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How to be a 'Birder': Capturing birds on camera

Life is all about the journeys, scaling new heights, taking a break, rejuvenating and then again embark on something new with a twist.

travel Updated: Nov 15, 2011 14:12 IST
Ajit Eusebius
Ajit Eusebius

It all starts with the clichéd line, 'better late than never'

Life is all about the journeys, scaling new heights, taking a break, rejuvenating and then again embark on something new with a twist.

For me, the passion of birding began with the very first camera - a Sony DSC H 5,that I got. Indeed, if it wasn't for a gift from my own brother-in-law I would never have experienced the joy of being a birder and "making pictures". Ihave always been fascinated by the winged species but have not gotten down to spotting and 'shooting' them, photographically that is.

Being a nature lover helps, but is not a precondition

I am a born nature lover but then we all may not be. Doesn't matter at all for it won't take long before you begin to appreciate the beauty of the flora and fauna that you have taken for granted all this while. And, let me assure you once you get going with the camera there will be no escaping too. My wife a 'metro girl' could never imagine that a beautiful kingfisher or a sun bird could look so exquisite, adorning her living room wall, rubbing shoulders with other artefacts and works of art.

Some of my best bird shots include the female Koel, a sunbird in a gladiola, a Brahminy Starling, all spotted and captured in the backyard.

How to be a 'birder' or in simple words a bird lover

Birding today is becoming more and more popular. It's part of the passion that holds good for wild life but is more endearing, informative and exhibits vast variety. So much so that one sees birds endemic to the local surroundings and then there are the migrators' which travel trans-continent. It is a subject which is so elaborate that may be one lifetime is most certainly not enough to even fathom it. But, at whatever stage of bird watching you will be, you will find it beautiful, colourful, informative, challenging and of course satisfying.

To begin with, what one needs isa digital medium range camera and a bird book. The late Salim Ali is the most well known ornithologist that we have had and any of his books can be a good starting point. For me, what is a kind of bird Bible is 'The Book of Indian Birds' by Salim Ali ( 13th edition), gifted by a dear friend Heather.

Your next question inevitably will be as to where to find your subject, in this case bird/s to spot? You most certainly do not have to visit a forest or a sanctuary, though at some point, it would be nice if you did, for you could then get the feel of the jungle andmarvel at the beauty of different kinds of birds in their natural habit.

For now, you could step out in the garden or sit in your balcony and watch the avian life around you, especially in the early morning hours. Lend your ears and you will hear some of the most melodious calls, whistles andshrillsfrom a variety of feathered friends. People actually record these sounds, to be heard in the quietude of their homes. It literally brings nature indoors. As you get more involved in your pursuityou will realise that, in this world of 'sight and sound', size doesn't matter. The smallest bird can be the loudest and the sweetest.

Follow the sound and spot the bird. The very sight will give you a sense of accomplishment and will take you to another world. I find the sight of a bird while it is calling truly divine.

Next, switch on your camera, rest it on something (railings, window sill or a tripod)to avoid hand shake,because you will need to zoom it to the maximum and press the shutter....change positions and take a few more shots. Review the shots on the camera screen. Just ensure the sun is behind you while taking the shot or you will end up just with a silhouette. Go through the picture plates in the bird book and try to find the bird you have clicked.Most books will help you recognise birds according to various features such as the length of the tail or legs, prominence and size of the bill, its bright or sober colours.The details will enamour you and you can list the birds in your personal glossary of birds. Isn't it simple and great fun!

You can now download all the shots on your laptop and do another review. One of the simpler ways to check a sharp snap would be to enlarge the picture on the computer screen. If the pixels or the picture don't turn blurred, it means you have got a good shot and you can go for a medium size blow up (print). Find a good print shop and initially go for a print size of 12"x 10". Don't forget to print your name somewhere in the corner of the photo with the help of Picasa.

Frame the print and put it up in the house where people can see it. You will be amazed at the appreciation and feedback... enough to keep you at it and before you know it, you would be on your way to having a gallery of your own.

Welcome to the world of bird watchers where 'sense and simplicity' merge with creativity and artistry. The expensive gear and the great angle shots can come later.

Bird facts
The total number of bird species inhabiting the earth today is approximately 8600Birds are warm blooded creatures whose temperature remains constant independent of the surroundingsThe feathers covering the body are non-conducting and is one of the chief characteristics that defines themOf the senses, those of sight and hearing are most highly developed while taste is comparatively poor and smell is mostly absentThe rapid focusing of the eye surpasses all creatures. From a telescope to a microscope in a fraction of time as an American naturalist puts itEndowed with the peculiar facility of flying long distances, birds enjoy a wider distribution on earth than any other animal
Bird Sanctuaries
The best time to visit bird sanctuaries in India is the winter season from Nov-March, when migrators from northern lands visit warmer and more hospitable climes to escape the rigours of extreme coldKnown bird sanctuaries near Delhi include the Okhla Barrage Bird sanctuary, Sultanpur Bird sanctuary near Gurgaon and the famous Keoladeo National Park or Bharatpur Bird sanctuaryThe Corbett National Park and the lower Himalayas also attract bird watchers from all over the world
Ajit is a wild life enthusiast, with a passion for photography and cooking. He works in the social sector.

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First Published: Nov 15, 2011 14:12 IST