Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hot 'n' cool

It was 98 degrees in the shade. With a high humidity index to match. In this sauna-like weather, sane, reasonable people stay in air-conditioned rooms and imbibe cool drinks. But not intrepid birders! No, we go out under the blistering sun to look for birds. No, not under the shade of forest trees but out in the open marshlands of Candaba. 

And for what? 

Nothing special, really. We just wanted to go there, is all.

Well, we did see a bunch of Oriental Pratincoles zooming above a pond choked with giant waterlilies. Unfortunately, BIF (birds-in-flight) photography is not my forte, what with my unwieldy zoom lens on a tripod. My wife, on the other hand, was more open to challenges. She persevered, enduring the radiant heat, and kept shooting until she felt that she was finally able to document the aerial aerobics of the fast flying pratincoles.

And then there were those "No! No! Oh no!" moments. A marsh bird would cross the street ahead of us and pause in the middle of the road. We would slowly inch our car closer up to the bird's tolerable distance. We would then turn the car engine off, oh so quietly open the door, bring our cameras to our eyes, focus on the subject and just when we were ready to click on the shutter, a tricycle would come from the opposite direction causing our quarry to dash into the nearest bush. Yes, it happened several times - to aWhite-browed Crake, a couple of White-breasted Waterhens and some Barred Rails. With the amount of shots that we kept losing to the motorized monster, we thought the odds would eventually turn in our favor. Thankfully it did and we finally got a White-breasted Waterhen as it stopped to give us one last look before it disappeared at the other side of the road.

In every outing there usually is a "thriller" moment. This time it seemed a tad more appropriate when I got some nice open shots of a Pied Triller - a bird we didn't expect to see in this kind of environment. 

For Cynthia it was a Yellow Bittern taking one big step over a lotus leaf.

At about 11 am, the heat had become unbearable. Somehow the cold bottle of water didn't have much effect on us. Perhaps it's because it set us back 150 pesos (about $3.50) for a bottle that isn't even half a liter in size. Actually, the 150 pesos was for an "entrance fee" and the bottle of water came "free" with it. This was the first time we've been asked to pay the "entrance fee" (and we've been here many times in the past). But I don't want to dwell on that.

As we prepared to leave for home, we were happy that we still got some cool bird shots to alleviate the effects of the hottest day of the year.

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