A Different Christmas


No, festivals do not excite me. The only use i see of them is the fact that you generally do not need to work on those days. But ever since I started working at a news channel, i had to say goodbye to those festival holidays as well. Because, you know, news just keeps on happening. So yes, I am not that big on festivals.

The last Christmas day was slightly different though. Everyone in my team was working and so I took advantage of the fact that that I am the boss and took some time off to join the good folks at Delhi Birds for an old fashioned bird walk. I am not big on group activities either, but the DelhiBird group is led by expert birders who know those secret little corners which I, on my own would never have known. This is how on a cold, foggy Christmas day, I landed up at Dankaur – a village in the middle of nowhere.

The map embedded above only shows you the location of the village. The spot, a now dry lake bed, was a few kms away from the village. The group met up at a designated spot in Noida before taking off towards the destination, around 50 kms away. I was looking forward to this trip for two reasons. Ever since I started working in the live news environment, i lost my weekends, a sense of time and personal life. So, unlike other years, this was to be my first day out birding this season! Secondly, I had finally managed to fix my trusty motorcycle (Dope, as I call him) and this trip out of the city would test my modifications .

For the first few miles we were on the Greater Noida Expressway. Turning off the Expressway at Greater Noida we kept turning into  smaller (and increasingly more potholed)  roads till we reached what looked like a massive grassland with a shallow pond at its center. This is supposed to be the fabled spot, where, on a good day over a 100  Sarus cranes congregate. Will this Christmas day be the proverbial ‘good day’?

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Birdwatching from my Balcony: White Eyes, warblers and smooth operators


Living alone sure has its charms. Oh Yes. Especially when you live in a barsati (rooftop flat) in a leafy South Delhi colony. The laburnum tree grows so close to my balcony that I can just reach out and touch the branches.

This tree is also the favourite haunt to some of the tiniest birds in this part of the world – okay, maybe with the exception of the Fire Breasted flowerpecker – the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus).

Hence the name
Hence the name

One lazy Sunday afternoon, my siesta was disturbed by a huge racket outside. I open to door to see at least half a dozen of these tiny beauties darting from branch to branch announcing their glee to the entire world. I have never had them come so close. After a frantic dash into the other room to get the camera, fix the right lens, I managed to get a few shots of the passerines.

Contemplating another dash to the nearest branch
Contemplating another dash to the nearest branch
Still. For a change
Still. For a change

On account of my poverty, my wildlife / birding lens is a Sigma 50-500. It is slower than an geriatric on a vintage stair-lift and lesser said about its auto-focussing prowess, the better. White eyes are notoriously darty, never settling on the same perch for more than a second or two. Imagine if you will, my woe. Half an hour later, however, I get few shots worth talking about.

Once I view them on the laptop I notice the noise. One quick look at the camera setting tells me that my ISO is set to 2000 from a night shoot I did few days back. F*** my life. Anyway, here’s what I got.

Noise, noise go away!
Noise, noise go away!
'What's this joker up to?'
‘What’s this joker up to?’

In the gaggle of white eyes, another tiny bird almost went unnoticed. Almost. My keen eyes (cue ‘Eye of the Tiger) spotted the imposter and the handy field guide identified it as a Hume’s Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus humei). Equally fidgety, shooting it was another task. But in the end, two images of some quality did emerge.

Hume's Leaf Warbler
Hume’s Leaf Warbler
Again, sorry for the noise
Again, sorry for the noise

Bonus of the day:

A sneaky Yellow Footed Green Pigeon (Treron phoenicoptera) trying hard to be a leaf

I see you, Mr Pigeon
I see you, Mr Pigeon

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