26 Feb 2015

Live Experience: Birdwatchers, Bird-race and Birds Conservation

My solo birdwatching trips to have a glance of those beautiful little creatures around added a flavour to my life. But the real fun began when I was joined by the 3As (Ashvini, Anand and Ashwin), we are now a gang of birdwatchers call ourselves Nadaan parindey. A month ago we started going to places around Hyderabad to meet these little fellows, each trip acquainted us to new species, new behaviours and new memories. The mating dance of Ashy crowned sparrow larks, the huge flaps of the painted storks or the green bee-eater’s colourful poses, are some of them.

Got luckier when Anand pinged me link for the upcoming Bird-race in Hyderabad, on 8th Feb. I registered the 'Nadaan Parindey' team with me as captain :P

8th Feb 2015:

A day that couldn't have been more memorable than this. It was a day full of birdwatching, we visited some interesting places and spotted around 70+ species of birds (identified 66 of them). It all started early morning at 4.45 AM wake up and run towards the venue 25 km away in Secunderabad. Our team was renamed to HAWKS. Sadly the flag-off happened little late, so we had our breakfast and went through the 300+ odd bird list provided to us. Ashwin was already on job and spotted a Kite on a hoarding. That was a sharp catch. We then met some other teams, the memorable Egert team! (That’s how they pronounced hinting how new they were to birdwatching :P)

A fast ride after the flag off and it was about 8.00am when we started exploring the Gandipet area. Already a number of birds around us, we slowed down here and there to click them. It kept delaying our visit to the lake, the ideal early morning time to see birds there. A black drongo and the ashy prinia that posed for us profusely made it a memorable start that was worth the delay.

ID: Black drongo
Location : Osman Sagar

Black drongo

After parking our cars, we started on foot towards the lake, about a km away. The Indian roller, the oriole and the starlings added to the excitement.

ID: Brahminy starling
Location : Osman Sagar

Brahminy starling

ID: Asian Pied starling
Location : Osman Sagar

Asian Pied starling

ID: Indian roller
Location : Osman Sagar

Indian roller

I saw all of them for the first time. Thanks to Ashvini's late night homework, we were quickly able to identify a lot of species. Also she was our cataloguer for the day. Ashwin with his wife and son, always explored some side areas and turned back with mind blowing collection of photos like that of grey hornbill, blue-tail bee-eater or the hoopoe. Our bazooka man Anand with a 300 mm lens did his part of clicking some fabulous photos of all the lake birds. I also had a 250 mm that helped me to spot and click a few interesting species as well like the black headed gull.

ID: Blue tailed bee-eater
Location : Osman Sagar

Blue tailed bee-eater

ID: Black headed gull
Location : Osman Sagar

Black headed gull

At around 9:45 AM we headed to our next destination, the Mrugavani national park. On the way a small breakfast + PJ session charged us up. Mrugavani was a dissapointing place with just a part of it accessible, that too avenue plantations only (nowhere you can call it a national park). But still not completely a waste of time as we spotted Tickell's blue flycatcher, a tailor bird, a purple rumped sunbird and the coppersmith barbet here.

ID: Coppersmith barbet
Location : Mrigavani national park

Coppersmith barbet

ID: Tickell's blue flycatcher 
Location : Mrigavani national park

Tickell's blue flycatcher

At around 11.30 we headed to Himayat sagar lake where we hit jackpot when we saw a spotted owlet politely sitting on a tree. I was so happy to see first owlet in wild. Little adventure and we reached an interesting spot from where we quietly saw a number of species like the purple heron, the coot and the Indian silver bills.

ID: Spotted owl
Location : Himayat Sagar

Spotted owl

ID: Indian silverbill
Location : Himayat Sagar

Indian silverbill

It was now time to reconcile all that we clicked till now before we move any further location. The lunch time was ideal for it. I and our cataloguer Ashvini got our books into work to map maximum species. Pragathi nagar lake was our next desination but a quick round to Hyderabad central university was indeed a good decision that we took. We hardly halted for 15min here and I saw the bird of my life, The Asian Paradise Flycatcher! Although a female, but it was equally beautiful and a promising sign that I have to come here again to meet this fellow.

ID: Asian paradise flycatcher (F)
Location : Hyderabad central university

Asian paradise flycatcher (F)

In those few mins, we all saw some or the other birds here that gives a hint how rich this place was. We now headed towards the Pragathi nagar lake where Anand and Ashwin spotted a number of birds a day back. And when we reached there, it was heaven in terms of the density of birds it had. Never saw so many painted storks together, the lake was full of shovlers and coots. An island in the middle was a perfect place for them to breed and nest. Not many species here, but each was in huge swarms. I precisely remember going to other side of the lake to get a better view and disturbed the huge swarm of hundreds of Shovelers.

ID: Northern shoveler
Location : Pragati nagar lake

Northern shoveler

They flew and created a distinct flapping noise, batch 1, then 2 and we stepped closer, another one. Another thing very obvious of the habitat was the filth along the lake boundary. Seemed another bleak future for all the visitors here when u think of the ever increasing burden on our lakes being so close to human settlements.

It was time to rush to venue now as we were supposed to submit our report by 6pm. While Anand's drive made sure we make it on time for the venue, on the way we were trying to identify few more species from the photos that we clicked. We had a list of unknowns that was our target. Finally with 66 identifications we submitted our report and enjoyed the tea at the venue. While the results were compiled, our discussions continued. Meanwhile inside me I was scared about the 2 min talk that I have to deliver on stage about our experience in front of that unknown audience. We decided our bird of the day is gonna be the crow, with a pinch of sarcasm but for sure the scavenger not to be ignored. It was time for the Hawks to come on stage and share their experience. It was first time I was able to speak well on mic, little nervous but the effect of the amazing and comforting audience made things easy. Ashvini then shared an instance, how we got confused when a plastic bag looked like a black drongo, also giving the message how our actions connect to the bigger picture. It was overall a great time on stage as we happily went back with applauds to 'Nadaan Parindey' team. As each team came on stage, I observed a common sense of humor among all nature lovers that made it a special evening. A dinner later and we were back to our 'nests' late night. The winning team spotted 146 birds, much beyond what we could imagine. We came to know about a lot of places and many new species. It now seems a beginning of a long journey where we bird lovers are gonna explore and experience nature more closely.

How Birdwatchers, Bird-race and Birds Conservation connect to the bigger picture?What can be done more in this important area?

(Written by Gaganpreet Singh, a passionate adventurer and nature lover, working with Microsoft as a Software Engineer. He is also associated with a social initiative 'Joy of Reading' )



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