Whistling Duck, Assam, India

Whilst travelling through India is a great cultural experience and photography there often emphasises human and historical elements,  there are also opportunities for nature and wildlife photography as well.   During my visit to India earlier this year,  I took time to visit the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the far east of the country.   It was during this phase of my visit that I photographed this whistling duck in Assam.

Visiting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

A visit to this part of India requires some planning,  for one thing,  the northeastern area of India (consisting of 7 states) is sandwiched between Bangladesh to the southwest,  Bhutan to the north and Burma to the east making it politically sensitive.   In addition to an Indian visa,  a special areas permit is required for entry into the region with the result that I encountered very few other tourists and from memory no non-Indian tourists during my time there.     There is a strong military presence in the towns and on major roads,  numerous checkpoints were encountered.

Weather conditions

The area is subject to monsoonal weather,  which we experienced.    The wet season had started earlier than normal with torrential rain throughout the region causing serious flooding (over a hundred small towns and villages had to be evacuated during my time there) and numerous road washouts which meant some areas that I hoped to visit became impossible.


The region is notable for its birdlife but this tends to be fairly seasonal as well with numerous species being migratory.    For anyone,  with an interest in bird watching/photography,  considering travelling to the region,   December to February is the recommended time.      My visit was in April which,  combined with the weather,  meant conditions weren’t optimal.      For any readers considering travelling to this location requiring further advice please email me for more specific recommendations.

Lesser Whistling Duck, Assam Provence, India. Canon 5D Mark 2 at 700mm (500mm plus 1.4x tele extender) at F 8.0,  shutter speed 1/1250 second at ISO 400.

Using telephoto lenses from a boat

This shot was one of several that I took (or at least attempted) of waterbirds on a small lake near the town of Guwahati.   It took a bit of doing,  I was in a small canoe which was constantly moving and rocking,  no matter how careful the boatman was,  700mm worth of telephoto lens handheld and birdlife which was fairly skittish.    It was a case of acquiring and trying to hold focus and get the shot before the bird took flight.  F8.0 was enough to get me the depth of field necessary and the high shutter speed gave me the best chance of a sharp image given the unavoidable camera and lens movement.

More Photos

For more, check out the Assam Wildlife image gallery!