Bird Watching

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part IV

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part IV

-Vijay Kavale
Contd from last month

E. Do your Homework
Once you are done with the common birds around you, you need to prepare yourself to go after the rare ones, the rarae aves. For this there is no other alternative than traveling to different parts of the country.
The more time you spend out there, the better!
Some birds migrate, while some stay at the same place all the year through. What you need to discover is where to find a particular bird. For example, the Sarus Crane, a magnificent bird that stands as tall as a human, is easily found in some parts of North India, while it is not found in South India at all. Birds are classified as ‘Widespread Residents’, ‘Winter Visitors’, ‘Endemic’ and so on. Copious data is available in the form of field-guides, check-lists and web-resources, regarding the distribution of birds found in India. Nine out of ten times I have been able to shoot rare birds that are found in restricted areas only. For example, I shot the Indian Bustard at Nannaj near Solapur in Maharashtra, the MacQueens Bustard at the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, the Lesser Florican at Sailana in Madhya Pradesh, the Bristled Grassbird in Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth in the Anamalais, Tamil Nadu.
If you learn where to find a rare bird you are more or less sure that it will be there for you to shoot. However, you will need local help and support to locate the bird.

Another surprising factor is that the same species of bird behaves differently at different locations. You can be completely frustrated going after a particular species of bird in one area, but the same species will afford you a great opportunity in another area without your even having to try. A typical example is the Rufous Treepie. In most parts of South India this is a shy bird which moves up into hidden tree branches, but at Ranthambore, I saw them sitting on the steering wheel of my car!
F. Understand habitats and focus your effort
If you have a small garden with a flowering creeper in your house, you will notice Sunbirds visiting the flowers regularly to feed, giving you great photo-ops. You can shoot over fifty species of birds in most urban habitats. Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Mynas, Crows, Swallows, Kites, and Owls are typical examples.
If you drive a bit outside any city you will find agricultural habitat. Here there are lakes, paddy fields and grasslands. A large number of species of birds reside in these areas. Weavers, Larks, Egrets, Herons, Bushchats, Robins, and Kingfishers are typical examples.
Thus, you will encounter birds in every type of habitat from the deserts to the wetlands, from the crowded cities to the Himalayan peaks. The shrub jungles, thick forests, grasslands and sholas all offer unique opportunities and challenges. For example, if you enter the shola you will be stepping on leeches perhaps, but there on a branch, in near darkness, will be sitting the Oriental Bay Owl! The grasslands, more often than not, will have ticks, but in compensation they offer a large variety of birds such as the Zitting Cisticola and the Bristled Grassbird!

Zitting Cisticola

Very well known bird habitats are mostly areas where ‘water birds’ thrive. These bird sanctuaries soon become major tourist attractions. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur is the most famous one in India for water birds, many of them migratory. In this area you can shoot a hundred species of birds in about a week's time!
Also, there is no point venturing out in the monsoon months on long journeys when you are sure to get rained out; conversely, it would be foolish to sit at home in the winter months when most parts of India are full of winter visitors. Remember, in some parts of India it never stops raining, while in others it may never rain at all!
The point is if you know where you are headed and for what and when, you can be well prepared to face the challenges.
G. Network with like minds
Bird watching is a very popular hobby. Almost every state in India has a local bird watching group. Today, egroups are also very popular and you can find very useful data about birds in a particular region from these groups. Several websites offer a great deal of information on birds found in India. You will be surprised at how soon you will be able to connect with helpful birders from a region you plan to visit. It is not uncommon to see small groups of bird photographer traveling together photographing birds and having fun over the weekend.
Do take a look at to see and enjoy the work of hundreds of Bird Photographers from across the globe. Thousands of  images!! is another great place to network with like minds.
 To be contd………..
About the author:
Vijay Cavale has been a nature addict since birth. He lives in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka State in South India. After almost two decades of a successful career in the Indian IT Industry, he decided to quit his corporate career at the age of 40 and follow his dream. For the last seven years Vijay Cavale has been traveling to several parts of India photographing its rich wildlife with a focus on birdlife. He has photographed close to 400 species of birds found in India, and gladly shares them on his homepage below. His work in this area is entirely non-commercial and is aimed at creating awareness and sharing the joy. He hopes his work will contribute in some way towards nature conservation. Although he does not offer any of his images for commercial use, he is glad to collaborate and discourse with like-minded people from around the world.
Homepage:   Email:
Vijay Cavale, Jan 2007.

Part I of this article can be read at 

Part II of this article can be read at 
Part III of this article can be read at 

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