Purple Sunbird

I realise I have to be very careful in identifying this bird. Especially the female. The males are fairly easy to distinguish especially in their eclipse plumage (as in the picture below) but the females look remarkably close to other sunbirds.

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I’ve been pretty lucky with this bird though – they are fairly common in most parts of India and I’ve spotted them in the lush green jungles around Bandipur as well as in the drier areas of Gujarat. It’s a small sized bird and doesn’t  seem to be very shy of humans. They let you get pretty close if you approach cautiously. And since they are always found near nectaring plants, it’s almost always easy to get a very colourful picture. These pictures were made on the western coast of Gujarat on the Gulf of Kutch.

This one is the female foraging in the same area. Fun fact – they are monogamous!

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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”.

Common Stonechat

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.common-stone-chat

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

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Stone Curlew

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). Eurasian thicknee 1.JPG

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.

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