Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Little Bit of Ornithology: Part 1

Bird photography is highly frustrating. Success rates are very, very low. And then you have to spend hours and hours trying to figure out what you captured on film.

Karanji Lake, Mysore is a good place for a beginner to do it though. They have an aviary, a butterfly park (open air thing, so you have a good variety of butterflies there only in November), a 30 foot high observatory tower, plenty of nice spots on the lake shore providing a good view of the birds, and the piece de resistance is that you can go boating around much of the lake. No other bird sanctuary gives you so many options. The aviary there is really cool, letting you walk up to within mere feet of exotic birds.

I've spent at least 7-8 hours spread out over the past 3 days rifling through wiki pages trying to identify all the birds we found at Karanji lake on Saturday. It took me insanely long just to identify one ruddy bird, and although I've improved a little since then, this was no mean feat. And even now I have a few birds that I am unable to identify.

#1 The Indian peafowl Pavo cristatus.
Both the albino and the coloured varieties, breathtakingly beautiful. All words are superfluous.

#2 Indian Sarus Crane: Grus antigone antigone.
One HUGE bird. Almost a metre and a half in height, it's the tallest of the cranes. Very distinctive colouring. Kept in one half of the aviary, we weren't allowed to go too close to them.

I wonder why the species name is antigone. In Greek myth she's the daughter of Oedipus, born of the infamous incestuous marriage. Can't see any link there. Antigone also apparently means "unbending" and "in place of a mother" in Greek. The whole baby-dropping thing has to do with storks, not cranes, so that it can't be the latter. Hmm... cranes and storks don't bend their necks while flying, but herons and egrets do. Lemme know if you think of a better reason.
#3 Helmeted Guineafowl: Numida meleagris.
Funny looking things. Had trouble identifying them as these birds are native only to Africa. Apparently they've been domesticated a little over the past century, and introduced extensively in various parts of Europe.
#4 Wild Turkey: Meleagris gallopavo.
I think this is a wild Turkey. The colouring seems a bit unusual. May in fact be a very ugly chicken.

I know, I know, clicking pictures of birds caged in an aviary isn't real bird photography. Wait a while. Next up: A little bit of Ornithology: Part 2.

10.00 am

#5 Muscovy Duck: Cairina moschata.
Finally managed to identify this duck. Was rather hard to place as it's a native of the Americas. Scary looking fella, but allowed me to get within 3 feet of him.
Pictures 1,4 and 7 courtesy Arun Verghese.

Also see:
A Little Bit of Ornithology: Part 2
A Little Bit of Ornithology: Part 3
And the road becomes my bride.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

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