Is it because we don’t take the time out as adults to observe birds that we find them so fascinating when we do? Or it is something to do with the primitive urge to fly? Who knows?
We have all heard grandmothers’ stories about our feathered friends as children, cocked our heads to watch the bird in the tree and tried talking to caged parrots/canaries et al.
Many Indian stories feature crows -maybe because they seem to be just about everywhere. The ‘Wise Crow’ in the Panchatantra (book of animal fables – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchatantra) and ‘Kalia the crow’ from Tinkle comic books have to be the most famous ones in the country.
My favorite is the Indian peacock, vainest member of the pheasant family I would imagine. I mean how can a bird be so beautiful and not know it? As a child, I would stand outside its enclosure for the longest time during visits to the zoo. Just to watch it spread its wings in a glorious display of iridescent colors.
Perched right next it in order of preference is the kingfisher (Yeah – I love blue). This blog’s readers would know – an image of the kingfisher in our backyard stayed on my picture slider for the longest time.
So it was only natural that I signed up for a bird watching session in Anegundi. (Read my previous post on Anegundi here.
Our birding guide, K Chandrashekar, was a genial young man associated with the Uramma Cottages/Kishkinda Trust.
With him leading and family in tow I eagerly set out, expecting to work my way explorer style through a thickly wooded area. But the geography is such that even the Billikallu Reserve Forest in this area doesn’t have uninterrupted forest cover.
I have talked about the almost unreal landscape in these parts in my post on Hampi – it’s as if a giant asteroid smashed into a mountain and flung boulders everywhere. It’s actually the handiwork of volcanoes and erosion. Read more here.
Just to give you an idea, here is a model at the Archaeological Survey of India’s (Agency to preserve historically important sites) Hampi Museum that shows part of the terrain.
Given that we were inexperienced bird watchers, Chandrashekar planned the route such that it wouldn’t be too difficult to spot birds. With a meandering road ahead and fields on either side, we saw many avians– feeding off insects in the green and brown foliage, sitting on bare brown rock and diving into a pond for their morning meal.
Ah -the pond! I haven’t told you about it yet. Well, we walked on for some time before coming to a stop in front of enormous boulders looming above us. Thinking we had lost our way, we looked at Chandrashekar. But before we could say ‘East Indian Wandering Whistling Duck’ (that is actually the name of a bird subspecies 😉 ) he deftly climbed up. Of course, he helped us scramble up too.
With the camera dangling precariously around my neck, I was just going to question his choice of route when Chandrashekar signaled us to be silent. Wondering what the fuss was about, I gingerly crept up.
My heart skipped a beat – a pond with the prettiest pink lilies lay spread out.
But just between the pond and the monolith in front of us was a snake standing upright! Or that’s what I initially thought. Thank God – it was actually a Purple Heron, craning its neck to see what was causing a disturbance in the peaceful surroundings.
It flew away, only to perch on a tree on the side other of the pond. We sat down, wishing we were invisible and hoping it would come back. Sure enough, a little while later it got comfortable enough to carry on with its hunting.
We spent some more time at the pond, watching other birds in their daily routine. Each sound – the twitter of robins , gurgling of pigeons, harsh calls of babblers and the splash of the kingfisher as it hit the water – seemed to be amplified in the quiet.
Our reverie was broken by loud moos. But more about this in the next post.
In the meanwhile, here are contact details for our bird watching guide, K Chandrashekar who is also an adventure enthusiast and has done a mountain climbing course from Himachal Pradesh. So, he can take you hiking too. Phone no – + 91 94814 66939 Email id – firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about bird watching at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary by clicking here
(to be continued)….