Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red-bearded Bee-eater, nesting , with Nikon D5100!

Next to the trogons, Red-bearded Bee-eater easily claims the 2nd spot as the most photographed species in Panti. It is easy to understand why, for its large size and beautiful plumage, and as friendly as the trogons as long as you play its tune right.

So when I received my D5100 on pre-order, I was excited and obviously eager to test it out against the mighty D3s to see how it fairs despite it is only 1/7 the price. The arrival of the D5100 was timely indeed as the nesting of the RBBE was on going and feeding has already started a few day earlier.

"SSShhhh..DON'T MOVE, not until I filled up my 32G card!!)

While the D3s shutter is louder than AK47, D5100's is muted and is even more silence than the D3s in Silence Mode. So this allow me to place the camera close to the bird for some close up video or snapping pics (wirelessly), without scaring the bird off. The only complaint was you can't control the video remotely hence I left it on well before the adult arrive, so wasting plenty of battery juice. 

I spent a number of days on observing this nesting and similar to what I gathered last year, the male RBBE feeds more often female, and their frequencies vary from 20mins to 35mins, hence many a time you would actually see 2 adult birds arrive at the same time, and of course it is easy for the experienced photographer to pick the right one to shoot......

Choose the one with eye-contact, not of the bird, but of the food.

"Hey Lizard, look at the camera, its D5100!"

Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus)
Beberek Tunggal * 赤须夜蜂虎ムネアカハチクイ
Guêpier à fraisebradácnik cervenobradý  * Краснобородая ночная щуркаจาบคาเคราแดง
Rotbartspint Abejaruco Barba Roja

Thanks to the review by DPReciew, the D5100 come with a hidden MLU function
which allows you to obtain crispy imgs on its 16mp sensor ....

And Cicada makes up of almost 70% of the food for the three chicks, the rest being cricket and the flying lizard. So no wonder recently Panti seems a lot more quiet w/o the orchestrated buzzing sound of the cicadas! And of course the size of the food increases as the chick grows older,  the feeding of lizard only started alter the 2nd week of feeding.

The adult with food would usually make 2-3 calls to alert the chicks of its arrival, the chicks would start buzzing in high pitch in response and when the adult perch on the nesting hole, one would come out to receive the food, usually swallow on the spot before retreating into the tunnel. So if you have three similar looking chicks inside the tunnel, how could you tell which one was fed earlier and which one was not? There are times when the adult delivery food in every 15mins and honestly I all the time I saw the same chick came out to eat!

But it was rather unfortunate in this case that the 3 chicks were forced to flush out by termites before they were ready to fledge with full feathers. Unfortunate because one was dead inside the nesting hole, two were wandering around nearby just waiting to be gobble up by some hungry animals. The rest of the story you can read here:

So it was after taking pics of the RBBEs in April that I decided to keep the D5100. Exposure is simply amazingly accurate, better than the D7000 I have got but sold later.  I did not release these pics earlier because ethically not appropriate to post pics of active nesting in the local birding community.

And my family is simply glad that now I am more willing to carry this little camera for outing than the humongous D3s. Of course the D3s will always be the anchor for bird photography,  it is superbly built, AF is fast and accurate and when i couldn't make the shot, I usually blame myself for not being quick enough to frame the subject in the viewfinder. But I must admit, in many situations, this little baby D5100 can deliver stunning results just as good as the D3s.

This lightweight camera will go with my 300mm lens as a light setup for birding trips that require a lot of walking. So coupled with the TC2 I get 300x2x1.5 which yields 900mm of focal length, outreach my original setup of D3s (500mm+TC1.4) by 30%.  

I know many has quipped that even the 600mm lens with the 5-series Gitzo feel super light, But I have explored all the fields of Sg Balang on foot with gear on my shoulder, trust me, two hours of walking later, I almost wanted to dump away my wallet, underwear, battery, tc, lenscoat, save a few gm here and there, just to make sure i could get back to my car alive.


I met these two "Vorspung dur Technik" in one of the shoot for the RBBEs, Mr. Helmut and Ms Inge to be exact. They came all the way from germany to visit Panti and a few other spots around Malaysia. 

But they did not know earlier that permit was required so when there were being escorted out by the Ranger on duty and when we met upon along the trail, she asked if i could help,  and I replied only if I was allowed  to take their pics as i always wanted to show my children how the german looks like! She agreed of course without reservation.

He could easily be the tallest guy seen in Panti, ever! A record for me!

So the Ranger agreed their stay after examining the legality of my paper and permit, but on strict condition that they must stay close to me all the time! So I have the custody of this giant German and sweet lady for a few hours, and I must say the sighting of the RBBEs feeding must be the highlight of their day in Panti. 

And when I summoned the usual 8 Dusky Broadbills to show up, they turned up within minutes to entertain, Helmut and Inge were simply delighted that they were caught by the Rangers earlier! 

When Helmut said they wanted to thank me but really did not know how to do so, I squint hard at his bino and his rental car, said to him "I will take the bino, only if it is a genuine Leica!"

Naaaah! :)))

21st May

PS : I am basically still feeling flimsy and limpy like a Panti's leech at the moment, after being discharged from hospital for abdominal cramp treatment for a few days, nothing serious though, but strict dieting and hundreds of pills later, i feel like drinking blood to survive!

For that reason several blogs that i have drafted earlier (April) were not posted so I have deleted them. So I will take it easy for now and slow down a bit on my blog, until i am fully recovered.

Video will be uploaded below, not on the hospital, but the RBBEs....


  1. Paul,very nice capture.
    I hope I can join you in coming April,2012.

  2. These images are simply amazingly brilliant fantastic~

  3. Hope you have a speedy recovery. Looking forward to more of your interesting blog entries.

  4. Very nice and entertaining blog. Keep it up and do take care.

  5. Beautiful picture.