Birds from Coorg and Ooty

After almost a year long hiatus, I was back with some birding action over the new year holidays.

First, I was very excited to try this new lens , the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 . My initial thinking was that this will be a lighter and more versatile version instead of my Nikkor 300mm f2.8 which usually required convertors and tripods.

All the images below are captured with the Nikkor 200-500mm. To test the lens,  I went to the Gandipet lake area in Hyderabad.




To our disappointment the lake has receded significantly as Hyderabad did not receive much rains this year. The year before last, we saw Flamingoes and gulls here. None of them were around. We saw some Black drongos, Common Hoopoe, Swift and Paddy field pippit.



There were tall grass/ reeds growing on the lake bed and we saw a lot of Zitting Cisticolas doing their amazing movements up in the air.






With not much action, we aborted our visit and got this parting shot of a Juvenile Common Kestrel.




Coorg:
We went to southern part of the Kodagu district near Virajpet and stayed at the Glenorma Tea Estate of Tata plantations. It is rare to see a Tea estate among coffee plantations.  The first day sunrise was amazing from our Bungalow.




We trekked in and around the Tea and coffee estates. The first day, up one hilly patch, I was surprised to see the Verditer Flycatcher. I had seen it only in the Himalayas and did not know they could be seen in the Nilgiris.




Got to see a few more birds like the Wire tailed Swallow:



the Golden Oriole




Next day, I could spot a Brown Shrike ( for me a lifer) just outside the bungalow



Also a Ruby Throated flycatcher (female) greeted us near the road


Scarlet Minivets were around at a distance,


a greater Racket-Tailed Drongo with its long tail perched nearby



and the fidgety Golden Fronted Leaf bird has always been a challenge for me to shoot especially when it is feeding.



On my way back I suddenly saw a green bird crossing the road and perching itself on a flowering tree. Being the 1st day of the year, I was in the midst of wishing my Dad and the rather elusive Vernal Hanging Parrot (also a lifer for me) was in front of me !! This shot was taken with my head bent as I was speaking on the phone.



Next day we started with spotting a group of Ashy Wood Swallow (another lifer for me) . It was great to see how they cuddle up as a group in spite of the available real estate on a branch !!



I started walking near the coffee estates. I was told that Nagarhole park which was 30 km away had scarcity of food and Elephants are very commonly seen in the coffee estate looking for fruiting trees.



We saw the rather common Chestnut Tailed Starling,



Green and Chestnut headed Bee-eaters






Southern Hill Mynas



Malabar Parakeet,



another brown shrike.




A Plum Headed Parakeet couple were having a Tete-e-tete



The best part of the tour was that we did not stay in a National park, yet the coffee and tea plantations had so much variety to offer.





Ooty:
Our next stop was Ooty. A couple of visits to the Botanical gardens and Sholas resulted in spotting a few species. This was not a very focused birding trip. Started with the commoners : House Sparrow, Jungle Myna, Large billed crow.










In the protected forest areas saw the Great Tit,




Grey-Headed Canary flycatcher,





and the Blackbird for the first time. The Nilgiri one is a separate species (Turdus Simillimus) and is sometimes called the Nilgiri Blackbird for its pale colour.




In addition, Ooty had lots of Pied Bush chats








and Bulbuls

We caught a grey backed Shrike feeding on a worm,



and talking about reptiles a parting shot of a chameleon enjoying the morning sun.




It felt good and e  to do birding after a while. So, what is the feedback on the lens:

+ Pros:
  • Amazing clarity
  • Versatility of 200mm- 500mm range very useful especially when the bird is near
  • Lightweight
  • Cheaper than other prime lenses ( ~INR 85000)

- Cons:
  • At 500mm results are always better with a tripod. I did not use one and it shows !!
  • Auto focusing is a bit slow at 500mm, but still better than with convertors.
If you are a Nikon user and thinking of investing in a lens for bird photography, this might be a good lens.
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