A montage of Ganesh's photographs

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: a battle in the trees

18 November 2016

It took days of patience followed by mere seconds of magic for photographer Ganesh H Shankar to perfectly capture this clash between bird and lizard.  

Ganesh, from Bangalore in India, has been taking pictures of his country's wildlife for 23 years.

Decades of practice have given him an eye for composition, resulting in his shot of a rose-ringed parakeet attacking a Bengal monitor lizard.

The image, Eviction attempt, earned Ganesh a place in this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

It was taken in Keoladeo National Park, a man-made wetland home to hundreds of bird species. Ganesh has been visiting the park every year in search of migratory birds, but the winter of 2015 was the first time he saw a parakeet interact with a lizard.

He says, 'When I saw how this parakeet was behaving - aggressively pecking the lizard - I was taken aback. I normally roam around the park, but I stopped walking. I decided to focus on these animals until I got the perfect picture.'

Stealing and scavenging

Monitor lizards invade parakeet nests looking for food. They scavenge for anything, from eggs and small invertebrates to frogs, birds and small mammals.

Ganesh's winning image

This image made Ganesh the winner of the Birds category in 2016's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

 

These lizards are good climbers and can live in a variety of habitats, including deserts and scrublands. Their young often seek safety in trees.

Rose-ringed parakeets come into contact with the lizards because they usually nest in small tree holes - ideal spots for a lazy young lizard.

Ganesh said he couldn't confirm why this lizard had taken up residence in the bird's home, but it was likely in search of food.

He said, 'Once the lizard got into the nest, it occasionally came out to bask in the sunshine.

'When this lizard ventured out, the birds attacked it. There is only one parakeet in the picture, but several birds were around. 

An image of Ganesh taking photos in the field

Ganesh travels all over India, tracking wildlife across its national parks 

 

'They would go for its tail, trying to make it leave the hole. The attack only lasted a few seconds before the lizard ran back inside. There wasn't much time to get the picture right and get everything into the shot the way I wanted it.

'I must have taken between 200 and 300 pictures over three days, but only a few turned out well.'

A document of the world

Ganesh grew up in a small Indian village in a region of rainforest. He is a full-time engineer, but as a self-taught photographer he makes multiple trips a year to India's national parks to hone his photography craft.

He says, 'This is my passion. I was inspired by the natural world around me when I was young.

'I take pictures of anything and everything in nature, from elephants to falling leaves. I am interested in what we don't know and it is important to me to take pictures in an artistic way.

'That's why I was attracted to this scene: it taught me things about birds I didn't know previously. Exploring new areas and gaining knowledge is important to me.'

Explore more

See 100 images that reveal the astonishing diversity of life on our planet at Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

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See the exhibition

See 100 exceptional photographs at Wildlife Photographer of the Year.