Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My favorite mountain bird: Citrine Canary-Flycatcher

This tiny feathered creature is hands down among my top favorite highland birds. It's easy for me to fall in love with this subject - it looks so cute, its colors jump out even to my color-blind eyes, its call is pleasant sounding, and its less shy demeanor makes it easy to approach. 

Likewise, its preference to perch on a clean branch often for quite long moments allow me to sometimes change vantage points for a better background, or a more favorable direction of light. It is only about 4-1/2 inch long (from tip of bill to end of tail), so I had to get really close to fill the frame.

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Citrine Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa helianthea septentrionalis, endemic race)

Habitat - Understory usually in montane forest. 
 
Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 2500, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.



And here's an old video footage where the call of this bird was recorded:



Monday, October 2, 2017

The (less colorful) female Narcissus Flycatcher

I actually saw both the male (more colorful) and female of this species during a quickie birding walk along Camp John Hay's Eco Trail last weekend. However, the former confined itself inside the thick undergrowth, and the images I got of it were just of documentary quality, not fit for web posting.

The female was less shy and it perched quite close to me, allowing me to fill the frame despite its small size of just over 5 inches. Though its plumage is less impressive, the capture was a welcome one - it's my first time to see it in the wild.

The available light in the undergrowth was very low, and I've to push my ISO to 2500 to expose the subject well enough. I wish the background was a bit cleaner, but I was at the edge of steep slope and couldn't move to a better vantage point.
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Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina, migrant, female)

Habitat - Rare in forest, second growth and mangroves. 

Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 2500, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A reunion with some mountain birds

After months of no serious birding, I found some time to drive to Baguio and try my luck at Camp John Hay's Eco Trail. I walked the slippery path down to the small stream, and encountered a bird wave along the way. Light was very low under the canopy of pine trees so I had to shoot at high ISOs. 

I had a blast trying to focus at the small birds in dim lighting - just a couple of hours of birding allowed me to meet quite a few montane feathered friends again. 

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Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis, migrant)

Habitat - Variety of forest types at all levels and elevations.  

Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 2500, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.


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 Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni, resident, female)

Habitat - Forest canopy or understory and edge, montane forest down to 800 m. 

Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 2500, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.


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 Mountain White-eye (Zosterops montanus, resident)

Habitat - All forest types above 1000 m. 

Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 2500, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533. 


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 Mountain Verditer-Flycatcher (Eumyias panayensis, resident, male)

Habitat - Mountain forests above 800 m. 

Shooting info - Elev. 1526 m ASL, Camp John hay Eco Trail, Baguio City, October 1, 2017, 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 1250, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Brown Shrike in flight

I've never touched my birding gear for a couple of months because I'm deeply engaged in non-photo activities of late. 

This Sunday morning however, the incessant calls of these newly arrived migrants forced me to open my camera bag and take out my long-unused rig. I was hoping that the birds have already recovered from the long migration flight - their torn feathers have improved and they have put on more weight, making them more photogenic.

This season's Brown Shrikes in the neighborhood seem to be less shy than usual. They actually don't mind me being around, and they transferred from perch to perch very close to me. I had to adjust the focus limiter of my 400 DO II to the nearer 3.3 m setting to allow focus to work at the shorter distance. The wider range has the disadvantage of slower focus speed, and it took me a good part of the morning to catch one in its short flight between perches.

There was a slight motion blur at the pixel level due to my jerky panning, but the image is nearly sharp enough when resized for web posting. Looks like I got hooked again (as usual), and I look forward to more fun-filled mornings ahead trying to catch these visitors in the air.

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Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus, migrant, male)

Habitat - Common in all habitats at all elevations. 


Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, September 24, 7D MII + 400 f/4 DO II,
400 mm, f/5.0, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Butterflies with the EF 70-200 2.8 IS II

While waiting for the migratory birds to arrive next month, I try to keep my reflexes in shape by shooting these things of beauty as they flutter around my mother's garden.

My go-to lens for catching these delicate creatures is the EF 70-200 2.8 IS II - its close focusing ability, framing flexibility and fast AF make this zoom well suited for the job.

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Shooting info - Baroro, Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, August 12, 2017, Canon EOS 5D Mark III + EF 70 - 200 f/2.8 L IS II,
200 mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533. 
  


Shooting info - Baroro, Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, August 12, 2017, Canon EOS 5D Mark III + EF 70 - 200 f/2.8 L IS II,
200 mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lesser Coucals of San Manuel (Pangasinan)

A wide grassland, criss-crossed by dirt roads, located near the San Roque Dam at San Manuel (Pangasinan) has one of the denser population of this species I've seen. 

An irrigation channel from the dam runs in the middle of this unpopulated area, and surrounded at both sides by tall cogon grass. The thick vegetation, abundance of surface water and lack of human inhabitants make the place an ideal habitat for many grassland avi-fauna. Most of the area is accessible by car, hence birding is quite convenient as well.

Here's a couple of captures of this skulker taken this morning during my second visit to the place in as many days.

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Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis, resident)

Habitat - Grassland and open country. 



 Shooting info - San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan, Philippines, July 6, 2017, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 450.


 High-res 1600 x 900 version




Shooting info - San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan, Philippines, July 6, 2017, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A quail fight in the middle of a dirt road

Like two wrestlers, these two female quails were locked in combat in the middle of a dirt road when I chanced upon them at the grasslands of San Manuel, Pangasinan.

Light was coming from up front (note the shadow of the bird at left), rendering the subjects severely backlit. Nevertheless, I immediately squatted to lower the shooting angle, and took some insurance shots. I was planning to backtrack and circle around the combatants from a good distance until the sun is behind me. Unfortunately, a motorcycle rider came along the dirt road and the fighters got spooked. I had to make do with the insurance shots I managed to capture earlier.

I did some major exposure surgery during RAW conversion and post processing to mitigate the backlighting. Too bad that such action weren't captured under better light!

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Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator, both female)

Habitat - Drier grassland and scrub, often seen along highways or on dirt roads. 

Shooting info - San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan, Philippines, July 6, 2017, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.


And here's the original exposure as captured, before exposure recovery in post process - uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533. 




One of the combatants is body slammed onto the jagged rocks of the dirt road.

Shooting info - San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan, Philippines, July 6, 2017, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533. 

High-res 1500 x 1000 version


When the fighters got tired, they took a breather, staying relatively inactive while locking beaks. Both appeared to be unhurt in the melee - each one flew in a different direction when the motorcycle rider  came barrelling by their combat arena.

Shooting info - San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan, Philippines, July 6, 2017, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The heavens were on fire over Bued River last night

The long, hot summer has ended in our islands, and the migratory birds have flown back to their breeding grounds. Gone are my favorite flying subjects, but the rainclouds have started to visit with increased regularity and the night skies have become much more interesting and photogenic. 

Here's a couple of images from my first lightning hunt of the season. On this particularly humid night, the air was so still that almost all leaves of trees along Bued River were unmoving, and were rendered sharp even with a long exposure of 30 seconds. I got lucky with my choice of manually set focus distance - the nearby foliage and the far away lightning bolts were in reasonably good focus even at f/4.

The corner-to-corner sharpness of the EF 16-35 f/4 IS continues to amaze me. This little zoom has the highest satisfaction-to-cost ratio (STCR) among all lenses I've used so far. The big whites, and the 400 DO II, are stellar but their high cost drags down their SCTR.

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Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, June 13, 2017, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS,
35 mm, f/4, ISO 160, 30 sec, manual exposure in available light, Uniqball UBH45/455B support, cropped in the vertical to fit 16:9, resized to 800 x 450.




Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, June 13, 2017, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS,
35 mm, f/4, ISO 160, 30 sec, manual exposure in available light, Uniqball UBH45/455B support, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

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