Selection of Philippine avian wildlife all captured in habitat, plus nature and miscellaneous images.

Philippine wild birds

Close-up of a Philippine Woodpecker

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. 🙂

Shooting Info – Subic rainforest, Zambales, Philippines, October 11, 2006, Canon 20D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/125 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

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.


Golden-bellied Flyeater

This very active bird is just four inches long, but its song is so loud that it is hard to believe this is coming from such a tiny creature.

It is easier heard than seen in trees in a wide range of habitat, including residential areas.  It is quite tough to photograph well because of its non-stop movement as it gleans insects from outer branches and leaves of trees, often in low light.

This species is found in most major Philippine islands (except for a few islands in the Visayas).

Shooting Info – Paranaque City, Philippines, March 19, 2006, Canon 20D + Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG), 800 mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/125 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Golden-bellied Flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea, resident)

Habitat – Open country, second growth, mangroves and even in residential areas.


Stripe-headed Rhabdornis

Very active in the forest canopy or middle story and sporting a contrasting plumage that complicates exposure work, this smallish bird  (6-1/4″ total length) is not easy to photograph well in its habitat.

I just got extremely fortunate that this individual perched for several seconds on a well-lit branch at Subic rainforest, allowing me to squeeze off a few frames at low ISO and fairly fast, motion-stopping shutter speed.

This photo was published at page 189 of the Handbook of the Birds of the WorldVolume 13.  The publisher, Lynx Edicions, sent me a complimentary copy of the impressive tome, but it got destroyed when we were submerged in typhoon Ondoy’s flood in 2009. At a retail price of $ 314 per copy, I think I wouldn’t be able to afford a replacement book for now. 😦

Shooting Info – Subic rainforest, Zambales, Philippines, February 23, 2006, Canon 20D + Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG), 800 mm, f/9, ISO 200, 1/320 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Stripe-headed Rhabdornis (Rhabdornis mystacalis, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Canopy or middle story of lowland forest, edge and second growth.


Portrait of a White-throated Kingfisher

The Philippine subspecies (gularis, endemic race) of this bird has a much smaller white throat than its cousins elsewhere in Asia.  At 10.5 inches length, it is a medium large kingfisher. It is very shy when approached on foot, but the ones perching near roads or trails can be tolerant of vehicles. I used my car as a blind to get reasonably close to this fellow along a trail at Subic rainforest.

Shooting Info – Subic rainforest, Zambales, Philippines, November 4, 2008, Canon 40D + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/80 sec, manual expsoure in available light, bean bag.

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis, resident)

Habitat – Clearings, along large streams and rivers, and in open country.


Purple Swamphen in golden light

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.

Shooting Info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, March 11, 2008, Canon 1D MII + EF 100-400 L IS, 400 mm, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 400, manual exposure in available light, hand held.

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio, resident)

Habitat – Uncommon in freshwater and brackish wetlands.

Here are some HD footage of this species, including an adult feeding a young bird, filmed at Candaba wetlands.


Yellow-vented Bulbul in flight

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. 🙂 

Shooting Info - Paranaque City, Philippines, May 2, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 400 5.6L, 1/1600 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400, manual exposure in available light, hand held.

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier, resident)
 
Habitat: Common in gardens, urban areas and grasslands but not in mature forests.
 

Some video footage of this common bird.


Ospreys of Sta. Cruz

From September up to April, the vast fishponds of Sta. Cruz ( Zambales province, Philippines) are a favorite spot of migratory birds gorging on easy-to-catch farmed fish.

I dropped by the area yesterday (April 26, 2011)  to check out the visiting birds. There are still quite many migrants around, but I ignored the waterbirds and instead concentrated on catching a raptor species that’s a fishpond regular – the Osprey.

These are the closest captures I’ve ever taken of the Osprey. I counted at least 5 individuals of this migratory bird of prey, fishing all day and presumably trying to stock up on fuel for the forthcoming long migratory flight to their breeding grounds.

Shooting Info - Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support .

 

Shooting Info - Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support.

 

Shooting Info – Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, migrant)

Habitat – Associated with water both along coast and inland.


The rare Tundra Bean Goose in flight

The first ever country record of the Tundra Bean Goose was reported by fellow bird photographer Alex Loinaz April last year at Candaba wetlands. This single individual became a superstar overnight among local birders, and I was fortunate to catch it in flight over one pond in the wetlands.

This large goose (roughly 30″ length and 60″ wingspan) breeds in northern Europe and Asia. It winters further south in Europe and Asia, and has reached the Philippines in 2010 with this record.

Shooting info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, April 6, 2010, Canon 7D + EF 400 2.8 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 560 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Tundra Bean Goose (Anser [fabalis] serrirostris, migrant)

Habitat – Rare in wetlands, this individual being the first record in the Philippines.


Green Imperial-Pigeon in flight

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.

Shooting Info – Subic rainforest, Zambales, Philippines, February 16, 2005, Canon 20D + EF 400 5.6 L, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/2000 sec, hand held.

Green Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aenea, resident)

Habitat – Lowland and middle elevation forest.

 

Some documentary video footage of this large pigeon.


Oriental Honeybuzzard in flight

A medium large raptor with a long, slender chicken-like neck, the Oriental Honeybuzzard feeds on ants and bees taken from nest and hives. It ranges in most major Philippine islands, except Bohol and Masbate. It has a length of 0.585 m and a wingspan of 1.420 m.

A group of these birds of prey can be seen regularly at the Quezon National Park. I waited at first light atop a ridge through which a winding road snakes up. Apparently coming from its perch at the tall trees on a slope higher than my position, this individual started soaring in mid-morning. It was an easy target to catch for the AI servo AF of my 5D MII.

Shooting Info – Quezon National Park, Quezon province, Philippines, November 20, 2009, Canon 5D MII + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Oriental Honeybuzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus, resident/migrant)

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