Banded Pitta - male - awaiting his turn on the rock by Alex Vargas

Banded Pitta @ Southern Thailand

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

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 by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

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, Thailand 2011

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, Thailand 2011

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 - just checking by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

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 - on the rocks by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

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 - awaiting his turn on the rock by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

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!

This post has been mirrored from here:

Banded Pitta in Southern Thailand

Happy Bird-Photo adventures!

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!

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!

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