Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back to Panti again!

After dieting for two weeks i see myself looking more and more like Ally McBill than Hulk Hogan before! Lack of sugar intake makes me tremble at night so I convinced my family that the shivering was due to lack of birding trip, as i needed more sun and walking. So a compromise was made, go Panti but no venturing of the side trails on foot, stay close to the car (I lied) and make sure the mobile line is working at all times........

And Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler would be your best bet in Panti if you are tired of walking looking for birds but need to shoot something along the main bunker trail! They are in abundance and are extremely responsive to calls. If you are good in whistling you don't even need a mp3 player for this species.

Fluffy-backed Tit Babbler (Macronous ptilosus)
Burung Pong Pong * 绒背纹胸鹛ミノゲチメドリ
Timalie chamasatimália štetinatáนกกินแมลงหลังฟู
Stachelrücken-MeisentimalieTimalí PilosoUldrygget Mejsetimalie

My favourite location for the Tit Babbler is at the swamp, 100m before the Elephant Trail, where the open space of the swamp gives you more light which is crucial for this species that like to perch in the shades of undergrowth. I left the D3s at home this time as I wanted to to carry lighter load in case a lot of walking was needed, and the D5100 with the recently acquired Gitzo 3-series is almost 2Kg lighter than the D3s with Gitzo 5 series!!!

And the decision to stay around the swamp proves rewarding, a Rofous-tailed Tailorbird shows up for a minute to investigate the commotion by the 4 Tit Babblers I was having fun with, perched right in front of me! So is another 'Tick' in my miserable collection.  

I have stopped counting lifer/tick since last year, after I leant that there are more than 9000 species in the world. So enjoy nature and the fun of bird photography while I still can rather than getting anxietic and grow more grey hair just because someone else has 2 more lifers than me. Life is short!

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus)
Perenjak Ekor Merah *  红头缝叶莺ズアカサイホウチョウ *
Couturière à queue roussekrajcírik hrdzavochvostýКрасноголовая славка-портниха นกกระจิบกระหม่อมแดง
Rotschwanz-Schneidervogel Rødhalet SkrædderfuglSastrecillo Colirrufo

There are birds you have to go after them, and then there are birds that would come for you. Sooty-capped is one such species of the later. I was resting near the 1st YSB (Yellow sign board) and heard its calls. It was loud and clear so I setup my gear immediately, played its music for a minute and wait for it to show up, It came within seconds and it was all over me for an hour! 

The occurrence of Sooty-capped Babblers are not as widespread as the Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers. They tend to be near some messy undergowth under dark canopy, often near a stream. But the good news is they are extremely enthusiastic to perch clean in a bright spot when called upon, often within 10-15' reach without the need of camouflage or blind. 

Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine)
Rimba Tinjau Belukar *  纯色树鹛ズグロチャイロチメドリ
Akalat affindudroš lužnýนกกินแมลงหัวสีคล้ำ
Schwarzscheitel-ZweigtimalieTrætimalieTordina Coronioscura

And a few other species shot on the same day........

 Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella)

 Grey-chested Jungle Flycatcher (Rhinomyias umbratilis)

 Raffles's Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus)

Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata)

Scarlet-rumped Trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii)

 Giant Cream Squirrel.

Pig-tailed Monkey ?

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....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Changeable Hawk Eagle - Final Episode! Darth Vader Series (The End) :)

This is really the end of the Changeable Hawk Eagle series! There are thousands of pictures (on the CHE nesting alone) I have yet to go through. And I could almost hear the Red-bearded Bee-eater screaming at me  everynight " Pleaseeee.... Post Me On The Blog"!

The good news is access to the durian plantation is opened, and the bad news is both the adult Changeable Hawk-eagle and the juvenile are missing, according to the plantation's owner! Understandably CHEs always re-use its old nesting so I have asked the owner to preserve the nesting at all cost, which he gladly obliged!

So, hear we go, the Darth Vader Series!

Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus)
Helang Hindek * カワリクマタカ * Diều đầu nâu
Aigle huppé * orol viactvarý * Изменчивый Орел * เหยี่ยวต่างสี
Haubenadler * Águila-azor Variable * Lysbuget Høgeørn

Happy Ending! Ok, here is one more....the one I posted on my Facebook, The Imperial Walker!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blue-throated Bee-eater, with Nikon D5100!

May 2011

I went back to the durian plantation recently in hoping to see the CHE juvenile but regrettably the access was still blocked! :(  According to the construction worker i spoke to it will take another month before vehicles are allowed to get thru, so i guess the juvenile CHE is going to miss me to death!

So i made a quick diversion to a nearby deserted lot for the bee-eater as I have seen and photographed them busy making nesting holes on the ground.  The 4 pairs seemed to live in harmony as their nesting holes are not too far apart,  I was rather puzzled by one particular pair though, they were still busy digging not one, but 4 holes, all within the same area. (see video at the bottom)

Generally Blue-throated Bee-eaters are actively moving while on perch and love to perch on tiny branches in the open space, so anything under 1/60s is risky. But luckily their perch are predictive, hence you will have all day to perfect your low iso shots with MLU once you found their feeding ground.

I took delivery of my new camera Nikon D5100 last week, and most of the shots here were taken with it + TC1.4 and 500mm F4 lens.  The focal length on the cropped sensor gave me a fright once again  as I am so used to the fullframe's focal length camera by now. 

But the extra reach is certainly handy when it comes to nesting and shy species.  The three photos abv (D5100 with 300mm + TC2) were shot quite some dist. away on 50% cropped!  

Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis)
Beberek Leher Biru * 蓝喉峰虎ルリノドハチクイTrảu đầu nâu
Guêpier à gorge bleuevcelárik modrohrdlýМалайская щуркаนกจาบคาคอสีฟ้า
Abejaruco de Garganta Azul * Hinduspint

There is no bird in this pic, just thought it would look nice on 
my blog as it was taken on location!

4th May 2011

Although the cropped sensor gives me a shocking extra 50% reach,  but I got even more greedy today by setting up hide 15' from their favorite perch, as you can see the perch was on higher ground so any nearer would be undesirable due to higher inclination angle that produces chin-up-looking shots l.

 4 pegs and string come with the hide, and it is important to clamp
it down tightly as breezing wind will send tremor to your lens hence
killing your mlu shots.

Sitting in the hide under humid temperature is not something i really enjoy, half the time I was worried that a pit Viper or King Cobra would sneak in happily underneath to say hello, especially in Panti forest. 

But the hide I got from Jason of is awesome, it has more windows than my terrace house for sure and honestly, just as spacious inside. There are more than 10 zipped openings on the four sides so as long as you are not taller and fatter than me you should feel comfortable to move around your setup and shoot at any angle and direction you want.

So lets take a tour inside....

I sweat easily, but with a satisfying shot like this somehow helps to 
slow down my perspiration and palpitation.....
DON'T set up something like this in the desert of Libya now 
even if you saw a big-foot hopping around!

And with the hide, you get shots like these easily, bird imgs in full frame without spooking them! Half the time I was giggling as the bird would stare at the lens with s strange look. 

 "Huh? Say What? You are Paul WHO?"

Sample video  D5100 on 30fps... 

6th May 2011

Got bored today after work, and suddenly think of the BTBEs again! So i made a quick trip to the site hoping to see 4 of them on the same perch.......

Three BTBEs came around 7pm, at ISO 8000 F6.3 speed was only 1/60s on D3s, low for this species as they are constantly moving eyeing for prey, and the wind was quite strong, so i guess i just have to come back again! Besides i need at least F16 to cover the DOF for the three as I am shooting from low angle! :(

And below is an uncropped img taken with D5100 + TC1.4 500mmF4, shot from hide again ~17' away, there was another bird barely 10 inches away! But due to the narrow field of view and close distant it was out of the frame.

Tight crop, plenty of detail from the awesome new 16mp sensor! :)))

7th May 2011

By the time i reached the site, 7 BTBEs were already roosting on a tree for the day! A quick setup of my hide and got only two on a perch! Is that too much to ask for 4 on a perch? :(

So more is coming!