Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blue-tailed Bee-eater in sweet light

I haven't visited Candaba in nearly two years, so I was very excited to do a brief birding sortie in my favorite wetlands a few days ago. There was hardly a trace of clouds in the skies and this naturally gave me golden light in the late afternoon, perfect for this very colorful bee-eater.

The flimsy perch swayed in the light breeze, but the 7D's spot AI servo kept the focus placement firmly on the subject.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus, resident)

Habitat - Open country usually associated with water along rivers, marshes and ricefields.

Shooting Info - Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, November 18, 2012, 7D + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, bean bag, manual exposure in available light.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Shrike of the Season

I saw my first Brown Shrike for the season early August this year in La Union, but I had no success getting near the bird. They're very shy in that place, most probably because of wide-spread hunting with slingshots or air rifles.
Contrary to popular belief, many birds are actually less shy in urban areas where they can live near people and rarely get shot. A brief visit to my village in Metro Manila allowed me to get close to a relatively well-groomed specimen. I shot from my bedroom window with the hand held 7D + 700 mm, and the bird had no idea its image had been digitally preserved for posterity.
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus, migrant)

Habitat - Common in all habitats at all elevations.
Shooting Info - Paranaque City, Philippines, October 2, 2012, 7D + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/320 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light.

Uncropped 18 MP Full Frame

Monday, October 1, 2012

Feeding the next Munia generation

I chanced upon this adult bird feeding an immature with grass seeds at the vacant lot beside our house in Paranaque (Metro Manila) recently. Light was flat due to the overcast skies, but the noise made by the immature as it begged its parent for food was enough provocation for me to take out my birding gear from its bag.

I shot a couple of long bursts of RAW (thanks to the 7D's new firmware for the deeper buffer), and one of the shots caught the parent just as it passed a small grass seed to the open beak of the impatient youngster.


Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata, adult and immature)

Habitat: Ricefields, grasslands, gardens and scrub.

Shooting info - Paranaque City, Philippines, September 30, 2012, 7D + 500 f4 L IS + 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/640 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Oriental Honeybuzzard at Bacsil Ridge (La Union)

I visited  the mountainous eastern fringes of San Fernando City (La Union) this August 31, 2012, to inspect some concreting projects as part of my day job. I decided to bring some birding gear in the vehicle just in case I cross paths with an interesting avian subject to photograph.

True enough, a perched Oriental Honeybuzzard loomed into view as I drove down Bacsil Ridge (site of a famous battle at the end of WWII). I was pleasantly suprised to see this species in the area, which is nestled in the foothills of the Cordilleras (near populated areas and not heavily forested).
I came across the bird at mid-day, but the slightly overcast skies helped tame the harsh shadows. Luckily too, I was positioned a bit higher than the raptor, hence I was able to get out-of-focus terrestial backgrounds, instead of the usual boring sky.
This could be the first record of this raptor species in this city, and even perhaps in the province of La Union.
Oriental Honeybuzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus philippensis, endemic race)

Habitat - Seen soaring above or near forest below 1500 m.

Shooting Info - Bacsil Ridge, San Fernando, La Union, Philippines, August 31, 2012, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 IS + 2x TC II, 1000 mm, f/10, ISO 400, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, uncropped full frame resized to 800x533.
Shooting Info - Bacsil Ridge, San Fernando, La Union, Philippines, August 31, 2012, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 IS + 2x TC II, 1000 mm, f/10, ISO 400, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

This bird is found practically everywhere in the Philippines - in all types of habitat, from the lowlands to high mountains, from forest edge to parks to man-made structures to residential neighborhods. With a total length of around 5-1/4 inches, it's a smallish bird. It feeds on many things and this allowed it to thrive in huge numbers in so many places.

The ETS is so common that many local birdshooters do not bother to photograph it anymore (some of us are even hesitant to include it in our photo lifelist!).

However, I always believed that any ordinary subject - if the pose, lighting, environment and background are good - can also be transfomed into a decent image. I'd probably prefer a technically good photo of an ordinary bird over a blurry capture of a rarity in flat lighting, unless the latter is a lifer.

I was waiting for birds in flight below an Acacia tree at Candaba wetlands when this individual started frolicking at a nearby tree trunk. With BIFs slow to appear, I concentrated instead on capturing this bird in a good pose. This image is my favorite of the lot because the interesting head angle gave me a good catchlight.


Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus, resident)

Habitat - Common in virtually every inhabited island.

Shooting info - Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, January 24, 2011, 1DM4 + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC, 700 mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 800, manual exposure in available light, 475B tripod/516 fluid head, near full frame resized to 800x533.

Short footage of a Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mountain White-eye

At 4-1/4 inches total length, the Mountain White-eye is just a bit longer than its lowland cousin, albeit it is as active and tough to capture. It's a resident bird at higher elevation in most Philippine islands.

I was birding at Mt. Data in 2006, searching for the Mountain Shrike, when a noisy flock of these tiny creatures descended on some flowering shrubs to feed.

One bird suddenly perched upside down on a photogenic flower and started to sip nectar. I had to shoot from the hip, so to speak, to catch the action. My manually set exposure was off by about a stop under, but one of the frames in many short bursts got the subject with a decent pose, catchlight and strong eye contact. Careful post processing work resulted into an image that to me was worth the twelve-hour drive from Metro Manila to the Cordilleras.


Mountain White-eye (Zosterops montanus)

Habitat - Noisy and active in all forest types above 1000 m.

Shooting info - Elev. 2155 m ASL, Mt. Data, Bauko, Mountain Province, Philippines, November 6, 2006, Canon 20D + EF 500 f/4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, 475B/3421support, manual exposure in available light, uncropped full frame.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lowland White-eyes at La Union

These tiny, feathered dynamos were raiding the fruiting "atis" tree (sugar-apple or sweetsop) at my mother's backyard in my native La Union, northern Philippines. For a couple of weeks now, their high-pitched calls served as my alarm clock in the morning.

With a total length of just 4 inches, these very active birds are normally tough to photograph well. But when they descend and feed at a fruiting tree for days on end, there's a lot of opportunities to shoot and this has resulted into a few decent shots.

I had to use higher ISOs in many shots for the faster shutter speeds necessary to freeze these perpetual motion creatures. My preferred focus mode is AI servo AF so the point of focus can continuously keep up with the flitting subject.


Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens.

Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 15, 2012, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 22, 2012, Canon 1D MIV + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/320 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Largest Philippine sunbird - the Naked-faced Spiderhunter

Measuring about 172 mm (6.75 inches) from tip of tail to tip of bill, the Naked-faced Spiderhunter is the largest sunbird in our islands. For comparison, many of our sunbirds are barely 4 inches in total length, with a few reaching between 4 - 5 inches. This bird is found only in the Philippines.

I was staking out a blooming macopa tree (Syzygium malaccense) at Mt. Makiling way back in 2006, the site being a virtual feasting area for many species of sunbirds and flowerpeckers,  when I saw this individual foraging among the photogenic macopa buds and flowers.

It was the first time I saw this species in the wild, and naturally like any other birder I was mesmerized and almost frozen motionless with the endemic lifer encounter. I'm glad though that I recovered enough of my senses to manage firing some shots at the active bird. The low light under the canopy forced me to use a slowish shutter speed, so many of the shots were blurred. This photo is among the ones that came out recognizeable.


Naked-faced Spiderhunter (Arachnothera clarae, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Forest, forest edge and clearings

Shooting info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines, May 11, 2006, Canon 20D + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 800, 475B/3421 support, manual exposure in available light, major crop.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The majestic Rufous Hornbill

One of the most exciting moments in wild bird photography for me is witnessing for the first time the spectacular beauty of a rarely photographed Philippine endemic in the wild. This individual was among a flock of three birds that were foraging among the treetops at Quezon National Park way back in 2005.

With a total length of almost a meter, this bird is the largest Philippine hornbill. It is found in forest and edge, and in recent times has become less common on account of its fast shrinking habitat and its “single nestling” breeding habit.

Apart from its huge size, the feature that grabbed my attention even from afar was its striking casque (horny outgrowth on the head) - it is huge, with a color similar to cooked crab claws. This part of the head/bill must play a major role in the bird's very loud (and scary) kaaaaw call.

The Sigmonster at full zoom (800 mm) was still not long enough to fill the frame at a shooting distance of circa 80-100 meters. I had to crop aggressively to strengthen the composition of the shot.


Rufous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Forest and edge.

Shooting Info - Quezon National Park, Quezon Province, Philippines, November 5, 2005, Canon 350D + Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG), 800 mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/160 sec, 475B/3421 support, jpeg capture in available light, major crop.


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