All ears turn blue

Earlier this year in the month of July, Mahesh and I planned a quick trip to photograph Rain Quails in the outskirts of Pune! While in Pune, Mahesh received an update about  a sighting and possible photo opportunity of the Blue-eared Kingfisher (a kingfisher species that had still eluded us). The closest we got to seeing this elusive kingfisher was in Thamdi Surla, Goa, a few years ago.

Excited about this sighting, we reiterated our plans and decided to go to Abloli (near Guhagar), stay the night, photograph the kingfisher and then head back to Bangalore. The drive from Pune turned out to be a long one due to bad roads in the last leg.

We finally reached Abloli with just about half hour of light left in the day. Exchanging pleasantries with our host, Sachin Arekar, we headed straight to the hide where the kingfisher frequented.

We took our slots and waited. I was not carrying a tripod or monopod and was struggling to shoot handheld with equipment weighing over 6.5 kilos. Add to it the swarming mosquitos. The heavy lens gave me more trouble than the blood suckers! Waiting a few minutes, Sachin signalled that the kingfisher would come out in the open anytime.

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Bumping up the ISO, I made a few images. Shooting in almost darkness, we wrapped up hoping to have a good morning session.

In the morning we reached the hide and to my utmost surprise, Sachin had made a support for my lens and camera with the help of two pipes. Settling in my slot, it was waiting game for the kingfisher.

The male landed first and a few times thereafter, and ordinary images were the result.

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Blue-eared Kingfisher (m) | Abloli, Maharashtra, India

On a rare occasion, the female graced us with her presence. The resulting image also not satisfactory.

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Blue-eared Kingfihser (f) | Abloli, Maharashtra, India

Waiting to make that one image which would satiate the hunger for all these years, finally came true. The blue-eared male landed on the perch, and for a brief second or two, posed well.

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The Poser | Blue-eared Kingfisher (m) – Abloli, Maharashtra, India

Contented to have seen this kingfisher at such close quarters, making satisfactory images was worth every bit of change in plans.

Sachin Arekar our wonderful host runs Garva Agro Tourism, a comfortable and homely set up. Not to forget, sumptuous food too. 

Images made with Nikon – D850 + 600 f4 VR 

Monsoon Magic

I love the game drives into Bandipur during the monsoons. Wildlife amidst lush green surroundings and drops of rain is such a refreshing sight. On more than a few occasions, I got lucky witnessing some interesting behaviour and action, other times, pure joy of making images in the rain drenched forest. I have picked a few such moments!

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Headless | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Off with your head! A jungle myna displays its hapless victim.

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Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Stripe-necked Mongoose devours a snake that saw no escape

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King Pool | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A long gone king poses in his pool close to the safari track

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Heavy soaking | Chital – Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A beautiful stag stands still enjoying the generosity of the rain gods

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Kingfisher | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Post rains, a white-throated kingfisher contemplates its next move.

This year the monsoon has finally made its presence felt. Time to make the best of what the jungles have to offer. Bandipur, Kabini…we just have to see!

 

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.

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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 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:

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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 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:

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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

Colour splash on Diwali

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Colour Splash | Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Chiplun, Maharashtra, India

A drive of almost 2000 kms just for this tiny bird seemed like a ludicrous idea when discussed with friends over a cup of coffee. Despite that, five of us decided to go looking for this species in a small village tucked away in Maharashtra after a pit stop at the flower beds of Kaas plateau. Early that morning we were welcomed by the incredibly colourful Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher bringing food for its chicks. As we sat at a safe distance from the nesting site, the male as well as the female kept on the constant supply of skinks, frogs and spiders to feed their young ones.

Shot with Canon 1D Mark IV, 500mm f4 IS + 1.4x TC III mounted on a Manfrotto tripod and Benro Gimbal (GH2) head.