Hampi – Bird photography tour report – Dec 2019
Have you visited Hampi? How many times have you visited India’s most revered ruins and tried to bask in the glory of the bygone Vijayanagara Empire? You would have probably sat on the Matanga hills and watched the beautiful sunrise and rushed to the Hemakuta hillock to get a grand view of the sunset behind the boulder-strewn landscape.
Or you would have leaned against one of the Bazaar pillars and wondered how precious stones were traded there? However, to explore Hampi to its fullest, consider the abundant wildlife in the region. You will be mesmerised with the variety and beauty of the amazing bird life found in between the ruins, along the canals or atop the boulder hills.
Our photo tour experience to Hampi for an exclusive wildlife adventure is tailored to give you an insight into the bio-diversity of the place. Read on to get a glimpse of the experiences from our recently completed tour to the place.
Wildlife Among the Ruins ( Images by Karthik P Hariharan )
Sighting Indian Eagle Owl and Indian Sloth Bear
Our group of travel and photography enthusiasts teamed up with the Birdwing to begin their birding tour to Hampi. We boarded trains from Bangalore and got down at Hospet. We were received by our local guide and reached our homestay to freshen up.
With a tasty breakfast to kick start our day, we proceeded towards birding together. Our cameras geared up to capture the images of the fluttering wings. On the first day, we went towards Kamalapura canal in search of the Indian Eagle Owl.
Within a few minutes of searching, we found a pair of Indian Eagle Owls sitting in front of a stone slab. These species of Owls are only seen in the Indian sub-continent and majorly in hilly and rocky terrains. They look exactly like the birds carved out of a stone in their appearance. We were happy to have clicked their pictures and looked out for other birds.
We observed a few Ashy-crowned sparrow larks, Rufous-tailed larks and many others in the same area and photographed them thoroughly.
We finished a hearty meal, rested for a while and headed towards Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary.
Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary is an amazing place to spot wild Sloth bears in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is just about 15 km from Hampi. As soon as we reached there, we climbed up a watchtower and waited for the black furry sloth bears to arrive. A sloth bear adorably walked from inside and stayed below the watchtower while we clicked many pictures of the animal.
Sighting Indian Chameleon and Printed Spurfowl
The second day morning, we hopped our vehicle and drove towards the nature camp of the forest department. Our target birds were the Painted Spurfowl, the Grey Francolins and a few other common species. After a wonderful session of birding and having clicked good photographs of the targets, we headed towards the canal area once again.
As we kept moving our binoculars to spot the birds, we spotted a swiftly moving lush green Indian Chameleon. These creatures are commonly seen during the monsoons and it was a rare sight to spot one in the winter. This fella was quite cooperative and allowed us to click some wonderful pictures.
We hoped to find Painted Sandgrouse which did not appear in front of us. From what we gather, the construction work along the canal and human disturbance is causing these ground-nesting birds to move deep inside the forests.
The migratory Bar-headed geese
On the third day, we left early in the morning towards Lake Magadi. It is around a 3-hour drive from Hampi. The bar-headed geese fly in from Mongolia over the Himalayan Mountains and reach the lake during winters. These birds fly about 1000 km every day to reach their destination in South India.
We were at Lake Magadi just in time to witness the geese flocking on the waters. It was a wonderful opportunity to observe the water birds closely and study their behaviour. Every day, early in the morning, before sunrise, these birds leave the lake in search of food. They probably go up to a distance of 30-40km.
After having their morning food, they arrive back to the lake and glide smoothly on the waters. They come in batches every now and then to occupy the lake. There were easily more than 5000 geese on the lake! The remainder of the day is resting time for the geese.
We spent the whole day clicking photographs of the geese. They happily posed for us flapping their wings and entertained us quacking to the music of the mild breeze. When it was the evening time, we saw them slowly leaving the lake to find their dinner.
The bar-headed geese stay near Lake Magadi for a duration of about 4 months. They start arriving in the month of December and stay here till the end of March. That is the reason, winter is an ideal time for a birding session in Hampi.
Surprise show by the Painted Sandgrouse
The fourth and the final day, our birding session was amidst the ruins of Hampi. Sighting the birds around the architectural ruins is a unique experience for anyone. We get to explore a lot of man-made wonders and the natural wonder creations.
A White-browed bulbul and a Yellow-throated bulbul came into view, positioned nicely for making some lovely images. A beautifully camouflaged pair of Spotted Owlets were out lazing. We captured these beauties in our cameras and cherished the ruin architecture in awe.
The same afternoon, we visited the forest area near Daroji sloth bear sanctuary to check for any birds. The Painted Sandgrouse appeared from nowhere and delighted our spirits. There was a couple, a male and a female. Both gave us some good time in the magical evening light. We spent some quality time with them and captured pictures to our heart’s content.
By then, it was time for us to head back as we had our return trains to catch. We packed our bags and proceeded towards the railway station to get back home.
The birding experience
Words can only describe as much about our birding experience in Hampi. It was a special experience to photograph the birds and learn about them. Our mentor from Birdwing was available throughout the tour to guide us on the natural history and photography skills.
We had discussions on image processing and frequent review sessions on our photographs. It was a great learning tour, filled with excitement and nourishment to our souls.
Do join us for many such wonderful encounters on our perfectly tailored, experiential nature and wildlife photography tours.
Also, next time when you think of Hampi, you can consider including a birding tour with your family and friends. Birdwing is just a phone call away to arrange one for you!