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Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

Purple Sunbird in eclipse plumageMy fondness with sunbirds dates back to more than a decade or so. My home garden at Ratnagiri, houses many birds. Sunbirds are major among them. I still remember when I first noticed the Purple-rumped sunbird pair building their nest on our pomegranate tree branch. The couple was hard-working and busy building their sweet home. The interior decoration was done with cotton, small feathers to make it cozier. The nest was ready and female laid a single egg in it. She was home-bound to incubate it. After a week or so, I could hear chirping of the baby. Both the parents took intense care of their baby. They feed it timely. The baby grew faster and started peeking out through the nest. One day it came out of nest and parents promptly taught it all the lessons of life. Extracting nectar was most important lesson. They accompanied it on almost all types of flower which had nectar. Baby sunbird was not able to fly and was jumping from one small branch to another. I have spent endless time watching them. I was young and didn’t have camera to click snaps. Soon the baby became independent and flew away to live its own life. The empty nest hanging on my tree branch remained there for quite some time. I was lucky to see birds so closely since childhood.

When I got my camera, I started clicking sunbirds every time I went home. I don’t know which generation of Purple-rumped sunbirds comes to my garden now but I feel they too know me. They make me chase them harder for n-times in a day to get my desired shot but I do get some nice clicks at the end of the day.

Red Crimson SunbirdSince last few years, I found another beautiful species of Sunbird coming home. It is Red Crimson Sunbird. It comes mostly in monsoon. It is not easily seen in Pune and most of my bird watcher/photographer friends keep on wondering how am I able to see it every time.

In my outing to Nighoj-Daryabai-Takali Dhokeshwar, I got to see Purple Sunbird. Its dark purple color was just amazing.

Recently I shifted to new place in Pashan. Again, a familiar chirping caught my attention. I rushed to my balcony and was glad to see Purple Sunbird on the branch near by.  This time it looked different. My friend helped me with the fact that it looks different due to an eclipse plumage. Yesterday I clicked few more shots for my new friend.

Now I see, find and identify Sunbird everywhere I go and my obsession with these cute little beauties continues forever…

Some zoological info about Sunbirds here –

“Sunbird is classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Nectariniidae. There are 132 species in 15 genera. They have long and slender, highly curved bills, tube-shaped tongues, and feed primarily on nectar and small insects. However, they perch when feeding rather than hovering as the hummingbirds do. They are typically small birds, with length of less than 10 to 20 cm and are native to forest and brush throughout Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. The males of most species are brightly colored, with metallic, sometimes velvety, plumage. Out of breeding season, the males tend to take on the duller female plumage. Sunbirds may change their feeding grounds during the non-breeding season but are not particularly migratory. They are not very gregarious, and males tend to be aggressive, especially during breeding season. Sunbirds build a characteristic purse-like, hanging nest, into which the female deposits her one/two, rarely three, white or pale blue, variously spotted or striped eggs.”

Note – For more Sunbirds snaps click here – http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=sunbird&w=10523689%40N03

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Many thanks to Michael for publishing my interview on BoingBird website!!!

You can read it here – http://boingbirdtv.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/boingbird-talks-to-photographer-ruhi-malgaonkar-northern-mocking-bird-photo/

And also for picking up my ‘Barn Swallow’ snap as “Bird pic of the day!” 😀

I have also posted the same interview below –

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Boingbird talks to photographer Ruhi Malgaonkar

In an interview with Boingbird CEO Michael Clark, Ruhi Malgaonkar talks about her photography, her master’s degree, her passion for birdwatching and where she wants to go in the future:

Ruhi, what is like to live in Pune, Maharashtra India? I originally belong to a city called “Ratnagiri” which is on western coast of Maharashtra state in India. I am born and brought up there. And then “Pune” happened to me. Pune is called “The Oxford of the East”, due to the various educational institutions. I came to Pune for my higher studies in 1999 and since then I am completely in love with this city. Pune has amazing climatic conditions and gifted by beautiful nature from all sides.

Who is Ruhi Malgaonkar? What is your life’s passion? Ruhi is a simple, optimistic gal. I like to enjoy each moment of life, crack jokes and like make others happy. I make friends wherever I go. I value relations more than anything else. I like smiling faces.

I started working at early age of 20 when rests of friends were busy enjoying their college life. Mine was more of “earn & learn” types. Along with work, I completed my Graduation and post-grads with flying colors.

In simple words,

By Camera, an amateur.
By Heart, a nature lover.
By Passion, a bird watcher.
By Career, a software professional.

What type of work do you do as a software professional? Are you still a student? I am working in a software organization as a ‘Module Leader’. Yes I am still a student. I am on verge of completing my masters in Computers.

Why did you become a birder and bird photographer? My home at Ratnagiri (native place) has a beautiful garden. Thanks to my Mom for her gardening hobby. It attracted lots and lots of birds. Some to name among them are Rose-ringed Parakeets, Cattle egret, Asial Koel, Purple-rumped sunbird, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-Crimson Sunbird, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tailor Bird, Orange Headed Ground Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, Red whiskered Bulbul, Indian Mynah, Pond heron, etc.

Bulbuls, sunbirds, robins had usual nests. I was always fascinated with them and spent hours watching them nesting and feeding their young ones. I grew with up them and knowingly or unknowingly birding started since I was a kid.

There is huge ‘Sacred fig‘tree near and a flowing water canal behind my apartment in Pune. And birding continued. New birds were Indian Grey Horn bill, Parakeets, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Babblers, Pied Kingfishers, Cormorants, Darters, Oriental White-eye, Coppersmith Barbet, Kite, with bulbul, koel, crow and pigeon as common ones.

I became a Bird photographer much after birding. I capture birds because I like them. Still bird watching remains first love and then comes clicking. Given an option among these two, I would go for bird watching rather than photography.

When did you start your birding hobby? How long have you been a photographer? I don’t’ remember when Birding hobby bug hit me but roughly it started when I was 2-3 yrs old. I still remember my first pet was a Rose ringed parakeet when I was 2. It was gifted to me by my grandma. I enjoyed playing with it and feeding it. After a year or so, I just opened the door of the cage and set it free.

Photography started much later when I bought my camera in 2006.

I do have few friends who have similar interest i.e. photography. I belong to some few great groups on flickr.com. I have participated and organized in few photography exhibitions here in Pune. Our exhibitions financially supported some social causes like a deaf-and-dumb children school and an orphanage. It was altogether different feeling to interact with those children in our exhibitions.

What brought you from India to Dallas, Texas and what is the travel time from your home to Dallas? My work brought me to Dallas, TX. Travel time is approx 22 hours.

What do you think is unique in your approach to birding and bird photograpy? The unique thing about my approach is I don’t wish to disturb any bird while I do birding or I do bird photography. I won’t disturb it or its natural habitat for sake of my hobby.

I prefer wearing camouflage kind of clothes rather than wearing bright color when I do birding so that birds don’t get annoyed. I do take calculated risks on own in pursuing my hobby like climbing huge stone to get a desired shot, etc.

What methods and equipment do you use? I use a simple Canon digital camera – Canon S2 IS. I wish to upgrade to DSLR soon.

Talk about your experiences in Dallas and in America. I really enjoyed my stay in Dallas. It was good work (profession wise) and great fun at personal level. I stayed in Irving. The main reason behind enjoying is again “birds”. There were lovely birds around my hotel place. I got to see new American birds like Northern Mocking birds, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwings, Grackles, Swallows, etc.

When I found any new bird, I searched for bird’s name on the net and soon found that there is extensive birding done in TX. I was lucky that I visited here rather than any other state in the US. I quite liked Dallas but not sure about other states in the US.

I visited Nashville, TN and Catherine State Park in Arkansas. I also went to Fossil Rim Wildlife centre, Glen Rose, TX and enjoyed being with wilderness.

Where do you plan to travel to in the future for your birding and photography? I like driving, traveling, birding and photography and together they make great combo. I have already listed down quite a few places around Pune for monsoon trips.

In near future, I wish to travel and explore my own country across its boundaries. In India, we have all the essences together, from ice to deserts, from beaches to lakes, from naturally formed pot holes to mountain peeks, from rivers to wild life sanctuaries, from religious holy places to historical heritage monuments. It is my dream to see entire India.

On the other hand, definitely I would like to travel all around the globe and see the world!

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I accompanied my friend to ‘Sinhagad valley’ on Saturday morning. I started from home at 5:30 AM and reached my friend’s place. Two more friends joined in and we all headed for the valley.

Common Iora‘Sinhagad’ or ‘Sinhagad Fort’ valley is an amazing place for bird watching. In monsoon, there is a stream which flows by the fields and on another hand there are dense trees. Local people use this way to climb up the fort. Valley has now become famous among the birders. All you have to do is – search for a suitable place, sit quietly, set your gadgets (camera, bino, etc) and you could have darshan (glances) of all varieties of the feathered beauties.

I have my friends who have spent hours and hours in valley to get desired shot of ‘Asian Paradise flycatcher’ and believe me friends, it is no more less than doing meditation. 😛

I have been there twice and that was among some of the best bird watching activities I have done. We reached the base and had tea at local hotel. We climbed up and entered the valley. We scattered in search of different birds. We saw a Crested Serpent Eagle hovering in the sky.

Here is the list of some of the birds found in Valley:

  1. Ashy Prinia
  2. Jungle Prinia
  3. Pied Crested Cuckoo
  4. Scaly breasted Munia
  5. Red Munia
  6. Red whiskered Bulbul
  7. Red vented Bulbul
  8. Purple Sunbird
  9. Black Drongo
  10. White-breasted Kingfisher
  11. Common Kingfisher
  12. Pied Kingfisher
  13. Crested Serpent Eagle
  14. Blue napped Monarch flycatcher
  15. Asian Paradies Flycatcher
  16. Ticklle’s Blue Flycatcher
  17. Ultra-marine Flycatcher
  18. Fan-tailed Flycatcher
  19. Red-throated Flycatcher
  20. Cattle Egret
  21. Green bee eater
  22. Little Bee eater
  23. Tailor bird
  24. Black-winged Kite
  25. Marsh Harrier
  26. Eurasian Black bird
  27. Magpie Robin
  28. Grey Babbler
  29. Crested Bunting
  30. Indian Robin
  31. Golden fronted Leaf Bird
  32. Red-rumped Swallow
  33. Dove
  34. Oriental White-eye
  35. Orange Headed Thrush
  36. Common Iora
  37. Small Minivet
  38. Jungle Babbler
  39. Jungle Mynah
  40. Tree Pipit
  41. Yellow Sparrow

And the list is never ending… Along with these birds there are different types of lizards like Garden Colates, etc.

This time I used my binocular more than my camera. Bird watching being the first love, I clicked very few snaps and did more of watching. It is intense pleasure to see these birds. 😀

After spending good amount of time in the valley, we decided to take its leave. We went to same hotel and had breakfast before returning.

This was a pre-monsoon visit and I am desperately looking forward for my monsoon visit to Sinhagad valley. Undoubtedly ‘Sinhagad Valley’ is birder’s paradise!!! 🙂

For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/sinhagadvalley/

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Nashville, Tennessee:

The Music City of US

I went to Nashville last weekend. One of my colleagues (Sandeep) got a BMW and he wished to go to Nashville to do its ‘Pooja’ at Sri Ganesh temple there. He asked whether I would like to join them. I was not sure in the beginning but then I remembered one of my friends (Sachin) stays in Nashville. He was actually my teacher when I was studying. He taught me in my college immediately after doing his masters. He was always proud of me and happy with my progress. Years later the relation turned into more of friendship than teacher-student so he is now “teacher-turned-friend”. We didn’t meet for 4-5 years in Pune. Finally got to meet him here. I confirmed with him and he seemed to be pleased by the news that I was visiting him. I told my colleague that I would be able to make it for Nashville.

Park at Rest AreaWe started on Friday night and it was long journey. We had to cross states of Texas and Arkansas to go to Tennessee State. Total drive one way is around 620 miles, i.e. approx. 10 hrs from Dallas to Nashville. We couldn’t see much outside the car as it was dark in the night. In the morning, we took break at a rest area along the freeway. A rest area is a public facility on the highway or freeway for drivers and passengers to rest, eat, or refuel with minimal facilities like rest rooms, parking space, drinking fountains, telephone, picnic areas (grass lawns with benches), and sometimes more facilities like gas stations, vending machines and restaurants. We got freshen up and had muffins as our breakfast. It was a pleasant morning. American Robin caught my attention and I couldn’t stop myself from clicking snaps of this beautiful singer bird. We started again and reached my friend’s place at 10:30 am.

We took some rest and enjoyed home-made lunch. We decided to go to Nashville Downtown in the afternoon. Since the time I came to US, I had no chance to travel in public transport. I got this opportunity here. We took up bus to downtown. As we walked on the Lower Broadway, and saw many music clubs, bars, musical instrument’s shops, gift shops, live music lounges, etc. We did some window shopping. There was live music going on and people were enjoying it. We could see people playing different musical instruments like Guitar, mandolin, etc  on the roadside. This is why Nashville is called a “Music City” 🙂

Then we stretched our heads up to see some of the remarkable sky scrappers in downtown. Some of them were AT&T building (also known as the Batman Building), Life & Casualty Tower, BOA Plaza, Hotel Hilton, Hotel Renaissance, and The Pinnacle (under construction).

Then we went to riverside of the Cumberland River. We strolled at Riverfront Park and went to ‘Davidson County Public hall and Court house’. There were many beautiful fountains around this building. We crossed Commerce Street and passed by the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. It is the home of the Tennessee legislature, and the location for the governor’s office. This architectural master piece is classic model of Greek lonic temple. There is War Memorial plaza near to it. We had good time in the downtown.

Ganesh Temple NashvilleFrom downtown we went to Sri Ganesh Temple at Nashville. This is again a very beautiful place (of course much contradictory from what we saw in downtown). We entered and it was really divine atmosphere inside the temple. As in every temple in US, there were all Hindu deities. There was ‘Satyanarayan pooja’ going on by a priest for some family. I bowed to all gods. My colleague performed pooja of his car. We could hear some classical musical concert which was taking place in hall on first floor. I roamed around the temple and found a cute bird couple called “Cassin’s Finch”. I clicked some snaps of temples from outside as camera was not allowed inside.

We returned home and had tea. Savani’s (Sachin sir’s daughter) music teacher had come for dinner with us. Her name is Heather Bond. She is a famous singer and piano player in Nashville. She worked with Vanderbilt University for living and wishes to devote her life to music. It was nice meeting her. After dinner, we spent some time talking about good old college days. Sachin sir asked me where-abouts of my batch mates. He also told about his life, his marriage, his journey till US, etc. By that time, it was already late and we went to sleep.

Next morning we bade a good bye to my friend and his family and thanked them for their time and loving hospitality. We left Nashville at 9 am. We drove slowly as we wanted to enjoy the scenic views outside. On the way, we saw dense forests, trees, green grasses, jersey cows, horses, stables, beautiful farm houses, lakes, and all that which I never imagined to see here. We could relish real countryside of the US. Spring season is gradually painting the trees with different colors – green, yellow, white, pink, purple, red.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas:

We crossed The Mississippi River while entering the Arkansas state. There are many rivers like Buffalo National River crossing this state and it is a land of mountains and valleys, thick forests and fertile plains. This is why Arkansas is called ‘The Natural State’.

We had planned to wait at one of the state parks in our journey. State parks are different from our normal parks. These are protected parks for an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreation, or other reason, and under the administration of the government of a U.S. state. People come here to do all kinds of adventurous activities like hiking, camping, sailing, water sports, nature trail, birding, photography. I found few American Black vultures and Turkey vultures on the way.

Waterfall at Lake Catherine State ParkWe halted at ‘Lake Catherine State Park’ in Arkansas. We went to the park admin office and got map of the park. We located spots of our interests and headed. We enjoyed walking in the woods as part of the nature trail. There was a huge water body along side of the forest. We aimed to go to a waterfall. There was a small hanging bridge on the way. Also a wooden bench for resting. It was THE spot. We could see picturesque panorama from here. After 2 miles of walk, we finally reached a splendid waterfall. We went inside the water and it was freezing cold. I drank the water and it tasted heavenly. Remember free flowing water is always purest. 🙂

We came back from the park and resumed our journey back to Dallas. We returned back late night. It was an amazing weekend. Thanks Sandeep for taking me to Nashville, State park and moreover for considering a nature lover in me. I don’t think anyone would have showed me ‘this’ marvelous side of the US. I have the memories to cherish for whole of my life. And yes, your BMW rocks!!! 😀

P.S. : For more snaps please visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157615867820870/detail/

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