Nepal has one in every ten species of birds found in the world. But as hunting and pesticide use spread along migratory routes, and habitat destruction, especially of wetlands continues, many of these birds are endangered. Still, Nepal is one of the world's most popular bird-watching countries, with Pulchoki, Chitwan, Kosi Tappu, and Sukla Phanta topping the list. Thousands of bird watchers from around the globe spend days walking the trails and trying to locate elusive birds. Until recently bird watching was limited to foreigners, however urban Nepalis are slowly warming up to the hobby as was evident by the surge of photographs that Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) received during its first bird photography competition last month.
Thirty-one photographers submitted 108 photographs as part of the fourth International Vulture Awareness Day, and a panel of four judges chose the top 48 photos which were put on display at Nepal Academy of Fine Arts in Naxal at the beginning of September.
"Twenty years ago we would find birds foraging in our gardens or making nests under our roofs. But birds are getting increasingly rare in urban areas today", explains Hum Gurung of BCN, "we organised the event because we want to encourage students, locals, and bird lovers to go out, walk through the countryside, and learn about various species found in our country".
I captured this Snowcock at an altitude of 5180m in Gorakshep inside Sagarmatha National Park. I was descending from Kala Pathar when I saw the bird, and spend the next two hours nearby taking almost 80 shots before I was satisfied. The job of a wildlife photographer is unpredictable. I have spent weeks in Chitwan, Bardia, and Sukla Phanta and still have not been able to photograph a single tiger. I have also taken a few falls while trying to photograph animals at awkward angles, but I love it.
I had taken many photos of the Pied Kingfisher before, but I wanted to capture the male and female together in one shot because it's very rare to see them together. It took me three hours to get the winning shot. I have been working as a trekking and bird watching guide for the past five years. Earlier, I didn't have my own camera so although I did all the hard work spotting birds and animals, my guests got to capture the images. But now I have my own device and get to click whenever I want.
I took this photo of an Oriental Pied Hornbill while I was travelling with friends in the forest in Dharan. I was extremely fortunate because I didn't have to wait for hours. I started off working as a photographer in a Kathmandu daily and took up wildlife photography four years ago to support myself when I moved back to my hometown in Hansposa, Sunsari. Although the cost of equipment is quite high and there is not much money initially, we get to archive different animal species in the country and make people aware. The money comes with experience and years.
Taking nature back to people, BHRIKUTI RAI in KAILALI
Six years after Nepal's top conservationists were killed in a helicopter crash, communities work to conserve their legacy
Change in the air, STUTI SHARMA
Climate change is forcing birds to alter their migration routes across the Himalaya
Not just for the birds
Nepal's endangered wetlands are a vital stopover for trans-continental bird migrations
Learning all about the birds and the trees, PRIYA JOSHI in CHITWAN