How to Photograph Birds in India-Part II

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part II

Vijay Cavale

B.Know Your Subject

It is best to begin bird photography by knowing a bit about birds. If you spend some time as a ‘Bird Watcher’ your endeavors as a ‘Bird Photographer’ will be far more fruitful. 

You will notice many things when you are out in the field studying birds:

1.Apart from a few birds, most disappear upon approach by humans.
2.Many a bird’s survival tactic is to remain unnoticed. 
3.Birds are varied in size. From as small as a human thumb to as tall as a human!
4.Bird habitats vary. Some live up in the sky, and some rarely leave the ground.
5.Bird calls are highly specific. You can soon learn to recognize birds by their call alone.
6.Some Birds nest several times a year. And most nest at least once a year. 
7.If humans interact with the nest in any way, the chance of it being robbed by other predators is doubled.
8.Most birds are approachable while they have young to feed.
9.Most adult birds give out a distinct alarm call if they sense danger (the normal call is different).
10.If a bird is carrying feed/nesting material, it usually means it is nesting in the area.
11.While some birds have stunning and varied colors, others are plain.
12.The male of the species is more attractively colored than the female in many species.
13.Many birds change color and grow extra feathers while breeding.
14.A young bird often looks different from the adult.
15.While both sexes look alike in many species, in others the male looks completely different from the female. 
16.Some birds do not move much, while others rarely stop moving.
17.Birds are more active and more vocal during their breeding season.
18.Migratory birds, obviously, will be seen only during some part of the year, in a region.
19.Many birds fly out to feed and roost back at the same place, day after day.
20.Many birds are nocturnal and may never be seen in daytime.
21.Some birds can be identified easily, but others require minute details for their identification.
22.The food of birds is most varied: insects, seeds, fruits, berries, parts of flowers and their nectar, rodents, reptiles, fish and other aquatic insects, scorpions and snakes, dead animals…and other birds too! 

C. Nest Photography

By this time you would have learnt that the easiest way to photograph a bird is to find its nest. If you visit any ‘Bird Sanctuary’ you will find plenty of birds like Egrets, Herons and Storks nesting on trees near water. The nests will be open (platform) and the parents will come repeatedly to the nest carrying food for the young. It’s a delightful opportunity for any bird photographer and a very good beginning too!

A good bird photographer must understand that while some birds can defend their nests from natural predation, most cannot. Several species like Lapwings and Plovers rely entirely on camouflage to counter natural predation. 

For a large number of birds the most vulnerable time in their life is when they are in the nest or have just fledged. There are number of predators that these nesting birds have to outwit in order to succeed in raising their young. Mongooses, Monitor Lizards, Snakes, and other birds like Crows and Coucals are all constantly on the lookout to pillage a nest. The biggest challenge for these predators is to find a nest, and the biggest challenge for the bird is to remain unnoticed! A bird photographer may unknowingly provide a clue for these vigilant predators to find an easy meal.

It is for this reason that photographing nests is not encouraged by the community of birders. It is a fine convention to avoid this temptation to go after a vulnerable nesting bird that allows easy approach, and instead use other techniques to get a successful image. Remember that it is not good practice to put the birds in distress or danger just to get a great image. 

Common Kingfisher

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.
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Vijay Cavale, Jan 2007.


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