A Few Madang Birds

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I haven’t shot any birds for quite a while. That’s a shame, because most of them are delicious. There are exceptions, such as the famous Pitohui, which are poisonous and therefore not likely to end up on my table. Okay, the truth is that these days I shoot birds exclusively with a camera, so my appetite for avians must be satisfied by the humble chicken.

So, some while ago I decided to shoot every interesting bird that I saw in a single day. My weapon of choice was my Olympus SP-590UZ superzoom which protrudes its lens to a ridiculous 26x optical magnification. It’s downright sinister and not a little indecent. Admittedly, this extreme zoom is far less sharp than a US$5,000 dedicated lens which weighs approximately as much as a Volkswagen. However, it produces usable snapshots and has a special “Bird Watching” mode that sets you up for shots like these with a simple push of a single button.

I’ll start with the worst of the shots. This is a young European Black Kite (Milvus migrans) sitting at the top of a tall tree along Modilon Road watching traffic:You can clearly see the faults of the tiny superzoom. I had to mercilessly chop out noise, losing much detail in the process. The colours are less than thrilling.  The original exposure was also not very sharp due to optical deficiencies in the lens. However, let’s look at the upside. I took this shot from nearly 100 metres. I had to crop it very little – you’re seeing about 80% of the original frame. The sky was dead white because of the overcast, so the lighting conditions were about as bad as they get. I had to fake a blue sky. Still, it’s not bad for hundred metre hand-held shot from a camera that sells for less than US$500!

Over at the Lily Pond on Modilon Road I found some very nice water birds tip-toeing around on the huge lily pads. Here is what I think is a Yellow Billed Egret (Ardea intermedia): There are supposed to be crocodiles in this pond. In fact, up until a few years ago, I can guarantee that there were crocs here. Brian Lusmore tells a story of a night when he was returning home to the Teacher’s College and had to stop his car next to the lily pond to move a log that someone had placed across the road. This is a very common occurrence in PNG. We simply get used to it. You do, however watch out to see if there are any guys with guns hiding in the bush, as this is a common ambush techniques. Anyway, getting back to Brian’s story, he was taken aback when the log moved as he approached it. It seems (you’re way ahead of me here) that the log was a rather large, scary crocodile warming itself on the tarmac.

Here’s another shot of the egret:I see these all the time. It’s silly that I’ve never bothered to shoot them.

Sharing the pond with the egrets were several Spotted Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna guttata):I’m fairly sure of the identification. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Fish are my game.

Here are some younger individuals:Papua New Guinea is a bird watcher’s hell. Out in the bush it is very frustrating to engage in the Sport of Eccentrics. You can hear them all around you squawking, squeeking, singing, ringing like bells and producing a continuous cacophony that makes it impossible to sleep at night. However, because of the density of the foliage, you can hardly ever see them.

That’s why I do my birdwatching in town.

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