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.

We headed for the first watch tower, and en route there were many near misses by the photographing duo. I was meanwhile quietly and efficiently clicking whatever I could. It was when we had climbed up the watchtower, that I felt the first wave of humility.

Pied myna about to fly off (Copyright - Sanjeev Singh)

Greater Coucal making good his escape

One of the two showed me the quality of a photo he had taken, and I was shocked by the clarity and the clean framing… 12 mega pixels and years of photography experience was showing through so clearly.

Four Drongos (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Green Bee Eater with its evening snack (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Green Bee Eater with its evening snack still uneaten (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

We spotted some flying spot billed ducks and everyone was thrilled with their many beautiful colours.

Spot Billed Ducks in flight (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Spot Billed Ducks still in flight (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Spot Billed Ducks Male and Female (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

I spotted a raptor, which I then proceeded to photograph with minimal clarity. I exhorted everyone to take as many photos as possible. It was very far away, and it had a patchy light brown head. I have reproduced a photo of it, and to me it looked like a Juvenile Marsh Harrier. This particular harrier was being harried by several birds as it tried to eat something from the ground. It stood its ground for several minutes and after a particularly bold attack from a few birds, it flew off.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Two Raptors crossing each other in flight

There are several other birds too that I couldn’t identify, maybe you can help with those too.

Mystery Bird 1 (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Mystery bird 2 (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Looks like a cross between a Northern Pintail and a Greater Scaup!

As we reached the watchtower, suddenly a half naked person emerged from the water body. He was hollering something to another person who was further inside the water body. I looked at him with suspicion and indignation, which vanished by the time he donned his clothes and I realised that he was a forest guard.

I asked him what was happening, and he said that two young boys were trying to catch fish with their basket net. He and his colleague had chased them away, and captured the net.

I quickly took a photo of the unusual fishing contraption. The boys ran away but their ‘tokri’ net was in the possession of the forest guards. I was extremely impressed with the dedication of the guards who had waded into the water which was at places shoulder deep, to chase away these two miscreants.

Fishing Net Tokri

Same Fishing Net Tokri

By about nine thirty, we had had our fill, and headed back. There was a minor incident of buffaloes trying to edge us out of their traditional grazing route, but other than that it was incident free.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that whoever helps in identifying the two mystery birds, will get a very special reward from me.

‘Hasta la vista’, until the next time.

Rufuous Treepie (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Purple Heron about to torpedo into a fish (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Painted stork in flight (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Bronze Winged Jacana

Black Winged Stilts in flight (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)

Green Bee Eaters necking and pecking (Copyright - Yamini Chandra)


  1. Gudmorning Sanjeev
    enjoyed reading ur blog ur writing has a free flow and the quality of japanise caligrapher
    keep the gud work

    i specially liked the pun (if it was)

    prateek panwar

    pl go through the provided links

    Hello birding friends

    support us in bird conservation initiatives here in uttarakhand himalayas

    please check this himalayan birding and trekking link and pass it on to all the birders that u know, we need ur support friends and we r looking for participants from all corners of the globe.


    u can also log on to FRIENDS OF HOUSE SPARROWS on Facebook


    u may please call me at +91 9412054216 for details or write to me at

    Grateful for your time and hopefully we can increase membership if you can invite all your facebook friends to join.

    happy birding with new sighting records

    Prateek Panwar
    Founder Trustee
    Action & Research for Conservation in Himalayas

  2. Like your blog. Enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed the trip... okay maybe a trifle less than the trip :)

  3. Nice report and I loved reading it.

    The IDs are Red-headed Bunting (female), Common/White-tailed Stonechat (female) - can't say with surety about which one, and the ducks are Gargany.

  4. Hi sanjeev!
    I enjoyed ur every blog.
    ur writing & photographic skills are excellent.
    Keep it up!!!!!

  5. The second one is possibly a zitting cisticola. The first one is some lark perhaps but very difficult to pin point which one. Get it checked by an expert who goes to Okhla regularly. Possibly Mr Anand Arya.

  6. nice blog. my OBP trip pics link : http://picasaweb.google.co.in/114227515822526250324/July2008OkhlaBirdPark#

  7. Dear sanjeev, I am Arun from palani hills of Western ghats. I go through the photos and notes, really good. Plese clarify with the Pintail photos I hope it must be GARGANEY.

  8. wowww ... you seem to have a great time bird watching :P
    lovely captures...

  9. Thank you everyone for writing your comments, they really encourage me a lot, and I appreciate each one of them very much.

    Also, for Ramit Singal, Sudipto and Arun Sankar, please email me your mailing addresses, I would like to send each one of you an original semi-abstract painting of a bird on handmade paper that I have made. My email is sanjeev(dot)birds(at)gmail(dot)com; you can also post a comment with your address on it.

    Thanks again to each one of you, and Mr. Aslam it was a real pleasure meeting you and your wonderful little girl at OBP.
    Regards, Sanjeev