“Little Cormorants – Flock on a snag”, is what I’d pencilled down in my diary while doing my due diligence on Bharatpur. This is the shot I’d envisioned of this species before my trip, and to have it materialise the way that it did was down to a bit of good fortune.
The first time I trudged along this nature trail, I wasn’t expecting to see a whole lot of bird activity. The sun was up, the heat was sweltering, and the morning fog had lifted, giving way to a thick layer of haze. I did, however, notice this beautiful fallen snag that served as a perch for a mixed flock of Cormorants and Darters. I made a quick mental note to visit this site under better lighting and weather conditions.
The next morning, I requested my Rickshaw driver to head over directly to this trail. Time was of the essence and I couldn’t afford to lose a second. I briefly stopped at a watch tower to scan other potential sites to visit, and what I saw left me speechless. Early morning sunlight filtered through thick fog, bathing the wetlands in gold, as Harriers and Hobbies quartered above; you just had to be there.
Hesitantly, I tore myself away from the scene to focus on the task at hand. I made my way towards the Cormorant site, treading carefully to soften my footfall. The mile marker reading ‘Dabari Wali Mori’ was, conveniently enough, adjacent to the location of the fallen snag.
A bunch of Cormorants were already present when I arrived, busily preening their feathers and fanning their wings. I crept up to them with my trusty 70-200mm in tow. A widish focal length of 95mm allowed me to showcase some of the stunning habitat in the background, with the distant trees providing a sense of depth and place to the image.
When it comes to photographing flocks of any bird species, the main challenge is to ensure that the head and body positions of the individual birds are parallel to or, at least, angled slightly towards the camera. It doesn’t always happen and is, very often, hard to notice in the field. With the benefit of hindsight, I think I would’ve loved to have captured even better head positions on a couple of birds in the shot, but I’m definitely happy with the end result.
As magical as Bharatpur is, it really is an intimidating place for photography. With the complexity of the landscape and the innumerable variables the park throws at you on a daily basis, it can pay rich dividends to think simple and focus on capturing the essence of a scene, however that may be.