Saturday, June 16, 2012

His Bike Saturday 2012-06-16

I love to ride a bicycle, but in a crowded metropolis like Metro Manila, I was hesitant due to heavy traffic, narrow roads and lots of bad drivers. Manila isn't really a safe place for bikes. There are no dedicated bike lanes, so you basically have to share the road with motor vehicles. A few weeks ago, I started getting really interested on bikes again. Knowing some people riding bikes without ill effects so far, I decided to go ahead and buy one.

Although I love riding bikes, I am not a choosey biker. As long as I can ride it comfortably, I'll do that. In fact a year ago, while in China, I rode some of the worst bikes I have encountered. Those public bikes you can rent for free in Hangzhou, China range from bad to worst. Some have sticky wheels, worn out brakes, chain that needs to be lubed, etc. Although you can't really complain because they're free. It is free for an hour of use and cost next to nothing in excess of 1 hour. If you need to ride more than an hour, just switch bike at the next bike terminal, which can be found all over the city, and you got your 1 hour timer reset to zero. My first bike wasn't a premium bike either - it was a normal hybrid from a neighborhood store. It's in my parents' house in the province all rusty and fit for a junk shop after being left untouched for more than 10 years.

A typical roadster for rent (free) in China

After some reading on the net, I found several bike seller. I visited several of them during the week, but didn't find something I like: either too expensive, wheel too small (I like 20" folders instead of 16"), color too feminine, etc. During the weekend, I went to Quiapo, Manila and visit the bike shop which I knew existed, when I was living near that place. Indeed it has lots of folders that I find interesting. I took a gamble on a blue one that caught my eye and bought it. It's not expensive, so even if I didn't like it, it won't be painful to the wallet. I took a bus to the most convenient place where I can ride home. It was good that I bought a folder, if it's a standard one, I can't take a bus and have to ride the bike across highways and major roads which I dislike.

I didn't feel bad about this SGM bike I purchased, I think the bike feels good when I rode it. I didn't feel the negative behavior people complained about when I read reviews of inexpensive folders. Either these cheap-bike-haters are too choosey or I don't know the behavior of expensive bikes since I haven't ridden one. The only negative feel I get is the pedal seems not durable and the wheels are small and I can almost feel every bumps and uneven surface of the road. The last bike I've ridden can negate the effect of small bumps due to its' larger wheel (probably 26" or larger). I understand that most folders have smaller wheels to maintain the compact form when folded, so it isn't really a fault of the cheap bike. Overall I'm happy with my purchase and will probably get a replacement pedal to remedy the small issue it has.

The next thing I'll do is find a good place to ride it. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus Transit 2012-06-06

I took a half day off to experience my first and last Venus transit (this is the kind of event that warrants the use of vacation leaves anyway). I got up early in order to capture the first phase of the transit - the 1st contact point. Although at this point no planet is visible because the disk of the planet is merely touching the disk of the sun while it is still outside the sun's disk. I wasn't given a chance to record the initial contact because almost after setting up my scope, clouds covered up the sun.

The first image of the transit was photographed through the clouds using a few seconds exposure.

The pattern of clouds coming in and going out repeated several times during the course of the event. At one point, I was getting bored of the cloudy transit event and started looking for something to shoot. I heard our resident Olive backed sunbird and decided to try imaging it.

About an hour before the last contact, rain started pouring. I figured there's no point in waiting for the sun to come up again and decided to call it a day.

These are some of the images I took during this rare event.

During moments of clear/cloudless sun
A sunspot

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Birding 2012-06-03

I was initially hesitant whether I should go out or not because yesterday was rainy and the morning sky looks cloudy as well.I decided to push through, thinking that it will be a more comfortable hike - not as hot as on a sunny day. Along the way, I tried a slow pace this time - stopping here and there, keeping my ears glued to any bird calls I heard. At one curve, I was able to hear a continuous 3 sound call that sounded like something a squeaky toddler's shoes (ek ek ee) make. I decided to stop and look for the bird, it was a lifer. When I saw it, I knew I had seen it somewhere on my book, but I didn't know the name. The bird never stayed any longer than 2 seconds on unobstructed spot and the foliage were thick and dark, making imaging difficult,  After some failed attempts to capture the bird cleanly,  I gave up.

Philippine or Gray backed Tailorbird?

Along the way, I stopped at the area frequently visited by the orioles and birded there as well. I was able to capture those lovely yellow birds. My latest captures are better than my earlier attempts, but I think I still need to get even closer next time, that is if I am lucky.

Black naped oriole

When I reached the tunnel entrance of the Angono Petroglyph, I saw the bushchat that the other birder reported seeing a week earlier. I took some shots of it, some turned out okay.

Pied bushchat

I stayed at the site just for a few minutes, it was already noontime and I didn't bring any foods with me. Instead of walking down as usual, I took the lazy way - take a trike to Antipolo City, have lunch there and head for home.

Here are some birds seen and photographed:

White collared kingfisher

Striated grassbird

 Long tailed shrike

White throated kingfisher

Here's the list of birds I've seen:

Long tailed shrike - 3
Black naped oriole - 2 seen, 1 heard only
Philippine/Gray backed tailorbird - 2
Yellow vented bulbul - 1
Collared kingfisher - 1 seen, 2 heard
White throated kingfisher - 2
Striated grassbird - 3
Philippine coucal - 1 seen, 1 heard only
Olive backed sunbird - 1
Pied bushchat - 1
Golden bellied flyeater - 1 heard only