a wonderful read. Here I am in birders paradise and taking every chance I get to go out and bird. Lola-hood is very demanding work.... Just this morning there were 2 Sulfur Crested cuckatoos and about 15 Lorikeets raising a ruckus at the birdfeeder!!! Yesterday I went for a walk in the "bush" back yard and got good pics of a spotted Pardalote. Cute bird, nice song. Today I am left in the house to watch Noah, I just put him to sleep. BJ took Eli to the doctor to be tuli-d! BTW, congrats on the new equipment! What is it?????

  5. Thanks ixi!
    Grabe, me nga 1 kind of parrot lang in the backyard, itsy bitsy pa compared to yours, naloloka na ko! There are just a few fruit on the rambutan left so it's easier to spot them now. Adri & I got new pictures and video from the past few days of the male naman, so pretty! Adri tells me the parladote looks kinds like a barbet, tama ba? So many colorful birds in Australia!!!!!
    You seem to be enjoyng your lola-hood plus birding, that's great!

    P.S. Our new equipment is a new scope with a UCA so we digiscope! So Adri's studying that and I take pictures with the camera + long lens. New routine na kami. :-D

  6. I like to have rambuttans and colasisis... haha... unfortunately we live in the noisy outskirts of Tondo :/

  7. All you need is a big drum to plant your rambutan in!!! :-D