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. 🙂
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.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, migrant)
Habitat – Associated with water both along coast and inland.
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.
Tundra Bean Goose (Anser [fabalis] serrirostris, migrant)
Habitat – Rare in wetlands, this individual being the first record in the Philippines.
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.
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.
Oriental Honeybuzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus, resident/migrant)
Habitat – Seen soaring above or near forest below 1500 m.
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.
This uncommon waterbird is secretive and solitary. It is medium size, being 23 inches in total length, and a resident at all major Philippine islands.
The Black Bittern’s shy nature and dark plumage make it tough to see when in cover. It took me several years of birding at Candaba wetlands to get a good glimpse of the bird.
This one was flying low over the grasses of the wetlands when I chanced upon it. My manual exposure settings were priorly set for mid-toned birds, so I quickly reduced my shutter speed from 1/1600 sec to 1/1000 sec for a 2/3 stop boost in the illumination of the dark subject. The 1D MII’s AF did a great job of locking focus on the dark plumage despite the featured surroundings.
Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis, resident)
Habitat – Uncommon in wetlands from ricefields to mangroves.
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.
The distinctive large bill of this uncommon migratory duck makes identification in the field quite easy. This female was flying full speed in a slightly upward trajectory when I caught it at Candaba wetlands. The background was out-of-focus pond water and vegetation.
This duck is medium large (19 inch length and 31 inch wingspan). When coming in to land as a group, their swift flight makes an audible swoosh sound as their wings slice through the air. They feed by swimming with their neck outstretched and lower mandible below the water, sifting floating vegetation.
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata, female)
Habitat – Uncommon in fresh water marshes and shallow lakes.
The Collared Kingfisher normally takes to the air only when swooping at a prey or transferring from one perch to another. There it usually stays for many minutes, with its head constantly bobbing, and its eyes looking for potential meal.
This bird was flushed from its rock-perch at Manila Bay by a shell-gatherer who was walking along the shore . The bird whizzed by me and it flew just above the seawater surface towards another rock-perch. I got lucky…. I was able to acquire the subject fast enough during the short flight for this shot.
Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris, resident)
Habitat: Coastal areas to open country, but seldom in forest.