Saturday, 19 November 2016

The joy of Birding...

It has been slow birding for me. Birding and blogging in last few weeks have been minimal due to many reasons and one of the most hard-hitting was - my son ran away with my trusted laptop. Umm - ran away may not be technically correct as he did ask for it and I had some very ulterior reasons for handing over that to him. Well - I had a trusted 2012 model MacBook pro and have been addicted to apple. Now with the new MacBook pro around the corner - and him asking for my laptop gave me a certified reason to upgrade. What I did not anticipate was the one month delay between handing over the device to him and me getting my dream machine.

Other than that - I did do four birding days in Oct and the winter birds that I was so badly looking forward to had not arrived and I was getting mad with every passing day. Well today when I woke up to chilly morning - I had a feeling that I am going to have a rocking day - and rocking day it turned out to be...

The sunrise was 6:53, the travel time to Chakki Modh (one of my favourite birding spots near my city) was about an hour. I was up at 4:45 am and hit the road at 5:30. The chill was great, I rolled down the car windows and took a long whiff of the north Indian chilly winter morning, - the traffic lights were still blinking yellow and sun was yet to light up the horizon. I was hitting the hills when orange started filling in the sky. At sunrise was standing at the closed tea shop and the movement of the birds were as ecstatic as I was trying to look and identify the warblers flirting with me and the thick bushes. I identified two of them, the Grey-hooded Warbler and the Sulpher-bellied Warbler before I saw another two varieties but had to give up as they were hardly giving me sightings to click a picture for ID or for me to notice the markings on the wings in the detail I wanted.

The light still not too great - but I ramped up the auto iso to 6400 on my Nikon D500. I had started getting some very acceptable shots at 3200 iso so decided to test it at higher. Well I ramped it up in a manner that the camera will go up only if the conditions so deserve. As I picked up the camera and put it to my eyes - there were three birds a Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, a Red-billed Leiothrix and Indian Tit (renamed Cinereous Tit). I was in a fix, I did not have a worthwhile picture of the flycatcher, but the Leiothrix and the Tit were on a perch too good the miss. I quickly focused on the Lieothrix and let go - swung the camera to shoot the other two - the Flycatcher was upset and disappeared in the thicket never to be seen again and the Tit too flew off and was nowhere as great a setting that I hoped for. All the same no regrets, this is the way with the birds. You only get what you deserve, nothing less, nothing more. I moved on to get great sightings of the warblers and decided to move on. The plan was simple - keep the windows rolled down and hit the brakes hard if I see or hear anything. I was virtually hitting brakes every few yards.

Eventually, I reached a small stream littered with great Indian past-time of mucking up the countryside. Before I could curse anyone a White-capped Redstart sat in front of me. I parked the car and stared at the beauty. It is one bird that I have seen so very often but cannot help but admire the beauty. Finally when I did pick up the camera to capture it - it decided to fly off - but not before a record shot. As I lowered the camera a Plumbeous Water Redstart took its place on the same perch. It did not give me time to reach out once again for the camera - I was determined and followed it along the stream where it gave up and posed for me to my heart's content.

I went another 5 km and evey yard was a bird to admire. Spotted Forktail that gave me great opportunity to really observe the forks and the spots, the Whiskered Yuhina, the Fuvolous Woodpecker pair that was playing with each other that sounded like a tap-dance, the Striated Prinia that was deep in bush but surprisingly when I whistled it came to the top branch to investigate. Oh I really can go on and on with this story telling but had to sadly turn back home and 11 was my time I had set for myself. 5min to 11 I reversed the car on the narrow road that once almost gave me a heart attack when a tyre went off road and the car sensor was shouting on top its voice to behave myself...

I sighted 37 species that I identified and another two warblers I will hunt on my next visit. Oh - the Birding and Indian winters - God's gift to birders...

The first click of the day - Red-billed Leiothrix @3200 iso
Grey-hooded Warbler
...the unidentified warbler
Great Barbet
Grey Bushchat
White-capped Redstart... 
Plumbeous Water Redstart
Russet Sparrow

Verditer Flycatcher
The tap dancing Fulvous Woodpecker

White-throated Fantail
Striated Prinia that responded to my whistle... what a dope
Finally on top of the view point to investigate my whistle
Spotted Forktail that showed its spots and the forked tail... what a sight...


Unknown said...

Lovely sightings indeed. Hope one day I hope to catch the red billed lieothrix. Nice reading your trysts with the birds


Unknown said...

Nice photographs accompanied with some nice writing. Hoping to see more blogs from you

S S Cheema said...

Thank you Sridhar