Monday, December 30, 2013

A banking Barn Swallow

These fork-tailed little birds fly like miniature fighter jets, but a naked 500 f4 IS coupled with a machine-gunnish 1D Mark IV, without the handicap of a teleconverter, is fast enough to catch one in the middle of a banking maneuver. The head turn has just the right angle to produce a nice catchlight from the late afternoon sun.
 
I've been very busy with non-photo activities lately and this was the first time in many months that I shot BIFs again. I'm pleasantly surprised that my aging eyes and rusty reflexes are still good enough to freeze feathers in mid-air.
 
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Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica , migrant)

Habitat - Coast to above the forest in high mountains. 
 
 
Shooting info - Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, December 29, 2013, 1D MIV + 500 f4 IS, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, Manfrotto 475B/516 support.


 
 
 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The really handsome Handsome Sunbird

If a name given to a bird species fits its appearance perfectly, this is surely one fine example. With a total length of only 3-1/4 in. to 3-1/2 in., this is the smallest among Philippine sunbirds. The posted photo here is only 800 x 533 pixels, yet the subject will  already appear larger than lifesize on most displays.

The male is so brightly colored, with an amazingly iridescent crown. Such beauty however is not easy to appreciate in the wild with the unaided eye because of the tiny size of the bird and its very active nature. An observer is allowed only fleeting glimpses of this diminutive avian hunk.

This particular individual was feeding among the flowers of some birds-of-paradise plants in the lower slopes of Mt. Makiling when I got a frame-filling capture. Available light was very tough to control, but I shot in RAW and this allowed me to recover much detail in the shadows and in the highlights.

The clean background, the classic pose and the symmetry of the curves of the bird's underside and the perch place this  image among my top favorites.
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 Handsome Sunbird (Aethopyga bella, a Philippine endemic, male)

Habitat - Thickets, forest edge and forest below 2000 m.


Shooting Info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines, October 28, 2007, Canon 40D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, near full frame.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Philippine Falconet

At a mere 160 mm total length and with a wingspan of only 250 mm, this micro-raptor is among the world's smallest birds of prey. This species is found only in the Philippines.
 
It is often seen perched in the canopy, from which it swoops to catch insects and small vertebrates, sometimes in mid-air. It has oversized claws (relative to its body size) to grab and hold its quarry tightly. Its serrated upper mandible is suited well to tear into the flesh of its prey.
 
This individual was peched near the top level of a tall tree when I saw it as I was birding in my vehicle along a trail at Subic rainforest. I got out of the car to shoot hand held, and the 500 f4's effective image stabilizer allowed me to get sharp captures even at a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/250 sec.
 
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Philippine Falconet (Microhierax erythrogenys, a Philippine endemic)
 
Habitat - Open forest and edge, perches in the canopy or on dead trees.
 
Shooting Info - Subic rainforest, Zambales, Philippines, July 21, 2007, Canon 20D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, hand held.
 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The uncommon Philippine Nightjar

This night forager was resting on a coconut frond about 25 feet above the ground, inside the vast campus of the University of the Philippines at Diliman, Quezon City, nearly six years ago. It was as motionless as the Oblation statue, and this allowed me to utilize a very slow shutter speed (1/15 sec) to expose well at a low ISO 200.
 
This species is found only in the Philippines and at 9-1/2 inch total length considered medium small. Both sexes look alike. This individual was partially in the shade, and I was shooting against the overcast sky at around noon time. So I decided  to resort to a hand held spotlight as a mild fill-in lighting, and this lessened the shadows a bit. This is among the few times I used artificial lighting at wild birds.
 
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Philippine Nightjar (Caprimulgus manillensis, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Uncommon in scrub, second growth and pine forest up to 2000 m.
 
Shooting Info - UP-Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, November 30, 2007, Canon 40D + Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG),
800 mm, f/9, ISO 200, 1/15 sec, 475B/3421 support, fill-in spotlight, manual exposure.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Black-headed Gull

This waterbird is only 15 inches in total length, but its wingspan is an impressive 36 inches. This is indicative of its capability for long flights over its extended range. While quite common in many places in Eurasia, it's uncommon in our islands, thus earning star treatment from birders and bird photographers whenever it is seen flying along our coasts.
 
Bathed in early morning golden light, this individual was fishing at Manila Bay when I got lucky to be able to capture it with full wingspread.
 
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Black-Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus, migrant)

Habitat - along coast at river mouths, in bays, mud and coral flats, and ricefields.
 
Shooting info - Coastal Lagoon, Manila Bay, January 4, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 L IS + EF 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, 1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400, manual exposure, 475B/3421 support .
 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Black-winged Stilt in high key

It's not too often that the lighting conditions are just right to allow good exposure  of the contrasting plumage of this bird. In early 2011, I got lucky to be able to freeze this individual as it took off from one of the fishponds in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.
 
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Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus, migrant)
 
Habitat: Wetlands from coastal mudflats to ricefields.
 
Shooting info – Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, February 9, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support.
 

Black-chinned Fruit-dove at 1600 mm

This uncommon, medium size fruit-dove is found in most Philippine islands. It is about 10 inches total length, and is termed near-endemic to the Philippines because it also ranges in an island off the coast of Taiwan.
 
This individual was feeding in the canopy of a local fig tree at Mt. Makiling when I had the opportunity to photograph it. I had to mount a 2x TC on the Sigmonster to fully fill the frame of the Canon 350D. Before the advent of Live View, focusing manually through the dark viewfinder was quite a challenge.
 
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Black-chinned Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus leclancheri, a near Philippine endemic, male)

Habitat - Uncommon in forest patches up to 1500 m.
 
Shooting info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, January 2, 2007, Canon 350D + Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG) + Canon 2x II,
1600 mm, f/16, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, uncropped full frame resized to 1200x800.
 

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Collared Kingfisher (A simple portrait)

The 8 am sun was starting to emit photons on the harsh side when I got near this Manila Bay resident. Nonetheless, the eye contact, good detail and the natural perch made this capture a favorite of mine for this species, the most common of Philippine kingfishers. This bird has a total length of about 9-1/2 inches.

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Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris, resident)

Habitat – Coastal areas to open country, seldom in forest.
 

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, 1/1250 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The tough-to-expose Brahminy Kite

I've always considered a Brahminy Kite in flight as among the toughest exposure jobs a birdshooter can encounter in the field.
 
The adult bird's white head and breast are in extreme contrast to the dark wings and the rest of the body. In addition, this raptor prefers to come out in the air at mid-morning to early afternoon, when a breeze is blowing. This is to save energy during the hunt. It can just ride the air currents with motionless wings like a toy kite (that's probably where its name came from?).

The trouble with such flight time is the harsh light - it wreaks havoc on the exposure of the bird's contrasting plumage.
 
Imagine my joy when this individual came out earlier that usual over the fishponds of Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Light at half past seven in the morning was still reasonably decent. This allowed me to expose the dark underparts well, while controlling the highlights. The catchlight in the eye and the photogenic full wing spread showing the primaries nicely are welcome bonus.
 
This raptor at 20 inches total length is considered medium sized. Its wingspan is a tremendous 48 inches, and that gives it enough wing area to glide and soar at the slightest breeze. It ranges in most Philippine islands.
 
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Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus, resident)

Habitat - Open areas often near water, and also in mountains to 1500 m.
 
 
Shooting Info - Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, April 26, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Crested Myna in flight

I took out my BIF gear this weekend to shake the rust off the equipment and my reflexes.
 
The mynas at an open field in the surfing town of San Juan (La Union) provided a good target practice for this currently-not-so-active birdshooter. The black plumage is not particularly known to excite the AF sensors of DSLRs, thus it presented a formidable challenge to both this imager and his tools. After numerous attempts at the flying bird, I was lucky to get some frames in focus.
 
This bird species was native to China and southeast Asia, and introduced to the Philippines in the 1850s where it thrived well. Now common in Luzon and Negros islands, it is a medium large bird, with a total length of about 10 inches.
 
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Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus, resident)

Habitat: Open country and agricultural land.


Shooting info - San Juan, La Union, April 28, 2013, 1D MIV + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/1600 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.
 



Shooting info - San Juan, La Union, April 27, 2013, 1D MIV + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.


Friday, April 26, 2013

The tiny Red-keeled Flowerpecker

This diminutive flowerpecker (total length is ca. 4 inches) is common in most Philippine islands, except Mindoro and the Palawan group.
 
That said, although easily found or heard, it is quite difficult to observe well due to its active nature, minute size and preferred habitat (canopy of trees). Photographing it on a good perch, with a clean background and frame-filling detail, is even more challenging especially when shooting in low light under the canopy.
 
I was very lucky to catch the bird in the first photo just as it landed on a branchlet. In my haste to shoot before it moves on, I erred on the manual exposure and I had to push the brightness by 1.5 to 2 stops in post process. The 40D's RAW file held up pretty well to the extreme exposure adjustment - shadow details were recovered but noise is well controlled.
 
The second photo shows a bird nesting under the canopy of a coffee tree at the foothills of Mt. Makiling. The scene was so dark and I needed a fast shutter speed for the handheld Bigma so I was forced to use a flash and Better Beamer, among the rare times I use artificial lighting at wild birds.

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Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Canopy of forest and edge, usually in fruiting and flowering trees.
 
 
Shooting Info - Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines, December 29, 2007, Canon 40D + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, ISO 400, 1/100 sec, f/5.6, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, near full frame.





Shooting Info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines, June 12, 2004, Canon 300D + Sigma 50-500 DG+ Sigma EF 500 flash/Better Beamer,
500 mm, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f/7.1, hand held, jpeg capture, near full frame.
 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The rare White-fronted Tit

One morning in early December 2006,  a mobile phone call from fellow birdshooter and close friend Tina M. sounded sweet music to my ears - she just stumbled upon a nesting pair of this rarely seen (and photographed) Philippine endemic at Subic rainforest.
 
I rushed to the area right away from Metro Manila, almost breaking the sound barrier while driving along the North Luzon Expressway. The prospect of bagging a rare endemic photo-lifer elevated my adrenaline level to record highs.
 
This tiny bird is found only in the Philippines, where it ranges in Luzon and Mindanao islands. With a total length of just 5-1/4 inches, and given its habit of staying in the crown of trees, it presents a tough subject to fill the frame with. I had to stack two 1.4x TCs on the 500 f4 to get a bit closer. The dark plumage and the contrasting white spot at the forehead  likewise didn't make the exposure job any easier.... good that I shot in RAW, I was able to recover later some details in the highlights and shadows.
 
That so few images of this species are generated when one does a Google image search even now (over six years after this capture) is a testament to how difficult it is to see this bird in the wild.

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White-fronted Tit (Parus semilarvatus , a Philippine endemic)
 
Habitat - Rare and local in lowland and middle elevation forest and second growth.

Shooting Info - Subic rainforest, Bataan, Philippines, December 3, 2006, Canon 20D + 500 f4 L IS + stacked Canon 1.4x II/Tamron 1.4x,
1000 mm, ISO 800, 1/80 sec, f/9, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, near full frame.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blue-naped Parrot

This medium-sized parrot (12-1/2 inches total length) is found in all major Philippine islands, but it's now becoming rarer due to habitat loss and poaching pressure. It can still be seen in good numbers at Subic rainforest, where this photograph was captured, as well as in Palawan island.
 
I chanced upon this individual while it was feeding at a guava tree near a road at Subic. Using my vehicle as a blind, I was able to get reasonably close to the subject. The frame-filling capture has so much detail, even if the EOS 40D's resolution is considered modest by current standards. I was able to blow up the 10 MP RAW file to a 24" x 36" print for an exhibit, with excellent feather detail even when viewed up close.
 
Interestingly, this same photograph appeared on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a comparative image to the illustration used in the new Philippine 500 peso bill.

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Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Uncommon in forest and edge.

Shooting Info - Subic rainforest, Bataan, Philippines, December 5, 2007, Canon 40D + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x II, 700 mm, ISO 400, 1/125 sec, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.
 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The rare Hoopoe

This strange looking bird with an impressive crest is a very rare migrant in the Philippines. Often found in open scrub, ricefields and grassy areas, it feeds on insects by probing in the ground with its long bill. It is 10-1/2 inches in total length.
 
Its crest is normally retracted behind its head, but it spreads this into a spectacular fan-like headdress when alarmed. This individual opened its crest very briefly when a domestic chicken and its chicks got close. An 8 fps burst from my 1DMII captured the photogenic crest in mid-spread.
 
 
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Hoopoe (Upupa epops, migrant)

Habitat - Rare in the Philippines, found in open scrub, dry ricefields and park-like settings.
 
Shooting Info - Ternate, Cavite, Philippines, August 19, 2008, Canon 1D MII + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x II, 700 mm, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.
 
 
 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Long-tailed Shrike at Bacnotan (La Union)

The afternoon light was golden this weekend in my native La Union. This encouraged me to do some quickie birding in the fields of nearby Bacsil, Bacnotan. I used my car as a blind to get near this bird that was perched atop a banana stalk.

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Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach, resident)

Habitat - Open country and scrub.
 
Shooting Info - Bacsil, Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, January 20, 2013, Canon 7D + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x II, 700 mm, ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.


 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Java Sparrows at Bued River (La Union)

I was trekking along the banks of Bued River (a river that snakes from the Cordillera mountains down to my native La Union) when I saw these pretty, little birds. This turned out to be my closest encounter yet with this species, and I'm glad I got both an adult and immature.

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Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora, resident)

Habitat - Uncommon in parks, residential areas and scrub, sometimes in neighboring ricefields.
 
Immature

 

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, January 10, 2013, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 L IS + EF 1.4x II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, bean bag.
 

 
 
Adult
 



Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, January 10, 2013, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 L IS + EF 1.4x II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, bean bag

 
 


Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, January 10, 2013, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 L IS + EF 1.4x II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/500 sec, bean bag.



 


 

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