Greater Gold

Greater_Flameback_DSC_0140

Travel and work kept me away from home for a while. Post rains, a lovely sun-lit morning was a welcome sight and I trotted into the hide to entertain my winged visitors.

To test a recently acquired 1.4x TC, I mounted it on the lens and started making images of a white-cheeked barbet nibbling away on a fruit. A woodpecker landed on the dry stump, as I trained my lens onto the woodie and saw that unmistakable red on the head and I knew there was something odd about this woodpecker!

On closer inspection, I realised the wings were fully golden! This was indeed a different woodpecker….the Greater Goldenback Woodpecker! ¬†The woodpecker explored the stump, hopping around and after a minute or so, took off.

Always a great feeling, when a new winged visitor makes an appearance at the hide ūüôā

Image shot with: Nikon D750 + 600 f4 VR, 1.4 TC 

The Hanging Parrot

A beautiful green coat, a striking red beak and an exotic blue patch on the throat sums up this little birdie.

Lorikeet_IMG_1628
Mr. Handsome | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

Preparing myself for the parrot’s visit to the fruiting Singapore cherry tree, I got myself in position and waited. Sure enough a parrot landed on the tree and got to business right away. Hanging like a bat, the parrot proceeded to feast on ripe cherries.

Hanging_Lorikeet_IMG_1634
Hanging High | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

It is indeed a beautiful sight to see these parrots negotiate branches carefully, hang upside down and feeding. The Vernal Hanging Parrot is one of my favorite birds!

Images shot with: Canon 40D + Sigma 500 f4.5, Feature image with 40D and 300 2.8 + 2x TC

 

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  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.

Scimitar_1_ADI3493

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.

Scimitar_2_ADI3511

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 and Pangot | Birding Havens II

Pangot is a hill station not too far from the popular Nainital. My first visit was in the year 2013, and the first morning I woke up to snow everywhere and a horde of white-throated laughing thrush on a tree outside my room.

Last year, Mahesh and I travelled to Pangot, post Sattal, Munsiyari and Khaliya Top. We stayed in a comfortable guesthouse called Kafal House with friendly and courteous staff and simple tasty food.

At Kafal House, a bird bath and a few perches were set up. Our sessions started at the set-up which attracted common birds like the white-throated laughing thrush, black-headed jay, grey-winged blackbird, rufous-chinned laughing thrush, himalayan bulbul. Other exciting species were the rusty-cheeked scimitar babbler, chestnut-crowned laughing thrush, spot-winged grosbeak, oriental turtle dove to name a few.

The plum trees surrounding Kafal House were in full bloom and many russet sparrows were seen perched on these trees. My favourite picture of the sparrow is shared below.

Russet_Sparrow_JK_5597
Amidst all that pink – Russet Sparrow | Kafal House, Pangot, Uttarakhand, India

On another day, we left in the early hours hoping to reach another birding destination called Vinayak which is immensely popular for the cheer pheasant. Barely few kilometers from our lodging house, we bumped into a pair of koklass pheasants. Extremely low light conditions prevented any good photographs.

Our trip to Vinayak for the cheer pheasants was unsuccessful, but it did yield a few landscape photographs. In the picture below, early morning rays kiss the mountain top.

Vinayak_Sunrise_Pangot
Early mornings at Vinayak | Uttarakhand, India 

A drive down the road from Kafal House was productive too. A long awaited picture of the verditer flycatcher was finally done.

Verditer_Flycatcher_JK_5182
Verditer Flycatcher | Pangot, Uttarakhand, India 

Langur! They were everywhere and how does one avoid bumping in to them or seeing them? Here is one photograph when I caught an individual making faces at me.

Langur_JK_5218
Making faces РGrey Langur | Pangot, Uttarkahand, India 

Bad weather on a couple of days did affect birding but it was still an enjoyable trip. I prefer Pangot as a destination to Sattal, simply because it is very picturesque. I long to go there soon!

List of birds photographed in Pangot and neighbouring areas:

White-throated laughing Thrush, Black-headed Jay, Rufous-chinned Laughing Thrush, Streaked-laughing Thrush, Striated Laughing Thrush, Oriental Turtle Dove, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Russet Sparrow, Verditer Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Striated Prinia

Equipment: Canon 1D Mark 4 + 500 f4 IS + 1.4 TC 3

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.

Greater_Yellownape_Woodpecker_JK_1967
Greater Yellownape Woodpecker | Birders Den, Sattal
Blue_Winged_Siva_JK_2405
Blue-winged Siva | Birders Den, Sattal 
Great_Tit_JK_4459
Great Tit | Birders Den, Sattal
Grey_Headed_Woodpecker_JK_2278
Grey-headed Woodpecker | Birders Den, Sattal 

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.

Sunbird???_JK_3849
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.

White_Crested_Laughing_Thrush_JK_4363
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.

Leothrix_RB_JK_4283
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.

Brown_Dipper_JK_4668
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 4 

 

 

 

 

Its raining…babies

It has now passed two years since I 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.

Spurfowl_Chick_Mum
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.

Spurfowl_Chick
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!

Junglefowl_Mum_Chick_ADI5592
Grey Junglefowl (female) and her young one | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

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

Junglefowl_Chick_ADI5581
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.  

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 of 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 to¬†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 an¬†Uncle’s home.

A few photographs from Solan and its outskirts:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 visited 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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

Oriental White-eye, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Black Bulbul, 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

Ganeshgudi | A birding haven

A long drive to Belgaum had its own advantages. With Ganeshgudi only an hour-and-a-half away, an impromptu visit to the Old Magazine House was devised and I got there on a Friday evening.

I had checked earlier with a dear friend, Angad Achappa, about the usual suspects that frequent the Old Magazine House, so I had a fairly good idea what to expect.

Here are a few images of birds that I saw during my one night stay there:

  • The flagship species at the Old Magazine House is the White-bellied Blue Flycatcher. One can see quite a few individuals (both male and female) frequenting the bird baths.
Flycatcher_WBB_DSC6836
White-bellied Blue Flycatcher (male) | Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi
Flycatcher_WBB_F_DSC6914
White-bellied Blue Flycatcher (female) | Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi
  • Another common species is the Orange-headed Thrush.
Thrush_OH_DSC6619
Orange-headed Thrush | Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi
  • An occasional visitor – Lesser Yellownape Woodpecker
Yellownape_WP_DSC6879
Lesser Yellownape Woodpecker | Old Magazine House,
  • At about 6.30 am the next morning, there was excitement among the birding guide and a bunch of photographers. A Malabar Trogon had been spotted at close quarters! Following the bird, I walked along the road and made a few images. This by far has been the best sighting of the Malabar Trogon.
Trogon_DSC6758
Malaber Trogon (male) | Old Magazine House, Ganeshgudi

Other species that I saw during the same visit are:

Hill Myna, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Oriental White-eye, Black-naped Monarch, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Puff-throated Babbler, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Little Spiderhunter, Malabar Pied Hornbill, White-rumped Shama, Emerald Dove, Flame-throated Bulbul.

Note: The Old Magazine House now has a new bungalow with 6 well appointed rooms. Few old old cottages they had earlier have been dismantled and maybe renovated in the future.

All images shot with Nikon 600 f4 VR + D7100. 

 

 

Birding by the bridge

The stream which flows at the entrance of Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse attracts a host of birds. Commonly sighted birds are Malabar Whistling Thrush, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Black Drongo, Red-vented and Red Whiskered Bulbul, etc. 

One evening I was treated to wonderful sights of the White-rumped Shama and female Indian Paradise Flycatcher. 

Shama_DSC4368
White-rumped Shama (male)
 A White-rumped Shama poses on a steel pipe. It was nice to see this otherwise shy bird sit comfortably in the open despite my presence. 

Flycatcher_AP_F_DSC4670
Indian Paradise Flycatcher (female)
The extremely restless Flycatcher flying from one perch to another, offered a few seconds to freeze some frames. 

More from the bridge in future posts…

The Mighty Steppe

Steppe_Eagle_JK_3689
Steppe Eagle | Almora, Uttarakhand, India (2016)

Many steppe eagles were seen en route to Munsiyari. Despite our eagerness to stop and capture these raptors, the guide suggested we do that on our return to Sattal. As we continued our long drive, quite a few virtual images of this magnificent raptor were imprinted in my mind.

Few days later the opportunity to convert those virtual images to real ones came along. After crossing Almora district, we spotted a few steppe eagles by the roadside. Urging the guide and driver to stop, I fixed a teleconverter to the lens for farther reach. With whatever light that remained of the evening and a cooperative bird, I made a series of images.

An opportunity to shoot the steppe eagle on two of my previous trips to Sattal were wasted due to camera issues. This image was the best of the series and immensely satisfying.

Shot with: Canon 1D Mark IV + 500 f4 IS + 1.4 TC III

The big switch

woodie_600_dsc3752
Lesser Flameback Woodpecker | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, India

Finally! Earlier in November I decided to shift my primary shooting gear from Canon to Nikon. I was on the lookout for a Nikon 500mm lens to replace the Canon one.

Earlier in January, a¬†friend insisted I see a¬†600mm lens on sale. I thought ‘why not? No harm in seeing the lens!’. After testing the lens, I started considering this as an option especially for bird photography.

After debating and consulting friends, I decided that the 600mm telephoto was too tempting to let go. Super excited about this lens and looking forward to more birding.

Shot details: Nikon 600mm f4 VR + D7100 at Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse 

Look what the Hawk dragged in

 

che_kill_jk_1787
Crested Hawk Eagle with Monitor Lizard kill | Kabini

 

Raptors in the wild are not an uncommon sight but catching them in action is rare. A crested serpent eagle, devouring a frog it had killed only moments ago, was sighted at a far off branch. Too far to make images but nothing escapes the ranges of binoculars.

Driving further ahead¬†our naturalist¬†called out crested hawk eagle! Moments later he excitedly tells us “Sir, it is with a monitor lizard kill!” Looking through the lens, I saw the headless monitor lizard held in the tight clutches of the raptor’s powerful talons. Over a quarter an hour we sat observing the¬†feeding via binoculars and also making images of the action.

I have seen picures of this raptor species with kills varying from malabar giant squirrels, jungle/common mynas, egrets¬†to name a few. Its always nice to have one action packed image of your own¬†ūüôā

Shot details: Canon – 1D Mark IV + 500 f4 IS; Kabini, Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India