Saturday 4 February 2012

Digiscoping Sunbirds

Thanks, yet again, to the Big Year birders I heard about a tree that was "attracting hordes" of sunbirds. I was a bit skeptical but pleasantly surprised when I came across the tree and immediately saw several sunbirds.

In all 4 of the 5 species of sunbird of Singapore were in the one tree. Crimson Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird (aka Van Hasselt's Sunbird), Plain-throated Sunbird (aka Brown-throated Sunbird) and Olive-backed Sunbird. It was my first real opportunity to study and photograph them up close, which was much appreciated.

The most striking of all is the Crimson Sunbird:

The red head is the first thing that pops out on this bird. The black stripes on the throat are also equally conspicuous.

The male Brown-throated Sunbird is also very beautiful - this photo doesn't do it justice but you can at least see that it is colourful:

The aptly named Purple-throated Sunbird (aka Van Hasselt's) was my main target for this visit:

male Olive-backed Sunbird (actually this photo is from another day at a different location):

The female sunbirds are much more difficult to identify. I'll start with the easiest of the lot.

female Brown-throated Sunbird - notice the yellow eye-ring and red eyes:

I'm not entirely sure on this one. Olive-backed can be eliminated because it doesn't have a yellow eyebrow or a very yellow underside. Brown-throated is easy to eliminate if you compare with the previous image. That leaves Purple-throated and Crimson. I'm going to go with Purple-throated on this one based on comparisons with photos online... but I'm not confident about that. If you know/think otherwise please let me know!

Digiscoping these small birds was very difficult. I took about 200 photos in 30 minutes and these were the best ones I could manage. They're constantly on the move, very small and can hide behind the flowers very easily. But with patience it's possible to get something worth keeping. That's definitely the biggest disadvantage of digiscoping. Photographing these tiny birds would be so much easier with a proper camera and lens but I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages because it's possible to get a photo of a distant bird whereas with a traditional lens it's usually rather futile. The White-bellied Sea-Eagle photo I posted yesterday was from a distance of about 30 meters!

Crimson Sunbird:

 Purple-throated Sunbird:

I'll try to find time to return to this spot and spend more time digiscoping them.