Dr. Jayan Thomas is well-known among nature lovers in Kerala for his passion for birds. He holds a place in The Limca Book of World Records for photographing the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, a rare bird from Alaska, in his hometown of Kannur. He is the only South Asian who has been able to photograph this uncommon bird.
It is probably his love towards these birds and the acumen of a doctor that makes him spot very rare and distinct avians. After the Sandpiper, Dr. Thomas now has a clear and detailed image of the usually shy and introverted Black-Capped Kingfisher, which he had photographed while bird-watching at Muzhappilangad drive-in beach.
The Black-Capped Kingfisher is a bright-coloured bird with purple-blue wings, a black head, white neck collar, and a deep red bill and legs. Each bird occupies a territory and remains confined to it throughout the season, unless unfavourable conditions or disturbances force it to seek refuge in another territory. A peaceful bird, it does not attack other birds that come into the territory.
Dr. Thomas considers photographing the Kingfisher as a win-win opportunity because most of the images of this bird are in foliage and in the mangroves as these are its natural habitat and it doesn’t come out frequently.
Explaining his experience of spotting the Kingfisher, Dr. Thomas says, “I was bird-watching in one of my favourite spots during early November at the Muzhappilangad drive-in beach. Since it was a working day, I reached the beach at the crack of dawn. The sun was just rising and I was expecting some shore birds from far-flung lands. There weren’t many as expected except a few Sandpipers. Suddenly, this Kingfisher caught my attention. It was about 12 meters away from me, perched atop a rock. It was mere luck that I could see it because it is an elusively secretive bird. My camera and binoculars were hung on my neck as usual with my finger on the camera’s click button. The idea was to get as close as possible for the best possible snap. I approached the bird cautiously so as to get a shot from a distance of 4 meters. Normally, a bird of this variety does not allow anyone closer to 10 meters.”
He says maybe the bird was in a trance, which worked in his favour and helped him get some phenomenal photographs. The Black-Capped Purple Kingfisher, according to him, is a rare bird seen on the Indian coast line and is the only Kingfisher with a black cap. It mainly feeds on crabs and fish. Unlike most Kingfishers, this bird is usually silent.
“In certain parts of India it’s a winter visitor but here in Kannur it appears to be a resident seen round the year,” says Dr. Thomas.
Overwhelmed by his experience where he was able to photograph the Black-Capped Kingfisher, Dr. Thomas urges bird lovers to look out for this exotic bird next time when one drives along the Muzhappilangad drive-in beach.