This bird was previously called the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker. As its former common name implies it’s a micro-jackhammer, with a total length of merely 5.5 inches.
It is found only in the Philippines, where it ranges in most major islands except the Palawan group and Masbate. It is often seen creeping up tree trunks and branches in forest, edge, and even in city parks. It has a loud trilling call.
I was birding at Subic rainforest in 2006 when I noticed this individual pecking low at a tree trunk. I inched my way towards the bird, lifting and setting my gear + tripod slowly, and taking some shots at each closer position until I got near enough for frame-filling, eye-level captures. 🙂
Philippine Woodpecker (Dendrocopos maculatus, a Philippine endemic)
Habitat – Lowland and montane forest and edge, in understory and canopy.
Here are some footage of the bird, including a clip where it is calling.
This young waverider slid out his surfboard from underneath him into the air to end a longish run.
In the few milliseconds before gravity took over, it would appear that the young man was walking barefooted on the surf.
The surfing beach at San Juan, La Union, is a few minutes drive from my ancestral home. My birds-in-flight shooting gear are perfectly suited to capture surfing action as well. 🙂
Here are some footage of the young fellow playing with the waves in my native La Union.
This very large, chicken-sized bird (16 inches length) is becoming more uncommon in our islands, most probably because its large size makes it a prime target for hunters and poachers.
In the last few years though, a population of this unique-looking species has steadily grown in numbers within the protected area of Candaba wetlands. These birds feed on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates, both abundant in the big lush ponds of the wetlands.
I chanced upon this individual while it was in the open, basking in pre-sunset golden light, on my way out of the wetlands. Using my vehicle as a blind, I got close enough to fill the frame with my hand held 1D MII + 100-400 IS. My copy of this lens is so sharp at full zoom wide open, that a 20″x30″ print of this shot for a museum exhibit shows very decent feather detail even when viewed from 10 inches away.
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio, resident)
Habitat – Uncommon in freshwater and brackish wetlands.
Next to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, the Yellow-vented Bulbul is the most common bird in the Philippines. It is found almost everywhere, even in highly urbanized areas. Its varied diet of fruits, insects and small invertebrates helps it to thrive well in most places. At 7.5 inches total length, it is a medium small bird.
I have been trying for quite a long time to get this bird in flight with a non-sky background, but its unpredictable and erratic flight pattern make this a very tough task. Lady Luck smiled at me a few days ago when I finally caught it in low flight, courtesy of the fastest handheld BIF combo on the planet – the 1D MIV + 400 5.6 L. 🙂
At 17.5 inches total length, the Green Imperial-Pigeon is among the largest pigeons in our islands. It ranges all over the Philippines.
I observed this individual gathering nesting materials from a specific spot at Subic rainforest and flying along a predictable direction, presumably to its nesting area, then back again. I positioned myself with my hand held 20D + 400 5.6 L along its expected flight path, taking care to have the morning sun behind my back.
Sure enough, the bird emerged shortly from its nesting materials gathering area and flew right in front of me with a photogenic twig in its beak. My ancient 20D’s AF was good enough to catch the fast pigeon, given the plain sky background.
Green Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aenea, resident)
Habitat – Lowland and middle elevation forest.
About three years ago, I and several birdnuts were allowed access inside the fenced compound of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant through the recommendation of the Provincial Tourism Office of Bataan. There are quite many species of birds inside the restricted area because of its lush vegetation and secured nature. No hunter or poacher can enter and do harm to the feathered creatures here.
The nuclear plant itself is mothballed, still unfueled, and I hope it remains non-operational forever.
This male Pied Bushchat was foraging in a grassy area near the nuke plant. I used my vehicle as a mobile blind to get very near this normally shy bird, which is found in all major Philippine islands. It is a mere 5 inches in total length, so it is about lifesize as posted when viewed through 96 dpi displays.
The female is mostly mottled grey brown in color and looks very different from the all black male. Here are some video footage of a female fimed in-habitat at Candaba wetlands.
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata, male)
Habitat – Drier open country, grasslands and cultivated areas.
A Purple Heron glides over dense vegetation as it comes in to land at one of the ponds in Candaba wetlands. Despite the featured background and the incoming flight trajectory, my 1D MII’s AF had no trouble catching the target.
Light was not as bright as I wish for birds in flight, and I was forced to slow down the shutter speed to 1/640 sec at the risk of camera shake or subject motion. I got lucky in panning and the feather detail turned out decently sharp.
These large birds (length of 1.145 m and wingspan of 1.90 m) are fairly common residents all over our islands, and they are a guaranteed catch at Candaba wetlands at any time of the year. They are so slow in the air that I sometimes refer to them as ships-in-flight. 🙂
My website’s banner photo above is a composite of 5 frames from a burst at this species.
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea, resident)
Habitat – Fairly common in all types of wetlands.
The White-breasted Waterhen is a very common bird found in all major Philippine islands. It is more conspicuous than most rails and can be found even in city parks and grassy areas. It is often seen foraging on the ground, always close to cover where it runs to when disturbed. Both male and female look alike, and it is medium large in size (11 inches total length).
This bird takes to the air in short, low flights. It is not photographed often while airborne because of the tough challenge of catching it in such brief moments.
I have many detailed captures of the bird while it is foraging on the ground. But this one in flight, with out-of-focus pond water and vegetation in the background, is probably my favorite because of the difficulty of capture.
White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus, resident)
Habitat – Wetter areas like grasslands, marshes and mangroves.
This little bird is among the most colorful of the kingfishers found only in the Philippines. At 5.5 inches length, it is also among the smallest.
I got close to this individual at a nature resort in Tiaong, Quezon province, in 2009. The single breast band indicates this is female (the male has two breast bands).
The bird’s habit of perching in one spot for a few minutes allowed me enough time to manually focus with precision. To make it bigger in the 5D2’s frame I had to shoot at a focal length of 1374 mm (Sigma 300 – 800 DG + 2x TC). The bird was in low light, so I slowed down my shutter to 1/6 sec for sufficient exposure and I tried to shoot in between the bird’s head-bobbing movement (see video below).
If I were to choose the most technically challenging shot I ever executed, this is probably the front-runner. The reward of surmounting the difficulties is a 21-MP capture, tack-sharp at the pixel level, that’s printable to really big sizes (24″ x 36″ and beyond).
Indigo-banded Kingfisher (Alcedo cyanopecta , a Philippine endemic, female)
Habitat – Uncommon, restricted to clear fresh water streams up to at least 1500 m.
Special thanks to Carmela B. of Villa Escudero for the support during filming.
Ranging only in the Philippines, the Guaiabero is a plump parrot with a short tail. It’s about 6.5 inches in length and found in Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Leyte islands. The Kennedey Guide describes its flight as “very fast bullet like.”
I’ve seen it munching guavas (see video link below) in Tarlac, hence I suspect its name was originally derived from “guayaba” which is Spanish for guava. “Guaiabero” perhaps meant guava-eater. The Philippines was of course under Spanish rule for over three centuries.
This individual was nibbling at buds of a macopa tree in Mt. Makiling way back in 2006.
Guaiabero (Bolbopsittacus lunulatus, Philippine endemic)
Habitat – Forest and forest edge, usually below 1000 m.