Little Heron

When you’ve been birding for a few years, most of the birds you spot on a trip are repeat sightings. As the years pile on, spotting something new becomes more and more rare. And when you do spot something for the first time, even for a seasoned birder, the experience becomes unforgettable. Invariably, these are the experiences every naturalist looks forward to.

I had such an encounter during my last trip to Nalsarovar – a huge water reserve of about 120 sqkms, just outside Ahmedabad. I was on a canoe in one of the many small canals around the lake when I saw him come out of the shadows. My first impression was that it was a Bittern. This got me excited – Bitterns are not very easy to spot. But as I focused my lens on him, I quickly figured this was a bird I had never seen before.

Very stealthy, very shy and beautifully camouflaged, this one is called a Little Heron.

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The Falcon Family

It was a long, back breaking journey through bad roads and ploughed fields but it was worth the effort. Earlier last week, I received a call from a local contact that a Red necked falcon had been spotted in a village about 70 Kms from here. I was excited about the news. Not only because I had never seen a Red necked falcon but also because the news bearer told me that there was a good chance that the chicks might have hatched. Red necked falcons breed around Feb-March. This was an opportunity I would not let go.

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We arrived at the spot late in the afternoon. It was an open field freshly ploughed for the next crop that was fringed by Neem trees. Just near the entrance of the field, was a lone Eucalyptus tree on which I could spot the nest. It was high up (almost mid way to the almost 60 feet tree) and was obscured by branches. Getting a clear shot seemed almost impossible. I could just about spot the chicks in the nest and the parents were no where in sight. I knew it would be a long wait to get the shot I wanted. I took shelter behind a Neem tree close by and waited for the parents to arrive.

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After a good half hour, I saw two petite forms glide towards the nest. I held the camera to my face and held my breath. The wind was blowing hard and the heaving leaves made it almost impossible to get the right angle. I thought I would never get the shot I wanted. And then, all of a sudden, for a brief moment the winds died down, the leaves stopped quivering, the nest came clearly into my sight and we made eye contact. Perfect! And then it began feeding the chicks.

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Called Falco chicquera, its Latin name translates as the “hunting falcon”.