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.
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.