Bird watching in India is one of my favourite hobbies and I have travelled to some known and unknown destinations to sight birds, starting from Kaziranga to Kumarakom. My earliest memory of being fascinated by birds was in class 2. It all started with a tiny greenish blue feather of a parakeet that I saw below my mango tree. I went on to collect more feathers along with seeds and flowers to make a scrap book. It was my prized possession for many years. But years later , the fascination turned into a hobby and I became an amateur bird watcher. Unlike most of my friends who would wake up at an unearthly hour just to sight a bird, I am more of a balcony birder, a pretty lazy one at that. But there are times when I have gone on trips only to do some bird watching. And there are certain birds that have left am indelible impact on my mind . But many a time, it is the journey and the sighting that stands in my mind. And here are some of my favourites and memorable sightings.
Galibore and the brown fish owl
There is always something about the first outing with a naturalist when you learn how to sight a bird. We were at Galibore, a fishing camp near Bangalore and I saw more than 60 species in one day, but the bird that lingered in my mind for a long time was the brown fish owl, a resident. The big yellow eyes were staring right into ours as I took a picture. Owls have always been my favourite birds and no bird watching session is ever complete for me if I do not see an owl.
Goa and the black capped kingfisher
I had no idea that Goa is a haven for birds. Besides forest birds, you see several water birds here as well and the habitats here attract migratory birds as well. I went to forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife parks, bird sanctuaries but my most memorable experience is an early morning boat canal ride in one of the canals of the River Zuari . And what a treasure house of avian life was around , especially around the mangrove forests. There are believed to be more than eight varieties of kingfishers in Goa alone and I spotted close to six of them. But my favourite was the black capped kingfisher.
Thattekadu and the frogmouth
One of my earliest bird watching journeys was to Thattekadu, a bird sanctuary near Kochi in Kerala. I spent my new years eve here, in the forests looking for birds. And the bird even now gives me goose bumps is the Srilankan frogmouth, a noctural bird that camouflages so well. It was quite an experience, walking in the dark with a flashlight, looking for it and we found a pair in the trees.
Valparai and the Great Indian Hornbill
Valparai is not just a bird watching destination. Yet, in this bio diversity hotspot with rolling hills, tea plantations, ever green forests, one can spot several fauna like the flying squirrel, the lion tailed macaque, the nilgiri tahr among others. Yet in this dense canopy of green, nothing seems more beautiful than sighting the great Indian Hornbill.
Hampi and the yellow throated bulbul
Not many people go to Hampi to do some bird watching. However you would be surprised to see so many species here, especially in the dry rocky landscapes and on the water bodies. One of the most famous resident of Hampi is the yellow throated bulbul, which bird watchers flock to see. In fact a trip to Hampi is not complete if you have not sighted this bird. I went there many many years ago, when I did not even have a digital camera. Yet, it was a sheer joy to sight and photograph this bird
Coming up next – Part 2 . We travel to Kutch, Mangalajodi, Ladakh and other destinations to see more birds