Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little wonders of Hebbal Lake

Over the period of few weeks, I had made many trips to Hebbal lake and photographed many birds. Being a lake it is expected to see few varieties of water birds. However since the lake also has a decent garden there are some common birds (other then water birds) which can be seen in plenty. Well I am talking about sunbirds, flowerpeckers, prinia and tits.

Though these small birds can be spotted easily, I find them very difficult to photograph mainly because of following reasons

  1. These birds are small and very active. They do not stay long at one place and are constantly on the move.
  2. The focal length of my lens is 300mm which works for bigger birds but for smaller birds, I feel its bit short. Which means that I need to get very close to them to get a frame filling shot which good details.
  3. These birds usually move in and out of thick cover of leaves. So its difficult to get good focus and exposure.

However now having visited Hebbal lake so many times and spending plenty of time shooting these birds I realized that these birds can be caught on camera. I found the following tips to be very useful when shooting these birds

  1. These birds do not stay at one place for long, but they do return to same place after some time. So keeping some patience defiantly helps. There is no point chasing these birds. Just wait for some time at the same place and more often then not these birds will return. 
  2. Most of these birds are too busy doing their chores, so if you stay reasonably still without making any quick movements they do not mind your presence. So, just wait, stay still and it will defiantly help to get you close shots.
  3. Shoot in Manual mode. This allows you to change the exposure settings quickly and  accurately. These birds move in and out of shade and they are very small, so the camera meter can get fooled by a dark or bright background. I usually keep Spot metering with Manual mode.
Over several visits to Hebbel lake I managed to get few shots of these small beauties. Here are few shots.

Ashy Prinia

The Ashy Prinia or Ashy Wren-Warbler (Prinia socialis), is a small warbler. It is a common bird in urban gardens and farmland in many parts of India and its small size, distinctive colours and upright tail make it easy to identify. The northern populations have a rufous rump and back and have a distinct breeding and non-breeding plumage while other populations lack such variation.

Purple Rumped Sunbird
Purple-rumped Sunbirds are tiny at less than 10 cm long. They have medium-length thin down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding.  The males have a dark maroon upperside with a blue-green crown that is visible in some angles. There are violet patches on the throat and rump which are visible only in good lighting.


Tickell's Flowerpecker

Tickell's Flowerpecker or Pale-billed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum erythrorhynchos) is a tiny bird that feeds on nectar and berries, found in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The bird is common especially in urban gardens with berry bearing trees. They have a rapid chipping call and the pinkish curved beak separates it from other species in the region. This is a tiny bird, 8 cm long, and is one of the smallest birds occurring in most parts of southern India and Sri Lanka.

I have spotted Grey Tit many time but was never able to capture it. So that one is still pending. I do have one shot of Grey Tit that was taken long time back at Lalbuagh. Here it is

Grey Tit

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Misty morning at Hebbal Lake

20th November, 2010

One more weekend and time for a photo shoot at Hebbal lake. Yes, looks like I over doing this, but every visit gives me different kind of shots and it never seems to be enough. When I got up I looked out in the sky and did not see any signs of clouds. I was happy thinking that it will be a clear morning and I might get good light for shooting birds. I reached the lake at around 6.40 AM and found that the sky was not as clear as I expected. I thought it would clear out in few minutes.

However in no time the weather completely transformed to something that I never expected. Instead of clearing out, heavy mist began to form near the lake. In few minutes the whole lake was covered with mist and the visibility became very poor. There was no scope of bird photography so I started taking picture of mist ridden lake. Here are few shots:

Well the weather did change in couple of hours and then the sky was pretty clear and sun was out. I did get few bird shots, but for me the misty morning was one that made my day. Its amazing how the nature changes itself in matter of few hours.

Once the sun was out I saw a Brahminy Kite hovering around one of the edges of lake. I went there and waited for it for some time. Soon it was back and it make 2-3 rounds in the same area. I got couple of shots while it was busy.

Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kite

A Purple Moorhen was lazing around. I love this bird when it flies. Its looks very clumsy when it flies and gives an unusual photograph. I waited for right moment and just when it took off I started clicking. Here is the best shot that I got.

Purple Moorhen

Later on I moved inside the garden to capture the sunbirds and flowerpeckers. I did get couple of shots.

Ashy Prinia
Purple Rumped Sunbird
Tickell's Flowerpecker
This pretty much ended my day. This time I had different kind of experience. Sudden change in atmosphere and then back to normal in matter of couple of hours gave good all round shooting opportunities.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birding at Valley School - Trip 1

13th Nov, 2010

I had read about Valley school as one of the better places for birding near Bangalore so this time decided to visit this place with an expectation of capturing and seeing some different variety of birds. Birding trips to Hebbal and Lalbuagh always yielded productive results so this time it was time to try my luck at Valley School.

During my last few trips to Hebbal I had made friends with few photo enthusiastic guys and one of them is Vinay. He too had just started off with bird photography and shares same passion and enthusiasm to shoot birds as I do. We planned couple of days in advance and decided to head to Valley school to shoot birds.

We started off early at around 6AM and reached the school in an hour. All the visitors are required to report to the security person and make an entry in the visitors log book. I had contacted few people online who had previously been there to find out whether any prior permission is required to enter the school area or not. Many of them told me that no such thing is required. However when I reached there the security guy did not allow us to enter in from the main gate. He asked us to walk along the school fence but not to enter the premises. There was a small gate little ahead which was locked. First I toyed with idea of jumping in, but then I did not take risk as its a private property and the last thing I may want is the security guys getting hold of my beloved camera.

Even though we were not able to enter the premises there were plenty of birds that could be heard and some were seen, though it was difficult to shoot them as they were way beyond the camera's reach. Just as we started we saw a Hoopoe peached on a tree. I took couple of shots but I knew it was way too far. The shots yielded useless results and I deleted it in the camera itself.

I felt that if we were in the school premises we would have got a better chance to capture the winged wonders. We also saw plenty of variety of butterflies and moths. I was carrying my macro lens but I wanted to shoot birds so did not change the lens and hardly took any macro shots.

We walked till the place where the school fence ends and where there is a big pepal tree. While we were resting beneath the tree I heard some different kind of bird sound, I was not sure what it was and was trying to locate the bird visually. Suddenly I saw a beautiful bird in bright blue and orange colors. I did not recognize it at first glance but started shooting it. Later on I found that it was a Tickell's Blue Flycatcher. That was a lifer for me (had see this bird for first time) and was also my shot of the day. I also saw a magpie robin around and shot couple of frames of it. Soon after, a Red Whiskered Bulbul appeared at some distance. I took a shot but it was not very near so did not get the details that I usually expect from my shots.

Later on I saw couple of lizards who had come out to bask in sun and I managed to get a shot before it ran away. I would say that this time we were not patient enough to wait for the birds. Maybe that could be because we had very high expectations early on and soon realized that there were no easy pickings. We could have spent more time there but Vinay was getting tired and hungry so we decided to make a move. 

On the way back he mounted his canon 1.4 50mm lens and took couple of shots here an there. One of them was me in action. I liked that shot but am still to receive it from him. Soon that will be my profile pic :)

Here are few shots that I got from the trip. As I had mentioned before  I hardly got any good shots and there is nothing much to showcase except for the shots of the Blue Flycatcher and the lizard. Another trip to Valley school is defiantly on the cards though not too soon. Signing off with few shots from the trip.

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Barbet? Not too sure.

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pond heron - Super model of Hebbal lake

Off late I have been making frequent trips to Hebbal lake. There is a decent variety of bird life there which provides a good opportunity to practice some birding shots. One bird that is found in abundance at Hebbal lake is the Pond Heron. Its full name is Indian Pond Heron and is also known as Paddybird (Ardeola grayii).

This small bird can been seen mostly through out the bank of the lake. It can be easily missed as it camouflages well within the grass and the weeds that grow near the edge of the lake. If approached carefully and silently one can get close decent enough to get some really good shots. 

In over 3-4 trips to Hebbal I managed to stalk this bird from very close distance and was able to get decent shots. I am still looking for a shot with a fish or some kind of insect in its beak and I am sure that I will get it one day. One thing that bird photography has taught me is to be patient. No shot is easy and more offten then not I miss the shots. But keeping patience and waiting and waiting for long period defiantly helped in taking these shots and now I am really enjoying it. Here are the shots of the super model that I got from last 3-4 trips to Hebbal lake. All the shots are taken with Nikon D40 and Nikon 70-300mm VR lens.

In flight with something in its beak. (300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 400)
About to land (300mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO 400)
Screaming!!! (300mm, f/6.3, 1/500, ISO 200)
Looking for easy pickings (300mm, f/6.3, 1/500, ISO 200)
Caught on flight again (300mm, f/6.3, 1/500, ISO 200)
Once more (300mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO 200)
300mm f/6.3, 1/320, ISO 200

Monday, November 1, 2010

Birding at Hebbal

Off late I have got back my interest of shooting birds and animals. I had left my 55-200mm lens for some time after getting the Sigma 150mm macro lens and had been mostly shooting insects, butterflies and other interesting macro subjects since then. After selling of my 55-200mm I got a new Nikon 70-300mm VR lens and now I am back to shooting birds.

After I got my new toy it was time to test it and what could be a better place to test the 300mm other then Hebbal lake. I had a trip at the lake before to shoot macros and this time it was time for birds. 

24th Oct, 2010
I left for the lake early in the morning and reached it at around 6.20 AM. There was a bit of early morning's orange glow. A pelican was lazing around in the lake and it poised a nice opportunity to take a silhouette of the pelican against the lake. Here are couple of shots

Just after the early morning's golden glow had disappeared the water started to reflect strong light of sun. While this egret was busy looking for easy pickings I took this shot against the bright sparkling water. One of my friend suggested that its not worth as the scene was too bright, but I wanted to capture a silhouette of the egret against the sparkling water and it came out pretty well.


Later on when the light was much better I practiced few in the flight shots. Not many of them came out well and just couple of them made it to my hard disk, rest all are in thrash.

Egret in flight

Purple Heron in flight
There was a trio of Spotbill ducks lazing around in the lake. I spotted them near the bank of the lake and moved in quickly to take some close shots. Unfortunately I had not checked my exposure settings and all the shots were over exposed and the ducks also made a move after seeing me. The closeup shots were ruined but I still got one decent shot, though not from very close distance.

Indian Spotbill ducks
I spent some time in the garden area to capture sunbirds but all in vain, so I move back to the lake. I saw a Cormorant looking for fish. In fact it had caught one but before I could get a shot the fish somehow went off from its beak. I spent some time looking at it with a hope of more action, but it never came. In between I took couple of uneventful shots.

Little Cormorant
  By this time the clouds had taken over the sky and the light was boring. I decided to leave the park and try to get some shots by getting into the parking area. I got couple of shots there, one of an egret and of a Red Wattled Lapwing.

Egret with fishermen in background
Red Wattled Lapwing
With this I called it end of the day. I was by no means satisfied with what I had got and more trips to Hebbal were defiantly on cards. The same day I decided to visit this place in the evening. Though this time I did not shoot birds. The light was great and I choose to shoot sunbursts which I will cover in another post.

30th Oct, 2010 

Weekend is back and so is the time to make another trip to hebbal to have a date with the birds there. This time the morning was pretty dull and I was cursing the cloud cover that had made the light very dull and uninteresting for any kind of photography. In fact the light was real bad to take some usable photos at a relative faster shutter speed. I tanked up the ISO settings to 800 to get a decent shutter speed but I knew that my Nikon D40 does not produce quality images with that settings. 

I spent good amount of time waiting for some action from the birds but nothing much happened. The only action that happened was at my end where I dropped my lens cap in the water when I was fiddling with the camera settings and I was unable to recover it.

I did manage to capture couple of Pond Herons in flight but I would like to to better then this.

Pond Heron in flight
Pond Heron about to land
There was nothing much I got my hands on till the time when I decided to leave. I left the lake area and moved to the area near the parking. I saw 2 pelicans lazing around but nothing interesting to capture. In no time both of them made a move and took off together and that was my moment. I managed to get couple of in focus shots of both of them together in flight. Here's one.

Pelican duo making a quick move
That was it, I got my shot of the day and it had also started to drizzle a bit. I make a quick move to head back home. On the way to my vehicle I saw couple of buffaloes and with them about 4-5 Cattle egrets. I caught one close with a nice green backdrop. Though it was a simple shot, I liked the way the white egret stood out against green background. Here's the shot

Cattle Egret
That was it from my birding trip to Hebbal. I did see White breasted kingfisher around but I never got close enough to capture it. I am waiting for a nice clear morning and one more trip is still on cards. 

BTW the 70-300mm lens worked pretty well. I still would like to get more closer with the optic but that would mean to invest in a longer lens which I have no plans as of now. 

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