The Indian sub-continent is one of the richest regions for fauna and flora in the world. Birding check list counts 1300 species or 13% of the world’s birds. It includes 159 winter visitors & 141 endemic species.
The habitats are incredibly diverse with grasslands, rain forests, wetlands, salt desert, lakes, deciduous forests, etc.
1.Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan
Keoladeo National park, also commonly called as Bharatpur bird sanctuary, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Richness and diversity of the park is remarkable, comprising wetlands with submerged plants, grasslands, and woodlands. It is geographically located on the flyway of migratory birds. The best season to visit the park is winter from November to February, when migratory waterfowl such as Ruddy Shelduck, Shoveller, Northern Pintails arrive. Though the park is famous for birds, it is also home to many mammal species as well, such as Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Sambar deer, Jackals and Mongoose. Sarus crane (Antigone antigone), the tallest flying bird in the world, is a resident bird and draws many birdwatchers and photographers.
Though early morning and evening are best for bird watching and photographing, in winter, one can shoot the whole day inside the park. The park is a haven for bird photographers as it offers good lighting and clear backgrounds for shooting. The early misty mornings give a fairy tale image. One has to spend at least three to four days to photograph all species. It is best to hire a cycle rickshaw to explore the park.
2.Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Jim Corbett National Park is the most beautiful park I have seen and is Heaven on Earth for me. This forest has Ramganga river flowing through it, a blue water lake and vast grasslands. Rich in wildlife, Corbett has more than 600 species of birds. Fish eagle, Vultures and Brown fish owl are prominent resident birds. The main mammal species are Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Elephant and Tiger.
This is the only forest in where you can stay in the heart of the jungle. Dhikala zone rest house is the best place stay to experience the wildlife and nature.
Sunrise and Sunset are the times to shoot wildscapes. It is a treat to watch the elephants playing when they come down to the riverbed in the evenings. Summer is the best season for Elephant and Tiger photography, and winter is best for bird sightings.
3.Kaziranga National Park, Assam
This park is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is well known for Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros. It is endemic to the Indian sub-subcontinent, and is an endangered species. It is also home to Asian Elephant and Tigers. It is also a birding paradise, with more than 500 species.
The Eastern range in the park is best for sighting Rhinoceros, and has beautiful sunset points to shoot. The Agartoli range in the park is the prime area for birding. One has to spend at least 1 week to cover all zones. November to February is the best time to visit. Summers may be too hot for some.
4.Tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve , Chandrapur, Maharashtra
Often referred to as, “The Jewel of Vidharba”, Tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve is a pristine and unique eco-system situated in the Chandrapur district of the Maharashtra State. Tadoba is one of the best tiger reserves of India, where tiger population is increasing rapidly. It is favourite among photographers for Tiger photography. As the park is relatively small, it is easy enough to get a Tiger sighting, particularly around the Telia and Tadoba lakes as also in the Buffer area. Every year, you get to see Tiger cubs with their mother. It is also home to other wildlife such as Dole (wild dog), Langur, Sloth bear, Spotted Deer and Gaur and around 300 species of birds.
Zoom lens is a must as a Tiger is often sighted very close to the vehicle. This is the only Tiger reserve which is open throughout the year. Summer is the best time to visit.
5.Mangalajodi, Chilka Lake, Orissa
Mangalajodi, the backwaters of Chilka Lake is a bird paradise with many breeding residents and attracts thousands of migratory waterfowls. It has over 200 species of birds, which includes 80 migratory birds. With a very large number and a high density of birds, it is an amazing place for bird photographers. It is the breeding ground for the Whiskered Terns. Waterfowls like Northern Pintails and Northern Shovelers are in thousands. Small waders like Pacific Golden Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, and the Oriental Pratincole are easy to spot. Only in this place can one easily photograph shy birds like Bailon’s Crake, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Spotted Crake and Yellow Bitterns.
The highlight of this place is that it has not become a commercial tourist spot. Small fishing boats are available to navigate the waters, and one can get eye level images of the water birds.
6.Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad ,Kerala
This sanctuary is a hotspot for birds of the western ghats in South India. It is one of the very few places where bird hides are available. From the hides, one can easily photograph more than 40 bird species including Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Hornbill, Flycatchers.
Forest trails are a must to photograph the Malabar trogon (Harpactes fasciatus), Black baza (Aviceda leuphotes) and the elusive Sri Lankan Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger). To capture Night jars and Owls, one should go on a Night Safari. Winter is the best time to visit. It is essential to book a local guide and the booking has to be done well in advance. Rain cover for camera, leech proof socks, and flash lights are items that one needs to bring along.
7.Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
It is part of Greater Rann of Kutch, which stretches out across 7,500 sq km. It is a salt desert and has the Wild Ass Sanctuary, which is one of the largest in area in the country. This is the only place where you can photograph the Indian wild ass. It is famous for Harriers, Kestrel, Grassland birds, Raptors, Painted Partridge, Flamingoes, and Seashore waders. This is also the breeding place for Lesser flamingo, and one can sight thousands of them. Other animal species here include the Desert fox, Jungle cat, and Jackal.
Endless salt plains offer good opportunity to sight raptors and good lighting for photography. Sunset here is surreal and the setting sun can make a beautiful backdrop. Most of the hotels arrange for a jeep safari and a guide.