(Your first task: spot some birds.)
These are a few tips for the beginner.
Where, when and how do I spot birds?
Local parks, Bird sanctuaries nearby, wetlands, open fields. DO plan what you are looking to shoot. Resident birds or migratory visitors? You should start birding from your backyard - ,India has more than 20 birds who reside in an urban habitat .Find out about hotspots for birds in your town/city, from experienced birders. (Hotspot Definition: your spot should have a lot of bird species, good lighting, and should be close enough for a one-day trip. During winter most places enjoy winter visitors. Summer and monsoon are also very good season for resident birds. DO find out and join your local birding group, which will allow you to keep in touch with local birding hotspots and more information. After exploring your local birding hotspots, if you feel you would like to shoot some more, then it’s time to graduate to other parks/cities.
Know what you are planning to shoot, the time of year those birds will be present, and more. Collect a checklist of the birds in that area. Read trip reports about places you going visit. Network with groups and nature photographers to help you get more details. To share travel and stay costs, try to plan 3 or 4 photographers, who are at the same learning curve. For example at national parks, the park safari fees are high, but going with a group will enable you to make more trips. If you get a chance to accompany an experienced photographer, so much the better as you can learn lot.
Birds are most active in the early morning. Field knowledge, such as bird habitat and routines, is extremely helpful. For example, the Green Bee Eater will perch usually in one spot. Kingfishers usually sit at the edge of water bodies and small ponds, waiting for their prey to surface.
Instead of trying to visit new places every time, go to the same place and watch the birds’ activities. Areas full of prey and water bodies are main attractions for the birds. In grasslands you will spot larks and wagtails feeding on insects. Food habits are a prime driver in helping spot ideal places. All birds have a favorite water body - they have to drink at least once a day.
A good field guide is necessary for bird identification. I carry this on all my field trips: ‘Pocket guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent’ by Richard Grimmtt, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp
Along with your camera and accessories, a good pair of binocular helps watch bird activity closely.
THE APPROACH AND THE ACTUAL SHOOT:
* Bright clothing
* Loud sounds
* Quick moves
* Hair spray, gel, strongly smelling sun cream
On spotting the bird, first click a shot, next move a little closer and take a second shot. For birds, no movement means invisibility :). If you find a place which promises birds activity later, Do wait there, instead of running all over and getting no good pictures. Have patience and you’ll have a better chance at coming back with few good shots.
*If you feel the bird is not comfortable (i.e. looking at you, showing signs of flight) then stop and give it some time to get used to your presence.
*At sanctuaries, birds are usually used to human presence, so a closer approach is possible.
***IMPORTANT: Birds and the habitat are more important than your photograph****
Please remember you are entering their world, so respect nature, DO NOT disturb these beautiful creatures merely for a better photograph. Always maintain a distance and do follow the nature photography ethics.
Happy birding and happy clicking,