Apr 22, 2010

‘Why don’t the birds pose?’, ‘Half naked forest guards!’ and other bird watching revelations!

There were four of us this time. Peer pressure forced me to get out on time, and we were at Okhla Bird Sanctuary at 6.15 in the morning. The first thing everyone noticed was the sizzlers of OBP, and there was talk of birds roosting and then ‘roasting’ on the electrical wires. In very bad taste, but the wires do sound like they can fry an African elephant if it flies up and perches on one of them.

Two of my friends had super professional cameras, one a Canon DSLR and one a Sony DSLR, both with 80/300 zoom lens.

A beauty of a butterfly (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Yellow Bellied Prinia

There was an air of excitement, early morning freshness and birds everywhere. There were clicks galore from the two bird photography enthusiasts, accompanied by remarks like - ‘Whaa where did the bird go…’, ‘Oye yaar it flew away…’, ‘Why don’t they stay still for a second…’, ‘The birds are telepathic…’ etc etc.

That’s when the revelation hit them, ‘When bird watching. Especially when taking photos, birds don’t pose, they fly away just as you are clicking’.

There were frantic discussions between them on shutter speed, lighting, settings, zoom, manual focus et al, and meanwhile birds were flitting away everywhere.

Striated Babbler (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

In my capacity as most experienced bird watcher I was pointing out rarities like pied mynahs, jungle babblers, ashy prinias, green bee eaters, purple herons, common moorhens and others, which drew ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’ as I puffed out my chest and experienced ‘renowned bird watcher’s’ pride.

Apr 10, 2010

The curse of R, birdwatching, deceptive cellphone alarms and an angry bull

11.30 at night my friend R, ditched me in favour of a night of binging (who can blame him?). I decided to change plans from Yamuna Biodiversity Park to Okhla Bird Sanctuary. I taunted and teased R in an attempt to get him to come along, but he was helpless in the face of alcohol and women. I think at some point he wished me ill, and I brought upon myself, the curse of R.

I set the alarm to 5.29 am, 5.31 am and 5.35 am, and prepared to sleep.

Alarm Timings

Suddenly a few minutes after midnight I got a wave of inspiration to do something about a perpetual problem with my digital camera. When I am in sunlight or even bright light I can’t see the display. Which means that I can’t see the picture that I am taking, which means that I cannot take a picture. So I set about making a cardboard device to solve my problem. A pen, a pair of scissors, an old cardboard folder, scotch tape and a metal scale (which I found much later) were at my disposal. I first made a dummy with some white paper, made some minor changes to the die, and then constructed the all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device. I proudly reproduce it here. It may look simple, but I had to make pretty precise openings for the camera strap, the clicking and zooming switch and for sliding in the camera.

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device another view

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device yet another view

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device aaargh yet another view

Well the great thing was that it worked wonderfully, I could take pictures in bright sunlight. But then the curse of R was upon me. Three things contributed to my not reaching Okhla Bird Sanctuary before 7.30 am.
1) The cellphone’s alarm was highly deceptive and I forgot to change the setting to every day, instead of weekday, as displayed below:

Deceptive alarm settings that regularly deceive me

Apr 5, 2010

How not to plan a bird watching jaunt

There are two main approaches to Sultanpur bird sanctuary, one that goes through the Hero Honda Chowk on NH8, and the other that goes through Bata Chowk, Bus Adda and Farrukhnagar. The last time I and a friend, who is a new birding enthusiast, took the Hero Honda Chowk route. We missed the Chowk and overshot by several kilometres, back-tracked and after a few minor detours reached Sultanpur. This time however, a very helpful gentleman at IFFCO Chowk (the crossing where the main Gurgaon Mall Road meets the NH8), advised us to take the shorter and easier route through the Bus Adda and Farrukhnagar. Both of us being terrible navigators, we felt thrilled to have found a much easier and better route to Sultanpur bird sanctuary. As we chatted excitedly about the birds we might see in Sultanpur and some that we saw as we drove along, including Indian Grey Hornbills and Indian Rollers, we suddenly found ourselves in an area that seemed extremely unlike the route to Sultanpur. A kindly gent, who proceeded to take a lift with us, informed us that we were about nine kilometres off-route, headed towards nowhere in particular.

Indian Grey Hornbills

Wood Sandpiper

We made two critical errors in our bird-watching jaunt. First, we didn’t decide beforehand where it is that we would go and do our bird-watching, and second, we didn’t bother to get detailed directions to our destination (reasonably difficult on this particular occasion as we didn’t even know where we would head out). Anyway, we reached Sultanpur at about 10.30 in the morning, whereas we should have ideally reached the gates of the sanctuary by about 6.30 am ( at this point I would like to add, that we started late, our rendezvous happened at Saket at 7.45 am, after which we had spirited discussions about where we should go birding).

Common Moorhen (Thanks to Pankaj, have corrected this!)

Disapproving Common Moorhen (Thanks to Pankaj, have corrected this!)

Naturally, I emphasise, naturally, our bird-watching results were dismal. We saw very few birds. The general conclusion was that they had all retreated to the highest branches and the most hidden parts of the most inaccessible trees