Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Birding Update from the Philippines

Blue-throated bee-eaters near Subic Bay.

It's been good bird watching here in the Philippines, but the bird photography has been quite tough. This image of a pair of blue-throated bee-eaters is one of the few "worth-keeping" images I got while we were birding around Subic Bay outside Manila.

The light conditions range from super bright to near dusk depending on whether you're inside or outside of the forest and inside the forest, many of the birds stick to the canopy, making lovely bird-shaped silhouettes in the viewfinder.

In the subsequent days I've had a bit more luck—some digiscoping, some with the big camera rig. But the landscapes and seascapes and people here are undeniably photogenic. My new 18–55mm lens is capturing some delightful images of the Philippines.
Sunset near Puerto Princessa, Palawan, Philippines.

It's a huge help that we have some brilliant professional photographers along on this trip, including David Tipling, one of the world's best bird photographers, and Alex Robinson, a travel writer/photographer. I have been picking their brains a bit about photography techniques and field craft.

I've also been lucky to have some of the world's leading field birders for Asia on this trip. Next to them I feel like a beginning bird watcher, looking in the wrong end of the binoculars. These guys know many of the bird calls, can spot the birds deep in the dark forest, and can get a piker like me ONTO the birds. Among the experts I'm following around, and the tour companies they work for: Mark Andrews (WildWings and SMandrews.com ), Steve Rooke (Sunbird), Duncan Macdonald of Wildsounds, Chris Harbard of Birdwatch Magazine, and Tim Appleton, one of the creators of BirdFair in the UK. I'm the only Yank on a trip full of Brit birders. It's a struggle also keeping up with the witty repartee.

We've had minimal access to the Internet—mostly due to our ambitious schedule of early starts and long days afield. Thus the infrequent posts here.

Must run again now—we're heading out to try again for hooded pitta in the forest above Puerto Princessa on the island of Palawan. And it just started to rain...

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