Photography Editor Bob Kaufman writes about the latest avian attraction at La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City.
by Bob Kaufman
The heat and humidity put our endurance almost to their limits as we waited for the bird to appear. Two hours-and-a-half being bathed in copious perspiration and not even having a mere glimpse of the brilliantly colored rarity could put any normal bird photographer into a state of gloom. Add to this the fact that this uncommon creature, the Rufous Paradise Flycatcher, was seen by a whole entourage of birders just that very same morning! They found what they were looking for! But for the three of us, me, my wife and our friend, Peter Ting, we dipped so badly we felt like tortillas in a salsa bowl.
Exactly one week later, it was redemption. Once again the three of us were back at La Mesa Ecopark. Together with fellow bird photographers Tonji and Sylvia Ramos, Mike Anton, Ralf Nabong, Rocky Sison, Irene Dy and Robert Hutchinson, we endured the intense humidity and the attack of mosquitoes and ants as we waited for le grand dame of the birds of the mini-forest to make her appearance.
Appeared she did and the paparazzis got busy. About a minute and the avian diva was gone. Only to return teasingly in a very quick encore as we all scrambled to get one, just one good photograph of her. A glimpse of paradise would have been sufficient. Perhaps I had won her favor that day for I was one of those that got a lucky shot.
For about a month, the brightly colored flycatcher flirted with the local bird photographers, breaking the hearts of a few, and thrilling some fortunate ones. Others obtained her graciousness through sheer persistence. Our colleague, Ramon Quisumbing visited the Ecopark four times, but was able to photograph the Rufous Paradise Flycatcher only on the third day and missed her again on the fourth.
The above photos were taken by Ramon Quisumbing, reproduced here with his permission.
For a photographer, the conditions at La Mesa Ecopark has always been a challenge. The profusion of trees at the mini-forest limits the amount of ambient light especially underneath the leaves – where the birds in general and the Rufous Paradise Flycacther in particular, prefer to stay. Add to this the unpredictability of the movement and the active nature of this species. In situations like these, bird photographers need to be always on the alert and must have the adjustments of their cameras already at the proper settings.
The joys and sorrows of bird photography can be possibly be illustrated by the quest for this very colorful bird. It can either be paradise lost…or paradise found.