Call of Kingfishers
Bhitarkanika National Park in Orissa is famous for its migratory bird sightings, dense mangrove cover and crocodile reserve. It is home to reptiles like Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Indian python, King cobra, and birds such as black ibis, darters and many other species of flora and avi fauna. Kingfishers provide a popular tourist attraction.
Kingfishers are colorful and un-arguably one of the charming species one will ever find. They are frequently sighted either while birding in their habitat or while sitting in a safari in a Tiger reserve. Yet, it is quite challenging to photograph them.
Their hunting patterns are utterly striking. They hover over the water body and then swiftly dive to pick up their prey within a blink of an eye. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why my thirst to take more images of these beauties never ends.
This urge of mine has taken me to explore the forests of Bhitarkanika National Park,with the sole intention to capture Kingfishers on lens, specifically the Brown-Winged Kingfisher. After 7 hours of hectic journey (via both plane and road), I had landed in the resort inside the forest premises.
Although my guide/host knew the purpose of my visit, with utmost curiosity had asked a question “Would you be interested in photographing mammals as well or is it just birds?”. I casually nodded my head and agreed! He responded back immediately saying “Cool then, there is a Leopard cat wandering in the campus since couple of weeks, shall we go and search for it?”. I replied yes of course and realized that this is certainly going to be an adventurous trip. For sure!!
We set out at midnight, around 1 am, in search of this elusive small cat. After couple of minutes of search we found it sitting quietly under a tree. I took couple of snaps and then it ran away. I was under the impression that, seeing us it might have got scared. However, it turned out to be something else – a photogenic feline. Unafraid of us watching him, Tom found Jerry. It went after a mouse, killed it and carried it under a bush to finish the meal quietly. We came back to rest and get ready for early morning birding.
The sight of lush green mangroves was gorgeous as we proceeded further in the boat. Spread around 143 sq. km, this area is also called as mini Amazon. One needs to take license from forest department before entering the area via boat. The main forest entrance is called Khola gate, while there is another gate called Gupti, however birders and tourists hardly pass through that gate.
The first sight I had after 5 minutes into the park was a silhouette of a Pied Kingfisher. Further into the park we found various waders and then the Brown-Winged Kingfisher. I could not capture it in my first attempt. However, eventually after couple of sightings, I had finally managed to capture a couple of them. I was lucky enough to get some decent images of Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers. The park is also home for salt water crocodiles. It is said that there are around 300 of them inside the park. I had managed to capture 4 during the course of my boating. My long hunt for White-bellied sea eagle also got in the frame as well. In the birders language, that was a lifer for me. What a perfect way to end the trip!
The habitat attracted me a lot. The sun rays adjusting through the branches and leaves and just the small amount of light falling perfect enough to cover your subject. It felt as a similar experience as one would get in rain forests and ever-green forests. I like that kind of lighting when photographing my subjects. Bhitarkanika is pulling me to visit another time and I will definitely revisit, but this time for small cats.