Banded Pitta in Southern Thailand

Post image for Banded Pitta in Southern Thailand

by Alex Vargas on September 22, 2011 · 6 comments

in Birding Asia, Digiscoping & Bird Photography

Banded Pitta… A Bird-Photo Jewel

Pittas are fascinating birds that hope around the forest floors in tropical Asia and Australasia, with a couple of species found in Africa.
The Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana) it’s located in the Thai-Malay Peninsula and the Greater Sundas (except the Island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia).

Banded Pitta - Female - Portrait

Banded Pitta - Female - Portrait by Alex Vargas

In Thailand, one can only find the Banded Pitta in the deep southern parts of the country and although not uncommon, it is quite a challenge to get an image of such a secretive and shy bird that lives in the darkness of the tropical forest floors.

Banded Pitta - Male by Alex Vargas

The subspecies found in Thailand has the darkest but most colorful males, while females are highly streaked and duller.

Banded Pitta - Female by Alex Vargas

Banded Pitta - Female by Alex Vargas

At the very end of a month Photo-Birding all over Thailand with my close friend Jorge -from Costa Rica- I had news from my good Thai friend Prin -owner of SuperHide- regarding a pair of Banded Pitta, taking mealworms at the shade of the dense tropical wet forest at Si Phangnga National Park (yet, another 100km further south). We got ready and drove there with the illusion of getting a decent frame of such a cool bird during our last day before returning to Bangkok.

Early morning, Khun Sak (Khun in Thai is equivalent to Mister) took us into the jungle and after passing 3 streams and “sweating a river“, we got to the end of the trail. There, at a very dark and humid spot with a mix of dense vegetation and bamboo, 3 other Thai photographers were inside their blinds already and the magic started right away!… it was surreal!… Meanwhile we got our pop-up blinds set up, the female came so close -checking on the mealworms’ box!- that I couldn’t connect in my brain how this was the bird I had aimed to approach and photograph for such a long time! The male kept his distance a few steps away, hiding a bit…

Banded Pitta - male - hiding

Banded Pitta - male - just checking

Finally, when everyone was ready, Jorge placed a few worms on a mossy rock that I found near by and the female started the feast, as we started the shooting

Banded Pitta - female - just checking

Banded Pitta - female - on the rocks

The jewel was just a few steps away from our blinds and all you could hear was a messy symphony of camera shutters… shooting slowly! Yes, it was so dark, that for photography without flash (the way we like it to preserve natural colors and avoid any disturbances to the birds) was quite a challenge!… From my 480 frames produced during that session, I kept -after a primary revision- only 43!. If you could check my exif data (you actually can in my galleries at http://www.pbase.com/alex_vargas/banded_pitta ) may be surprising to find that the fastest shooting speed was 1/8 of a second and most images shown here, were done at 1/2 and 1/4… super slow!!!

The only way it was possible to get decent quality at that ridiculously low speed, was by the use of the appropriated gear (f/2.8 lens + sturdy tripod + great gimbal head + remote cable release), plus the right settings that only practice and experience can teach you for every different condition… but gear and settings, will be another post, another day…

Banded Pitta - male - on a bamboo

Banded Pitta - male - awaiting his turn on the rock

Male and female kept taking turns in a pretty organized fashion, never coming to the meal together… In this videoclip, you can see the male in his waiting perch

Amazing isn’t it?… you can almost count the pixels in these videos… It was truly dark down there!

Might the videos also help for proving how that unique, super bright orange in the eyebrows was not created by camera saturation and so it is how they seem to the necked eye… just vibrant like fire lines!

Well, I hope you find my first feathered subject well fitted for birdingblogs and talk to you some more next thursday…

Happy Bird-Photo adventures!

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  • http://profiles.google.com/birdingisfun Robert Mortensen

    Awesome!

  • http://www.azbirdbrain.blogspot.com Jeremy Medina

    Incredible photos, Alex!

  • Jonathan Newman

    Fabulous images of what is undoubtedly one of the best Pittas.

  • Chatterbirds

    Nothing short of breathtaking! Pittas are living jewels alright!

  • Cede Prudente

    Wow! what a lovely pitta…
    Will plan a photo trip there!
    Cede

  • Pingback: Pittas – The Jewel Hunter book review

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