Friday, March 20, 2015

Five dozen Whiskered Terns above the sun

I had the opportunity to revisit Macabebe (Pampanga) this weekend. Although I brought my full range of birding gear with me, I used the hand held 5D MIII + 400 5.6L exclusively at BIFs. The 5D MIII's wider angle of view makes subject acquisition easier, and its AF is very impressive as well. The disadvantage of the slowish 6 fps frame rate is offset by the low noise of the high-res files.
 
My battle-scarred 400 5.6L on the other hand continues to amaze me with its fast AF speed, light weight and great optics even when shot wide open.

As the sun was setting on Saturday, I shot some test images to review the histogram and fix the optimum manual exposure on my hand held combo. Then I wished for a flock of water birds to pass close enough to the setting sun to be contained within the same frame. My wish was granted. During post processing, I pixel-peeped at 100% view to count the birds - there are exactly 60 of them within the frame.
 
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Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus, migrant)

Habitat: Bays, tidal flats to ricefields. 
 
Shooting info - Macabebe, Pampanga, Philippines, March 14, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 1500x1000.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Barn Swallows of Talogtog

The mango trees are in full bloom at Brgy. Talogtog (San Juan, La Union) for a few days now.

And where there are flowers, there are insects, particularly in the afternoon when light becomes sweet.

Where there are insects, there are winged insect-eaters... hunters that hawk the insects in the air.

Of course, when feathered insect-eaters congregate predictably in one place, there will surely be a birdnut around, shootings BIFs like crazy, as if this activity will be outlawed tomorrow. :)
 
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Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica , migrant)

Habitat - Coast to above the forest in high mountains. 
 
Shooting info - Talogtog, San Juan, La Union, March 7, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L,
400 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.



Shooting info - Talogtog, San Juan, La Union, March 7, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L,
400 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Little Ringed-Plover in flight

This migratory water bird, quite small at about 6-1/2 inches total length, is a very fast flier.  This is one of the very few times that I was able to catch it in flight. It was speeding over the fish ponds of Binmaley (Pangasinan) on March 1st.

The yellow eye-ring and other features in the head area, plus over-wing details, are easily visible, making the ID of this bird an easy job.

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Little Ringed-Plover (Charadrius dubius, migrant)
 
Habitat - Ricefields to river beds.

Shooting info - Binmaley, Pangasinan, March 1, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.

1500 x 1000 version

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pygmy Swiftlet in flight

This swiftlet surely deserves its name ("pygmy" and the suffix "let" both denote smallness). The bird's total length is a microscopic 3-1/2 inches (88 mm). It is endemic to the Philippines and can be seen flying low in groups over forest, clearings and nearby areas. Found in most major Philippine islands, the small size, well-defined white rump and whitish belly are diagnostic.

I got a few shots of these little spitfires recently over Bued River, near the boundary of La Union and Pangasinan provinces.
 
In flight, these birds are not easy to catch - their tiny size and erratic flight behavior while hunting for insects make them a challenge to acquire and keep in the viewfinder. The mostly darkish plumage strains the camera's AF system and makes exposure difficult. I've to time my bursts when the bird is banking so its underparts or back are illuminated well. 
 
My DSLRs of choice for this tough job are the 1D MIV and 5D MIII - the large viewfinder and wider angle of view (compared to my 7D)  make subject acquisition and tracking much easier, while the high pixel density captures enough detail even in extreme crops. The robust AF system and fast frame rate also help a lot.
 
For glass, my venerable, battle-scarred 400 5.6L gets selected because of its light weight (I've to hand hold to keep up with the erratic flight vectors), and fast AF, especially when the focus limiter is set to the narrower range.
 
This species becomes my 278th photo-lifer. :)
 
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Pygmy Swiftlet (Collocalia troglodytes, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Fairly common, smallest swiftlet in groups flying low over forest, clearings and logging
roads (total length = 3.5 inches)

 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, February 6, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, hand held, major crop.
1500 x 1000 version


 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, January 27, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, hand held, major crop.

 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, January 27, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, hand held, major crop.


1500 x 1000 version






 
 
 

 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saunders's Gull in La Union (new Philippine record!)


I finally found some time to process the other shots I took last January 9th at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas, La Union. It turns out that I actually captured a new Philippine record in this sortie - a Saunder's Gull. This is the third new record that I've been fortunate to photo-document (the first was a Common Starling in Palawan way back in 2007, and the second was the recent Amur Falcon also in La Union) :)

It was fishing over a shallow pond in the company of dozens of Whiskered Terns, another migratory species. Even in a flock in flight, the gull was easy to differentiate from the terns because of its much larger size.

 
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Saunders's Gull (Larus saundersi, migrant, new Philippine record)

Habitat - photographed while foraging over fishponds.
 
 
 
Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.

 

Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.
1500 x 1000 version



Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.
1200 x 800 version

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