Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pelagic Birding at Malpe

       It was a Great Morning, I was curiously waiting for the wake up time. I woke up at 4:50am, got fresh with a hot bath, had a light breakfast of sandwich and carried my gears and started walking my way to my Bus stop. My friends Kartik Bhat, Rupesh, Chinmayi picked me from Hosabettu at 5:25am and we proceeded our way to Padubidri to pick Prashanth and from there we moved on to Malpe to meet our Pelagic Birding event organized by Shiva Shankar and Ramdasa Bhat from Tebma Shipyard Malpe, with a hired open boat. We met everyone there, boarded the boat and the first photograph of the adventurous Pelagic Birding Team of Coastal Karnataka Birdwatchers Network was taken around 7:45am when our boat ventured into the sea.
From L-R: Srikanth, Chinmayi, Raviprakash, Damodar, Mulagala Srinivas, Savitha Ravi, Prashanth Poojary, Sudhir Naik, Ramdas Bhat, Shanmukharaj, Shiva Shankar, Kartik Bhat, me, Rupesh, Mohit was the man behind the camera, so he's not in the frame..
     Amazing day begun cloudy, as most of them predicted rains that day, but mother nature didn't like us getting wet, so she spared us all with overcast sky and it was this moment we were near the Kaup Lighthouse, just outside the breakwaters of Tebma Shipyard, when I captured this scenario. The boat we were in was just the same as the one that can be seen in the picture below.

      We proceeded further into the sea and reached the area of St.Mary's Island, where there were rocks on the sea, which were great perch for raptors and terns, and we indeed spotted the Brahminy Kite sitting on one of the rocks alone, waiting for fishing his prey from the air, as there were loads of Greater Crested Terns, which amounted to around 100+ on the sky, some of them came close to our boat and gave some of us a bath with their droppings like Stealth bombers bombing an enemy boat. That was a welcome by nature to the deep sea, which was a bumpy ride, all till the middle of the sea, where we had ventured almost 20+ kms into the sea from the coast.A small portion of the Rocky St.Mary's Island is shown below.


     As we proceeded further deep into the sea, it started getting sunny and very harsh sunlight, rougher sea, made some of us dizzy, as it was most of our first venture into the sea and untill we venture once our bodies don't adjust to the sea well. I missed the Flesh footed sheerwaters which was spotted by Prashanth, as I and 4-5 of us were feeling dizzy during that moment. With my Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter in hand on my Canon EOS 7D SLR, it was pretty difficult to stand straight in the tossing and wobbling boat. Composition was nowhere possible in any of the pictures in the middle sea, as it was next to impossible to even stand straight. However, the beams of the boat gave us a good support to mount our Camera's for any action on the mid-sea. Luckily, we did see a lot of actions, not even us, the birds like Bridled Terns which we observed in the mid-sea were finding it difficult to perch easily and there were some floating wooden planks and thermocol pieces in the sea which gave them a perch to rest for sometime, as can be seen from pictures below:-




      Adding to that, we even saw an Arctic Skua chasing these terns for preying on them, however the terns managed to speed away from the Skua and I got this picture of Bridled Tern, when it was running for its life.



    Following the observations of Bridled Terns, we ventured much towards the North area of the coast where we observed many Arctic Skua's nicely perched like ducks on the sea, luckily they never preferred any support for perch as the Tern's did. Skua's were bigger birds than the Terns and were very fierce in their nature. The mid-sea was terrifically rough, with huge waves battering our boat, but the Arctic Skua's enjoyed the waves hopping and diving along the waves, which was another nice thing we observed. Its shown below.

EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/1600, ISO:320, Hand-held leaning on the boat's cockpit


     As I said earlier, its pretty difficult to stand and most of the images which I deleted didn't have any birds, they either had the wave of the sea or the beam of the boat, due to the roughness of the sea. Initially I learnt how to photograph the Greater Crested Tern's from wobbly boat while commencing our Pelagic Journey, that helped me to apply the same strategy to mid-sea photography of these Skua's and Terns. We got a Skua, pretty close-by at one moment and it was an action-packed moment, when all our gadgets sprung on to action with the fastest burst of images. Mine was a Canon EOS 7D, with 8fps, however there were faster ones like Canon EOS 1D Mark-iv of Shiva and Savitha, which were pacing close to 12fps and most of these camera features helped us in capturing actions right perfectly, some of the Skua flight patterns are shown in the pictures below:-

EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/1600, ISO:320, Hand-held standing still with great difficulty




     The last image above was taken when the Skua took a round of our boat and came in front of us again, after duly inspecting us. After all the fun mid-sea, we chose to return late afternoon, as we had gone too far from the coast and we had to reach the Malpe coast back by evening, before dark. It was another amazing time as we were welcomed near St.Mary's Island by Pallas Gulls, Heughlin's Gulls, Greater Crested and Lesser Crested Terns, which was a mesmerizing moment of our tired journey, coming back from mid-sea. Here are few of the pictures taken while approaching the Tern Island near St.Mary's Island.Terns can be easily spotted by their Boomerang wing design while flight and are very fast while their flight, like most sea birds.



EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/1600, ISO:320, Hand-held 



EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/2000, ISO:320, Hand-held 
     Heughlin's Gulls are huge and they almost resemble a Dinosaur in flight, their flight patterns are slightly slower as they take time to wave their huge wings, and they almost reach the size of Brahminy Kites. The interesting thing we observed was the Brahminy Kites were flying very much close to our boat near St.Mary's Island area and we utilized this moment to the max in getting good frames, like the ones below:-

EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/2000, ISO:320, Hand-held 

EXIF: Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/1250, ISO:320, Hand-held 

     There were colorful boats, filled with people visiting St.Mary's Island frequently and the Tourism was on full swing there. We saw a speed boat, rushing past us from a distance, wherein people enjoyed the speedy ride of the speed boat, which was also a part of St.Mary's Islands Tourist attraction, as shown below:-





     The Pelagic Birding concluded for the day at Malpe, at around 5:30pm, when we were back to the Tebma shipyard safely. I am extremely thankful to Shiva Shankar, Ramdasa Bhat and others who organized this amazing and adventurous day in mid-sea, watching migrant birds all our way. It is another milestone in my life, which I would happily write in my blog, and it would make me remember this day always, throughout my life.
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