Feb 252012

Birding with a camera in Thailand.

Red-billed Blue-Magpie by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2012

Birdwatching is today, one of the strongest lines of tourism around the globe. According to an U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, only in the United States of America, birdwatchers contributed with 36 billion USD to the nation’s economy in 2006, and over 20% of all Americans are identified as birdwatchers… I remember when I was growing as a juvenile birder (late 80’s) and developing myself into a birders’ guide. Most of the visiting birdwatchers in Costa Rica, were for sure from US… then, some from UK. One here and there from other European countries or Canada. 10 years later, things had changed dramatically and the big agencies were out in the hunt for knowledgeable – multilingual guides, with visitors from all over the world rising by the minute. On a trail of a National Park, it isn’t unusual to hear the exiting whisper of a bird’s name in several languishes… from english to german, from spanish to japanese…

ImainGo + Ipod 8GB by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

At that time, the experienced birding guides, used to walk around with a fishing vest full of anything you can imagine -from books to a magnifying glass, from first Aid kits to a flashlight- , a huge tape recording machine (with a foldable “bell” mic, remember?) hanging on the flank, the best bins one could get and the vital tool of the trip: the scope in a tripod… We used to look like the “Inspector Gadget”!!!

Birders and guides seem much more relaxed and lighter now, as gadgets changed into small-pocket things

Tourist (birdwatchers) had as a first to bring, a good pair of binoculars, but with the pass of time, more and more people started to carry around their own telescope and it wasn’t unusual to have 3, 4 scopes in a group of 6 birding…

Pretty much everyone, will also bring a camera to record the trip’s memories and highlights. Mostly small point-and-shoot type of equipment. However, with the years, more and more birders started to bring along some better photographic gear in the hope of been able to record some of the awesome bird species they find during the expedition as well (even when birding groups aren’t that photography friendly, as birdwatching runs in a much faster pase and photographers are always consider a slowing threat for the listing expectations of the groups)…

Many people changed the scope for a lens and even most of the scopes brought, will have a camera mount adapter, for the famous and rising game of digiscoping

Blue-and-White Flycatcher – male – portrait by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Today, photographing birds it’s a very big part of birding and a passion on the growth. Here in Thailand, you’ll be amazed with the quantity and the quality of gear you can find at a spot any given day… One time (all of us in blinds, trying for a frame of a Blue-and-White Flycatcher) I estimated about a hundred grand dispersed into big lenses, top DSLR cameras, the best tripods and heads and various accessories… just like that!

At Suang Laung Park -Downtown Bangkok- this unusual flycatcher showed up -in migration- and during the few days it remained on this location -eating mealworms- you could count the blinds by dozens at all hours!

It’s precisely on Bird-Photography where my taste and joy are parked now. Having good quality shots of a few “hot” birds, has become more important than achieving many sights at the end of the day for me.

It is hard to explain the feeling of looking into the camera’s display and finding some winner images of a cool bird… It is “like christmas in july” and that is what I’m aiming to share in focusingonwildlife.com… that plentiful joy, reflected -as well- in the beauty and magic of the subjects captured in my bird-photo adventures around the world!

I find myself smiling alone very often in my blind… I get highs of beauty and satisfaction!

Banded Pitta – male – portrait by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Galah by Alex Vargas, Australia 2009

So, having established well how BIRD-PHOTOGRAPHY it is a complete and strong category by itself into the birding world, I would like to open my door for the thousands of bird-photographers to make themselves felt and let me know anytime what you mates would like me to feature on my posts. Here I’m showing mostly birds from Thailand for my introduction, as it is where I live now, but I’m a Costa Rican with galleries from 4 continents and will share from all over through the times…

I’ve planned talking about and sharing the hotspots I have seen and the birds I got in them (with references on where and how I did it), will surely feature lots of birds and their photo and every now and then, will introduce top and unique bird-photographers/friends displaying their work and art.

Any suggestions on some bird, some site or someone you feel I should blog about?… please drop me a line to alex@birdphotoworld.com – just write in subject: focusingonwildlife + your title

Every comment down here will be highly appreciated and will do my best to respond to all questions and inquires as soon as possible… If it take’s a me a few days to get back to you, I might be -HOPEFULLY- birding somewhere! =)

I also love to capture video-clips of my birds and might show you some from time to time… Hope you like them…



NOTE: I also blog for another great group of friends at BirdingBlogs and this blog-post was mirrored and modified from this original:


My friends call me Don Gato, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand 2011

My Galleries are here: http://www.pbase.com/alex_vargas

My Forum: http://www.birdphotoforum.com

My personal Website: www.birdphotoworld.com (under construction at the moment)

Alex Vargas

Alex Vargas is one of the best-known bird guides with experience in Latin America, the Caribbean Islands. He originates from Costa Rica, a paradise hosting 4% of the world's biodiversity. Alex is now based in Thailand with his Costa Rican wife and his lovely daughter. Here he spends a good part of his life chasing amazing and exotic birds with a camera in hand. Bird-photography has become his big passion and today he has a growing gallery with birds from several hotspots of the world. Alex has been widely published in books and magazines from around the globe and his video channel is full of jewels!

Leave a Comment

  • http://twitter.com/Festblues Nina Stavlund

    We share the same passion :o)

    • http://www.pbase.com/alex_vargas Alex Vargas

      Thanks Nina… a great and beautiful passion it is!

  • DonGato

    Thanks Ken, it is a pleasure sharing with such a fine group of nature lovers!

  • http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/ Ken Billington

    Alex, it’s fascinating to get your take on how “birdwatching travel” has developed over the last 20 years. I think that the development of digital photography technology has had a lot to do with the rise in popularity of this leisure activity. Even on a modest budget you can get some great images. Looking forward to seeing more of your images in the future including those from your home country, Costa Rica.

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