WEEK 2 – LOCKDOWN 21

As another week goes by, the number of cases keep rising. I continue with my quest to make a new image everyday and appreciate nature’s wonders at such dark times. Here is a small collection from week two.

Day 8

Hello purple

It was late evening when the Purple Sunbird (male) decided to drop by for a shot of nectar. In the process, he obliged the photographer waiting patiently.

Backlit romance

I noticed a pair of Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike moving from one leafless branch to another. As the two of them shared a moment, I managed to click a few frames. The round bokeh circles added more drama to the background.

Day 9

Green with envy

I was keeping watch on the coral tree brimming with activity when some movement on the adjacent tree dew my attention. Rising from my chair, I slowly made my way towards the tree. Couple of green birds were perched together. Looking through my lens, I discovered that they were Jerdon’s Leafbirds. This one is the male.

Lady purple

The lady Purple Sunbird sat poised, after a shot of nectar, before taking off and raiding other flowers.

Day 10

Streaky throat

A colourful woodpecker i.e. Streak-throated Woodpecker with shades of yellow, green, red. Based on my observations, this species spends quite a bit of time on the ground looking for tasty meals in comparison to other woodpeckers.

In full view

Here, one can clearly see the variety of colours on the streak-throated woodpecker. The red cap on the head differentiates the male from the female who has a black cap.

Day 11

Coppersmith

In recent times the ‘tuk tuk tuk’ call of the coppersmith has been resonating in my backyard. That evening, the Coppersmith Barbet stepped out into the open and displayed its incredible colours.

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Striking yellow and black accompanied by a lovely call… that is the Black-hooded Oriole (male) for you. Usually shy, this one made a quick visit to the coral tree.

Day 12

Rooster’s tail

When light hits the tail of the Grey Junglefowl, it reveals the mind bogling colours that make up the rooster’s tail. I always wonder, why was this species given such a drab name!

In a spot of light

It is early morning and beautiful soft light hits the surface of a rock. Moments later a Spotted Dove alights on it to take the spot.

Day 13

Go green

A bird you hear almost all day long in the jungle and even in urban settings. While I was in Bangalore, I had a White-cheeked Barbet regularly visiting an avocado tree just outside my apartment window. This one however is a junglee!

Angry bird

Probably the nosiest birds (in my opinion) one can come across. Typically moving around in batches, they create quite a racket too. Looking at the expression of the bird here, I think Angry Birds drew their inspiration from the Jungle Babblers.

Day 14

Life on top

For a couple of weeks, this Crested Hawk-eagle has been surveying the area from the top of that tree. Staying motionless for hours except occasionally moving its head to the left or right. I enjoy making such images of the solitary species when the opportunity presents itself. 

Calling out to the lovely ladies

Yet again a late evening encounter with the Purple Sunbird (male). The metallic colors were on display as he was calling out (probably to the lovely ladies out there).

That is all for week two of the lockdown series. I look forward to sharing more pictures and stories for the coming week.

All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.

In search of the Shaheen

On a beautiful afternoon, we ascended to ‘shaheen point’. Mahesh, Avinash and I were doing a trip after a long time. A short walk through tea bushes and we reached our vantage point i.e. a cliff with beautiful landscape around it. Dusky Craig Martins and Swallows hovered around us but none wanted to give their wings a break and perch on the ground for us.

We laid our cameras on the ground and soaked in the fresh air, soft sun and beautiful scenery. The falcons are usually seen on that rock, Sivalingam Anna mentioned. We looked across to another hill and saw a couple of rock protrusions. That is quite a distance away, I thought! We shall go across to that hill once we sight the falcon. Activity typically happens after 4.00 PM, Sivalingam added to his previous statement.

Thus began the waiting! Since the martins and the swallows wouldn’t give us an opportunity to shoot, we pulled out our phones and made pics of the the landscape. We added a few selfies too! There was excitement momentarily, when Sivalingam heard the falcons and pointed in their direction. Far across the hills, a tiny speck was flying and it was gone before I could see it.

Little after 4 PM, Mahesh pointed towards a rock. There is something on it, he said. Sivalingam looked through his binoculars and confirmed, Shaheen Falcon! The picture below is shot with a 600 mm lens and will give you an idea of how far we were.

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Shaheen Rock | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The next thing I know, the four of us moved swiftly across to the opposite hill, walked again through tea bushes, a couple of culverts and loose soil. As soon as the falcon was within our sights, we relaxed the pace and slowly moved to a safe distance before we set up our cameras.

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Poser | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The falcon, aware of of our presence sat unflinchingly and posed as we made images.

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A beauty | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

A closer look of this mid-sized raptor.

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Powerful Talons | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The entire sighting must have lasted about 20-30 minutes and towards the end, another falcon swooped down and our friend on the rock finally took to his wings and soared into the skies.

The best part: I was seeing this species for the first time. A day which started with the search of the Kashmir Flycatcher, ended with an incredible sighting of the very beautiful Shaheen Falcon!

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Sivalingam Anna, birding and wildlife enthusiasts have the pleasure of seeing and making images of such species.

Shades of Blue

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Shades of Blue | Indian Peafowl (male), Forest Hills, Mudumalai, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The mug of coffee sits beside me untouched as I reflect upon the year that passed by.Ā  While travel for photography was restricted mainly to Bandipur, Kabini and of course birding at home i.e. Forest Hills, few new places were explored purely for leisure.

Here’s to more travel, photography and exploration.

Wishing one and all a wonderful 2018!

Paint it Red

The wisdom gathered over years of photographing birds- the vibrant the colours of the feathers, the more elusive the bird. One such bird is the Red Munia. After looking for it for a long time, my desire to shoot the bird in its striking colours was finally fulfilled about a year ago.

Soon after a trip to Rajasthan, a friend informed me about an opportunity to photograph the Red Munia. It was quickly decided that we would leave the next day to the spot and hopefully make some worthy images.

On the day of the shoot, we left earlier than usual, set up the hide at a safe distance, fixed a thin perch and waited in anticipation. Three of us squeezed into the small hide. After about 45 minutes of waiting, the lady made a brief appearance.

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I managed a few pictures before the munia disappeared into the reeds. The female munia I was told was quite a shy character.

Awaiting another 15 minutes or so, we saw some movement on taller reeds, a tiny bird moved from one reed to another, the male munia was finally going to grace itself! As soon as it sat on the perch, I couldn’t stop admiring its beauty! That red outshone everything else around!

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The male munia made a couple more appearances and the final one was after waiting close to an hour. The red munia carrying a feather or any other nesting material!

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Shooting handheld with a 500mm lens and professional DSLR (1D Mark IV) was not a pleasurable experience. Despite the camera boasting 10 frames per second, it was never easy with my elbows hurting, hands shivering, even losing balance. All this only for about 3-4 hours šŸ™‚

Hunter vs ScavengerĀ 

The late tiger popularly known as Prince had made the Mulapura waterhole a favourite cooling off destination. Hoping to catch a glimpse of him, our safari jeep and it’s occupants decided to wait there.

Across the waterhole at a distance, I spotted a crested serpent eagle perched on a bamboo branch. Because it was not an uncommon sight and neither an uncommon bird, I almost gave it a dismissive wave.

The movement of another bird had caught my eye! A jungle crow had perched itself on a lower branch. Wondering how the eagle would react, I kept my eyes on the scene through the telephoto lens.

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Action unfolded almost immediately! The crow began harassing the eagle with continuous attempts of flying into the eagle. The eagle responded by opening its wings and following every movement of the crow. This went on for almost a minute and finally, when the eagle had enough, it took off from the scene.

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It was only then I realised what was actually going on. As the eagle flew, I noticed something hanging off its leg…a snake. The serpent eagle had hunted a snake which was clutched in its powerful talons. Sensing an opportunity, the crow tried bullying the eagle to steal its meal. Warding off all attempts of the crow, the eagle decided to take its snack away and eat it someplace safe!

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Visiting forests is not all about big cats. Drama like this makes makes an uneventful safari an exciting experience.

Mr. Red

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Mr. Red | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Soft light shone through the canopy of bamboo as one visitor after another came, made their presence felt, posed for photographs and went about their business (foraging). 

Once the coast was clear, Mr. Red decided it was his turn to show off. The usually intimidated spurfowl walked in cautiously but soon settled himself after scanning the area to make sure no other dominating birds were around. As he posed in the lovely golden light, it allowed me to make a few frames as the red turned to gold. 

A regular visitor to the photography hide, the red spurfowls rarely leave us disappointed. Stay tuned for more. 

A year of blogging

Cool breeze passes by as I sit by the backwaters in the dead of the night. Beside me, a couple of friends cast their imaginary fishing lines, and enact a struggle as if they had caught an African catfish (an invasive species). My thoughts wander toward the evening safari during which we narrowly missed the Black Panther.

Many such memories from various jungles came flashing back as I sat by the banks. Narrow misses, close encounters and no sightings in game drives are common in a wild life enthusiast’s days. All of these experiences penned down, one story at a time in the blog. A year gone by since it’s inception and I have somehow managed to post 52 photoblogs.

While choosing pictures was not so difficult, the writing part definitely was! Travel, meetings, busy times, lack of focus, no peace and quiet are excuses I often come up with. Despite that a blogpost went online every week. That being said, most importantly it has improved my writing and increased focus on the smaller details.

The last year has seen some significant development, from switching camera gear to Nikon and shifting hunting grounds. Bandipur an all time favorite, now faces stiff competition from Kabini which is slowly working its way up the list of favorites.

Commemorating one year of blogging, here is a collection of favorites from the above mentioned parks.

Here’s to more shooting, writing and blogging!

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Photography….my elixir of lifeĀ 

It was World Photography Day yesterday the 19th of August 2017. Memories of my early days came flashing back as I sat by a window and looked at the blue hills slowly being covered by mist. All I was thinking was shooting a time lapse šŸ™‚
IMG_0456.JPGIt all started many years ago with a Hitachi camcorder. My late father had bought a camcorder and my excitement knew no bounds. Small size video tapes were the only recording medium and sometimes those tapes were hard to come by. That camcorder was my constant companion anywhere and everywhere outside the house.

Living in Mudumalai was the biggest advantage. With the traffic through Mudumalai and Bandipur not as crazy as today, it was quite peaceful shooting while parked on the main road. I loved making videos of elephant herds grazing by the road. 
After going to college, the camcorder had multiple users and footage I had shot over a period of time had been erased or new stuff had been recorded over it. I lost quite a lot of elephant and leopard footage.

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Years later, I got my hands on a friend’s Canon film SLR, tried, tested, failed, learnt and then finally went digital after two years. What started in 2005 has not stopped. Cameras have come and gone, lenses have been upgraded, the quality of images have improved, but the passion for wildlife, birds and photography….that has not changed. And I hope it never does. 

The scimitar never called

Mosquitos were feasting on me as I waited in the birding hide for the brown-cheeked fulvetta. A number of these skittish birds were occasional visitors. The drying river bed few metres away from the hide worked in my favour. Evening sessions which were usually non-productive started attracting birds due to water availability at the bird bath.

Few fulvettas appeared cautiously, took a dip in the bath and left. A white-rumped shama would disappear somewhere behind, only to perch on a stump few minutes later and dry itself. An old bird bath that was removed and left behind the perches had collected water and was hosting birds! Must bring that bird bath to the front, I made a Ā mental note.

And then in a flash, a bird appeared…yellow beak like a curving sword and the unmistakable colors! One of the shyest birds, and a skulker; Indian Scimitar Babbler had made a quiet entry. The presence of this babbler is known by the continuous calls but always stays hidden behind thick foliage.

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Hopping down from the tallest stump, it disappeared into the old bird bath. All I could see was splashes of water and I hoped for it to sit out in the open to dry itself. A painful wait ended with the babbler sitting on every perch at the hide and finally settling for a branch on a tree nearby.

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Ignoring the sound of the shutter, the scimitar babbler calmly dried itself while I made some images. Once done, the babbler made a quick exit, leaving me with a wide smile. A quick review of the images left me smiling wider. I finally had pictures of the skulker.

Shot at Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse with a Nikon D750 and 600 f4 VR II

Sattal & Pangot | Birding Havens – I

Sattal and its surrounding areas have always fascinated me. Since my first visit to the hill station way back in October 2010 and again in 2013, it has been in my thoughts time and again.

Last year March, I visited this place again with friends Mahesh and Sridhar who made their maiden trip to this birding haven. A week long bird photography trip was planned with the very popular Hari Lama, an excellent guide based in Sattal.

Here is a short compilation of images starting with the photography hide at Birders Den, Sattal.

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Greater Yellownape Woodpecker | Birders Den, Sattal

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Blue-winged Siva | Birders Den, SattalĀ 

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Great Tit | Birders Den, Sattal

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Grey-headed Woodpecker | Birders Den, SattalĀ 

Birding along the road had its own advantages too! We were lucky to get a Green-tailed Sunbird (female) as she was speedily moving from one branch to another.

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Green-tailed Sunbird | Sattal

The search for the White-crested Laughing Thrush led us to a spot along the highway and lo behold, a sight worth remembering.

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White-crested Laughing Thrsuh | Sattal

Best things in life come in small packages… And the tiny package in the form of Red-billed Leothrix made a few appearances during our time on the road.

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Red-billed Leothrix | Sattal

Not far from Sattal is an area called Chafi which is primarily for birding by the river. Birds like the shy Brown Dipper, Crested Kingfisher, Wallcreeper, Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstart, Spotted Forktail are the top birds on the list of usual suspects there.

Despite an unlucky occasion when I had branches covering my best angle, I got lucky on the second attempt shooting the Brown Dipper.

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Brown Dipper | Chafi, Sattal

The list of birds photographed in Sattal and its neighbouring areas is given here under:

Red-billed Blue Magpie, Gree Treepie, Greater Yellownape Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Russet Sparrow, Blue-winged Siva, Grey Bushchat, Steppe Eagle, Long-tailed Minivet, Verditer Flycatcher, Grey-winged Blackbird, Striated Laughing Thrush, White-throated Laughing Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Red-billed Leothrix, White-crested Laughing Thrush, Great Tit, Crested Kingfisher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, Rufous-chinned Laughing Thrush, Kalij Pheasant, Rufous Sibia

Pangot series is for next week folks!

Equipment used: Canon 500f4 + 1D Mark 4Ā 

 

 

 

 

Its raining…babies

It has now passed two years since IĀ set up of the bird photography hide in Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse with the assistance of friends. Without doubt, it is the Red Spurfowl that attracts most attention and is by far the most popular visitor.

One morning while waiting expectantly for birds to turn up at the hide, the red spurfowl (male) walks in and inspects the surrounding, seconds later the female walks in with three chicks! With the excitement levels already high seeing the spurfowls, it was joyful to see the chicks along with them.

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Red Spurfowl (female) with her young | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

A chick poses for a few seconds while the mother, father and other siblings forage for food.

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Standing tall | Red Spurfowl (chick) | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

As if the spurfowls with their young were not enough, in walks a Grey Junglefowl (female) with a young one by her side. It was tough deciding which family to shoot!

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Grey Junglefowl (female) and her young one | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

The young junglefowl chick strikes a pose before getting down to foraging business.

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Striking a pose | Grey Junglefowl (chick) | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

With the activity of the young ones only started, stay tuned for more posts and pictures.

Equipment used: Nikon 600 f4 VR + D750 mounted on Benro GH2 Gimbal head + Manfrotto tripod. Ā 

Visiting bipedal family – both winged and non-winged

It had been only a month since I got my hands on the 300 2.8 IS II lens by Canon. The level of excitement bumped further after a trip escorting my aunt back to Solan was confirmed.

Landing in Chandigarh some time in the month of February, my cousin Siddharth suggested I visit the Sukhna Lake which is part of the city. There were high chances of seeing some migratory birds.

Doing a round ofĀ the lake one evening, I finally found my spot to photograph birds. A host of migratory birds were in the mix along with common ones.

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The common pochard, brown-headed gull and the tufted duck were lifers and I was especially happy to see a funky hairdo tufted duck.

Few days later, I was up the hills of Himachal Pradesh. It was still winter and waking up toĀ head out for birding on cold mornings was not what I had in mind. Around Solan, I did birding along the railway tracks close to my Aunt’s house, a few locations away from the city and also in the backyard of anĀ Uncle’s home.

A few photographs from Solan and its outskirts:

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Barog and Chail are small hill stations in Himachal Pradesh. While Chail is the more popular and sought after destination, Barog is famous for its picturesque railway station and the longest tunnel on the Kalka-Shimla heritage rail route. The length of the tunnel falling just short of 1.5 kilometers. Interestingly, the station has rooms too for tourists who are keen to stay.

While Chail was a trip to meet more family members, I visitedĀ the Barog station on multiple occasions purely for birds. Walking along the railway line and exploring areas near the station accommodation with and without the tripod was great fun.

Photographs of species from Barog and Chail:

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Here is the complete list of species photographed and recordedĀ during my visit:

Birding spots: Solan, Barog, Chail and the outskirts of SolanĀ 

Oriental White-eye, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Black Bulbul,Ā Black-throated Tit, Red-billed Leothrix, Black-chinned Babbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, White-throated Fantail, Red-vented Bulbul, Great Tit, Grey Bushchat, Crested Kingfisher, White-capped Redstart, Brown Dipper, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Grey Treepie, Blue-fronted Redstart, Grey-winged Blackbird, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Streaked Laughing Thrush, Rufous-chinned Laughing Thrush, Great Barbet, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Plum-headed Parakeet, Verditer Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Common Stonechat.

All images made with Canon 40D, 300 2.8 IS II + 2x TC II – Feb, Mar 2012