Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

When:  May 2015                               Weather: Warm, 24C

Nikon P900.  All pictures hand held.

In Bangalore for a weekend and had a free morning on Sunday to do some birding.  Had done Nandi Hills which was quite pleasant on my last visit a year ago so was planning to go Bannerghatta NP but my host felt that it was worth my while going to a proper birding site, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (RBS), 130km away and nearer to Mysore than Bangalaore.  I was a little anxious about the timing and length of the drive cos sometimes investing 2-3 hours each way for a 2-3 hour birding outing is does not always give a good ROI!  But my host had kindly made some special arrangements for me to leave my hotel Bangalore at 5am, arriving in Ranganathittu just after seven, and gave me a private tour of the islets on the Kaveri River which is the heart of RBS.  The road driving in was already quite promising….baya weavers had made several nests on the electrical high tension wires, francolins were seen scurrying into the scrub and a flock of pelicans flew overhead….

The only way to see the place properly is to take the 1 hour boat ride around the several islands that make up the sanctuary….it is however challenging to shoot birds from afar with the boat’s movement.  I was also trying out my new Nikon P900 in deference to the weight advantage over my usual Sony A55 with the mega heavy 70-400mm G Lens. The Nikon has a scarcely believable 25-2000 optical zoom range with digital zoom out to 4500mm or so….I was interested to see how it would compare to the much more expensive and weighty sony system…

We were led down to our paddle boat from which we set off onto the slow moving waters…

Steps leading down to our paddle boat..

Steps leading down to our paddle boat..

The waters were calm as we set off into the idyllic sanctuary

The waters were calm as we set off into the idyllic sanctuary

The trees and greenery around were lush…and on closer look, they were festooned with birds, not  unlike a christmas tree! And birds were flying all around feeding and gathering twigs for their nests…the nesting season was just over so there were lots of juveniles which I had great difficulty identifying…

Greenery dotted with birds...

Greenery dotted with birds…

which zooming in showed painted storks as the main christmas decorations!

which zooming in showed painted storks as the main christmas decorations!

? juvenile night heron

juvenile black crowned night heron

Adult black capped night heron

Adult black crowned night heron

The pelicans were very active!

The pelicans were very active!

Here we can see why they are called Spot-billed Pelicans

Here we can see why they are called Spot-billed Pelicans…the spots on the upper mandible being characteristic

Breeding pair?

Breeding pair?

and yet another shot of its aerial prowess

and yet another shot of its aerial prowess

Moving further on, the scenery stayed tranquil...

Moving further on, the scenery stayed tranquil…

The white throated kingfisher provided a flash of colour

The white throated kingfisher provided a flash of colour

the Asian Open-billed stork

the Asian Open-billed stork was everywhere…observe the open bill through which foliage can be seen behind

juvenile open billed stork

juvenile open billed stork…the gap between the bills does not appear till adulthood…

Grey heron with egret behind

Grey heron with egret behind

the common painted stork posing

the common painted stork posing

and another shyer one

and another shyer one

painted stork in flight

painted stork in flight

the terrain was pretty...

the terrain was pretty…

and there were also interesting critters in the water....this Mugger crocodile was not very far away...

and there were also interesting critters in the water….this Mugger crocodile was not very far away…

A few black headed ibises were spotted tending to a chick

A few black headed ibises were spotted tending to a chick

Ibis in flight

Ibis in flight

Breeding plumage in egret

Breeding plumage in egret

But this intermediate egret was one of my favourite shots of the day

But this intermediate egret was one of my favourite shots of the day

this was quite pretty too

this was quite pretty too…A Great Egret….with reddish legs

and another view..has a green patch on cheek which is interesting

and another view..has a turquoise green patch in front of eye which is interesting

And then a flurry of activity in the trees...

And then a flurry of activity in the trees…

A pair of Pied Kingfishers flew in and perched...

A pair of Pied Kingfishers flew in and perched…

majestically looking right ...

majestically looking right …

and then left...

and then left…

great thick-knee

great thick-knee

there was even a peacock on the island!

there was even a peacock on the island!

Breeding Pond heron

Breeding Pond heron

Fruit bats

Fruit bats

fruit bat in flight

fruit bat in flight

Purple heron, juvenile heron and wagtail in foreground

Purple heron, juvenile night heron and wagtail in foreground

there was also an area where the cliff swallows had made their nests...

there was also an area where the cliff swallows had made their nests…

After the water birding, I took a little walk in the manicured trail/ gardens nearby to see if I could spot some forest birds….

Before long, the star bird of the day appeared for me…the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher!

The magnificently coloured Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

The magnificently coloured Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher…my lifer on this outing

beautfiul contrast of the orange breast and the blue wings

beautfiul contrast of the orange breast and the blue wings

closer in...

closer in…

red whiskered bulbul

red whiskered bulbul

little green bee eater with breakfast

little green bee eater with breakfast

stork billed kingfisher high overhead

stork billed kingfisher high overhead

oriental magpie robins are ubiquitous

oriental magpie robins are ubiquitous

unidentified beauty

pale-billed flowerpecker

little grey job

? female pale-billed flowerpecker

and finally, the common but still very beautiful female Koel

and finally, the common but still very beautiful female Koel

also having his breakfast!

also having his breakfast!

Water lilies in the park to end with

Water lilies in the park to end with

So, was Ranganathittu worth the effort involved in getting there?  I would say just about…it’s about 2hr 15 min each way which is quite an investment in time….the sanctuary itself is very beautiful and the water birds quite pretty…but if you’re a seasoned birder and have been to places like Keoladeo etc, then you would have seen most of the resident RBS birds already and may not be worth the effort.

What about the Nikon P900?  I think it acquitted itself pretty well….all the water bird shots were taken from a moving boat without tripod and even at max optical zoom of 2000mm, I got some decent shots.   For web posting and facebook, the images are fine but the sensor is small and cropping in close shows the limitations of the sensor.   For just over US$500 though it’s a great camera for birders….I would carry it along with me for long treks and general birding…if I wanted to have the best resolution shots though, I’d bring the DSLR….

5 thoughts on “Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, India

  1. Lovely write-up Ron! The Nikon P900 seems to have fared well! I plan to buy it too for the times when I do not want to carry weight and still be able to record the avi-fauna.

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