Great Stone-Curlew

A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

The great stone-curlew (also known as the great thick-knee) is a large wader, frequently seen along the shores of slow moving bodies of water. These birds are typically nocturnal, but can sometimes be seen during the day, moving slowly and deliberately. They can be quite skittish, often not allowing a close approach. In this case I was photographing from a small boat, so that likely helped me get close without spooking the bird.

A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

When photographing this bird, I was able to circle the rock on which it was standing. This gave me typical front-lit lighting (with the sun directly behind me), as well as back-lighting (with the sun behind the subject).

A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A great stone-curlew stands alone on a rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

As I was finishing up photographing this bird, I could tell it was quite comfortable with my presence. Soon it stopped pacing and sat down on the rock to rest in the sun.

Black-headed Ibis Feeding Chicks

A black-headed ibis feeds two large chicks, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A black-headed ibis feeds two large chicks, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

My recent trip to India was timed well with getting to see chicks feeding from their parent. By this time in their lives, the chicks were nearly as large as the adult, however they still relied on the parent to feed and shelter them.

A black-headed ibis feeds two large chicks, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A black-headed ibis feeds two large chicks, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

Although I had never seen a black-headed ibis before, I was familiar with the feeding behavior of this size of bird. Typically the adult will eat food away from the nest and then bring it back, regurgitating the food for consumption by the juvenile.

This photo shows just how far the chick will insert its beak into that of the parent. During this feeding, only one of the chicks got food, pushing its sibling away from the parent with its wing. This survival of the fittest instinct is common amongst siblings – sometimes they go so far as to push each other out of the nest so that they themselves have a better chance at survival.

A black-headed ibis stands on a large rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A black-headed ibis stands on a large rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

Although the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary was technically off season for the peak of bird activity, there were many ibis in and around the water. Most were nesting in trees and feeding their young, but several were out in the open, offering nice portrait opportunities.

A black-headed ibis stands on a large rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A black-headed ibis stands on a large rock in a shallow lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

While not a beautiful bird by any means, it was great to get up close and personal with a new species. Appreciation of even the most common birds brings forward interesting and previously unseen details, allowing for much greater enjoyment of the natural world.

Pied Kingfisher

A pied kingfisher perches on a narrow branch above a small lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A pied kingfisher perches on a narrow branch above a small lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

On a recent trip to India, I managed to get photos of several new birds. The very first that I photographed in the country was this pied kingfisher, one of my target species. My friend Gaurav showed me around one of his local haunts, and within ten minutes, I had several hundred photos of this kingfisher under my belt. In fact, at one point, we got too close to the bird for my lens to focus.

Gaurav had taken me to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary just outside of Mysore. As it was off-season, there were very few people around (great for bird photography), but there were also fewer birds than normal (not great for bird photography). Even given the that there were fewer birds than during peak migration, I was in photography heaven. Everywhere I turned there were new species to photograph. In order to get out into the middle of the action, we hired a guide and a rowboat for an hour, getting us within feet of many new and exotic birds.

A pied kingfisher perches on a narrow branch above a small lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India
A pied kingfisher perches on a narrow branch above a small lake, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

The pied kingfisher is the world’s third most common kingfisher, widely distributed across Africa and Asia. This species typically does not migrate, which is why it was see here out of season. This particular specimen likely lived at this lake year round. In the US, I am more used to the belted kingfisher, which is usually quite shy and difficult to photograph without spooking it. By contrast, the pied kingfisher was bold and didn’t leave the tree the entire time we were photographing it, offering many great poses.

While this bird is by no means a rare find, I felt honored to spend a little time with this little one. Any time I get a chance to capture great photographs of a new species, I am more than satisfied with the day’s outing.