Birding and Photography

Arun Hegde MD (Gen Med), DNB (Rheumatology), MNAMS
Senior Advisor (Medicine) & Rheumatologist and Professor (Medicine), Command Hospital (Central Command), Lucknow

How the journey unfolded

It all started for me after I finished my DNB in Rheumatology, and took a trip to Bharatpur, in Rajasthan, one of the best-known bird sanctuaries in India, and a rickshaw puller took me on a mesmerizing journey through the woods, and identified as many as 85 bird species for me. I listened in rapt attention, as he rattled off the names one after the other. The whole experience of listening to the bird calls, and the cacophony of colours on display was spell binding. The first thing I did on getting back, was buying an entry level DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera and a 55-250 mm lens which cost me around 30,000 rupees, and since then there has been no looking back. Once I became comfortable, I upgraded my camera body as well as lens, to a Canon 90D with 100-400 mm IS II lens, which is a light weight and versatile lens for bird photography. (Total cost INR 3 lacs)

I have since visited birding hotspots in various corners of the country, each of which have their USP (Unique Selling Proposition), including Little Rann of Kutch (Gujarat – Eagles & Harriers), Desert National Park (Jaisalmer, Rajasthan – Great Indian Bustard, Falcons), Sokhaliya (Rajasthan – Lesser Florican), Sattal (Uttarakhand – Himalayan birds & Owls), Kaziranga, Nameri & Manas National Parks (Assam – Woodpeckers & Lapwings), Dandeli (Karnataka – Hornbills), Sunderbans (West Bengal – Kingfishers), Nilgiris biosphere (Tamil Nadu – Flycatchers), Mangalajodi (Orissa – Birds in hunting mode), Goa (Sea eagle & Osprey) and Bhigwan (Maharashtra- Flamingoes). Each one of these ecosystems have managed to allure & dismay me with the unique flora and fauna on display.

How it has helped me

Bird watching has a lot of benefits

  1. It allows you to be one with nature & delve in its simplicity. It aids us to shift our attention & awareness, living fully in the present moment by forgetting the stressors of the hospital.
  2. It helps you stay physically active – one has to go to the birds, they won’t come to you. It requires you to trek at times in the jungles, with your camera slung over your shoulders and binoculars around your neck. Exercise in turn increases endorphins, helping boost mood and reduce stress.
  3. It teaches patience and instils a feeling of calm, as at times you wait for hours for the birds to make their appearance. It’s akin to a meditative activity, it inculcates a sense of discipline, as one has to get up in the wee hours to photograph the birds during the morning feeding hours.
  4. If you love to travel, there’s no better hobby, as one gets to explore various landscapes, ranging from dense forests to desert & mountains.


Suggested Reading

  1. Grimmett, Richard; Inskipp, Carol, Inskipp, Tim & Byers, Clive (1999): Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.ISBN 0-691-04910-6
  2. Ali, S. (1993). The Book of Indian Birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society. ISBN 0195637313.
Osprey, Zuari river, Goa, Nov 22

The osprey is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts. The osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica. The osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Panvel, Maharashtra, Aug 21

The oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyxerithaca), also known as the black-backed kingfisher or three-toed kingfisher, is a pocket-sized bird in the family Alcedinidae. This tropical kingfisher is a partial migrant, that is endemic across much of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It resides in lowland forests, typically near streams or ponds, where it feeds upon insects, spiders, worms, crabs, fish, frogs, and lizards. This small bird is easily distinguishable from other birds in its range due to its red bill, yellow-orange underparts, lilac-rufous upperparts, and blue-black back.

Verditer Flycatcher, Sattal, Uttarakhand, Mar 22

The verditer flycatcher (Eumyiasthalassinus) is an Old World flycatcher. It is found from the Himalayas through Southeast Asia to Sumatra. This species is named after its distinctive shade of copper-sulphate blue and has a dark patch between the eyes and above the bill base. The adult males are intense blue on all areas of the body, except for the black eye-patch and grey vent. Adult females and sub-adults are lighter blue. The verditer flycatcher is also interesting among the flycatchers in that they forage above the canopy level and perching on electric wires or exposed tree top branches.

Grey Headed Lapwing, Mangalajodi, Orissa, Feb 23

The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) is a lapwing species which breeds in northeast China and Japan. The mainland population winters in northern Southeast Asia from northeastern India to Cambodia. The grey-headed lapwing is 34–37 cm long. It has a grey head and neck, darker grey breast band and white belly. The back is brown, the rump is white and the tail is black. Adults of both sexes are similarly plumaged, but males are slightly larger than females.