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.
I really wish I could get a closer shot…
It’s never tiring to photograph this bird. I see it almost everyday during my commute to work and it’s beauty never seizes to wonder me. Here is a shot from a recent trip.
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.
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.
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.
Called Falco chicquera, its Latin name translates as the “hunting falcon”.
Everyday when I get to work, I see this little bird on the fence doing crazy acrobatics trying to catch insects mid-air. I never could ID it properly. It was either too fast or too far. So this weekend, I took my camera and drove to my work place which is about 35 kms from where I stay. It was mid afternoon and the sun was at its zenith. The drive was fairly uneventful with no birds in sight and I was already beginning to curse myself for the ill timed visit. But to my surprise, as soon as I neared my office, I saw this little fellow happily chirping away, flying from one part of the fence to the other. All I had to do was be still for a few minutes and it was right in front of me, posing away to glory.
This is the male common stonechat. Its latin name (Saxicola torquata) literally translates to a collared bird that is a rock dweller.
And here is the lady. Pretty, isn’t she? The bird is called a stonechat because of its call – it sounds like stones or pebbles falling. Here is a link to a recording – listen to the first recording fully. Stonechat call
Or as I’ve been calling it, the Eurasian thick-knee. I shot this a couple of years ago in the open fields around Sultanpur (a popular bird sanctuary near Delhi).
It’s commonly found alone or in pairs and is mighty difficult to spot because of its camouflage. It’s scientific name (Burhinus oedicnemus) roughly translates to a bird with a bull shaped head (or nose) and thick knees.
Ah, the little surprises the coasts hold! I was walking along the beach when I suddenly saw about a dozen little birds scurrying away right from under my feet. They were so well camouflaged, I hardly noticed them until I was almost upon them! I had never seen this particular bird before so I could not readily identify them. I quickly moved away to fetch my camera and crawled back on all fours back to where I had seen them settle down.
And there they were, crouching in the cool sand as if sheltering from the harsh wind and sun. I wonder if thats what they were doing. I managed to get closer (flat on my belly) and and get a few shots. The sun was harsh and directly above me, so some of the shots are, well, not ideal.
The bird is called a Lesser sand plover. It’s scientific name has an interesting story associated to it. Called the Charadrius mongolus, the name literally means a bird found near the water (creeks, rivers, beaches) from Mongolia. But interestingly, the ancient Greeks believed that sighting this bird during night times would cure jaundice.