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 .
 

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