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  • Kane Lew

Amazing Amur

Updated: 6 days ago

The Amur Falcon is said to get it's name from the river Amur that is found in the area where the bird breeds. The Amur river flows through China and Russia and is the tenth longest river in the world. It's Chinese name, Heilong Jiang, means “Black Dragon River,” and it's Mongol name, Kharamuren, means “Black River.”


Composite image of an Amur falcon-juvenile, making a short flight to pounce on it's prey. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/3200s - f/8 - ISO 2500 - WB 5300K


The falcon is a passage migrant and a fascinating migratory raptor that migrates in large flocks passing through India and the Arabian sea during winter. It travels approximately 22,000 km from it's breeding grounds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China to South Africa taking several stopovers along the way. The falcons return to the breeding grounds in months of April and May. It is also said to make the longest sea crossing of any raptors during this arduous journey. Amur falcon's geographic range and IUCN Red list status.

The purple markings highlights the geographic range of the falcon. IUCN Red List status is LC 'Least Concern'; there was an incident of mass trapping of these migrant birds for food in a remote part of Nagaland, India in 2012. The Indian government started a program and educated the people about the birds. There has been no such incident since then.

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) - Adult male. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/800s - f/7.1 - ISO 250 - WB 5300K

The adult male is dark sooty grey, with rufous thighs and undertail-coverts and white underwing-coverts. Adult female has dull grey upper parts, short moustachial stripe, whitish underparts with well marked dark chevrons; orange buff thighs and undertail-coverts; uppertail barred; underwing white with strong dark barring and dark trailing edge.

Amu falcon, Female. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1250s - f/7.1 - ISO 320 - WB 5300K

Juvenile is similar to female but has rufous-buff fringes on upperparts, rufous-buff streaking on crown and boldly streaked underparts.


Amur falcon, Juvenile. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/640s - f/7.1 - ISO 250 - WB 5300K

Amur falcon-male, going after a grasshopper. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1250s - f/8 - ISO 1250 - WB 5300K

Amidst the Covid 19 pandemic that took the world by storm in 2020, there was some good news for bird watchers, nature lovers and more so for bird photographers in November 2020. A small group of Amur falcons made a stopover at Lonavla; a small but popular town in between Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra's Pune district, India. Stopover sites are important as the birds feed and regain their strength and stamina before they continue their onward journey to South Africa. People from all over Maharashtra and neighbouring states thronged to this place to see and photograph these brave hearts of the avian world.

The area has a huge lake that fills the open land during monsoon, as winter sets in the water dries up from the surrounding areas of the lake giving rise to beautiful purple blooms of Pogostemon deccanensis - Jambhli Manjiri in Marathi. (An Indo-Aryan language spoken predominantly by around 83 million Marathi people of Maharashtra, India.)


Amur falcon-juvenile, sitting in it's vista of Pogostemon deccanensis. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/640s - f/6.3 - ISO 400 - WB 5300K

Amur falcon-juvenile, taking off in a jiffy. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/2000s - f/8 - ISO 2000 - WB 5300K

They feed on small birds, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, grubs and other critters Their habitat comprises of savanna, forest, grassland and wetlands (Inland), they generally roost with common and lesser kestrels. Amur falcon-Sub-adult female, feeding on a grasshopper. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1600s - f/5.6 - ISO 320 - WB 5300K

Amur falcon-juvenile, feeding on a earwig. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/2000s - f/6.3 - ISO 3200 - WB 5300K

Amur falcon-male, trying to catch a grasshopper. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1000s - f/8 - ISO 1250 - WB 5300K

On my second trip in Jan 2021 I spotted one Amur falcon male and two juveniles. Their numbers had dropped since my first visit on the 28th of December 2020. They were less bolder than what I had observed them to be during my first visit to the place. Approaching them took more effort and they seemed more wary of our presence. Maybe the huge influx of people that must have thronged to that place during the new year's long weekend un-nerved the birds a little. During my two visits I saw lots of novice as well as seasoned people in the field of bird photography chasing down subjects either on foot or in their cars to get close enough or to get that 'wow' shot. In my opinion photography shouldn't be done at this cost; it shouldn't be about how many likes your image garners on various social media platforms, but it should be about celebrating the joy of seeing and photographing these wonders of nature and thank them for the opportunity given to photograph them. Educating and guiding people to approach wildlife in a correct manner should always be of utmost importance. Apart from the above scenario, it was a thrilling and delightful experience to see and photograph these magnificent beauties. Hope they keep returning and make this place a permanent stopover site on their yearly journey to South Africa. Other bird species spotted/photographed during my visits were: Lesser and Common Kestrels, Indian Roller, Bar-headed Geese, Painted storks, Terns, Cormorants, Richard's Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, Red-naped Ibis. I didn't get a glimpse of the Eurasian Sparrow Hawk.


Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)-male, in it's habitat. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/800s - f/6.3 - ISO 400 - WB 5300K

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)-male, hovering to catch a prey. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1600s - f/6.3 - ISO 400 - WB 5300K

Red-naped Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa), out for a walk. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1600s - f/8 - ISO 400 - WB 5300K

Red-naped Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa), foraging for food. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/2000s - f/8 - ISO 800 - WB 5300K


Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi), a rare find. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1600s - f/8 - ISO 800 - WB 5300K

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) with a broken beak, head on. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/1600s - f/8 - ISO 800 - WB 5300K

Very fortunate to get this shot when the roller decided to take off straight in my direction. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) with a broken beak. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/2000s - f/8 - ISO 800 - WB 5300K

Though we spotted 3 Indian Rollers, but this one let us approach it and went about doing it's business unperturbed by our presence. It was amazing to see this Indian Roller survive and stay healthy even with a broken beak, it has adapted and learned the knack of catching it's prey to feed itself. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) with a broken beak about to catch a short-horned grasshopper nymph. Image EXIF: D850 - Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR - @600mm - 1/2000s - f/8 - ISO 800 - WB 5300K

Nature never seizes to surprise me! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Important: As of 10-01-2021, entry to this site has been closed for public to safeguard the migratory birds. This area comes under Tata Power.

The notice on the white board below mentions the following: Photography poses a threat to the Amur Falcon's habitat. However, approaching the bird and taking photographs is prohibited. Otherwise strict action will be taken.

- Pune Forest dept. Pune

Image source: Facebook #nikon #nikkor #D850 #600mm #birds #birdphotography

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