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


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.

A Pied Bushchat near a nuke plant

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.

Shooting Info – Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Morong, Bataan, Philippines, Canon 40D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/8, ISO 250, 1/250 sec, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.

Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata, male)

Habitat – Drier open country, grasslands and cultivated areas.

Purple Heron in flight

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.

Shooting Info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, April 10, 2007, Canon 1D MII + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/640 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea, resident)

Habitat – Fairly common in all types of wetlands.


A short video of the Purple Heron fimed in-habitat at Candaba wetlands while in flight, hunting and feeding.

Cattle Egret

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.

Shooting Info – Iwahig, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, February 10, 2007, Canon 20D + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TCII, 700 mm, f/9, ISO 100, 1/500 sec, manual exposure in available light, A328/3421 support.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis, resident/migrant)

Habitat: Common in pastures, ricefields and marshes.

An ‘H-Bomb’ over the South China Sea

I was shooting surfers at San Juan, La Union, Philippines, last February 2011 when the sun got so low there wasn’t enough light to freeze the waveriders. Seeing no clouds obstructing my view of the South China Sea, I quickly mounted 2.8x worth of TCs to get a bigger sun.

It would appear as if an H-Bomb had exploded to the west in this shot taken just as the setting sun was about to touch the horizon. The two spots in the center of the sun’s disk were sunspots no. 1161 and 1162.

Shooting Info - San Juan, La Union, Philippines, February 19, 2011, Canon 7D + EF 500 f4 IS + stacked 2x/1.4x TC II, 1400 mm, f/16, 1/400 sec, ISO 200, manual exposure, 475B/516 support, single exposure, no filters, uncropped full frame resized to 950x633.

Black Bittern in flight

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.

Shooting Info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, July 29, 2008, Canon 1D MII + EF 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B tripod/ 3421 support.

Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis, resident)

Habitat – Uncommon in wetlands from ricefields to mangroves.

White-breasted Waterhen in flight

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.

Shooting Info - Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, May 27, 2008, Canon 1D MII + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus, resident)

Habitat – Wetter areas like grasslands, marshes and mangroves.


A short video of a foraging White-breasted Waterhen.

ISS over Manila (April 18, 2011)

The International Space Station was scheduled to pass directly over Manila this April 18th, with a magnitude of -3.8 and an altitude of about 348 km.

With the skies over our islands virtually cloudless the last few days and nights, there was a good chance of clear seeing on this pass, especially since the space bird would do its fly-by at dawn when the atmosphere over our urban area is not as turbulent as at other times of the day.  

I was encouraged to get out of bed a couple of hours before sunrise to set up my gear in my backyard. In between puffs of smoke from my favorite mentholated lung-buster, I gazed at the stars in the dawn sky and I was happy to note that the seeing conditions were quite decent.

I opted to stack 5.6x worth of teleconverters on my supersharp 400 2.8 IS for a focal length of about 2263 mm. This should make the tiny subject a bit larger in the 7D’s frame. I pre-focused manually on the setting moon minutes before the pass. Acquiring the streaking ISS through such a narrow angle of view was tough, but I eventually caught the subject in the viewfinder a few seconds after it appeared above the NNW skyline.

This frame was the sharpest among 121 shots I took. 🙂

ISS Over Manila - April 18, 2011 (04:47:48 local time), max. mag. - 3.8, min. dist. @ 348 km, Canon 7D + EF 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x II + Sigma 2x + Sigma 1.4x, 2263 mm, f/22, ISO 3200, 1/640 sec, manual exposure, pre-focused manually, 475B/516 support.

The moon kisses a mountain top

While on a birding trip to the Cordillera mountains of North Luzon in 2008, I got up at dawn and proceeded to my target birding spot half an hour drive away from the place where I spent the night.

The cool mountain air felt refreshingly good on my cheeks as it rushed in through my open car window. As I casually glanced westward, I noticed  a developing spectacle in the distance – the setting moon was rushing to meet one mountain top!

I immediately stopped my vehicle and parked by the side of the mountain trail. I didn’t have time to mount a longer teleconverter nor set up my tripod, so I plopped my bean bag on the hood, and proceeded to take some bursts with my ready 700 mm combo. I was just in time to capture the scene a few seconds before the moon kissed the mountain top, till it disappeared below the distant tree line.

The moon appeared very warm to my naked eyes, so I took the liberty to desaturate it in post process to make it appear more neutral.

Shooting Info - Elev. 1595 m ASL, Mt. Polis, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines, Canon 40D + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, 700 mm, f/8, ISO 250, 1/200 sec, manual exposure, bean bag.