Forest Therapy (Sugata Goswami, Assam)

The Red-headed Trogon is one of the most beautiful birds in the forests of India. It was early morning of Holi, the spring festival, and I had gone for a walk to Garbhanga forest in Guwahati. This bugger came out of nowhere sat on this branch for about 3 seconds and took off. A Holi gift from the Forest Gods.
The Red-headed Trogon is one of the most beautiful birds in the forests of India. It was early morning of Holi, the spring festival, and I had gone for a walk to Garbhanga forest in Guwahati. This bugger came out of nowhere sat on this branch for about 3 seconds and took off. A Holi gift from the Forest Gods.

Sugata (Ronji) did his Bachelor of Engineering from AEC, Guwahati and joined Indian Oil Corporation after graduation. The urge to do something new took over after two years and he went to the USA to get a  Masters Degree in Agricultural Engineering. While he was pursuing his degree,  he picked up a few hobbies: home brewing of beer and cooking being a couple of them. Even post completing his degree, the urge to experiment did not rest. As soon as he was back home in Assam, he spent a season, trying to grow vegetables in uninhabited sand banks which emerged in the flood plans of the Brahmaputra during winters. He managed to get a good harvest but as a business it was not sustainable and somewhat of a disaster. Soon, he started studying canine behavior and trained dogs for a few years. He absolutely had no inclination for a regular 9 to 5 job and when he started to run out of money to sustain his idiosyncrasies, Sugata started his restaurant business. He currently manages two of the most popular restaurants in Guwahati. In addition, in the last two years, he picked up photography as a passion and has done some amazing work, especially with birds. We were lucky to have a small conversation with him, mostly with respect to his photography, and it was very inspiring. 

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The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo is named because of the two extended racket shaped feathers. In flight they give the impression of two bumble bees giving it chase. Clicked in Guwahati.

How did you get into photography: I had developed a debilitating back ache somewhere along life’s journey and that was preventing me from ticking off a very important item of my wishlist: trekking in the Himalayas. A friend convinced me that if I planned well, I could could still do it. Soon after a few months of preparation I set off for the mountains armed with strips and cans of painkiller drugs. This trek was to Panchachooli Glacier in Uttarakhand and I got hooked on to nature. Shortly before the trek, I had bought myself a Canon Point and Shoot camera and had developed an interest in shooting exotic landscapes. This was my first quality camera and it saw me through several treks till I I bought myself a Nikon DSLR in September 2012. Soon after i picked up a 55-300 zoom to give my 18-55 company.

We had seen the pugmarks in the morning when we had gone out birding on the Panbang road which leads to Bhutan. We were returning and were about 5 kms away from our camp. Even in my wildest dream could I imagine this beauty casually crossing the road ahead of our vehicle. We braked and jumped out of the car stealthily advancing and there it was looking down at us from the rocks. I raised the camera and let off a volley of shots not bothering about settings. This was the only eye to eye frame I got before it turned around and nonchalantly walked off not blessing us with a second glance. An uncropped image of a Black Panther at 12.30 pm in Manas National Park.
Even in my wildest dream could I imagine this beauty casually crossing the road ahead of our vehicle. We braked and jumped out of the car stealthily advancing and there it was looking down at us from the rocks.This was the only eye to eye frame I got before it turned around and nonchalantly walked off not blessing us with a second glance. An uncropped image of a Black Panther at 12.30 pm in Manas National Park.

Your work with birds is amazing. How did you get into birding and how did the passion evolve: Guwahati is surrounded by forests, and after buying the telephoto lens, it was only natural that I get drawn into bird photography. Initially, I could not even identify common birds like Bulbuls, Jungle Myna and Orioles. So I started having a ball of a time collecting lifers by the fistful (the beginning days are the best for birding). Visits to Maguri Beel and Dibru Saikuwa National parks were an eye opener and I realized the vastness of the hobby. I was very impressed when our guide said that he had seen close to 300 species. That gentleman was Binanda Hatibaruah, today considered to be one of the top bird guides of India. I still remember his excitement when we spotted the Falcated Duck.

Finally after going to the Mecca of Birding, Eaglenest, a couple of times and several other places, I realized that I get maximum pleasure from going out birding in Guwahati. So over time, birding became a sort of a regular 2 hour twice or thrice a week morning activity for me. The solo walks in the Forests surrounded by greenery and looking for birds had become a rejuvenating factor in my life. And the forests of Guwahati surprised me with some gems every once in a while. Besides, beautiful flowers, insects, butterflies, occasional mammals, sunrises and sunsets complemented my forest therapy.

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The Thick-billed Green Pigeon is the most beautiful of the Green Pigeons in my opinion. Here in the month of April, it is seen collecting nesting material. I was happy enough with a distant shot as I didn’t want to disturb it.
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The fastest member of the animal kingdom, the Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of up to 320 kmph.

Any tips for aspiring birders: Actually, today when I was asked to present myself as a birder I don’t know whether I can be considered one. I do not even have a count of the number of species I have seen. I like wandering around in lonely places and while at it keep my eyes open for birds. If it is to be, the bird attracts my attention and once in a while I get a photograph. And Guwahati having significant avian diversity in its surroundings it is possible to get species which are rare and sought after by birders. Coming to that, getting a rare species really is a upper. Some of my most priced photographs are noise laden images of rarities, the image of the Pale-headed woodpecker being one of those, and getting it from a nontraditional birding area (near Nongpoh) is the icing on the cake.

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One of my favorite images, is this one of the Pale-headed woodpecker. When this was clicked, a google search would yield very few images of this difficult to photograph species. We were driving in a forest path near Nongpoh in Meghalaya and it was beginning to rain. All of a sudden this bird flies across the road, climb up this tree for a couple of meters and it was gone. The only frame.

What equipment do you currently use: I use a Canon 7Dii with a 400f5.6 for my bird photography.

Besides birding, what do you do in your free time: These days I am not doing much birding, mornings being devoted mostly to cycling. I would love to do some long distance travel on a bicycle and am preparing myself for that. Somewhere back in time I quit playing the Sitar and the Guitar, and I hope to pick them up again someday soon.

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A Desert Fox in Rajasthan

Few quotes you stand by: “Birding is something we do for enjoyment…. So if you enjoy it, you’re a good birder. If you enjoy it a lot, you’re a great birder.” Kenn Kaufman.

“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso

“Working is a waste of time.” Nasif.

he Dollarbird is a beautiful and rare bird from the Roller family. Without proper light falling on it, it is a rather dull looking bird. Here the morning light has brought out the colors of the bird in all its glory. Photographed in Guwahati.
The Dollarbird is a beautiful and rare bird from the Roller family. Without proper light falling on it, it is a rather dull looking bird. Here the morning light has brought out the colors of the bird in all its glory. Photographed in Guwahati.

Some of Sugata’s beautiful shots follows. Just hit next on the slider. 🙂

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One thought on “Forest Therapy (Sugata Goswami, Assam)

  • December 12, 2016 at 1:18 am
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    Lovely just what I was looking for. Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

    Reply

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