Assam is rich in wildlife diversity. The state is recorded with more than 940 bird-species including a few endemic species. With the large number of wetlands around the state it becomes a paradise for bird-watchers during the Winters. Deepor Bil(Guwahatui, Maguri Bil (Tinsukia) and Borsola Bil (Jorhat) are three major wetlands where I personally love to see winter migratory species.
The identity of Assam is closely associated with Greater One Horned Rhinos. Assam is easily the best place to see this species. The continuous conservation approach of various National/International and Local organizations have resulted in ever increasing population of this species in various protected areas of Assam.
Lady Curzon's first visit in 1904 has helped Kaziranga Narional Park to get its first protected status of a Reserved forest in 1905. Subsequently it has passed various stages to achieve the World Heritage Site status. Kaziranga National Park has the highest population of Greater Indian One Horned Rhinos.
The way he stares into your eyes, keeping his huge body steady like a rock, he can make your heart freeze if you are not familiar with this species. The gaur, (Bos gaurus), also called the Indian bison, is the largest living bovine. Though Assam is believed to have a wide range distribution of this species in many protected areas, I have witnessed this beautiful species only once in Manas National Park since 2014.
Now they have probably reached their 5th/6th generation once they escaped from Army camps of World War II. They are feral Horses of Dibrusaikhowa National Park of Assam. A treat to your eyes to see them roaming around the lush green ( and very humid) sand bars of river Bramhaputra. During Summers and particularly during the monsoons only, you can reach to that particular area where these horses live. One has to do a boat safari of 6 to 8 hours depending upon its present location. If someone says you that you can see them during the winters also, do not believe them, because during winters the connecting rivers become drier and it becomes almost impossible to do a boat ride to reach the "original" feral horses of Dibrusaikhowa.
The Kaziranga National Park consists of 57% Grassland, 29% Woodland, 14% Wetland and Sand. And that 29% of woodland will give you sights of beautiful species like Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor). During my morning Jeep Safaris in the Eastern Range (Bagori) I often encountered this beautiful species giving me eye to eye contact. Just like asking me " What are you doing in my territory". I love this species as a wildlife lover because it gives you time. Its a pride of the woodlands.
Ssp. Tenebricus, popularly named as Black capped Langur by most visitors who find this darker version of Capped Lanurs amidst the beautiful landscapes of Manas National Park. This is a sub-species which is little darker than the main species Trachypithecus pileatus. Capped Langur is a widely seen species in all over Assam, though this particular sub-species is believed to be recorded only in Manas National Park.
Asiatic Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is one of the most ignored species by wildlife photographers. I love this widely distributed mammal because of its presence in all most all major wildlife destinations. Kaziranga National Park has the largest population of this species.
If You have never faced a mock charge of a wild elephant, honestly speaking you have not traveled the right places to enjoy wildlife. But sometimes you never know whether its a mock charge or a real one if its a gigantic creature. But in both the cases you need a heart made of steel to face them, shoot them when they are just a few meters away from you. Out of all such incidents I encountered till now, this one in Kaziranga was best for me, cause towards the end part we realized that its was not a mock charge.
Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is as common as a house crow in many parts of India. But that is not the case here in Assam. We have very restricted distribution of this species. One of such places is Manas National Park where you can witness a majestic male dancing before the rain. They are everywhere in Manas to welcome your presence with their grace.
The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is one of the most common duck species that you will encounter in all most all major wetlands of Assam during the Winters. It is recorded that the Mallard ducks were first domesticated in Southeast Asia at least 4000 years ago. If you will closely monitor this average looking Duck, the male are really beautiful with its beautiful colour of the head that changes with the different lighting conditions.
Asiatic Water buffalo is such a species which will often give you ample time to compose your shot, adjust your camera settings, maintain your balance even during low light. An evening just after the sun-set, a herd is crossing in-front of your Safari vehicle, then you must know, some of them are about to give pose for you. In wildlife photography, anticipation is key. I shot this image in a very low light condition with a good result. That is why this one is one of the specials for me.
A pair of Ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) in Assam means, winter has arrived. This bird species can be always seen in pairs. Even here also when I shot this image, there were 2 birds flying in-front of my Raft in Jiya Bhorelli river of Nameri National Park. But for my own comfort of composition I shot only one bird with the first light of the morning into the blue water.
The Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea Linn.) is the state bird of Maharastra and Tripura. This species is widely distributed in Assam and I have seen it in many protected areas like Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Dihing patkai WLS etc. The key to bird photography is not only to capture the distinct features of the species, but also to composite your frame. Its not necessary to have an expensive gear to shoot birds if you have good composition skills. Right moment, and proper camera settings, that you all need to shoot good bird images.
I think everyone must know the name of this species, Common merganser or Goosander (Mergus merganser) but very few must have known that the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758, narrated about this species for the first time and gave this current scientific name. River Jiya Bhorelli and Manas River are very good locations to sight this beautiful bird species. I find the female equally beautiful to the male of this species. Generally for birds, males are always more beautiful than the females.
Greater Adjutant(Leptoptilos dubius)Storks are listed as endangered in world wildlife conservation status. Loss of nesting and feeding habitat through the draining of wetlands, pollution and disturbance, together with hunting and egg collection in the past has caused a massive decline in the population of this species. But thanks to few dedicated individuals the situation has developed significantly in few areas of Assam but yet a lot to be done to save this species and bring them out from Endangered Status.
The critically endangered red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), also know as Asian King Vulture is a rare bird species to see in Assam due to its decreasing population. I was lucky to see this rareity in two occasions, both in Kaziranga National Park. In 2016 I saw it in Central Range and in 2018 I saw it in Eastern Range.
Jerdon's babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) is another species which is enlisted as vulnerable. Its typical habitat is river-side grasslands where cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), common reed (Phragmites) and reedmace (Typha), are found as dominant grass species. The Bramhaputra river banks in Assam are full of such rare and endemic bird species. I saw this bird in Maguri grasslands, Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park and also heard its call in Orang National park and Roing river banks of Arunachal Pradesh.
Parrotbills have always been a great subject of interest for the bird-watchers. Among all Black-breasted parrotbill takes a special place. Black-breasted parrotbill (Paradoxornis flavirostris)is relatively lesser seen species among all the parrotbill species.This vulnerable species is treated as rare by the bird-watchers because in recent times it,s suitable habitats are getting destroyed every day. Grass land dominated with cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica), common reed (Phragmites) and reedmace (Typha)etc are its suitable habitat in the flood plains of river Bramhaputra of Assam and Lohit of Arunachal Pradesh. Restricted grass-land burning in protected areas, river erosion, domesticated animal grazing in river-side grass lands etc are some of the common problems due to which the habitats of this species is going down every year.
Eastern swamp deer, R. d. ranjitsinhi, is a sub-species of Swamp Deer (Rucervus duvaucelii syn. Cervus duvaucelii), a species only found in Assam.Once it is believed to be found only in Kazirannga National Park of Assam, a tiny population has also been reported from Manas National Park. The heard of Eastern Swamp Deer is a treat to the eyes for any wildlife lovers. Specially when they pay attention to your presence they give you the perfect moment to shoot. They are always one of my fav subjects in Kaziranga.
The purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a widely distributed species across Assam. This large size bird, which is often ignored by the photographers and bird watchers can create some magical frames for anyone. The most interesting fact of this species is It becomes most active at dawn and dusk, and spends its time roosting with other birds in the middle of the day and at night.
A stony bedded river side, some continuous sharp and short bird calls coming from the ground level, and you are clue less. Look closely, you must be seeing some movement in some of the stones. They are River Lapwings (Vanellus duvaucelii) a bird species master of camouflage. It becomes impossible to spot them even when they are just a few feet away from you. In the river bank of Jiya Bhorelli and Manas river, this species is very common. I have witnessed them also in the banks of river Bramhaputra many times.
A morning walk with your camera, in a forest no so far from your home, cooler breeze, songs of the birds, occasional calls of Hollock gibbon coming in from far. Can you imagine a regular weekday morning better than this. Garbhanga Reserve forest is one of my such spots where I spent most of my weekday's mornings 2 years back. And I almost regularly encounter this tiny little bird The rufescent prinia (Prinia rufescens). This species doesnt have much information to read about, but I have not seen it anywhere other than Garbhanga Reserve Forest of Guwahati, among all the forest locations that i have visited. May be due to my ignorance.
Ruddy Shel Duck
Black Winged Stilt
Grey Headed Lapwing
Black Crested Bulbul
Assam Roofed Tourtle