Copyright © 2018 by Ali Bernie Buga-ay, all rights reserved. Azure-breasted Pitta: this photograph may not be used without permission.

The Azure-breasted Pitta or Pitta steerii is a bird endemic to the Philippines specifically in islands of Mindanao, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar. The natural habitat of this bird is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and Bislig rain forest is a fantastic habitat for this bird. This Pitta is Vulnerable because of habitat loss and Bislig is in a horrible state.

If one has been to Bislig, he will quickly understand the situation. It is one of the most beautiful rain forests in the country but also one of the most abused and exploited. There are no practically national park rangers or anybody protecting it, there are laws established, it is open for all to exploit first-come-first-serve.

I and Harry Miller were very lucky to have found this bird together with Zardo Goring as our guide. We started before first light and it was raining all the time, we lost hope finding the Azure-breasted Pitta as the rain continued to stop us in finding Bislig’s finest birds. It was just so disappointing and we can’t fight the rain, it was just pouring and pouring.

Aside from the heavy constant down pour, the humidity was high at the same time. I had an umbrella, jacket, camera rain cover, everything were waterproofed. Because of this difficult situation, while I was shooting at the Handsome Sunbird, my Nikon D500 just stopped shooting. I checked if my Lexar 128GB XQD card and the backup Sandisk 128GB Extreme Pro were already filled; well, I can’t believe that I finished my cards’ memory space for not being able to use them fully during the day, I discovered that my screen display did not function anymore as well; I looked into the viewfinder, I can’t change the settings. I broke my camera, but the good news was, it can shoot, just can’t see any display to change settings.

We decided to cancel the following days with Zardo Goring because of my broken camera and also Harry’s, we both broke our cameras because of heavy rain and high humidity, but lucky for him that he brought a spare backup camera. We thought of returning to Cagayan de Oro City to join  Doctor Miguel David De Leon before leaving for Siargao, it was discouraging. As were were driving out of Bislig’s rain forest the Azure-breasted Pitta crossed the dirt road, we stopped and followed the bird into the jungle. I got off the truck hoping that my camera will be able to capture something as I can’t see what I was shooting at, I just pressed the shutter button and fired everything away as the rare Pitta was staring at us. After I made few shots, I tried to check my shots and still my screen did not display anything. I was shooting blind like the film camera.

When we reached the hotel, drenched, tired, and hungry, I went to get my laptop right away, checked my files; the Azure-breasted Pitta was captured, it was a delightful feeling. If I had been able to change the settings, I could have gotten a perfect shot. I had tears in my eyes looking into the raw images of the rare Pitta. One lifer has been captured.

Mae Wong National Park, Thailand
April 15, 2018
Nikon D500 + Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
Fotopro TS-85C | Fotopro WH-30 | Carry Speed FS-Pro | Nitecore UNK1

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