Birds are all over us but I never realised. Everyone was talking about the Tigers. I had an early introduction to Wildlife when a Kenya trip happened out of nowhere way back in year 2000, so bird watching never really happened. As a travel agency, we started to send guests for bird watching, so was fully aware of where to go for bird watching but never really got on to myself doing it. Few failed Tiger Safaris later, me and Jatinbhai (My brother in law and an avid bird / wildlife photographer) planned a Nagzira / Tadoba trip for tiger photography. I had recently bought a relatively expensive (Sub 30K) Fuji bridge camera with 600 mm lens capability (which I later realised the kind of asset it was for bird photography).
As luck would have it Monsoon happened to arrive early in 2013 and thats when I was introduced to bird watching by Jatinbhai, as we were left to do something for safaris already paid for.
Our First stop was Nagzira. Our Lodge was a nice Nagzira Tiger Camp, which offered a nice spread out character just 5 minute drive from the Park gate. Inside the park was a lovely forest with branches hanging in from both sides of the safari track. The area already had a shower earlier and I realised very early that Nagzira was not a tiger centric park (at least those days sightings of Tiger were quite poor).
My knowledge about bird watching at this point was a zilch. With our focus on shifting to bird watching, everything that was not a Sparrow, Crow or a Pigeon looking like one to take photo of. First few birds (which within next 6 months I learnt were very common birds) were Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian Robin, White Throated Kingfisher, Indian Myna, Brahminy Myna, Jungle Babbler, Green Bee Eater, Jungle Myna and Indian Roller. However I was lucky to spot some of the relatively sought after ones like Common Hawk Cuckoo, Rufus Treepie, Golden Oriole, Black Hooded Oriole, Indian Pitta and Crested Serpant Eagle.
Jatinbhai was very patient with my rookie bird watcher instincts and fed me with enough data to keep me interested. His passion was infectious and it was not long before I was immersed in the process of bird watching. While at it, we were very fortunate to see a pack of Dholes and we spent at least half an hour with them. After first two safaris rains arrived and so wildlife sighting possibilities died soon thereafter but birds were still very much thereafter for next 3 days and 5 safaris it was all bird watching.
Tadoba came across as a Tiger Centric park with definite bird possibilities. We first got very close to a large Indian Gaur. However more rains ensured wildlife was elusive. We were able to see Open Billed Stork, Paradise Fly Catcher, Black Shouldred kite, Crested Hawk Eagle and White Eyed Buzzard. My prized catch was a Crested Serpant Eagle, draping itself in its own wings.
The trip gave me a realisation that bird watching was a nonstop fun as against roughing out for 3-4 hours in search of a Tiger. While Wildlifer in me wasnt dead as yet but surely the Bird watcher in me was born.