Bird photography | Harrier birds of prey | Canon DSLR

The discussions went on for a few days on Facebook and WhatsApp groups about the ID of a harrier. Experts from all over the world joined the conversation.

Stunted deciduous trees give us an indication that trees don’t grow very tall in the region filmed in this video. These limitations make this terrain unique, kind of like a desert. 

Harriers, migratory birds, fly in just towards the end of the monsoons and roost here between October and January. There’s something about this terrain that must appeal to them during this time of the year. Obviously there’s food, and the colour of the drying foliage beautifully camouflages female pallid and Montagu’s harriers. The males are grey in colour. Perhaps their prey mistake them for rocks.

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Wildlife photography | Apes in India | Canon DSLR

“Are gibbons so violent that we need guns”?, I asked

“The gun isn’t for gibbons. It’s for leopards, and elephants!”, he said

This vlog is from the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary in the northeastern state of Assam, the only region where we find apes in India.

Apes are different from monikes, are more intelligent, can use objects found in their environment as tools; sticks to dig, stones to crush, things like that. 

We’re were led by a gunman, and a guide.

“Are gibbons so violent that we need guns”?, I asked

“The gun isn’t for gibbons. It’s for leopards, and elephants!”, he said

They obviously don’t fire at the animals, but in the air to scare them away 

Shortly after our arrival we saw a group of stump-tail macaques on top of a tree. 

This group of 46 macaques is known as the rebel group, they broke away from a bigger group of macaques that were over 250 strong even after the split. 

We clicked some pictures of these macaques up the tree, but they were way too high, and the light was poor for photography. 

At this time, we heard haunting sounds of gibbons from deeper inside the jungle. I had never heard anything like this before. 

Our naturalist offered to wait under the macaque tree so that he could track their movements while we wandered into the jungle with our guard. 

I have no words to describe the joy of wandering into a dense jungle on foot. Eventually we made it to the gibbons. There were two of them, and judging by the nature of their calls I wondered if they were preparing for war.

Around noontime the macaques started to make their way down and wandered into the forest in search of food. We followed them. 

Watch all the events in the video.

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Bird photography with Canon DSLR | Behind the scene

We’re going to an area where we see raptors such as ospreys, harriers, and peregrine falcons. While still operating his boat, Nitin spotted a bird miles away. And I mean, miles away. The bird was sitting on the bark of a tree jutting out of the water. It appeared like a little dot, it could be any bird. But Nitin suspected that it was an osprey and asked me to take a test shot with my camera and zoom in to see if we could identify it. I clicked a test shot and magnified the picture fully. Even then it occupied a very small portion of my screen, but we could tell from the shape of its body that it was indeed an osprey.

It took us about three minutes to get closer to the bird, that’s how far it was. Once we got closer, Nitin switched off the engine and rowed closer towards it. I clicked a few pictures, but then the osprey flew away and sat on top of an electric pole miles away. So we turned towards that direction hoping that I could click more photos. But before we could get to it, it flew away again and sat on top of another pole, even further away.

But Nitin was confident that it would soon fly back towards us, because there were some fishermen fishing in that area, and that would disturb our osprey. Nitin was right, yet again and the osprey came and sat on top of the tree where we had first seen it.

I was using a Canon 100-400 Mark II lens with a 1.4 extender, and a Canon 300 millimeter f/4 prime lens on Canon 7D Mark II cameras. The 1.4 extender extends the 400 millimeter focal length to 560 millimeters. I like to photograph a creature’s habitat along with it, and I used the 300 millimeter lens for wider photos.

The light got better for photography as time went by. We were cautious not to go too close to the osprey too quickly. Nitin is an expert at maneuvering the boat with his oars, inching closer towards birds. 

I didn’t stop clicking.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Wildlife photography | Tigers at Bandhavgarh National Park

This is a story about a sub-adult tiger called “Banbehi-male-cub”, one of three cubs of “Banbehi-female” and “Mangu” from that generation. There was some unusual tiger behavior going on at the time when we saw Banbehi-male-cub and one of his siblings.

This vlog also tells us how tigers get their names, and what it’s like to go on safaris to Bandhavgarh National Park during summer.

The morning safari at Bandhavgarh starts at 5:30 during the summer. It had stopped raining at 5 o’clock when our safari jeep came to pick us up and we were on our way!

The sun came out angry after the rains that morning and Bandhavgarh went into a state of sublimation.

After four and a half hours of driving around in the heat we hadn’t seen a single tiger—and were on our way out. Then our luck changed. 

”Banbehi-male-cub” appeared. He had turned two years old, and was at a stage in his life when tigers leave their parents and siblings and embark on their own independent journeys—proclaiming territories and seeking mates.

A few days earlier, his mother, “Banbehi-female” had another litter. 

Tigers get their names either from the area where they were first spotted, or by their appearance or behavior. Banbehi is the name of a river that flows in this female tiger’s territory—and that’s how she got her name.

Now tigers don’t meet their cubs from previous litters when they have a new litter but Banbehi-female would meet these subadult cubs from her previous litter.

These meetings continued for about a month after the new cubs were born.

Mangu, a large male tiger was the father of both these litters—that’s the only reason why this was possible. 

Of course the newborn cubs were away in a secret  cave far away from Banbehi-male-cub and his siblings otherwise they would have been killed by the previous generation. 

The almost burnt out areas of this photo remind me of the heat that morning.

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Bird photography | Canon 7D Mark II camera, 100-400 mm Mark II lens

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds that’s almost 6,000 species! We see about a thousand species of Passeriformes in the Indian Empire. Some are residents, others are seasonal visitors.

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds. That’s almost 6,000 species.

Over two hundred and fifty species of birds — in a five square kilometer radius!

That’s Kumbhargaon — a fishing village that sits on the banks of the backwaters of Ujjani Dam. Less than 2,000 people live in this village — they encourage avian tourism and take us on their little boats to get closer to the birds.

On one of my visits to Kumbhargaon I was walking through the woods in the evening when I saw a Yellow-eyed Babbler bouncing from one twig to another and finally perched and looked straight at me—like a cartoon character who was very happy to see me.

That brought a bright smile to my face. It seemed to like me. Did you ever think that a bird or a wild animal liked you? Did you have such an experience?

A week later when I got back home and looked at the photo, I noticed a string of small eggs sitting on the underside of one of the twigs. The eggs were of some insect—and that’s what delighted the babbler more than my presence!

Very often I know nothing about the birds I see and photograph. But everytime I come home and look at my pictures, I learn something about them. I found out that babblers are Passerines—of the order Passeriformes—also known as songbirds or perching birds. 

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds that’s almost 6,000 species! We see about a thousand species of Passeriformes in the Indian Empire. Some are residents, others are seasonal visitors.

Passerines can perch in awkward positions because of well adapted feet (the first toe faces backwards and three other toes face forward). 

This kind of an adaptation helped this Yellow-eyed Babbler reach its supper that evening.

More wildlife photography vlogs on my youtube channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Wildlife photography | Sariska National Park | Canon 7D Mark II, 100-400 II

We heard distress calls during all the five safaris and explored every vantage point we could, but we did not see a single tiger or a leopard.

This photograph reminds me what this whole experience felt like…so near, yet so far, in the dense jungle that is Sariska!

Sariska National Park is set in the Aravalli Mountains near Alwar in Rajasthan. Sariska is a dense jungle and we have never seen tigers or leopards during the winter, but that doesn’t stop us from trying!

We would stop by the central check post during every safari to exchange notes with other naturalists and come up with a strategy to find tigers. At this time babblers and treepies came within a foot of us.

We visited Sariska in the winter — in January 2020 days before the coronavirus hit India. It gets very cold in the winter in Rajasthan. I wore thermal innerwear, a warm jacket, two pairs of gloves on each hand and a faux fur aviator hat on my head, still, I couldn’t stop shivering! There was frost on the forest floor everywhere. 

We saw a large herd of sambar deer calling in distress. Now deer, monkeys, peacocks and other tiger prey sound distress calls when they see a predator. So obviously they could see a creature that threatened them! 

We circled the entire area trying to get a glimpse of a tiger or a leopard through the shrubs — but we couldn’t see it.
The next morning we saw this langur sitting high up on a tree and calling in distress (find sound clip). We explored the area for over half an hour but there wasn’t a big cat in sight.

Other babblers and treepies, bulbuls and parakeets helped themselves to a drink of water, at the water tank, by perching on the leaking tap and placing their beak under it. 

Watch the video for all the amazing visuals, more wildlife photography vlogs on my youtube channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Wildlife photography | Leopard, Panna | Canon 7D Mark II, 100-400 mm II

This was my first ever leopard sighting in the wild.

Tourists must not get off their jeeps in the jungle, except at a few designated spots where you can have breakfast and soak in panoramic views from high vantage points overlooking the canopy below. I’d like to clarify that this was a spot where we were allowed to alight. Our guide ended up standing less than fifteen feet away from this wild leopard!

I have dreamed of doing this since 2010. But I thought I wasn’t ready, or at least that I must sharpen my skills before takeoff.

So I took a creative writing class. And then another creative writing class. And classes on radio jockeying and writing scripts for radio, podcasting, business poise & social finesse, crash courses and workshops on ornithology and wildlife education. Somewhere in between all that I did more creative writing courses.

Still, I never got started.I purchased a ton of photography equipment that I thought was essential, only to find out that I could have done just as well with what I already had. I continued purchasing more stuff, sometimes importing items from America at twice their retail price.

But still, I never got started.

I’m ecstatic about launching my Youtube Channel, The Open Image before 2020 comes to an end. The last nine months have changed the way we learn and consume knowledge. It has taught us to appreciate small gifts.This first video is about the first time I saw a leopard in the wild, and how our guide ended up standing less than fifteen feet from it!I hope you like it.

Please share, thank you!

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Wildlife photography | Russell’s viper snake | Canon 7D Mark II, 100-400 mm II

We continued rowing towards a flock of whiskered terns when suddenly something long and slim popped its head right out of the water, about a foot out. It was a snake — not any snake — one of the most venomous snakes in the world — Russell’s Viper!

That Russell’s Viper better not get into our boat! 

It was the 8th of November in 2017. I was on a boat photographing birds! During November and March we see over two hundred species of birds on and around a lake near Pune which is about a hundred and fifty kilometers away—93 miles.

The monsoons had lingered on until the end of October. The lake was brimming with bright blue water — and bright green water plants appeared to be glowing the glorious evening sun.

There were lots of dragonflies of different descriptions flying right in the middle of this big lake — far away from its shores. I found that very surprising — that a small creature like dragonflies were able to fly such large distances. But then I found out that female dragonflies lay their eggs in or near water, often on water plants. So all these water plants play an important role in the lives of dragonflies! 

We continued rowing towards a flock of whiskered terns when suddenly something long and slim popped its head right out of the water, about a foot out. It was a snake — not any snake — one of the most venomous snakes in the world — Russell’s Viper! That Russell’s Viper better not get into our boat! 

It kept popping its head right out of the water, looking at dragonflies sometimes playfully, sometimes lustfully. The dragonflies too seemed to fancy the Russell’s Viper — but they didn’t appear to be a match made in heaven!

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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