BIRDERS AROUND THE WORLD
“Birds from United Arab Emirates”
Although his love for bird photography began as a hobby since he resumed his dedication, walking in the woods and lakes of Dubai, bird watching has become a passion for Sajin to which he devotes much of his free time..
© Sajin Varghese
How did you get into this hobby of photographing birds? And how did it become an engrossing and time-consuming passion for you?
One of the most vivid experiences of my childhood was the sight of horizon filled with amazing mix of colours and the setting sun in my backyard. I have always felt an urge to watch these moments which slowly turned to birdwatching as the birds suddenly took flight in flocks, roosting on the nearby trees and electric wires, swimming and foraging in wetlands adjacent to paddyfields.
I remember, when I was a small boy, I used to watch Red-wattled lapwing bird attentively as it had a peculiar call and once I even came across its nest containing eggs, near our paddy fields. Being a careful and wary bird-watcher even then, I continued my observation, without disturbing them, till the chicks were fledged and was extremely happy to see them spread their wings for the first time!
But, gradually as the vital issues of livelihood began to gain a stronger foothold in life, the rudimentary interest in bird-watching took a back-seat, and eventually faded out. However, it turned out that circumstances once more bécame favourable for reviving my childhood interest in bird-watching when I started to go on evening walks couple of years back. While I ambled through the silent woods beside the lake in our locality, the sleeping birdwatcher in me was aroused. Along with observing the birds intently, I started to photograph them as well.
During weekends & holidays, I started to spend my mornings and evenings watching and photographing birds. Slowly, it began to demand such a fair share of my free time that Bird-watching almost claiming all my weekends and holidays! Whatever time was left, spent on identifying and gathering information on the birds from the various websites & books. It turned out to be quite an exciting engagement altogether, looking for new birds in the locality, searching for new birding spots, participating in discussions with well-known birdwatchers in FB groups & other related forums, and so on! Eventually in this way, I developed my passion – ‘Bird-watching’ – it surely couldn’t be a simple childhood hobby, at least not anymore!
What camera equipment do you use? Do you prefer any particular brand?
Presently, it is CANON EOS 600D with 55-250mm IS lens. However, I have a dream of acquiring a telezoom lens from the house of Canon; i.e., a CANON 500mm f/4L EF IS II USM Lens, with teleconverters. It is very expensive and so it may always remains as a dream.
In a hot region like Dubai or the UAE, is it easy to practice birdwatching? Tell us where and how you took the photos displayed in this gallery.
Dubai is friendly and safe for travelling and birdwatching.
Majority of my photos are shot around the nearby lake in my locality, wetlands and open fields and also the famous Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, that is home to a thriving population of wild birds and animals.
Are there any species or group of birds in particular, that attract you? And is there any species you like photographing specifically?
Yes, Waders. I love to photograph Waders, they are eloquent and challenging and it was my first subject of photography, particularly the Red-wattled & White-tailed Lapwings. Nowadays, I am really striving to add on to my bird files on Waders, rather than capturing any other avian family members.
Do you collaborate with any conservation association or a club of birdwatching or did you develop bird-watching as a hobby individually?
Individually. Though, I have some fellow birdwatchers with whom I share information regarding locations, spotting of new birds, and so on.
In a region as megalithic as the Emirate of Dubai; where there are some of the largest buildings of the world … What space is left for the birds?
While new age skyscrapers greets you, being one of the main migratory routes of birds from Asia, Africa and Europe, decorating this place to watch a splendid display of winged beauties. Places like Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, number of large parks with lots of trees and greenery, pools adjacent to waste treatment plants, open fields irrigated to provide fodder for cows & camels and such other areas transformed into eco-friendly spots with the help of continuous irrigation, wetlands adjacent to sea and the likes, have been developed with care by the Government, so as to create excellent natural conditions by attracting the flocks of birds in abundance especially during Winter season.
Is it true that there is a great interest of governments in the conservation of nature and wildlife in UAE, as for example in Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary?
Yes, incredible interest and deep respect towards natural environment and wildlife protection is shown by the UAE Government. One of the prime examples of Dubai Government’s interest in Conservation is the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, situated right at the heart of the city. This is a wetland of global importance, and incidentally, the first site in UAE that is bestowed with RAMSAR status.
What is your advice to those who want to know the birds of the Emirates?
More than 500 species of birds have been recorded in the UAE so far, out of which around 100 birds are breeding regularly.
As regards, gathering information on birds, I’d suggest Birds of the Middle East and North Africa by Hollom, Porter, Christensen and Willis, Birds of Middle East (Helm Field Guides) – 2nd Edition, and the new Birds of the United Arab Emirates (Helm Field Guides) by Late Simon Aspinall & Richard Porter and also, a website called http://www.uaebirding.com, where you will find updated information on recent sightings, checklists, information on birdwatching sites, a webforum etc. for all the birders in UAE.
Have you posted ur bird photographs on any other sites?
I have posted some of the photographs of birds taken in UAE in my Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/sajinmvarghese/photos_albums) and recently started to post some pictures on the website http://www.birdforum.net/. I have some plans to create a blog or website to publish my bird photographs in order to share my knowledge about the birds in our region.
Interview by: J. M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)
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