HORNBILL IN FLIGHT. AN OUTING EXTRAORDINAIRE.

On March 20, a little under 3 weeks ago, I took an interest in hornbills and captured the first of a series of hornbill photos. Bird photography isn’t a genre I’m known for but in an attempt to discover new genres, I developed an interest in birds and the environment. Yesterday, at an outing jointly organised by the Brunei Nature Society (BNS) and Panaga Natural History Society (PNHS), meeting with a group of  passionate and enthusiastic bird watchers gave me a jolt of much needed inspiration.


© Jan Shim Photography

Earlier today, at 12.45 pm, I heard the distinctive cries of the hornbills (there was another in the distance) and it took me a while to figure out which direction they were coming from. My mom tipped me off and I quickly grabbed my EF100-400mm and this time, the 20D’s for the extra reach! On the top left photo is nearly a 1 : 1 distance of the actual tree from my kitchen patio vantage point of these pictures (shot on the 5D @ 100mm ). Switched over to the 20D and got the rest of the series here including the ones here in AI SERVO mode.


© Jan Shim Photography

The hornbill could have taken off in any direction but it flew my way and I had the lens @ the 400mm end (640mm on the 20D’s crop). Anyone who has tried to follow bird in flight know the challenges and difficulty in tracking them—the 20D’s AI Servo is remarkable for a non 1-series.


© Jan Shim Photography

Working with nature’s light and colours to capture these birds in flight produce great results.


© Jan Shim Photography

Update: April 08 2008. Spotted a pair this morning on a tree from the same kitchen patio vantage point. These two hopped from branch to branch then moved on to the same tree above before they separated, one on my TV antenna while the other on my immediate neighbour’s antenna then taking turns communicating via several outbursts of their distinctive cries. The gray skies made it pointless to purse them in flight today.


© Jan Shim Photography

While researching online, I came across an interesting article on SCIENCE NEWS ONLINE where an 18-month study shows that hornbills and Diana monkeys warn each other of imminent danger from approaching predators. Scientists have noted both monkey and hornbill warning calls are quite similar and the hornbills must be careful to distinguise between the two calls.

UPDATE: April 08 2008 Images from the Apr 6 BNS and PNHS outing starting with PNHS host Andrea Bloem briefing the visitors just as it began drizzling.


© Jan Shim Photography

A visitor from the Brunei Nature Society group observing the birds at the Seria Lagoon where egrets are predominantly the main occupants.


© Jan Shim Photography

There’s something for everyone including the little ones. An outing on a weekend is a perfect opportunity to get the family involved and encouraging a curiousity for nature and wildlife among kids. It was on this day that I discovered just how amazing Leica optics are—most surreal—seeing is believing.


© Jan Shim Photography

Binoculars, telescopes, digital cameras, phone cameras .. what’s a bird watcher to do without the right equipment. And what’s a trip to Seria without the iconic nodding donkey to show that you’ve visited the oil town!


© Jan Shim Photography

On the concrete bridge of a fishing and crabbing hotspot in Panaga, visitors admired the presence of several hundred egrets that assemble there every evening without fail …


© Jan Shim Photography

… while others chose a more serene moment to wind down, same location different vantage point.


© Jan Shim Photography

More visitors on this trip were shooting with Canon dSLRs (I think or was it my imagination?) Winning a SPECIAL AWARD in International Marketing from a now defunct Western Australian Institution some years back (seventeen to be exact) shaped the way I look at products and branding.


© Jan Shim Photography

Towards the evening, huge interests in the egret roost at the river had gathered heightened by the glow from the emerging sunset. Some of us had to get our feet dirty to hang out with the shy but very colourful Fiddler crabs. Along with several others who had their Adidas and Converse shoes soaked in mud, my favourite Beetle Bug was not spared.


© Jan Shim Photography

The highlight of the trip was a thoroughly unexpected panic flight tiggered by a loud noise from a nearby source and the visitors were wowed by the impromptu commotion that lasted more than a few minutes—long enough to be photographed.


© Jan Shim Photography

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28 thoughts on “HORNBILL IN FLIGHT. AN OUTING EXTRAORDINAIRE.

  1. Hi Jan,
    The last shot against the blue sky really shows up the magnificent colours of this beautiful bird. A perfect piece for a Brunei avian stamp, perhaps?
    KB-lad

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  2. Wow the last shot is really awesome! If you are really interested in taking more hornbill-in-flight photos, I’d reckon you to drop by Bukit Patoi Forest Reserve in Temburong.

    And Jan, I hope you’ll upload the photos of yesterday’s birdwatching outing. Cheers. =)

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  3. nice. detail on location please.

    Hornbills appear in my area just about every day and while it’s not too difficult to capture them perched a TV antenna or on a roof but really the challenge is to frame them in a natural environment. You’re welcome to try your luck in Kampong Sungai Bera but be warned, this area has recently been occupied by a number of new Chinese residents most of whom have not one but a number of dogs. For the life of me I cannot understand how they put up with so much barking day and night it’s ridiculous and how inconsiderate and complete disregard of the noises emanating from their homes!

    I have also seen hornbills on trees just outside the Shell Refinery/Kampong Baru. On a number of occassions when I was on the road heading to town, I came across a pair in flight and it was a lovely sight (dangerous to look at birds while driving!).

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  4. Looks like an Oriental pied hornbill…. Great pictures!

    Thanks! Indeed, after checking a number of discussion sites, this one appears to be an Oriental pied. An adult of this type has a casque (a knob on top of the large, long bill) which is yellow-white and the male has a larger casque few black marks while a female has a smaller casque with more black marks.

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  5. Dr. Charles & the others would be so delighted seeing upon these pics =D

    The hornbills are remarkably one of the most beautiful creatures found in Brunei. Nice shots you got there Jan.

    Btw, mind telling me when will you upload the Egret pics you took in Seria yesterday?

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  6. Wow the last shot is really awesome! If you are really interested in taking more hornbill-in-flight photos, I’d reckon you to drop by Bukit Patoi Forest Reserve in Temburong.

    A covert visit to Temburong forestry is in the pipeline though not exclusively to photograph birds.

    And Jan, I hope you’ll upload the photos of yesterday’s birdwatching outing. Cheers. =)

    Post-processing of the photos from the outing is complete. Selected images are posted.

    Dr. Charles & the others would be so delighted seeing upon these pics =D The hornbills are remarkably one of the most beautiful creatures found in Brunei. Nice shots you got there Jan.

    Thanks! Luck = Opportunity + Preparation. I had the opportunity and was prepared to seize the moment. Therefore I am lucky to live here but fear that futher housing development in the area will eventually drive them away. I am beginning to understand how environmentalists feel about the effects modernization has on what’s left of our heritage.

    Btw, mind telling me when will you upload the Egret pics you took in Seria yesterday?

    By egret, I take it you’re referring to the panic flying moments. I have post-processed and uploaded one here:

    http://shimworld.com/images/egrets-panic.jpg

    On Jan 30, 2008 I captured my first picture of the egrets in panic flight as I moved nearer to the nodding donkey but they apparently found me too close for comfort.

    http://www.shimworld.com/images/oiltownbirds.jpg

    You are welcome to save this image as a desktop wallpaper or for personal viewing. I would like to remind viewers that all photographs are protected by the copyright laws of Brunei Darussalam. Do I hear a chuckle?🙂 Yes, the law exists and there are consequences:

    COPYRIGHT. LOST IN TRANSLATION

    A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

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  7. The last shot against the blue sky really shows up the magnificent colours of this beautiful bird. A perfect piece for a Brunei avian stamp, perhaps?

    Yes. In a span of several seconds, shot at 5 fps, photos went from so-so against the white clouds to a oh-my-god nice against the blue sky and the midday sun helped provide the necessary back lighting to show the prominence and contrast of the white wing feathers!

    Having my work showcased on a national stamp isn’t a bad idea although I’ve yet to see stamps acknowledging the copyright owner unlike our DST Prepaid Cards. But it would be a honour all the same.

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  8. lovely photos, a bird in flight has always proved to be an intriguing concept. and seeing them both in there presence and through photography brings forth that thrill of freedom that my eyes adore each time. even when driving (though dangerous) i find myself staring passionately at a bird either perched or in it glorious display of free will.

    i have to say Jan, these photos are one of the best i have ever seen on birds on a whole and truly one of my favorite articles here in your world, keep up the good work.

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  9. Phew! One of the many reasons to take that 40 minute (yes, driving at a safe speed) drive to KB … the birds in flight shots are just too cool!😀

    And didn’t know there are a lot of bird watchers here in Brunei …

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  10. a bird in flight has always proved to be an intriguing concept. and seeing them both in there presence and through photography brings forth that thrill of freedom that my eyes adore each time.

    With half a foot in bird and nature photography, I’ve come to realise there’s nothing a photographer with the right equipment and passion cannot accomplish. I’m beginning to discover this about myself but it remains to be seen how far I’d go to pursue a new interest.

    i have to say Jan, these photos are one of the best i have ever seen on birds on a whole and truly one of my favorite articles here in your world, keep up the good work.

    Thank you very much!

    man i never get to see birds like these here in singapore

    You’d be surprised the kind of wildlife you [can] find in Singapore. After a presentation last night by Singaporean wildlife photographer Wilson Chong, seeing his breathtaking images and listening to him talk about his journey was very inspiring. You may not have these Oriental pied hornbills but you have no shortage of exotic birds. Wilson shoots with three Canon EOS 1DmkII bodies, EF 500mm and 1.4X Extender and a ton of patience, passion and commitment to pursue his love for all things WILD!

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  11. Phew! One of the many reasons to take that 40 minute (yes, driving at a safe speed) drive to KB …

    Zul, unless you live in Tutong which I don’t think you do, 40 minutes from BSB to KB you’d be driving at ANYTHING BUT safe speed! And this is coming from someone who has in the last 16 years been communiting on the same stretch of road.

    the birds in flight shots are just too cool! .. And didn’t know there are a lot of bird watchers here in Brunei …

    They are, aren’t they? Just as Vern said, “that thrill of freedom that my eyes adore each time.” birds in flight epitomize exactly that—FREEDOM. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of patience, time and commitment to photograph them.

    Bird Watchers are like you and I, ordinary people with diversed or unique interests and among the many new faces I met for the first time was Metis Wong who goes by blog name WackyChineseBoy who said …

    And you guys can also chikity-check-out Mr. Jan Shim’s famous photoblog (Shimworld) here for more photos and details of the BNS Birdwatch. I have to admit that Shimworld is such a successful photoblog as all of the photos are awesome! Keep it up, Jan! =)

    Thank you for your support! Think it’s too late for me to back down now?🙂

    From my blog stats, this post also got the attention of Yehey! news editor, Mong Palatino, who posted a link on GlobalVoices.

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  12. enjoyin nature are we ? love the pics, especially the mid-air ones, makes u just want to spread ur wings too… hehe😉 the last pic is pricelessss🙂

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  13. I’m thinking 120km/h is safer than 160km/h

    At 120 kph it would take you about 1 hour 20 mins in “normal” traffic conditions. By normal, there are no police check points, stopping to look at an accident scene and certainly no stopping by one of the many convenience stores along Telisai/Danau area for a 100 PLUS🙂

    love the pics, especially the mid-air ones, makes u just want to spread ur wings too…

    Being a freelance professional, I know what they feels like!

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  14. Seeing your photographs really hit home that I really had not paid REAL attention to my birthplace. I had seen and heard those majestic birds perched on our trees, but I realized that I never “really” saw them. Thank you for reminding me that there are many wonders yet to be explored and learned, even in our backyards!

    Btw, I am amazed and pleased by the large amount of people that showed up for the trip (per your photographs). Kudos!

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  15. I love hornbills, they’re birds with great character. Your photos are wonderful too, I like the variety of shots, the birds against the blue sky are really striking but also the silhouette of the birds in the trees is a wonderful photo

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  16. Wow… Shot #5. Hornbill in-flight. I love that shot!
    And to top it up, it’s shot in the wild.. not a bird park, not in a cage.

    I gotta make a trip to Taman Negara Pahang. Heard that you can find hornbills chillin’ at the tree in front of your chalet!🙂

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    1. Hi there!

      Yes, all the hornbill images you see here are shot in the wild which
      makes the whole experience of capturing them that more exciting. You
      could very easily have spent the entire morning chasing them from
      tree to tree or town to town and end up with several dozen of
      unusable photos OR you could be lucky to capture a handful of really
      good ones in an hour.

      You are also somewhat right about “hornbills chillin’ at the tree in
      front of your chalet!” but it really isn’t as cool as you put it
      though I’m honoured at the implication. I am however fortunate to
      have a great kitchen balcony view where hornbills and egrets
      frequently visit. You can see all the pictures that I’ve shot from
      the same vantage point which vary from one mood to another depending
      on the time and post-processing efforts (if also takes quite a bit of
      effort to click on the related links to hop from one post to another
      much like the birds in transit🙂

      Like

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