Weavers and Plovers – Birding at Phillaur (#8)
After taking a long break from birding, on 24 January, 2020, it was time for me to go out and shoot some birds. So, I packed my stuff and left for the Sutlej River. This time I didn’t go to Mao Sahib though. Instead, I went to a different location on the Sutlej River which I had visited once last year. I didn’t get anything exciting there last year, so, I just wanted to try my luck once more.
Out of excitement, I woke up at 5:30 (much before sunrise) and went out. There was still an hour before the sun would start to show up, so, in theory I could not get any good shots before that. Even the birds were not awake at the time I came there 😂😭.
After about half an hour of doing nothing but waiting, I saw a 10-15 strong group of Black-Breasted Weavers a few meters away from me and that’s when I felt a surge of excitement.
I carelessly started firing rounds upon rounds of shots and when I took a break and looked at them, they all looked like from a 1920s movie.
Well, Of Course!
The light was so dim! Also, how can it be perfect right in the first go for me !?
Thank God at least the Weavers were cooperative and didn’t just flew away when I got the settings right (like what usually happens to me). But, there was yet another problem – in which also they fully cooperated – they were feeding high up on the reeds.
After giving me some OK shots on the reeds, the whole group came down at the ground, so, that I could get the what I wanted. Now, just as I was about to lie down to shoot the group, I saw a Milkman coming towards me.
So, I quickly lied flat on the ground and clicked any bird that I saw close to me without thinking of the settings (thankfully they were all perfect). But, surprisingly, the milkman didn’t just go on and completely ruin all my photographs, instead, he stopped a bit away from the birds and waited for me to get my shots.
Of course I didn’t want him to wait long, so, I took just a couple more shots and got up. The photos that I got of them were not Good Portraits but they were still good enough. With the early morning colours and the bike in the background, it gave the photograph a poetic feel. Although, it was not what I exactly wanted , but still I was satisfied.
I reached the riverbank at around 6:30 am and the sun was just starting to show up. It was Golden Hour and still the light was not good for portraits, so I thought why not try some Silhouettes?
I saw a group of Striated Babblers feeding in just the perfect setting for me to take good the Golden Hour Silhouettes I hoped for. I was still unsure about how this experiment would go. I spent a good amount of time with the Babblers, taking silhouette shots, which I must say were pretty good.
And, it turns out that Silhouettes are the easiest and most fun to take. All you have to do is to carelessly drop the Exposure and shoot against the light. There is no worry for blown highlights or dark shadows (which is actually what you want in this case). Just find a bright background and drop the Exposure by 2 to 3 stops.
I also got some good shots of a White-Breasted Kingfisher there.
Although there were no Ducks or Sandpipers there, I was happy. But, I was not satisfied yet. So, I decided to visit Mao Sahib as well.
En Route to Mao Sahib, I stopped to shoot a rather lovely Grey Bushchat female which cooperated with me fully.
The Chhappar had very little water left in it, and the ground was moist and muddy. The whole area was filled with Sandpipers, Redshanks, Stints and Stilts feeding and showing their moves.
Up till then, I had not managed a single good shot of the Temminck’s Stint and that was my top priority there. And after about half an hour of lying in the mud, I got what I wanted. The landscape there was perfect for Plovers. The muddy pools, cold weather – just what a Plover would want.
Since the time I came here, I had a feeling that I might see a Plover and just as I was thinking about leaving, I saw a tiny little dot moving restlessly around the scape (classic Plover move). And lo! It was a Little-Ringed Plover!! Although it was on the opposite end of the Chhappar, I didn’t want to risk going there, for it might go away, leaving me crying.
I stayed where I was and just shot what I could. Taking one step at time, the gorgeous bird kept coming towards me until I had to back off a bit.
And after spending 20 minutes with the Plover, it was time to end my excursion and go back home.