Sparrows - those ubiquitous birds that thronged our childhoods - are rapidly disappearing today. After trying for a few weeks, I finally saw the one-legged sparrow who lives in my neighbourhood, and had the privilege of taking a few pictures of him. This blog post was the result.
Went birding in Anantagiri Hills this morning. It is 88 kilometers from my place in Hafeezpet, and Ajith and I drove down. We made an early start, leaving at 5 in the morning. The roads were nearly empty and the drive was comfortable.
Anantagiri Hills is just past Viqarabad, reached from Hyderabad through Moinabad and Chevella. The roads were good, though the ever-changing geography of the way to the airport made it a bit tricky.
As we were driving on the perimeter wall of the Gandipet lake, a sleepy Brahminy kite was startled out of its stupour as it lazily glided in front of us. Further down the road, a peahen flew across the road in front of us. Just outside Viqarabad, we saw a black-winged hawk alight on a treetop in front of us. However, he would not stop for us, and went on his way when we tried to take a picture of him. Just before we reached Anantagiri, a grey hornbill did the same thing to us.
An early morning walk around the Lotus Pond – Ajith and I have been planning this for a while, and managed to make it happen today.
We set out early (by my standards that is!) and reached the Lotus Pond around seven. There were a few cars parked outside, and there seemed to be quite a few people walking around. However, the birds were pretty much minding their own business, and didn’t seemed to mind us stopping and staring at them, and clicking away with our cameras.
The atmosphere in the pond and the surrounding park was serene, and the morning sunshine was golden. On the water we saw a grey heron standing on a rock, Zen-master-like. All around it, coots and moorhens squabbled over who got to walk on which part of the water. A purple moorhen suddenly took umbrage and ran, screaming, across the lotus leaves that covered the water around the edges. All this action happened within the first couple of minutes of us entering the park.
We just came back from a short, but nevertheless long-anticipated-with-relish, holiday to Bangalore and the Jungle Lodges Resort at Kyathadevarayangudi – KGudi for short.
The resort itself is right inside the Biligiri Ranganna Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, about 86 kilometres from Mysore. Its setting is quite picturesque – it has its own waterhole, and the tented cottages and log huts blend in perfectly with the surroundings. Since the resort itself is plonked right in the middle of the jungle, quite a bit of animal and bird life can be spotted right from one’s balcony.
Finally, I get to post pics of chicks on my blog. Just my luck – I get a chance to get some fantastic close ups of the two chicks who have been camping out on my balcony for the past few days, and then I realise that Magesh has borrowed my camera. So I have to make do with my pathetic little camera phone. Doesn’t matter, think I, I shall make the most of this opportunity. I go up to them and start clicking – they flinch a little at first, but are comfortable after that. The picture I liked best is a full frontal, and so, ladies and gentlemen, here is, for the first time on Blogocentricity, a picture of two chicks!
Sunday before last, I went on a half-day trip to Vedanthangal and Karikili. To the uninitiated, they are two bird sanctuaries located about 60 kilometres south of Chennai. There were three of us: Vasumathi Sankaran, geographer and all round nature specialist, veteran of hundreds of sanctuary visits, the one who, along with Theodore Baskaran, initiated me into the mysteries of birding and wildlife watching. Recently, her age and health have prevented her from visiting as many places as she would like to, but it was a great experience going birding with her again. The other person who made up our party was Deepu, who has proved to be an enthusiastic companion for any birding trip, and a reluctant one for any other! Vidya was too zonked from the previous night’s party to do anything, so she gave it a miss.
We made an early start, for a change, leaving home at 5:20 a.m. Deepu had stayed over and that was helpful, and we had picked up Vasumathi and were on our way by 6:00 a.m. The drive was quite enjoyable – good roads and almost no traffic. Crossing the Palar Bridge was quite eerie – there was thick fog and we couldn’t see more than fifteen feet ahead of us. It looked like the bridge across forever, and only when we reached the other side did we breathe easy! We finally reached Vedanthangal at about 7:00 a.m.
At Vedanthangal, we met Murugan, the Bird Tracker. He is a local who has been trained by the forest department to be a bird tracker. His combination of local knowledge and scientific ornithology is quite fascinating, and his keen eye was able to spot the single spoonbill out of a forest of herons and storks. He is constantly retrained, the latest sessions focussing on the avian flu and how to spot it.
He told us that this year was extremely good in terms of arrivals, though the painted storks had arrived very late – only on December 21st. That was why they were still incubating, while most other juveniles were already learning to fly. He also pointed out two newly hatched painted storks – the first of the season – to us.
I was reading of this great big prehistoric eagle that used to hunt the giant moas on New Zealand – Haast’s eagle, when I was reminded of how fascinated Sriram was when we first read about the lammergeyer. We both have been fascinated by large birds of prey, and it was only natural that I should look up the Australian wedge-tailed eagle and the harpy eagle. While I was at it, I also stumbled upon the Philippine monkey eating eagle! Of course, I am writing Sriram about this!
The BBC weather website gives an interesting twist to met-watching. “Painting the Weather” is “a major art show, only online.” Only thing is, it sucks up major time.