Kingfishers are brilliant, sparkly, extremely shy and fast as hell. They are every birder's delight and nightmare. So it came as a surprise when Jeff flew in to greet me as I stepped out of the car at Lalbagh and slung my camera over my shoulder. Jeff is a White Throated Kingfisher and looking at his bright blue plumage, he was definitely an adult (the young are more muted in colours). I usually don't name my birds, but this was special and the name popped into my mind the instant I saw him, so it stuck. They have those large stork-like bills unlike the Common Kingfisher (the little blue guys) and they generally prefer crustaceans, insects and fish on their typical everyday menu. He gave me a couple of great shots at close quarters and then flew off. I then set off to find some Cuckoos this time. Last week, I was concentrating on the Black Kites which are found in large numbers in Lalbagh.
The first image on top uncannily looks like the bark or Jeff is giving you the finger. And in the third he is trying to give a High Five. What about the second you ask? He is just yawning. Go on.
The Asian Koels and the Greater Coucals are a regular fare in Lalbagh. I wandered off to the less popular/populous parts of Lalbagh where I know them to frequent. These guys are pretty shy and go off into hiding in those thorny brambles they so prefer. These brambles are dense and focusing through them is hell (of course). I spent a lot of time trying to track them and get a little closer (yeah, sure). After a couple of shots of both a male and a female Koel, I resorted to amuse myself with the antics of the scores of squirrels that abound here. I found a path I had not explored earlier and found a deserted, dirty and moss covered pond and started watching some black kites circling the skies above and a yellow bittern on a tree nearby. As I was watching, one black kite took a few attempts to scoop fish or snails from the pond.
That's when Jeff decides to make a comeback and lands bang in front of me in the pond! As if that was not closer to, he flutters closer still, almost on the bank of the pond where I was standing. I could reach out and touch him (but I would fall in the pond, of course). The 600mm on the Sigma 150-600 was a little too much (I never thought I'd ever say that) to get the little fella in my frame. He was too busy turning in all possible directions and giving poses to beat any high street fashion model. I guess he was fully aware that I had no chance of grabbing him and all the poses he was giving (in my opinion) were his attempts to get a good look at the whatever was going to be his lunch. Right on cue, he dives in and flies off to a branch further up the pond.
And fly he did in style. As I watched him, he flew right over the head of a beautiful greater coucal standing/hiding in the middle of the pond in the midst of some thorny branches. It was like he was saying, Hey! don't miss this guy. He then flew away to the other side of the pond and perched on an overhanging twig and waited for me to have a go at the coucal. I made some great images of the handsome and fierce looking guy before he got all shy on me and darted deeper into those thorny bushes. Coucals aren't great fliers preferring to walk and hop through the branches. When they do fly, they do so with an ungainly gait and agitation as if it takes a lot of effort to do so. But they are beautiful gliders and the brown of their wings lends a beautiful relief to their shiny jet black body. And unlike the Asian Koels, with their ruby red eyes, the Coucals have a bright brownish orange eyes.
With the coucal out of the way, Jeff now flies back again to my side of the pond once again making the 600mm redundant. He gives me some amazing show of the brilliant blue on his back this time before he dives in and comes up with a little crab. He decides to take his kill up to a branch in a tree and gives me a nice show of flipping the crab several times to ensure it is in the right position to swallow.
Did I say these guys are fast? In the blink of an eye, he had swallowed the crab and had taken off to a twig further up the pond. He then sat for a few minutes before flying to the middle of the pond to catch a dragon fly as blue as himself for dessert.
If you go by looks alone, he is a mean, sour looking guy, but trust me, he's all fun.
By this time, my feet were aching and I drifted back to the more popular and crowded part of Lalbagh - the Lake. Home to a few Grey and Purple Herons and a ruddy tortoise sunning himself on a fallen tree trunk on one side and cormorants, spot-billed ducks, pelicans and a lone painted stork on the other.
The Chinese Spot-Billed Ducks were a treat to watch. Getting to make their portraits, was a bonus.
No birding trip is complete without the customary shots of the beautiful Egret. Starting with the Little Egret first...
The Great Egret with a catch next...
It would be unfair to have a Shutter Therapy in Lalbagh and not have mention the Black Kites. Their numbers are next only to the Crows and the Mynas. You can spend an entire day just watching them swoop in and out with their fine display of ariel manoeuvres.
This little group of four black kites were chasing each other for one little mouse. In the end, one of them dropped the mouse altogether.
Here is another group of kites trying to wrangle a Purple Heron's catch.
Other than not spotting a single damn owl in all of the 240 acres, a great day for a birder in Bangalore. Thanks to Jeff, for the tour.