Year 2011 was no doubt a year for photo enthusiasts. With an unprecedented growth in sales of DSLR’s and mobile phones, tablets and computers with digital cameras, I doubt if there ever was any other time in mankind’s history when there were just as many people snapping away photos all the time.

Looking back at the year just passed, still nursing a hangover of the holidays, I was struck with the number of subjects I was able to cover – from birding to weddings and beauty tilts to travel destinations; from the time I had a glaucoma attack and subsequent laser procedure down to baby pictures and awesome adventure rides and treks in far-flung areas.

Thus I decided to compile my favorites and share them with you for a brief replay of gerryruiz images of 2011.

I hope you like it. Cheers!

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Much to my surprise, I was more than delighted with the number of “likes” my post on “Birding Fun in Samar (Part I)” generated at Facebook. It was much higher than I expected and more than my usual, average figures. It only goes to show how many still admire these fascinating flying wonders rarely seen in the metropolis, much less photographed.

So here’s Part II of the birding fun we had last February 24 & 25 at the Samar Island Natural park (SINP) at Paranas, Samar:

7.) The Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata or Leptocoma sperata), also known as Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, is a species of bird in the Nectariniidae family. It is found in Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.

These tiny birds (about 2-3 inches tall) are really active and colorful, especially the male which has an iridescent plumage, emerald green head, dark violet wing feathers and crimson breast and the shiny purple throat which gives it its name.

8.) (Below, left) A Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe) – a species of bird in the Dicaeidae family. It is endemic to the Philippines.

(Right) A female Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata)

[Source: Wikipedia]

9.) The Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), also known as the Yellow-bellied Sunbird, is a species of sunbird found from Southern Asian to Australia.

The sunbirds are a group of very small Old World passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Their flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering, but usually perch to feed most of the time.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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We went on a birding sortie recently at the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) in Paranas, Samar – site of the country’s few remaining primary and secondary forests today.

It was my 3rd time to be there in recent months in what always turns out to be a most enjoyable nature-trip sojourn.

The first time we went there was to experience for ourselves the Ulot River Rapids Torpedo Boat Adventure (fun!) The second time was to sample Samar’s enormous avian wealth, together with experienced birders (such as the Dutch Ambassador – an avid birder).

I have to confess I am a complete newbie in this department. Birding or bird photography is a pastime which only a few can indulge in. It’s because it entails getting expensive long camera lenses and other equipment; having the needed patience and the luxury of time to travel, the physical stamina to endure hiking/trekking into the wilderness, and the willingness to update one’s stock knowledge and learn more about the avian world.

Hence, please bear with me; my Canon 70-200mm (even with a 1.4X extender) can barely reach for a medium shot of a bird perched on a tree 20 meters away. I need to really creep slowly and get real close to them to be able to get fairly decent shots of these fascinating flying wonders.

The ultimate satisfaction one gets in bird photography is when you’re able to get a perfect, close-up shot of a rare or hard-to-find bird.  The ensuing natural high one gets is beyond words. Definitely more than just WOW!

Here are some of the birds we saw at SINP in the heartland of Samar, last February 24 & 25, 2011.

1.) An Everett’s White-eye (Zosterops everetti), one of several comprising a merry barkada of tiny birds barely 3 inches in size. They fly and eat in groups quickly descending on berry-bearing trees boisterously and then just as quickly fly away.

Source: Wikipedia

2.) The Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops superciliosus/philippinus)

This is a bird which breeds in sub-tropical open country, such as farmland, parks or ricefields. Like other bee-eaters it predominantly eats insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets.

They look out for suitable prey from a tree branch or high wire (about 7m and above) then swoop down onto it and snap up their victims. To get rid of the sting, the insect is vigorously whacked against the perch or simply squeezed to get rid of the venom.

Source: Wikipedia & Sungei Buloh

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Whew!

Kalanggaman Island!

Finally!

I first heard about this island in the late 90′s when the family used to spend Holy Week at Duwahon Island in Villaba, Leyte. I remember Jun Burgos, a close friend, mention Kalanggaman (also spelled, Calanggaman) but not without a forewarning – the island, he said, is farther west and crossing can be dangerous during non-summer months when the sea gets rough. Moreover, the island is bare, with hardly any vegetation or trees for shade; no water source, nothing but white sand and crystal clear waters around it. Jun hastened to add, Kalanggaman then was a mere stop-over point for fishermen…

On two occasions on a trip to Malapascua, Cebu (first, coming from Villaba and on the second trip, from Tabango, Leyte) the pumpboat we took passed by near Kalanggaman, but not that close – all I was able to see from afar was the white sand, and yes, there was vegetation after all – a couple of coconut trees.

Years later, I would hear stories about more and more camping enthusiasts able to get to Kalanggaman and they all had common things to say: Paradise. Unspoiled and crystal clear waters. White powdery sand.

I was full of envy.

I knew it, though, that someday I would have the chance to see for myself Kalanggaman.

And the day finally came, unplanned like out of nowhere, and I was invited to go with an assessment team commissioned by the Department of Tourism Head Office from Manila to go visit the island.

We went there yesterday, Tuesday, February 22, 2011.

Indeed, the island is simply beautiful.

Kalanggaman Island is a sitio of Palompon, Leyte and its LGU (Local Government Unit) led by the mayor currently manages the place.

It lies about 15 kms from Palompon, which is on the western coast of Leyte, and less than midway between Leyte and Bogo City of the island of Cebu.

We took a big enough pumpboat which was a good thing as the water started to get rough 10 minutes out from Palompon. It was an hour’s trip – a rough ride most of the time, but nothing to be scared of. It was a “normal” thing, as one of the boat’s crew members sheepishly remarked.

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