In Search of the Fastest. by Clement Francis
Birds have been a very close to my heart subject for the past 2 decades and among them the raptors or predators hold a very special place. Among these numerous raptors which come in form of Eagles, hawks, kites etc the Peregrine Falcon stands out as the fastest hunter on the face of our planet earth. They have been recorded by scientists/researchers to clock speeds of over 380kms per hour during their dives when chasing their prey (which most times are birds).
It was always my dream to take good photographs of this great bird so that I can share its magnificence with my fellow birders, wildlife photographers and to the general audience who love natural history.
Even though I have seen these great predators a couple of times in the Himalayan region, a few times in Greater Rann of Kutch and multiple times in Karnataka and other places, this bird always eluded me for some good photography. Even though a few record shots of this bird were obtained during the photo shoots, the craze to get the perfect portrait of my most admired falcon was only but a dream.
The challenge that this void created, made me to contact loads of people in the form of naturalist, biologists, fellow wildlife photographers and researchers to get some leads on getting close to my peregrine. When all this consumed almost the last 36 months of my birding life, their came Yogendra Shah ( we will call him YS) from Surendernagar, Gujarat. YS is an expert on the small carnivores (mammals) which make their home in the state of Gujarat, he is a great wildlife lover, a conservationist by heart and a person with immense love for the raptors.
I was very impressed by his pictures of the peregrine which he had uploaded on the internet (at www.indianaturewatch.net) and it seemed with his help that my dream picture of the peregrine looked a reality. We both spoke for hours together on our hobby, passion and our love for raptors and he started to share with me his experience of roaming the mighty Little Rann of Kutch (we will call it LRK) for the last decade and finding raptors in good numbers and also spotting each year a good number of Peregrines and photographing them.
He was very kind when I requested him for his help to find a peregrine for me this winter. Due the abundant presence of various water birds, numerous pigeons and doves which make up for the prey of the peregrines, the great raptor makes its winter home out there at the Rann. YS told me that the cool morning and evening of the winter months were very good to photograph the raptors in that region as they are not as active as they are during the warmed up part of the day.
Hence I planned a trip to LRK and told my bird pals that I am going to code name this trip as “In search of the fastest”.