This was a completely impromptu trip to the neighboring state of Gujarat to spot some migratory birds in the peak winter of December. The challenging part of bird photography is that you need to reach the right spot much before the dawn, literally, when it is still pitch dark.
Thanks to the local auto-rickshaw guy who agreed to drop me at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary at such unearthly hours. To my surprise, when I reached Nalsarovar, I got to know from a local guide that the lake had dried up and there were no migratory birds. However, he promised us to take me to another obscure location where we could see the birds. We agreed, having no other options left.
I literally had to do a long jump gig across a small stream of water just to reach a sort of marsh island to get nearer to these birds.
The two things I missed badly here was, a pair of good binoculars and a super-zoom lens to capture these birds closely. From a poor 55-210 mm zoom lens, I could only capture Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides Virgo) from a far distance. However, I did spot Black-winged Stilt, Flamingos and Great Egret.
In the later part of the morning I returned to Viramgam and took a train to reach Ahmedabad by afternoon. Evening in Ahemdabad was spent exploring local Gujarati food in its famous late night street food market at Manek Chowk. Although I loved most of the food I tried here, my best three recommendations would still be: 1. Black berry pulp shots from ‘Bottoms Up‘; 2. Pineapple Cheese Sandwich from ‘Manek Sandwich‘, and 3. Rajbhog Kulfi from ‘Bastiram‘.
As Thol Bird Sanctuary was not very far from Ahmedabad (around 40 Km), I decided to cover that on Day 2. Reaching Thol in the wee hours of morning was another adventure in itself as Google map did not show the way correctly and we had to figure that out right in the middle of the dark deserted highway with hardly any one on the street to ask around the way.
As this was my very first bird photography adventure, I learnt many things the hard way and that’s what made this trip all the more adventurous (though at the cost of poor quality photographs).
When: December 22-23, 2018
Where: Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary & Thol Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat, India
Best way to travel: Take a train to Viramgam railway station. Request an auto-rickshaw guy to drop you at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary (1 hour drive) before the dawn (for not more than INR 500). Come back to Viramgam railway station and catch a train to Ahmedabad (takes around 1 hour). Enjoy late night street food at Manek Chowk in the night and head for Thol Bird Sanctuary the next morning by car/auto-rickshaw (1 hour drive).
Best time to visit: Winter (December – February)
- You must carry a good pair of binoculars and a super-zoom camera. I invested in Nikon Aculon A211 8X42 post this trip, after a thorough research on the best pocket-friendly binoculars.
- You must be at the right spot at the right time. If you do not make it before it is dawn, you will miss most of the action and your trip would be a total waste.
- Reserve an auto-rickshaw much in advance, if you are not travelling by your own car/ bike. These places are often at a very remote and obscure locations from the city limits.
- Do not travel in large group and maintain complete silence. The lesser the better, as more people would scare off the birds.