Odisha Bird photography tour report – Jan 2020
Imagine yourself to be in solitude. You are the only human in the world. You have the fresh air to breathe and fill your lungs with purity. Your eyes are ever filled with the scenes of lush green grasses, streams of trickling water and myriad colours of birds. The sounds you hear are only that of the chirping birds, flowing waters and the gentle breeze.
How do you feel? Aren’t the surroundings conducive to begin deep meditation and slip into a trance? Now, slowly come out of the imagination. Doesn’t it feel bad to come out of such a beautiful fantasy land? Do not worry, if you like a similar experience for real, Bhitarkanika and Mangalajodi are tucked in the Eastern side of our own Odisha.
Our birding and photography tour to these two birding gems is a testament to living the experience of fantasy land. The serene surroundings and the unspoiled nature combined with the presence of vibrant birdlife is absolute bliss for nature and bird photography lover. We lost ourselves in the surreal scenes and clicked photographs of the birds and the landscapes to our heart’s content.
Bhitarkanika Bird Sanctuary – The Crocodiles and the Kingfishers
Meeting the participants at Bhubaneshwar Airport, we drove to Bhitarkanika by car. After about 5 hours and a quick refreshment, we were on the boat cruising through the water channels around the mangroves. Bhitarkanika strikingly resembles the mysterious Sundarbans, the largest mangroves in the world.
The mangroves, the criss-crossed root system, the marshy wetlands, and the dense enigmatic bushes reminded us of the beautiful Sundarbans. The tides were in our favour and we witnessed a number of Crocodiles and Monitor Lizards on the mud lands tanning themselves in the shiny sun. A Deer and a Wild Boar also came out on the marshy plains to give us a few photographs.
A White-bellied Sea Eagle constantly circled the sky and rested on top of the trees. We clicked ample pictures of the mangrove raptor. The Kingfishers bestowed us to witness the variety of their sub-species. These were our target birds in the region and we were delighted to spot all the sub-species on our boat safari ride.
White-throated kingfisher, Brown-winged kingfisher, Common kingfisher, collared kingfisher, Black-capped kingfisher and pied kingfisher were seen in different behaviours. We had very good lighting and angles to capture these beauties on our cameras. Some of them were seen on the trees and a few of them were on a lookout for a fish meal on the waters.
Mangalajodi – The True Birding Feast
After a fruitful birding and photographing at Bhitarkanika, we headed towards Mangalajodi. It is a small village on the Northern banks of Chilika Lake. We reached Godwit Eco Camp around 4 km from the village and then drove towards the lake.
There were small fisherman boats anchored on the banks. Our local guides cum boatman took us on the tiny boats. They slowly rowed the boat forward with the help of a long oar. The sound of the waters became the soothing white noise in the tranquil environment. The chirps and the colours of the birds added more charm to the pleasant scene.
We were about to enter the transcendental state when the shutter sounds from the other photographers awoke us. The birds in Mangalajodi appear very close to the boats. Every photographer loves to make the best use of this proximity. We got wonderful pictures of the birds in various poses and breath-taking backgrounds.
The natural behaviours and life patterns of the birds can be clearly observed while moving on the boat. We saw about a dozen different birds hunting the fish and the frogs. A memorable the scene is of a Grey Heron grasping a snake from the lake when a Brahmini Kite flew and made a great attempt in snatching the poor snake from the mouth of the Grey Heron.
A Little Egret stood on the Lake and immersed its head inside. Within a few seconds, it had a fish in its mouth. A Great Egret took hold of a Frog wallowed in slush and took it to the lake and thoroughly washed it in the waters before enjoying its meal. We captured all these moments of the birds and made great images.
We also clicked Ruddy shelducks, a flock of Godwits, Snipes, Whiskered Terns, Sandpipers, Plovers, Stilts, Marsh Harriers and many more. Some were hiding behind the long grasses erupting from the lake bed, the few others were poking their beaks inside the mud in search of insects. Every such scene unfolded just a few meters away from us. This added more excitement in watching the birds on the tour.
The Birding Photography Experience
What do you expect from a tour filled with like-minded people? Every participant had a keen interest in birding and nature photography. We had our tour skipper to guide us on the ecology, bird behaviour and nuances of bird photography.
The skipper’s immense knowledge of the place, regional birds and expertise in photography helped us to enhance our skills further. We had a productive time discussing various images and post-processing techniques under the supervision of our tour skipper.
In the end, we had to leave the real fantasy land to be back in our routine jobs. Though the precious pictures of the birds will accompany us to our homes to reminisce about the time spent with them.