Rare seabird flies into camera view

22-year-old Deepansh has been photographing wildlife for over eight years now.

May 27, 2016 05:20 am | Updated 08:38 am IST - CHENNAI

On a birding and underwater photographic expedition to Andaman, 22-year-old wildlife photographer Deepansh Mishra spotted a white bird at the South Andaman Island on March 4, but could not photograph it.

The next day, he spotted a similar bird near the Port Blair jetty and managed to click it. He did not realise then that he had spotted and photographed the white-tailed tropicbird ( Phaethon lepturus ), rare in India.

“The bird had very long central tail feathers with black bands on the wings and a yellowish beak,” he recalls. He had to confirm the sighting and so wrote to Tim and Carol Inskipp (authors of the Helm Field Guide – Birds of the Indian Subcontinent ).

Not since the 19th century

“Both agreed that it was the white-tailed tropicbird and that there is only one other record from Andamans, that too in the 19th century,” Mr. Mishra says.

They also referred to a paper on Indian Rarities 1 (in the journal Indian Birds: Journal of South Asian Ornithology ) that said the bird, a pelagic, has been recorded eight times in the past 150 years in the Indian sub-continent. Pelagic birds frequent a zone of the sea or lake that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore.

The earliest record of the bird is from the Andaman Islands dating back to 1870s at Ross Islands when it was shot by a colonel. After that, it has been spotted in Assam, Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Kovalam and Kannur in Kerala and south Maharashtra.

Phaethon lepturus is the smallest of the three tropicbirds recorded in Indian subcontinental waters. The species is a known resident on the Maldives archipelago and has been recorded as a vagrant visitor to the coasts of India and Sri Lanka in the past.

In her message to Mr. Mishra, Ms. Inskipp asked him to document the sighting and send it to Indian Birds for consideration for publication as it was certainly a significant record for India.

Mr. Mishra, whose father is a photojournalist, is passionate about wildlife photography. He has been photographing wildlife for eight years now.

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