Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

Canopy at Ooty – much has been destroyed, little left

One of the most popular hill stations in India, Ooty, was the destination for photographing some endemic species of birds of western ghats. Though I couldn’t manage to capture a good image of my target species, I was able to watch a variety of species on a two day trip.

After answering calls and messages wishing on my birthday, I left home to pick Selva, Sudhir and Arun. We left Bangalore by 11am struggling past horrendous traffic on Mysore road. The initial plan was to squeeze an evening safari at Bandipur in search of Gowri and her cubs. But on seeing the mammoth crowd at Bandipur resorts, we gave up on safari. The crowd on a Saturday evening at a national park is no less than that at any popular mall in Bangalore.  It really made me wonder how have those magnificent ‘animals’ survived in India all these years given the number of people we have!

We  drove slowing keeping an eye for any bird, mammal or reptile. We saw Malabar giant squirrel, and lot of Peafowls. I stopped the car on hearing an unusual call. On looking out, we saw a of White Bellied Woodpecker. Spend a considerable time photographing this bird from car, without wanting to disturb the bird which seemed like making a nest. Many passersby stopped to inquire about what we were go-hung about.

White-bellied Woodpecker at Bandipur – Madumalai

We also caught up with this beautiful peacock on the edge of the road. Thankfully it was undisturbed by too many tourists thronging on the highway, and we captured few frames.

Indian Peafowl

Soon, stopped over at Masinagudi for checking a spot known to sight leopards, but not much luck. It was getting dark, and we left towards Ooty on the arduous Kalhatty ghats with 36-hairpin bends. Reached Ooty by 8pm, and started looking for accommodation around Charring Cross.  After looking a couple, checked into Youth Hostel. It was good to meet Neelima and a group of cyclists who had pedalled up the hills along the 36haripin bends.  I really admire their mammoth effort!

Next day morning, first stop at Gorishola yielded many birds – Grey Junglefowl, Eurassian Blackbird, Tickell’s leaf Warbler, and Oriental White eye. Though we were able to see many birds at Gorishola, it was difficult to capture a decent frame as you’d expect anywhere in western ghats. We left to Doddabetta, another location that was known for easy photo opportunities of Blackbirds and Nilgiri Laughingthrushes.

Eurassian Blackbird

Instead of sighting the sure-shot NLTs and Blackbirds at Doddabetta, we hit a jackpot. A huge flock of Nilgiri Wood Pigeons – a western ghats endemic that had eluded me in many visits to Nandi Hills. The size of this Pigeon is monstrous, and I was fortunate to capture one decent image before it flew away.

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

We roamed up and down, and around the Doddabetta tourist spot looking for birds of feathered kind. Mahesh and gang, who had arrived little earlier had got a prized catch of Black and Orange Flycatcher. But we weren’t lucky. As the crowd picked up, we left the spot.

After a quick breakfast at Charring cross, we tried to reach the Wood house area from the Botanical Garden side. The road was very narrow and almost non-existent. It was very hard to maneuver a big car around hairpin bends. After a few bends and turns, reached a spot on a narrow road where an auto had broken down and there wasn’t enough space to squeeze the car through. I had to get down the road in reverse till a found a spot to take a turn! It was quite a driving experience.

After contemplating where to go, we hit the Crainhill forest reserve. It’s an incredibly beautiful place. I just loved the tall tress and the location. We were able to spot the Black and Orange Flycatcher there, but just a glimpse. After spending sometime there, we drove towards Muthorai and Potato research station – sighted an Oriental Honey Buzzard and few common birds.

Later in the evening, we took the Doddabetta route to reach Wood house area. This place is secluded and you’ll not find anyone. It’s almost untouched. Though the activity wasn’t as much as we wished, but it seemed very promising. We were able to sight many Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, few blackbirds, Minivets and NLTs.

Returning from Wood house, I stopped near Sinclari’s to check out a bird that seemed a Craig Martin. But found a few house sparrows coming to roost on top of a house. I sneaked close and got one image I was happy of after spending one and half day at Ooty.

House Sparrow –  male in breeding plumage

House sparrow – A bird that once used to nest in my house, and now I had to drive over 300km to get one good photograph of. Nevertheless, I was happy to see them go unperturbed about their activities there.

Next day morning, we wanted to hit Doddabetta very early as Shreeram told there is no way we can miss getting good images of Nilgiri Laughing thrushes there. Ooty at 5:30am is very cold, even in summer. We reached Doddabetta with few minutes to 6am, and learnt from a couple of cops that the gates won’t open before 8am. Damn it!

I raced to reach Crainhills by 6:20am. There wasn’t much light and the bird activity was just starting to pick up. Grey-headed canary flycathers, Blackbirds, NLTs, White eyes, and Warblers – nothing that we hadn’t seen earlier. Then, a female Nilgiri Flycatcher made an appearance and sat at a distance for quite some time.

Got back to Doddabetta at 7:50am. A couple of cars were waiting and the gates weren’t open yet. Soon, guards arrived and let us in. I zipped through the curves so that we reach first – before Pigeons get disturbed. We sighted a Black-naped Hare on the way. We did see a few Nilgiri Wood Pigeons. Then, went in search of flycatchers, without much luck. There was one NLT that hopped on to the path and was foraging for leftovers.

Nilgiri Laughing thrush

There were plenty of Grey Tits, and many a times were so close that it was within minimum focus distance of 1.8meters! Slightly away from the crowd, sighted a bird that was frequenting a spot. I decided to hide near a fence and wait for the bird. It was close to 9am and we had to leave to Kabini. But patience of waiting there for half an hour yielded good dividends. I was able to capture this pretty bird with a prey (of some larve?).

Grey tit with a prey

Just as I packed up after this shot, got a call from Shreeram. Hurriedly had breakfast and left towards Charring Cross, from there to the bus stand to pick Shreeram and towards the land of Leopards and Elephants, Kabini.

Getting down the Ooty hills from Kalhatty Ghats got a close view of Black Eagle, and this Chestnut headed bee eater.

Chestnut headed Bee Eater

Despite the weekend-crowd, big hue and cry about Ooty getting very commercialize, I totally loved the place once again. The good thing about being commercialized is I get to have a Dominoes Pizza in Western ghats. :)

Yet, there are so many off beaten places yet to be explored. Though 2 days seemed enough initially, Ooty has lot more places to explore and worth spending time. It’s awesome to trek for hours at Crain hill forest reserve or explore the valley around Wood house. To quote Prem about Wood house area ‘ Come back feeling like a kid who has just been given an icecream.’ Maybe I’ll get to go sometime soon.

Thanks to Prem for his incredible compilation of birding spots at Ooty. Without his efforts, access to some lesser known spots wouldn’t be possible.

That’s all folks! Watch out for big mammals from the backwaters of Kabini.

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Valparai, a little known town of tea estates with scattered wildlife, was on my mind for long time. Had missed out couple of times after a good planning, but not this time. After a month of planning and consulting with Kalyan, Selva, Shiva, and Raju, I chalked out a plan to spend 2 days at Valparai and 2 days at Topslip on a 5 day trip, driving both ways. One hitch was, accommodation at Topslip forest department was not confirmed even after sending out a letter to DCF a couple of weeks in advance. Vinay, Arun and I set out from Bangalore by 7am on a Fiat Punto, which took a lot of brunt on the whole tour.

Target species for the trip: Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Great Hornbills, Waynaad Laughingthrush, and Oriental Bay Owl.

Onward Route:

Bangalore -> Hosur -> Krishnagiri -> Salem -> Avinashi -> Palladam -> Pollachi -> Valparai


Lion Tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) – An endangered and endemic mammal of western ghats


The toll road is in impeccable shape, and you can easily cruise at 150kmph. Stopped over at A2B for breakfast and reached Avinashi with few brief stops by around noon for lunch. Lost a lot of time around Avinashi in asking for directions and chaotic traffic. We had to confirm booking at Pollachi DCF office and spent some time in locating that place in Pollachi.

By around 3pm, we set towards Valparai. What a fantastic drive that was! The view of Aliyar dam from the escalating 40 hair pin bends is simply breathtaking. The roads are in brilliant condition despite the perpetual rains and traffic. Enjoyed a cup of tea adjacent to the tea gardens half way into the ascent. Didn’t find the Tahrs around the hairpin bends, but enjoyed every bit of the drive. Reached Valparai close to 5pm, checked into our home stay and set out for a drive around the town in on a cloudy and drizzling evening.

While returning to homestay that night, Vinay parked the car into the underground stairway of the home stay. And no, he wasn’t drunk. Just the darkness and drizzling rain did him in. What an adventure it was to get the car out of the ditch! Phew!! Fortunately nothing more than minor superficial damage to the car.

The next morning, weather was still gloomy and looked like it’d pour any moment. Poothotam was the place to find Lion Tailed Macaques, and we set out early. Too early in fact for LTMs. So we drove around Paralai and Varathaparai and enjoyed the landscape bristled with rain forests amidst vast tea estates. A barking deer around Monica estate bungalow, and scimitar babbler were the highlights. Listening to the song of Malabar whistling thrush was the most delightful experience. After a quick breakfast, we again set out towards Poothotam estates.  We saw a pair of Malabar Grey Hornbills. Around the directors bungalow, sighted a lone Forest wagtail. I was super thrilled.

Vinay was getting edgy to see LTMs. Walked around to sight more birds, but got too many leeches instead. No LTMs yet. As I was driving out of the estate, saw a bunch of macaques on ground on far right. Jammed the brakes and cried ‘LTMs’. Spent the next couple of hours photographing them. I then spent some time photographing the small waterfall and stream opposite to Poothotam estate. The light was dull and we left for lunch.

Post lunch, we lazed around for a while and charged the camera batteries. By around 3pm, we set out to look for Great Hornbills. We were told morning or early afternoon was the better time to sight these magnificent birds, we nevertheless wanted to try out luck. After a lot of scan and search in the pouring rain, we did find a couple of great hornbills on a fruiting tree. It was good sight but not the right conditions to photograph. We moved towards Sholayar Dam. The tea estates on the backwaters of the dam are ideal locations for good landscape images, if weather permits. The best part of the evening was the drive on the narrow roads in pouring rain.

Alpha male on the road – That truck almost ran over him


Fragmented habitat and habitat destruction are the biggest challenges for the few thousand surviving Lion Tailed Macaques, found only in small patches of rainforests of Western Ghats. The alpha male of  a troop was looking for his  members when a truck almost ran over him. It not not uncommon to see road kills at Valparai – Check Kalyan’s image of a road kill here and here. Despite two guards instilled by NCF and 3 of us photographing, the truck didn’t bother to slow down or watch out for the macaque.

Wish he could read the sign board Or Wish we humans would care to

On Monday morning, we were to leave to Topslip. It had rained all through the night and the morning was crystal clear with blue skies dotted with few white clouds. This was the ideal weather we wished for. But had to drive to Topslip, a good 3 to 4 hours from Valparai. We didn’t want to miss the accommodation at Topslip. But we scanned the area for Hornbills for a couple of hours, but no luck. The acrobatics of Nilgiri Langurs were a treat to watch. Malabar giant squirrels and Nilgiri Langurs were in plenty.




By 10am, we headed towards Topslip, with a couple of confirmation calls to Pollachi Forest Dept along the way. We did get a room we wanted at Ambuli Illam – about 3km inside the forest from Topslip reception. Soon, it started to rain and we didn’t see the point of trekking that time. So we just drove in car, in case we sight something, but no luck. Back at the reception at 4:30pm, few people were waiting to visit Elephant Camp. We joined them and went to the elephant feeding camp which had about 8-10 elephants. Got back to our rooms for a early dinner and dozed off soon.

Next morning, the rain gods had taken a break. On way from Ambuli Illam to Reception, we saw a flock of Wynaad Laughingthrush. It was very misty and no decent photographs, but what a sighting it was! Trek to Karian Shola, a hotspot for variety of endemic birds, was the morning’s plan.

I wanted to take a good guide and had made arrangements for the same. Unfortunately, to my disbelief, the Ranger didn’t allow us to take the guide we wanted since he was not from the forest department. He didn’t even budge to let us take him as a visitor! We were put to a forest department employee who knew very little about birds. We were obviously disappointed, but didn’t have much choice. An hour into the trek, we hadn’t seen anything other than a flameback and an emerald dove.


We had paid 1000 bucks for 4hour trek, but didn’t want to continue if the guide didn’t even have an idea where to look for birds. We asked him to get us back to Reception. Previous evening, had met another guide, Ketan, from forest department who had fair knowledge on birds. So we wanted to take him instead. After about 2 hours, we got back to Reception. Ketan obliged to take us to show Frogmouths that he had sighted previous evening. Though I was not keen, I thought it’s better to see a frogmouth than not see nothing at all. He again took us into Karian Shola at a very brisk pace. Half an hour in, he looked around for roosting spot of Frogmouth, but there were none! It was disheartening. I had heard so much about Karian Shola, and it was  a disappointment perhaps because of the weather.

But we did see an Emerald Dove’s nest with a young one nestled in. Thankfully the light had picked up little bit. We took a few record shots and left the spot. After a good discussion with Ranger, he agreed to let Ketan go with us for the evening trek. Exhausted after a 4 and half hour trek without food, we left to our room. On the quick drive back to we saw Malabar Trogon, Brown Shrike and White Bellied Treepie. Had late breakfast at 1pm, rested for a while and drove back towards reception. In this short drive again, we saw a mixed hunting party of birds – Wynaad Laughingthrush, Jungle Babblers, Rufous Treepie, White bellied Treepie, and the rare, bird of the trip, Chestnut Winged Cuckoo.  A lone male Kestral was sighted in the open grass patch opposite reception.

Flame throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus gularis) – Another endemic bird to Western ghats

At the reception, we got Ketan and drove back towards Ambuli Illam for a trek. The bird activity was surprisingly low. However, we did see a Sloth Bear barely 15ft from us. Fortunately, the bear grunted and ran away. Late evening, we returned to the reception area and spent some time chatting with Natalie. It was surprising to see so many foreigners at Topslip. Few could not even speak English, and they were there in the remotest jungles, far far away from any metro city.

‘Nannari’, a local drink make from roots of some tree, is a must try. Vinay was so kicked that  he picked up 3 bottles of it! By 8pm, we were asked to return to our room as an Elephants with a calf was sighted around there and would possibly cause trouble. The drive back in the night to Ambuli Illam to reception was fantastic with sighting of a Jungle cat, a Sambhar stag and a Doe, and many Gaurs. It’s incredible to drive at night without headlights in the jungle, only using a flash light to scan for glittering eyes staring at us.

Next morning, we had decided we’d drive back to Bangalore without morning birding session as it would be futile with heavy mist. Driving back from Ambuli, we only saw few Jungle Babblers. We took an alternate route as we planned to stop over at Kgudi.

Return Route:

Topslip -> Pollachi -> Coimbatore -> Satyamangalam -> Chamrajnagar -> Kgudi -> Yellandur -> Maddur -> Bangalore


Misty yet blissful – Landscape on way from Satyamangalam, Tamil Nadu to Chamrajnagar, Karnataka

The drive from Satyamangalam to Chamrajnagar is simply incredible. Ascending 27 hair pin bend in the midst of moist deciduous forest is fantastic experience.  The only hitch is the heavy traffic of trucks and buses plying on this stretch. We saw nothing but bonnet macaques. The bird activity at Kgudi JLR camp was surprisingly low. We saw a lone Verditer Flycatcher. It was good to catch up with Ashish at Kgudi JLR. Reached Bangalore by 9pm. A good enjoyable trip with great sightings and driving.

Mammals: Barking Deer, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Dusky palm squirrel, Bonnet Macaque, Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Hanuman Langur,  Indian Gaur, Jungle Cat, Spotted Deer, Sambhar deer, Black naped-hare, Wild Boar,  and Sloth Bear

Highlight of Birds: Wynaad Laughingthrush, Chestnut winged cuckoo, Malabar Trogon, Forest Wagtail, Malabar whistling thrush, Indian Scmitar Babbler, Emerald Dove, Pampadour Green Pigeon and White Bellied Treepie.


Topslip is an excellent place for birding if the weather is good. Wynaad Laughingthrush (Garrulax delesserti) is not a common bird seen easily, and the fact that we were able to sight a flock twice without any guide shows how awesome Topslip is.  There are many rooms or guest houses to stay at Topslip. Ambuli Illam without doubt is the best of the lot. It is better to have a vehicle if you choose Ambuli, for you have to drive back and forth reception for trek or visit to Elephant camp. Charge for 2 hour trekking is Rs. 500/-. Room charges are Rs. 1100/- per room plus Rs. 200 for reservation. Guide tips extra.

Contact information:

Wildlife Warden Office,
Meenkarai (or Market) Road,
Pollachi – 1

Phone: 04259-238360


Few more images:

Tea estates are spread across far and wide around Valparai

Waterfalls opposite Poothotam estate, Valparai

Brown Shrike – Lucky to get a spotlight on the bird, otherwise the lighting was really dull under the canopy


Lion Tailed Macaque feeding – A portrait





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I joined Shreeram, Vineet, and Gopal from NTP for a quick trip to GKVK campus for bird watching today morning. Prem also accompanied us. It turned out to be a great outing with some excellent sightings.


I reached the GKVK/UAS campus by 6:30am, parked my car near Ganesha temple and started looking for birds. All i could hear was the squirrels. I looked around for about half an hour without any good luck, and i was disappointed. Called Vineet and joined them near the Eucalyptus tree patch, and there we saw a Shikra family. Soon, Gopal joined us.

We walked to the uncultivated/forest land hoping for better sightings. We sighted lots of Barbets along the way. A Copper-Smith Barbett was feeding its chick and i could manage to get this shot:


There was a patch next to the road, and a faint trail. I walked into that and sat down to check the undergrowth wishing for a Pitta to hop by. I was scanning the undergrowth, with squirrels about 2-3ft from me and few Ashy Prinias hopping around, and suddenly a heard a galloping burst and saw some dark thing run past in front of me. Then i hear Shreeram shouting ‘Wild Boar!‘ Some 10mtr to the right, i would have been run over by a Wild boar.

Saw a nest of Oriental Magpie Robin. Heard close calls of Partridges, which at one point got really loud, and then got faint. They must have walked towards us, and then ran away. On to a more open area further, we sighted two pairs of Yellow-Wattled Lapwings, first time for me. There were chicks i suppose since the birds were calling and flying frequently to threaten us away. We didn’t get sight of the chicks.

As we walked back to the parking lot, we sighted a Common Grey Mongoose go past us across the road. As we walked further down, we heard something in the bush and we turned back to see another Mongoose run across. It was a great to watch them, but couldn’t get a shot.

After breakfast, sponsored by Gopal, Vineet, Shreeram, Prem and I went to Jakkur Lake. The lake was a treat to bird watchers. We weren’t expecting to see so many different species. Spot-Billed Pelicans, three types of Cormorants (including the white headed sub-species of Great Cormorant), Coots, Grebs, Purple Moorhens, and Common Moorhens. We were hearing calls of White-throated Kingfiher for some time and finally spotted it. A Pied Kingfisher came hovering into frame as i was focussing on a Brahminy Kite. I got a hovering shot of Pied Kingfisher here after many failed attempts elsewhere.

List of Birds:

  1. Barbet, Coppersmith
  2. Barbet, White cheeked
  3. Bulbul, Red Whiskered
  4. Bulbul, White browed
  5. Coot, Common
  6. Cormorant, Greater
  7. Cormorant, Indian
  8. Cormorant, Little
  9. Coucal, Greater
  10. Crow, House
  11. Crow, Jungle
  12. Dove, Laughing
  13. Dove, Spotted
  14. Drongo, Black
  15. Egret, Little
  16. Egret, Median
  17. Flowerpecker, Pale billed
  18. Flowerpecker, Tickell’s
  19. Grebe, Little
  20. Heron, Grey
  21. Heron, Pond
  22. Heron, Purple
  23. Hoppoe
  24. Iora, Common (heard)
  25. Kingfisher, Pied
  26. Kingfisher, White breasted
  27. Kite, Black
  28. Kite, Brahminy
  29. Koel, Asian
  30. Lapwing, Yellow wattled
  31. Moorhen, Common
  32. Moorhen, Purple
  33. Myna, Brahminy
  34. Myna, Common
  35. Myna, Jungle
  36. Parakeet, Plumheaded
  37. Parakeet, Rose-ringed
  38. Partridge, Grey (heard) (?)
  39. Pelican, Spotbilled
  40. Pigeon, Blue rock
  41. Prinia. Ashy
  42. Robin, Magpie
  43. Shikra
  44. Sunbird, Purple rumped
  45. Tailorbird, Common (heard)
  46. Tit, Grey
  47. White-eye, Oriental

Route to GKVK/UAS campus (courtesy Gopal):

a.. On Bellary road, NH-7, go past Mekhir circle to Hebbal flyover
b.. Go on the flyover without taking any deviations.
c.. 3kms from the flyover you will find L&T Komatsu office on your left, take the service road.
d.. GKVK/UAS campus is next to L&T Komatsu, and has a Mahatma Gandhi statue at the entrance.

Get inside the campus, going past two big playgrounds and a basket ball court to your left. Ample parking space is available. Walk some distance on the right side, going past student hostels, to reach uncultivated land for good bird sightings.

Route to Jakkur Lake:

– Take a right turn on Bellary Road, NH-7, just before Jakkur flying school.

– Go along the fencing of the flying school. Down the road, take the road which takes a natural right. Furthur down, take a left turn. Take right on a small Circle. 1km from there you will see the lake on your left.

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All the participants with Karthik

All the participants with Karthik

I remember a colleague asking ‘Who’s a Naturalist?’ when one other colleague told us that he was invited by a popular wildlife photographer to work as a naturalist (the authenticity of which is not worth exploring). Answer to this question was what first answered in the Naturalist Training Program, which i attended from March 27-29, conducted by S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist of Jungle Lodges and Resorts.

A person who studies natural history is know as a naturalist. Someone who looks at the nature in totality, someone who does not study nature with respect to one particular species is a naturalist.

Barking deer AKA muntjac

Barking deer AKA muntjac

The three day training program consisted of sessions on topics like biodiversity in India, introduction to bird watching, bird behaviour, urban wildlife and the most exciting of all, plant-animal interaction. The sessions were interspersed with Nature trails in the morning and evening inside the herbivorous enclosure of Bannerghatta National park. After the nature trails in the evening, David Attenborough‘s The Life of Bird series was played. The mesmerizing life of birds would inspire a novice to an avid bird watcher.

In the group of 17 odd people, probably 4-5 were into bird watching prior to the program, but most others weren’t. But the zeal of everyone was truely inspiring. The immense knowledge of Karthik got us to appreciate every little thing we saw in the nature trail. The sap sucked by the miniscule scaley insect on a leaf, and two ants close by to quench their thirst by the sap still remains vividly in my mind. The intricate interdependence of various forms of life, where loss of even one species could result in death of about 30 other species was put into perspective.

Bonnet macaque - mom and son

Bonnet macaque - mom and son

Watching keenly the behavior of the birds, and observing little things is what makes bird watching such an exciting activity, even if the bird is a common one. This point was put across by Karthik when he asked us ‘Does Myna hop or walk?

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male)

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male)

How often would we get to see the beautiful male Paradise Flycatcher from the dining table? This bird was around the camp for quite some time. So were many Sun birds, feeding on nectar from the flowers on jacaranda tree.

We were able to sight a variety of herbivorous mammals in the herbivorous enclousure. Black bucks, Gaurs, Chitals, Barking Deers and Nilghais shared the same space. This made it possible for some to get Blackbuck and Gaur in the same frame! :))

The only big carnivorous in the enclosure are the Mugger Crocodiles, which were sighted in the late evenings on the banks of the lake.

Three days, i was totally cut off from the bustling city and enjoyed 4 back-to-back bird watching sessions in 3 days.

Few more images:

jlrntp participants looking to identify a bird spotted

jlrntp participants looking to identify a bird spotted

Praying mantis, last species to be shot


Largest species of wild cattle, Gaur

Indian Gaur

Ubiquitous White Cheeked Barbett


P.S.: I was more into learning and less to photography, so please excuse me for these images.

Since this trip, AF on my 450D + 55-250mm IS lens seems to be little cranky. I am not able to get images as sharp as i got earlier with the same. May be i need to give the camera for service and get the lens calibrated. Anyone has any tips regarding this?

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The post event meet of Bangalore Bird Race 2009 personally, for me, was the best place, where i spotted some really rare species. I was overwhelmed to see and meet some great naturalists, and bird watchers like S Karthikeyan and Deepa Mohan, whom i had known only through net, and some of the best wildlife photographers from Bangalore like Sudhir Shivram and Kalyan Varma, also known only through net. I had been ogling at the photographs Sudhir Shivram and Kalyan Varma produce for long time before i started clicking photographs, and i continue to do so even now. These are the people who have inspired me to sustain and improve hobbies like bird watching and photography. It’s hard to describe the joy i had. It was good to associate face to people i have known through the Internet and admired their work for long. This post is dedicated to these wonderful people.

The day of bird race started pretty early. I managed to catch only 2-3 hours of sleep after a hectic Saturday (more about it later), but I still left my home by 4:55am, picked Pandith, Rahul, a young lad who joined our team since his earlier teammates were not willing to bird whole day, and Deepak.

Deepak, Pandith and I had planned, on Saturday evening, to cover South Bangalore starting from Bangalore University campus to Bannerghatta National Park covering Byramangala Lake and Valley School and few other water bodies on Kanakapura road.

We reached Bangalore university before the day break, and were waiting for a good 20-25min for the sun to come out, after walking around to see if we could catch any Owls, but no such luck. University Campus provided good sightings of common birds like Drongos, Flowerpeckers, Babblers, Doves, Parakeets, and Sunbirds. I also spotted 2-3 Peafowls which disappeared just as i alerted my teammates. By the time we moved on from there, it was 7:15am. We had spend half an hour more than we had planned.

Inquisitive dog and pup, Byramangala lake

Inquisitive dog and pup, Byramangala lake

On the way to Byramangala lake, we stopped at a field where we sighted lots of munias, spotted doves, drongos and Indian Silverbills.ext stop, Byramangala lake. Reached this place, after missing a turn and coming back, by about 8:15pm. Many sandpipers were sighted, and also few Red Wattled Lapwings. We also saw a Spot billed Pelican, Black headed Ibis, Grey Wagtail, Ashy Prinia and a Blue rock trush here.

Left Byramangala lake only by 9am. Our plan to reach Valley school by 8:30am was already slipping by a good 1hour, but on the way we sighted many raptors including a Shikra, and Oriental Honey Buzzard.


Couldn't help clicking this butterfly - Twany Coster

Valley school is an incredible place. A heaven for bird watcher in Bangalore. The number of species count was about 35 when we reached Valley school by 10:20am. We still had missed common birds like Laughing dove, Indian Roller and White Throated Kingfisher. Just at the entrance we spotted a bunch of Oriental White Eye. Parked the car and started walking inside the Valley school campus. We spotted many birds within an hour. Common bird like Coppersimth Barbetts, White cheeked barbett, Greater Coucal, Green Bee Eater, Oriental Magpie Robin, Bushchat, and Indian Robin were spotted readily. Also, we spotted Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Common Iora, Kestral, Puff-throated Babbler, White-throated Fantail and White-Browed Fantail.

Asian paradise flycatcher at Valley school

Asian paradise flycatcher at Valley school

We still had not spotted any Kingfishers, and were at a pond/creek. The incredibly beautiful Asian Paradise Flycatcher made itself visible, and i could also manage to get a decent shot of this beauty. We then rested for sometime there, and a Kingfisher came for an early lunch. Was this a Blue-eared Kingfisher or Small Blue Kingfisher (AKA Common Kingfisher)? Rahul was excited and was saying (hoping as well) it was blue eared. I took a good shot, confirming it to be just the Common Kingfisher, and not its the uncommon counterpart. Deepak, meanwhile, had spotted some bird which he said had features similar to the rare White-Rumped Shama, but couldn’t confirm for sure. We spotted couple of more birds which we couldn’t confirm the identity, a Treepie and a Raptor.


Our other teammate, Sri Ram, had not joined till now and we had asked him to come to Valley School directly, but he ended up 15km further to some other place. By 12:30pm we left valley school and were waiting for Sri Ram to join us. We wasted 45 minutes in this. Left towards BNP by 1:30pm. We had signed about 65 species by then, and were hoping to add good number at BNP.

The road to Bannerghatta from Kanakapura road is pathetic. Pathetic is an understatement. In fact for a majority of the distance, there is no road, but a way where road is to be laid. I drove my Swift on ditches, and potholes infested jelly stones laid ‘road’ with 5 people and some luggage. Car took a really bad toll.

Bannerghatta national park area didn’t provide any sightings. We drove towards Ragihalli on Akekal road. The national park area is known to provide wonderful sightings like that of Valley school, but around 2pm there were hardly any activity. Parked the car in a place where we heard some chirps, and ventured out on a pathway which led to a pond. There were bird chrips but nothing to be seen except for few Bulbuls. There we saw Elephant dung at quite a few places and knew that this was not a safe place to stick for long.

The time was still 2:45pm. We didn’t know where to go for more sightings. Ragihalli road was a disappointment. We stood at 69 species. Nearest lake, Madiwala lake would an hour’s drive. Should we go to the lake or Bannerghatta zoo herbivorous enclosure was the dilemma.

Oriental white eye - Valley School

Oriental white eye - Valley School

We went to Madiwala lake, and we weren’t disappointed. Readily we spotted a Large Pied Wagtail. We spotted a aquatic birds, Garganey, Lesser Whistling Duck, and Northern Shovler. We also spotted a Grey Heron, and a Marsh Harrier.

At 4pm we started driving to the city, to report at Royal Orchid at Manipal Center. We visited Cubbon Park for half an hour to see if we could spot any bird that was not on our list already, but no such luck on a crowed Sunday evening. Reached Royal Orchid at 5:30pm to report our sightings of the day, and it stood at mere 78 species.

The team sighting 145 species took the 1st place, followed by 137 species for 2nd place, and 133 species for 3rd place. The catch of the day was Blue-bearded Bee Eater.

The Bird Race was for sighting as many birds as we can, and hence the opportunity for photography was not much. Here is couple of more images that have come out decently, both shot at Valley school campus:

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher


King of Good Times


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I had heard a lot, and I have been waiting long time for this (less than a year of course, otherwise i’d have written about BBR 2008). The time has finally come. HSBC Bangalore Bird Race 2009 is on 18th January 2009, and i am excited to be participate in my first bird race, the 3rd edition of HSBC bird race in Bangalore.

I know many of you are wondering what’s a bird race. Bird race is not an event where birds are bred, and raced (not sure if such race exists, though it happens with grey hounds). Bird Race is a fun even where teams of 4 go bird watching from dawn to dusk on the given day, making a record of all the birds spotted. The team with most sightings wins.

I had to go with individual registration, which closed on January 11th, since i couldn’t manage to form a team with people i already know. Nevertheless, this gives a good opportunity to meet new people. A veteran of 2 bird races, Deepak, is the captain of team Pittas, of which JP Pandith, Kashyap and yours truly are part of.

Haven’t planned out the spots to be covered yet. Deepak prefers North Bangalore, Nandi hill side, but i prefer Valley school and BNP. Will reach a consensus and hopefully decide by today evening, taking inputs from other two teammates.

Given my limited knowledge, i would be glad to correctly identify birds i am already familiar with, hope to learn more about birds and of course take few good images. Expecting a fun-day on Sunday.

Current Mood: Excited

Current Music: Las Ketchup

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I was awake by 4am, even before the alarm went off. I’ve got this strange sleeping habit (sleeping disorder?). I sleep at 2 am some days, wake up at 6:30am. I hit the bed by 12:30am, but wide awake till about 5am, and up again by 7:30am. Rarely, of late, i get to sleep till 11am. I’ve digressed enough, back to topic. Got out of the bed when i got a call from Shashank at 4:15am, and left the house by 4:45 am. Phew, that’s early, and it was dark!

By 5:15am four of us from BWS, Shashank, Deepak, Aranya and myself, were on our way from Bangalore to Galibore fishing camp.

The route:

Bangalore -> Kanakapura -> Doddaladalli -> Sangam -> Galibore.

The road till Kanakapura is good, but deteriorates from there. The route to Galibore fishing camp from Sangam is a muddy jeep track (Cars can be driven), and is an excellent place for Bird watching. Cauvery river flows along this road, and one can hear the birds chirping all along this 9-km stretch. We stopped at the beginning of this route by 7:15am, took out our gear and started shooting. It was hard as the light was little dull and most birds were under the canopy of trees. There were lots of babblers, few drongos, woodpeckers, and bee-eaters. I was able to spot a Jerdon’s Chloropsis. We started moving towards Galibore with frequent stops on the 9-km stretch from Sangam to Galibore. We spotted and photographed lots of birds.

Buffalos on morning walk

Buffalos on morning walk

We reached a check post, and we were stopped there. We were not allowed to go to the JLR‘s Galibore fishing camp, as one needs to have prior reservation. Initial plan of trek from Galibore fishing camp to Muthathi was shelved, and we planned to reach Muthathi and Bheemeshwari by road. There is scarce of restaurants around that place. Most of them are weekend get away resorts which don’t serve food unless you have prior appointment for a whole day activity. We had a brunch by 11:30am at Tender Coconut Restaurant at Sangam, relaxed for a while and left for Cunchi falls. Shashank had visited this place about a couple of years back in March and May. He told that the falls had dried out then. We hoped for water this time, and we weren’t disappointed. A little trek got us to the full view of the falls. The sun was scorching and unforgiving. Exhausted, we stopped for coconut water after shooting in the falls. We were waiting for Aranya, who we thought was lost. There was a rock agama on a tree nearby. Deepak and I started clicking, and got few beautiful shots. (The one you see on top of this post).

We were all tired by then, and Shashank suggested we leave for Bangalore. I was adamant that we go to Muthathi and may be Bheemeshwari. It was still 2:45pm!

The route:

Sangam/Cunchi falls -> Doddaladahalli -> Sathnur -> Muthathi -(6km)-> Bheemeshwari.

Cunchi falls - one of the trickles

Cunchi falls - one of the trickles

Shashank was driving the car, and we three were dozing in the car. I was woken up couple of times to check for the route, and i drowsily confirmed. I desperately wanted to catch some sleep. Shashank suddenly braked and the jolt kinda awakened me. I was hesitant to open my eyes. He shouted “Tusker!”. I sprang up, took the cam out and looked out. About 500mts away to the left there was a huge male Tusker at musht. I was really surprised on spotting a tusker around this place. It is not a very thick forest, although it has beautiful landscape. Clicked a few snaps and we started moving towards Muthathi. (will upload an image of the tusker soon).

I wasn’t expecting to spot anything other than few good birds like Indian Roller, which were in plenty, and Kingfihser which we couldn’t spot or photograph :-(. Soon, surprise surprise! There was a Jackal about 100-150mts on the road ahead of us. We just got a glimpse and he disappeared into the bushes. Slowly drove the car to the spot where we spotted the jackal, and from the car we looked around but in vain. I got myself half out, of the window, with my camera in hand hoping to spot it again. No luck i thought. Just then, i intuitively turned back and the jackal was looking at us from behind. I clicked a few shots in bursts as the again ran inside the forest. I got out of the car and started walking towards that place, but all the other guys persuaded me not to venture out. :( This was my first spotting of a Jackal in the wild.

We passed Muthathi, and drove till Bheemeshwari clicking few more birds in the evening light. Got back to Muthathi from there, and stopped there for a while on the banks of Cauvery. Culminating the trip there, we packed our gears and headed back to madness of Bangalore from secluded, pristine, and serene banks of Cauvery.

Birds spotted:

– Lesser Golden-Backed Woodpecker
– Jerdon’s Chloropsis
– Great Grey Shrike
– Indian Roller
– Green Bee eaters (plenty)
– Large Pied Wagtail (plenty)
– Common Myna
– White Breasted Kingfisher
– White Bellied Drongo
– Black Drongo
– Jungle Babbler
– Common Babbler
– Red-vented Bulbul
– Red-whiskered Bulbul
– Black-crested Bulbul (?)
– Black Kite
– Brahminy Kite
– Greater Coucal
– Rose-Ringed Parakeet
– Spotted Dove
– Laughing Dove
– Cattle Egret
– Little Cormorant
– Indian Pond Heron
– Grey-Breasted Prinia
– Purple-Rumped Sunbird
– Pied Bushchat
– Oriental Magpie Robin
– Indian Robin (male)
– Swifts
– Jungle Myna(?)
– House sparrows
– Ravens and Crows

I was not able to identify few small birds coz of my limited knowledge.

Here are few images of the birds from the trip.

My shot of the day – Grey Breasted Prinia:

Cattle Egret:

Indian Roller:

Last pic of the trip

Last pic of the trip

P.S.: Off again for another outing. :)

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Last Sunday along with Shashank and Arun of BWS, I went for my first bird photography trip on Kanakapura road, around Valley school campus. There were lots of birds. Robins, Munias, Bulbuls and many more, that i can’t identify as yet, were around. Early on we couldn’t get good shots even with Shashank’s 100-400mm + 1.4x extender at they were very busy and were getting disturbed easily in more or less open field.

Flowers dont fly

Flowers don't fly - This is what you'd capture when birds are hard to find

Down the road towards the school, driving in the car we spotted few laughing doves, spotted doves, bulbuls, pied bushchats and sun-birds. Photographing them from inside the car is much easier as they don’t get disturbed.

Clicking butterflies when birds are hard to find:

Plain Tiger Butterfly

Plain Tiger Butterfly

Wallpaper version of the above pic is here.

On the launch pad, ready to take-off

But then these Pied Bushchats are so co-operative:

Pied Bushchat

Pied Bushchat - male

Soon, we spotted a green bee eater perched on a pole, started clicking few shots. Then, i spotted a white throated kingfisher on the far side. Clicked a few shots of two of my favorite birds on my first bird photography trip.
In the field there we could get decent pics of green bee eaters. Hiding in a bush, when Shashank kinda was scaring then with his tripod mounted 100-400mm lens, i shot my best pics of the trip of the beautiful green bee eater.

Looking out for bees:

Green Bee Eater

White-throated kingfisher:

White-throated Kingfisher

That’s all folks! ;-)

P.S.: All images captured on Canon EOS 450D + 55-250mm IS, and RJ It’s not over yet. :D

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This had to happen some time, and it did on today. Woke up at 5:30am and was ready go soon. Left my house by around 6:15 am, after the guy who had to pick me up got a little delayed. The traffic on the Tumkur road NH-4 highway isn’t all that good even that early in the morning. The road widening has begun in that part, converting that to a 6 lane highway. Took a turn towards Hesaraghatta main road, after Dasarahalli. The road after Hesaraghatta main road is very patchy, some stretch being really laid out well, and some very bad. The bad road along with asking directions to lake took us some time, after we missed the route for some distance. Finally reached the lake by 7:15am, and we thought we were really late.

Surprise, surprise. We weren’t too late, the mist had entirely covered the lake. We could hardly see if there was a lake. We could hardly see any person standing 10m far, forget spotting small birds! We took a stroll along the lake, and soon the mist started clearing up. Around the bushes on the edge of the lake, we spotted few birds. There were Robins, Bulbuls, Greater Coucals, purple sunbirds, and many more. Just building my birding vocabulary, so excuse me for not identifying many more i could spot. Could catch a good view of yellow-rumped sunbird.

There were plenty of Swifts, and Common Mynas. Also along the lake bed were many Little Egrets and Indian pond herons. We walked down the lake bed, and spotted many small field birds, and identifying them with my limited knowledge is a pain. My delight was in watching Black Drongo and Magpie Robin. There were many Brahminy kites. Unfortunate that i couldn’t take snaps. But here are few birds that i spotted.

Magpie RobinMagpie Robin

Greater Coucal

Greater Coucal

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