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Jewel in the Darkness

Thick forest is often profitable in terms of biodiversity – the only drawback from a photography standpoint is the level of available light. Light does not always reach the understory where most of one’s subjects will actually be considered “eye level”, but that does not stem the flow of enthusiasm in the slightest. A few days ago, we stopped by Arena forest for two hours – a blip of course – we didn’t expect to see much in such a short time.

As anticipated, we heard lots more than we saw – that’s the excitement, hearing a call and desperately trying to track it down. From Boat-billed Flycatchers to White-bearded Manakins, we knew that there was a lot of avian activity going on. Trouble was that most of it was taking place in the high canopy. Craning our necks, we also spotted an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher attending to its nest about 40 feet up. Eventually, we moved further into the forest, searching for some easier targets.

Loud and familiar, the call of a Rufous-tailed Jacamar grabbed our attention. A little careful listening revealed that there was actually a pair, close to the forest floor. We positioned ourselves and fired off a few shots. The setting was, let’s say – difficult. Dark and the bird was a good distance away still. To make matters worse, she flew off after less than a minute. I checked my camera’s LCD and found one decent frame.

rufous tailed jacamar-3







Not completely satisfied, we decided to spend some more time with this gorgeous bird – often referred to locally as “King Hummingbird”. Not related at all, in fact it’s more akin to the Bee-eaters of the Old World than our own Hummingbirds. But it doesn’t take much stretching of the imagination to figure out how this name came about. The metallic shimmer to its feathers is nothing short of astounding, its name might as well have the word “emerald” somewhere in it.

rufous tailed jacamar-4







Finally getting a good view of my subject, I moved around a bit for the sake of composition, while she decided to change her position. It’s a truly wonderful feeling when your subject co-operates!

rufous tailed jacamar-5







Before long, it was time to pack up and head out, and naturally activity started to increase just at this point. Three Green-backed Trogons flew in to feed in a tree close by, and although they all remained in the canopy – it was nonetheless breathtaking to observe these long-tailed relatives of Quetzals flutter about like mythical angels in a realm where they still are their own masters. This female paused for a brief moment – I had to pop my 1.4x teleconverter in to just see her properly in my viewfinder!

green backed trogon

5 thoughts on “Jewel in the Darkness

  1. The photos of the jacamar are dreamlike. Pretty cool. How do you manage to remain so quiet/still though? I often wonder if nature photographers hold their breath when taking pictures. Lolololol. Do you all even have feet in the forest? Or do you all just glide over the forest floor? …webbed toes maybe? Okay, I’ll stop now.

    1. It’s always a good practice to watch where you step. Some birds allow for a close approach, others don’t let you get within half a mile of them. I particularly enjoy making images of jacamars, as they all tend to end up looking magical.

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