Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 3

This is so far a 3 part series of what wild bird photography is to me. I would probably evolve this series over time to make it current as much as possible.
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 1
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 2

Previously,  in part 1,  I discussed how I came to photographing birds and detailed what you need to get a good start. In Part 2, I gave some ideas where one can usually find birds. In this article, I’ll give an idea how a bird photographer goes out there in the wilderness to look and start capturing beautiful images of birds.

A Birdnut’s Sortie

Often, when bird photographers (or birdnuts) go out, it is simply referred to as a sortie. A sortie is basically a mission to go out and photograph birds. Sorties vary from just a few hours birding away from home to weeks-long missions. Sorties can be done in singles or in groups. Sorties can be nearby, or one needs to travel for hours. Some sorties go from one country to another. Most sorties are done on foot, but there are sorties where birdnuts are in the comfort of their cars or boats. Some bird photography sorties involve laying out an elaborate plan compose of preparing the things needed for the trip, plotting destinations, identifying the risk and dangers associated with it and a lot of things go with it.


Reserva, Baler Sortie with Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

But How Do I Go About My Own Bird Photography Sorties?

I am a weekend warrior.  Though there were times when I went out on a whim, I mostly do my sorties on a weekend. I usually plan days ahead of the trip. I would typically go with a birding buddy or with a group for safety reasons. But I have gone out alone.

I usually prepare all the logistics needed and my gears a day before the trip. I’d check the vehicle for its condition and make sure it is ready to go. I’d have all the batteries recharged. I’d have the GPS properly loaded with routes and waypoints. Then I’d go to the nearby grocery or convenience store for my supply of food and drinks. Here is the usual stuff that I buy and prepare:

  • bottled water (Absolute) and some flavored drinks (Gatorade’s Propel) for rehydration
  • some biscuits (Skyflakes or some other brand) just to fill my tummy when out in the field or when on a long drive
  • some sweets (chocolate bars) to give me some caloric/energy boost when things go tough in the field
  • first aid kit
  • clothing (hat, extra shirts)
  • birding gears

I’d make it a point to get enough sleep but often I do get excited that I can’t sleep properly hours before the trip. Typically, I would wake up early in the morning (e.g. 4:00am for Candaba, 3:00am for Subic, 5:30am if it is just nearby), get some quick shower, then off I go. I usually make a quick stop in the nearby 7-11 store to buy me some packed hot meals for breakfast (I love their liempo on plain rice) and some bags of ice to fill my cooler, before I hit some more roads or pick up my birding buddy.

Once  on the site, it is usually breakfast time for me. 🙂 Then after that .. it is mostly birding, birding, birding! Sometimes I don’t get to rest, sometimes I don’t get to eat when in the field. What my day is like will all depend on how many and what kinds of birds I encounter. Then I go home!

My Most Memorable Birding Sorties

For more than a couple of years now, I have been to several birding places all over the country. My most memorable was getting stranded in Subic in 2009 while Metro Manila was being flooded by a record breaking storm Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana). My birding buddy Dennis and I were just clueless what was about to happen during that day. The next thing we knew, Metro Manila had its most catastrophic flooding while we got stuck somewhere in Subic and left no other choice but to wait out until the storm passes through. Another most memorable birding trip I had was when I had gone with by fellow birdnuts in Mindoro. We had a chance to capture in photograph the rare Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker (Dicaeum retrocinctum).


Mindoro Sortie with Bulbuleros 400

The Risks

  • The hardest part is when going home. Often, you are so tired to move and drive yourself home. When I am with a birding buddy, we usually alternate on the wheels to lessen the risk of getting so sleepy on the road while driving for home. If sleepiness is unbearable, I/we stop to take a nap.
  • Insect bites. I remember a birding buddy of mine (Dennis), got hospitalized due to insect bites, after we went to the forest of Subic.
  • Wild bee stings
  • Snake bites
  • Getting attacked by wild animals
  • Getting stranded
  • Encounters with some not so really nice people (thieves, illegal loggers, etc). I guess the worst thing that will happen to you is when you get kidnapped by known terrorist groups and you would have to save your life as what happened to a fellow bird photographer. I happen to cross paths and shoot birds with Ivan personally one weekend in La Mesa Ecopark. Such a great guy by the way.
  • Weird accidents
  • Being flown off by a giant jungle woodpecker and be brought to its hole/nest on top of a 500 meter tree

The Lows

  • Going home empty handed
  • Going home with a ruined camera or a broken lens
  • Getting to the birding site only to find out you left your birding lens

The Highs

  • Getting stranded
  • Getting a rare photo lifer. In bird photography lingo, a lifer means you got to photograph a bird species for the first time
  • Getting a close up of a very beautiful bird
  • Getting a good photo of a target bird
  • Bump in the field with fellow birdnuts
  • Lastly, getting attacked by a thousand sunbirds

Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 1
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 2

Check out my album of Philippine birds!

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