I entered the sunflower field and stood there, confused. So many hanging parrots feeding on the seeds, I wondered where to start from. I slowly edged forward and took a comfortable position to photograph the birds.
In no time, I was lost behind the camera, watching the parrots gorge away on the seeds.
Carefully, I moved further into the field and tried a closer approach.
A loud sound reverberated across the hills surrounding the field. I lifted my head off the camera and waited. Another one followed. This time my phone went off too! My wife was on the line and excitedly asked me ‘Did you hear it?’ Yes, I replied. ‘There’s a tiger somewhere!’
I scanned the hills looking for anything in orange and black. Except for the loud roars, there was nothing in sight. Grudgingly, I moved ahead with the job in hand. Parrots were waiting to be photographed.
While the target was Hanging Parrots, occasionally Plum-headed and Rose-ringed parakeets would make an appearance too. But they would remain camera shy. Any sort of movement and they would take to the sky.
I took my time and made as many images as I could. The sheer experience of knowing there was a tiger close-by and its numerous roars, added to the thrill. Until next time!
All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens and on occasions with a 1.4 TC II teleconverter attached to the lens.
We are into the third week of the nation wide lockdown and same with my series. Not all days are fruitful, sometimes activity is less, and at other times, there is nothing to make a photo appealing.
I was updating my blog on the 20th day and PM Modi announced that the lockdown will be extended until 3rd May. This adds to my dilemma on what to post everyday.
Here is the collection from week three.
It was a pleasant surprise to see a Streak-throated Woodpecker (female) land softly on a nearby tree and then at the saucer for a water break. Last week’s post had images of the male.
I spotted the melodious White-rumped Shama from my window. This shy species usually sticks to bamboo thickets but came out into the open to forage on the forest floor for worms and insects. A spot of the white rump is visible here.
Soft short whistles announce the arrival of yet another delightful species called the Yellow-browed Bulbul. Glorious morning light took this image a notch higher.
In recent times, I have noticed regular activity of the Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers. Pecking on barks of trees, drilling holes on the trunk, the male would find a tasty snack and feed the female. This one here is the male.
Last week, I posted only the tail, this time it is the full bird. Yet another vibrant species. While the name is Grey Junglefowl, this one has an astounding array of colors.
For a change, both the White-cheeked Barbets stood their ground and posed for a few seconds.
Out of nowhere, this Malabar Grey Hornbill landed, sat for a few seconds and took off. This is the male (notice the orange bill), the female has a pale coloured bill. In another sighting, I saw two Bronzed Drongo’s chasing a hornbill too. I guess expect the unexpected in the wild.
Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker male (full red crest) lands on the ground for inspection.
An interesting name given to this species…Brahminy Starling. If you notice the extensions on the black head, that is what gives the bird its name.
A female Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker (half red crest) takes a break from drilling the branch while looking for some titbits.
A purple sunbird (female) fills the spot by landing on the branch which had no pods on it. One can gauge the size of this tiny bird in comparison to the pods.
A puffed-up Jungle Myna contemplates its next move.
Yet again the barren rock has an occupant. Spotted Dove in lovely morning light.
The streak-throated woodpecker (female) latches onto a tree trunk before alighting to the nearby saucer to quench its thirst.
That concludes my three week quest to make images and post every day during the lockdown. To all my friends, family and viewers – stay safe!
All images made with Nikon D850 along with 600 F4 VR lens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The lady Purple Sunbird sat poised, after a shot of nectar, before taking off and raiding other flowers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It was safari number five and overcast conditions loomed over us as we entered the Moharli gate. While there was a cool breeze, some dark clouds hovering above us screamed of certain rain.
Ratan (our driver guide) proceeded towards Jamunbodi Lake with the hope of finally showing us a tiger. We stopped at the view point and I made a few images of the beautiful setting. A panoramic view of the lake is what I hoped to capture. My only regret was that it was overcast and the beautiful afternoon light that transforms the lake into a magical place, was absent that day.
A little ahead on the road, we noticed that a jeep had stopped and the occupants were looking upwards at a higher branch. As I was wondering what bird it could be, an Indian Roller took flight and flew right over us. Hoping the bird would perch close by, I kept my eyes on it. While it did land on a branch near me, it took off within seconds. A disappointment indeed.
Vikram excitedly announced ‘roller dikha toh tiger definitely dikhega’! No sooner had he spoken those words, our guide pointed to the right and said tiger! I strained my eyes and looked in the direction he pointed. I saw some movement in the bushes and soon a tiger emerged from the foliage.
Our guide identified the tiger as a female who is popularly called Maya. She slowly walked out into the open, giving everyone present, a grand view. In no time, from just a handful of jeeps, about 10-15 lined up there. Excitement knew no bounds for driver, guide and tourists for it had been almost three days since a tiger had been spotted.
She neared the jeeps, with clear intentions to cross the road. Armed only with a telephoto lens, all I could manage was a portrait of this beautiful tiger as she trudged along and finally crossed the track.
She crossed the track and seemed focused on something. Scanning the surrounding area, we discovered where her focus lay. A couple of Sambar Deer grazed, oblivious to the fact that a tiger had them in sight.
We were expecting some action, but unfortunately for the tiger and us, the sambar let out an alarm call. They had finally spotted her. Slowly, she made her way into denser foliage and then out of sight.
As we were soaking in the sighting with smiles and handshakes, heavy drops fell on us and moments later we were in the middle of a cloudburst. All of us were drenched to the bone in that heavy downpour. Even the rain jacket didn’t help much to me and the equipment. We drove out and took shelter at a forest department office until the rain receded. We made one more round to the area we saw the tiger. No sign of movement, we decided to exit the park.
After we returned to our homestay, I immediately wiped all the equipment and put it out to dry. All was well..no issues!
It was later that evening, Vikram narrated to us about his unique connection between an Indian Roller sighting and a tiger. Every time he has seen that bird, he has spotted a tiger. Incredible!
Tadoba is a jungle close to my heart and it has rarely disappointed. That evening our stars aligned and thanks to the Indian Roller, along rolled a tiger.
From my trip to Tadoba in October 2019. All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.
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.
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.
The falcon, aware of of our presence sat unflinchingly and posed as we made images.
A closer look of this mid-sized raptor.
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.
Southern Ground Hornbill was one of the birds high up on my wish list soon after Kruger plans materialised. Having seen it earlier in Masai Mara a few years ago, the regret of not being able to make any images of this endangered species was was heavy on my mind.
Well into the second half of our maiden drive in Kruger, as the breeze got cooler and the evening light turning everything to gold, we spotted a few black objects on the track as we turned around a bend. A group of ground hornbills were on a stroll!
Seeing our jeep approaching, the hornbills scattered and we were left with only one standing on the track. As the hornbill slowly made it across the track, I made images of the biggest hornbill species in the world.
While one hornbill moved away, majority of the group decided to stick by a termite mound. I had the good fortune of taking a picture of a juvenile hornbill too.
Other species of hornbills spread across Kruger National Park are the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Red-billed Hornbill. Despite seeing them all over during the game drives, they are difficult subjects to shoot. They flew away as soon as the jeep approached them.
A co-operative southern yellow-billed hornbill was gracious enough to stay put on a branch while I attempted to make images.
The more skittish red-billed hornbill was quite a challenge! Despite all my attempts, I managed a decent record of this species.
Thus having covered the majestic southern ground hornbill, the pretty yellow-billed and red-billed hornbills, I have managed to get over the deep-seated regrets from the past trip to Kenya.
The mug of coffee sits beside me untouched as I reflect upon the year that passed by. 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.
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.
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!
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
Visiting forests is not all about big cats. Drama like this makes makes an uneventful safari an exciting experience.
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.
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.