Brunei Darussalam



I want to take this opportunity to thank Jude Williams of Bobolee Chronicles for the support although it amuses me to suddenly find myself a “wildlife photographer” when perhaps my peers and clients know me more of an Corporate Events / Commercial guy. Perhaps the cries of the hornbills have been my calling.

© Bobolee Chronicles


It’s official and in case you haven’t noticed (or registered), we have Hornbill School, Hornbill Apartments, Hornbill Drink at the Panaga Club and Hornbills, our feathery friends that have made oil town SERIA their home! On my way home from badminton around 5pm yesterday, driving past Seria town heading home, I saw in the distance a shadowy pair of hornbills flying towards me—the unmistakable 3-flaps-and-glide pattern. When they finally got out of the shadows into the beaming sunset glow the sight was beautiful. Moments like this I wished I had my camera with me. So I headed home and grabbed my 20D/100-400mm and headed back out to town for another hornbill adventure …

These pair were spotted right (pardon the pun) at the power station right across from Shell refinery. Looking at them through the viewfinder and seeing the left bird pecking at the spot light left me amused. It might have seen a mirror-reflection of itself thinking there’s a third-party involved 🙂

© Jan Shim Photography

What happens next I guess is a stroke of luck. You cannot take your eyes off them and having learnt this lesson, I know better. In spite of that wisdom and experience it’s still fairly difficult to capture them in flight unless you have the right equipment: extremely fast AF and accurate AI SERVO with high fps but I make do with my EOS 20D which is more than capable of getting the shot! Here, one of them took a dive into a tree below and spent the next 5 minutes or so hopping from branch to branch before finally taking off!

© Jan Shim Photography

© Jan Shim Photography

Taking a breather while the birds are lost in the trees, one of the curious uniformed security guards from the power station who had earlier given me the thumbs-up said he’d seen the “Burong Enggang” (hornbill in Malay language) on the DST EASI PREPAID cards. He seemed delighted when I told him that’s one of my pictures … moments before one of the birds took off towards the refinery while the second followed shortly but nearly got hit by an on coming car … quite the excitement catching them in flight though not always the case.

© Jan Shim Photography

© Jan Shim Photography

© Jan Shim Photography

Realizing that it’s too dark for any more hornbill adventure, I drove around a bit and came across this sunset sihouette of a nearby nodding donkey (the one next to the water tower in town). I’ve been scouting the areas for a week now looking for the best and most dramatic vantage point and I guess this works! It would certainly complement my SERIA SUNRISE SILHOUETTES and complete the picture, so to speak!

© Jan Shim Photography

These pictures were captured earlier this afternoon when our amah spotted one at the gate just as she was getting the laundry in. By the time I grabbed the camera, loaded a CF card and went downstairs, it had flown from the overhead cable to the fence and hopped onto the neighbour’s air-conditioner where it found what appeared to be its main food—berries. I can understand berries the find in the wild but finding them trapped inside A/C wall is incredible. Perhaps this is where an 8.5 fps camera comes in handy with an increased frame rate to capture it dunking the berry into its mouth.

© Jan Shim Photography

Shortly it flew to the neighbour across the road and I instinctively followed. Having 640mm helps but you always find yourself wanting more. Luckily for me, these birds are quite used to human presence that they go about their business until you become a threat.

© Jan Shim Photography

This neighbour, unlike most neighbours, has a rather rudimentary accommodation and I’ve always thought the fire engine red mail box is the one thing that stands out. It’s just loud compared to everything else there so today one bird decided to pry into the opening but to no avail.

© Jan Shim Photography


As with most mornings, the piercing cries of the hornbills penetrate the house as they go about their usual business, going from tree to tree, hopping from branch to branch and transiting on TV antenna. This morning in particular, the difference being I went after them this time going from patio to patio and later found myself in the middle of a big empty field caught right in the middle of the echoing cries—two hornbills visited my kampong but got separately shortly thereafter.

© Jan Shim Photography

I captured a series of fly-by shots after I resumed position at the kitchen patio and observed the pair in the distant tree. After I was baked in the scorching sun for a good 15-20 minutes they decided to take off and (viola!) in my direction, well almost!

© Jan Shim Photography

This grand finale is a composite from two images that I managed to capture in focus and in good light! I’m delighted with the results from three days of consecutive shoot.

© Jan Shim Photography


12 thoughts on “HORNBILLS IN FLIGHT PART 2

  1. these piks are great, had no idea u played badminton its a great sport to stretch the legs. well luckily for u they were still alround wen u came back with the camera and the pictures looks very appealing, great shots Jan


  2. You should come by Lumut beach too once in a while as just last weekend, we saw a big family of hornbills (including some baby hornbills) flying from tree to tree. Beautiful sight.


  3. The photos were great! I like especially the last one where 1 of the hornbill seems like trying to amuse itself on the red mail box.


  4. Thanks everyone!

    I’m exhausted but judging from your comments, you enjoyed the pictures so it’s worth the investment and the thrill of the chase that had me shooting from various parts of my house and also trespassing my neighbourhood.

    I have seen them too in Lumut and spotted them twice, once at the LLRC Club area and another in the residential area nearer to the Lighthouse. I also happened to have my camera with me at the time and while I captured some nice art shots of the birds up in the tree, Lumut is too big an area I would personally avoid. Also, the trees there are tall and you being on the ground have no leverage for a really good vantage point like my balcony. I know for a fact that there are people in the Brunei capital who want and hope to photograph hornbills in Seria. Even an area that I know fairly well, there’s no telling when they would come visit but the past 3 consecutive days, I had been fortunate!

    Nicholas Leong
    “The only chance I get to shoot them is through netting unfortunately” sounds so WRONG but I think you meant photographing them in captivity and not what it sounded like—traping them with nets! It’s a blessing to have them fly to my neighbourhood so frequently and while I have plenty of opportunity to and have in fact photographed them perching on TV antenna, I always try to capture them in their natural environment ie in trees or flying without the appearance of man-made items. I make exceptions when the composition is interesting such as the red mail box and the air conditioner shots.

    Yes these are shots in Brunei but not in the capital. I don’t know if hornbills have ever been seen in Bandar Seri Begawan but they are very common birds in Seria and Kuala Belait and these were captured in areas between Seria town and Kg Sungai Bera. Stop by someday with at least 600-800mm focal length to ensure a tight crop!


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