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).
Golden-bellied Flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea, resident)
Habitat – Open country, second growth, mangroves and even in residential areas.
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.
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis, resident)
Habitat – Clearings, along large streams and rivers, and in open country.
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.
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.
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.
A medium small egret (19 inch length), this white bird is very common locally. It stays close to cattle or carabao to catch insects the larger animals disturb.
This bird was foraging at a ricefield being prepared for planting at the Iwahig Penal Colony (Palawan). As it flipped the insect for better swallowing position, I pressed the shutter button for a short burst. One of the frames got the prey in the air between the mandibles.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis, resident/migrant)
Habitat: Common in pastures, ricefields and marshes.
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.