Saturday, September 17, 2011

The aptly named Elegant Tit

Ranging in most major Philippine islands (except in Palawan and Bohol), this endemic bird is not very difficult to find in forest and edge at various elevations.

But it’s quite small (113 mm total length) and very active, hence a tough customer to photograph well. Likewise, its contrasting plumage presents a daunting exposure challenge.

This bird doesn’t only look elegantly good, its song and call are very pleasing to the ears as well.

After trying for years to get a good capture, I finally got close to this bird at Mt. Data, with sweet late afternoon sunlight as bonus.

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Elegant Tit (Parus elegans, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Common from lowland to montane mossy forest.

Shooting Info – Elev. 2195 m ASL, Mt. Data, Mountain Province, Philippines, January 21, 2010, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/160 sec, 475B/3421 support, manual exposure in available light.



A Barred Rail up close

This rail, found in a wide range of habitats in most Philippine islands, is actually quite shy. I managed to get very close to one by using my vehicle as a blind and staking out a watering hole beside a wetlands trail.

My waiting was rewarded when this handsome specimen appeared at sundown. I had to shoot ISO 3200 to be able to increase the shutter speed to 1/250 sec and have a chance of freezing the walking bird.

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Barred Rail (Gallirallus torquatus, resident)

Habitat: Edges of wetlands, gardens and drier cogon grasslands.

Shooting info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, December 28, 2010, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.

Video of a Barred Rail at Candaba wetlands.

Scales instead of feathers

Not all creatures I encounter along the birding trail sport feathers…. some have scales.

I was birding near a stream at enchanted Mt. Makiling when I came across this slithering subject which was nearly two meters long.

My brain was telling me to grab my shooting gear and flee, putting a maximum area of real estate between me and the unidentified snake. However, my photographer’s foolish heart prevailed, forcing me to shoot some frames of the unusual subject.

The snake slid away silently, leaving me scared but unharmed.

Shooting info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines, December 14, 2006, Canon 20D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 475B/3421 support.

Night jet meets the supermoon

My birding gear isn’t good only for feathered creatures in flight under bright light. It can also capture metallic objects streaking in the dark night sky.

I was setting up to get some shots of the supermoon over a week ago, but the clouds wouldn’t allow me good seeing. Rather than pack my rig without firing a shot, I waited for planes taking off a nearby airport to get near the moon. The clouds introduced a large glowing halo around the moon, and that served as “rim lighting” to reinforce the jet’s silhouette.

Shooting info - Paranaque City, Philippines, March 21, 2011, Canon 1D MIV +EF 400 2.8 IS, f/2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO 1600, manual exposure, 475B/516 support.

Portrait of the uncommon Mountain Shrike

For over half a decade, I’ve been visiting the Cordillera mountains in Northern Luzon to get a close glimpse of this uncommon, now becoming rarer, endemic shrike. This species ranges at high elevation in Luzon, Mindoro and Mindanao islands.

I had several encounters prior to this capture, but none as close with good detail and pleasant background. I was walking on cloud nine for many days after this birding sortie.

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Mountain Shrike (Lanius validirostris, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Uncommon in montane forest (clearings and edge) above 1000 m.

Shooting Info – Elev. 1065 m ASL, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, January 22, 2010, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/640 sec, bean bag, manual exposure in available light, near full frame, 13.5 meters shooting distance.

Rare clips of a Mountain Shrike filmed in the Cordillera mountains.

Blue-headed Fantail

Found nowhere else in the world but in Luzon and some islands in the Visayas, this fantail prefers to stay in the dark understory. There, its colorful plumage is often not seen in full glory because of the dim lighting.

I got lucky to catch this bird in the open, under partial early morning light, while I was birding at a mountain trail in the Cordillera mountains (North Luzon). The bird is not large, measuring just 180 mm in total length from the tip of the long tail to the tip of bill.

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Blue-headed Fantail (Rhipidura cyaniceps, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Forest up to 2000 m.

Shooting Info – Elev. 1790 m ASL, Bauko, Mountain Province, Philippines, January 21, 2010, Canon 5D MII +EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/160 sec, bean bag, manual exposure in available light.

Bee in flight

A pollen-laden bee approaches a tiny flower to amass more nectar. The bee is around 10-15 mm in body length.

Shooting info - Paranaque City, Philippines, June 3, 2007, Canon 20D + EF 100 2.8 macro, f/8, ISO 400, 1/160 sec, hand held, built-in flash, near full frame resized to 800x533.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Cisticola’s dilemma

This tiny bird (110 mm total length) just caught a spider-like insect, but it is confronted with a juicy bug nearby.

Tough choice.

In the end, the bird decided that a bug in beak is worth two in the grass.

The 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC’s minimum focus distance of 3 m allows amazing magnification at 800 mm…. perfect for small birds such as this.

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Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis, resident)

Habitat – Ricefields and wetter grassy areas.

Shooting info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, August 11, 2009, Canon 5D MII + EF 400 2.8 L IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/500 sec, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.

A short footage of a Zitting Cisticola filmed at Candaba wetlands.

Chinese Egret in flight at Manila Bay

This white bird is a rare migrant to the Philippines and easier to see in good numbers at Olango island in Cebu. On some occasions, it also visits Manila Bay to the delight of birdnuts like me. I got fortunate to catch it in flight during a brief birding sortie at the Coastal Lagoon.

This bird breeds in Russia, North/South Korea and China, and winters in some parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. It is classified as a vulnerable species, with the worlwide population down to about 3,000 birds according to some estimates.

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Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes, migrant

Habitat – Rare in shallow tidal flats and ricefields.

Shooting info – Coastal Lagoon, Manila Bay, Philippines, November 3, 2010, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Brown Hawk-Owl

I was pleasantly surprised early one morning in November 2010 when I saw this night hunter perched on one of the trees in our village in urban Paranaque City. What followed were a few days of owl-watching in my front yard, and I was later joined by fellow birdshooters in the party.

The owl was already at its perching spot at daybreak and stayed there till sundown, when it set off to hunt for prey in the darkness.

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Brown Hawk-Owl (Ninox scutulata, resident/migrant)

Habitat – Forest, edge, open scrub and early second growth.

Shooting Info - Paranaque City, Philippines, November 5, 2010, Canon 1DMIV + EF 500 f4 IS + EF 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/100 sec, 475B/3421 support, manual exposure in available light.

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