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Birding in Kaziranga

Birding in Kaziranga

A visit to Kaziranga was on my bucket list for a long time and  gods made it happen in first week of December 2017. I had been to Kaziranga a few times earlier but for official purposes, this was the first time that one was there to enjoy the wildlife which Kaziranga is famous for. Kaziranga is world famous for it’s one horned Rhinos which I saw in plenty during my visit. On a visit to Kaziranga you are bound to see the three biggies that is the Rhinos, elephants and the wild water buffaloes but the tiger generally remains elusive, we will talk about these in another blog. You got to have great luck to spot one. Kaziranga also hosts more than 400 species of birds and this post is all about them. The Eastern Range in Kaziranga is the one famous for bird watching. Many species of water and forest birds migrate to this area during winters. I did few safaris in this range and did manage to snap few species which were lifers for me. Sharing the photos taken through my lens.

We spotted this Barred Owl just after few minutes of entering the forest. The owl was perched under the thick canopy were light was minimal. I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and took this shot, had to work on it in Lightroom and Photoshop.

As we ventured deeper we came across few rhinos and wild water buffaloes and then we saw these pelicans perched atop a bald tree, pruning their feathers.

By now we were driving along the banks of the seasonal lake which gets formed due to flooding of the flats during monsoon. We could see many waders, mostly migratory.

The Bar Headed Geese (above) could be seen in large numbers. These migrate from Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Tibet during winters. They fly over the Himalayas and are known to cover about 700 miles in one flight. They are lovely to watch and photograph. Below are few more snaps of these lovely creatures.

By the time we managed to snap these, it was time to leave the forest as you are permitted to be inside the forest for only two hours during a safari. I subsequently made three more safaris in this range and managed to capture few nice shots. Let’s have a look at these.

We spotted these Northern Pintail Ducks, but their population was sparse. They are one of the most beautiful ducks. The pintail or northern pintail (Anas acuta) is a duck with wide geographic distribution that breeds in the northern areas of Europe, Asia and North America. It is migratory and winters south of its breeding range to the equator.The northern pintail is a bird of open wetlands which nests on the ground, often some distance from water. It feeds by dabbling for plant food and adds small invertebrates to its diet during the nesting season. It is highly gregarious when not breeding, forming large mixed flocks with other species of duck.

I snapped this bird at the central range. I think this is a common stone chat (female). Common Stone Chat (male, below).

The Black Necked Stork (above). I went places looking for this bird and finally found it at Kaziranga. Amazing creature to watch. The black-necked stork is a  wading bird in the stork family. It is a resident species across the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia with a large population in Australia.

An Osprey (above). We came across many hovering above looking for prey. Look at this one (below), having caught a fish it is rushing away.

…..and then it found a safe spot to nibble at it’s prey.

….and then soon it was soaring again, looking for prey.

Open billed stork. We came across many of these in the seasonal lake and perched atop trees.

 

I was thrilled to see this Grey Headed Fish Eagle. This was a lifer for me. The grey-headed fish eagle is a striking bird and an impressive hunter, with a relatively small head, longish neck and a powerful, grey beak. The plumage is brownish-grey on the upper parts and white below . It has relatively short legs, a rounded tail, sandy-yellow eyes, and long, black talons.

Alexandarine Parakeets. We saw many flying around and perched on trees.

As we were about to finish our safari in the central range, we saw these Greylag Geese flying past and soon they descended on the near by lake.

A Bar Headed Geese trying to land among the Greylag Geese. And the we spotted these owls.

Mallard (male,above). The mallard  is a dabbling duck that breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Eurasia, and North Africa and has been introduced to New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, the Falkland Islands, and South Africa. It is migratory and can be seen in lakes and ponds in India. We came across many of these in Kaziranga.

Mallard (female,above)

During the safari you can see occasional Pelicans hovering around.

The lesser whistling ducks were present in thousands. You could see them flying past off and on.

Green Peigions

Common Flame back Woodpecker

Jungle Spotted Owlets

Ruddy Shell Duck

Indian Roller

Black Hooded Oriole

Adjutant Stork. This was again a lifer for me. This had been evading me for a long time. I finally caught up with it at Kaziranga.

In Assam, the far North-Eastern corner of India, lives one of the the largest and rarest of the storks, the Greater Adjutant Stork, together with it’s smaller cousin, the Lesser Adjutant. These are endangered species; only a thousand Greater Adjutants, and 5000 Lesser Adjutants are left, and the populations are declining.

Darter also called the snake bird

Changeable Hawk Eagle

Woolly Necked Stork

Brown Shryke

Northern Lapwing

Eurasian Wigeon

Crested Serpent Eagle (above). While on a safari in Kaziranga keep a watch on the trees as your jeep moves along and you may land with one of these.

Palas Eagle. Caught this when it was just landing to perch.

A flock of cormorants out on a hunt

Jungle Fowl

Shikra. We got this at close quarters. We could have stretched and caught it with our hands.

This week at Kaziranga  was a week to remember. Each day had something new to offer. I enjoyed every moment, I will go back again if I can. There was more at Kaziranga then just birds. More about it in the next blog.

 

Birding in USA

Birding in USA

While in USA I had few birding opportunities around Chicago and Cincinnati thanks to my lovely daughters Shruti and Ruchi who took me to places in spite of their busy schedule to help me pursue my passion.

There are many nature centers in Ohio and Illinois which are mini bird sanctuaries. A visit to these got me few good bird photos, sharing these with you in this blog.

The Red Cardinal, the state bird of Ohio. I got this at Eagles Creek Park, Indiana.

Crimson fronted Woodpeckers. Spotted them at Catigny Park near Chicago. Was lucky to get this shot. The male caring for the expecting mother.

Indigo Bunting. Spotted this one at Starved Rock State Park, Illinois.

I spotted this Crimson Fronted Woodpecker during our trip to Starved Rock State Park. The park authorities have put feeders in various places which attracts these birds and makes it easy to spot them. I used Olympus OMD EM5 MK II camera mounted with 40 – 150 mm zoom lens to snap this.

This Hairy Woodpecker was also snapped at the Starved Rock State Park.

I snapped this Red Winged Black Bird at Cincinnati Nature Park, Ohio. These are common and can be found almost every where.

We spotted this Wild Turkey at Catigny Park, Ohio. We just about managed to get this shot before it vanished into the thicket.

American Robin – A common bird

I think this one is a House Finch. Captured this at Cincinnati Nature Park.

This one is most probably from the sparrow family.

This one is a Hairy Woodpecker (Male)

Being admonished. Does it ring a bell!!

I was looking for birds and instead found this and I clicked.

American Gold Finch, captured this too at Cincinnati Nature Park.

This one is Blue Jay, an elegant looking bird. Snapped at Eagles Creek Park, Indiana.

Black Capped Chickadee

A pair of Pochards. We saw these at Lily Pond, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

A Black Bird at Lily Pond, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Canada Geese. Snapped during a morning drive at Boulder, Colorado.

Black Billed Magpie. Snapped at Garden of the Gods, Colorado.

This one has a story. I spotted this Red Tailed Hawk?? as I got up in the morning, perched on the fence in my daughters backyard. I couldn’t believe this and I rushed down with my camera. It was drying it’s wing and gave me full opportunity to take few shots.

This Bald Eagle was a sitting duck at Brookfield Zoo, Chicago.

So when you go to US next , don’t forget to carry your birding lens. There is birding opportunity in every town, you just need to google for it.

Bar Headed Geese at Bhigwan, Pune

Bar Headed Geese at Bhigwan, Pune

While bird watching on 18 December 2015 at Bhigwan, we chanced upon a large colony of Bar Headed Geese. This is the first time that I spotted this species at Bhigwan though I have been visiting this place for several years for bird watching and photography.

The bar-headed geese is one of the world’s highest-flying birds,having been heard flying across Mount Makalu – the fifth highest mountain on earth at 8,481 m (27,825 ft) – and reportedly seen flying over Mount Everest – 8,848 m (29,029 ft) . Watch the video below.

The species has been reported to be migrating south from Tibet, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia before crossing the Himalaya with the flight across the Himalaya being undertaken non-stop in as little as seven hours. The bar-headed geese migrate over the Himalayas to spend the winter in parts of South Asia (from Assam to as far south as Tamil Nadu). The modern winter habitat of the species is cultivated fields, where it feeds on barley, rice and wheat, and may damage crops. Birds from Kyrgyzstan have been noted to stopover in western Tibet and southern Tajikistan for 20 to 30 days before migrating further south.

In Maharashtra, India it can be spotted at Bhigwan about 100 km from Pune and Veer Dam around 50 km from Pune. The images below were taken on 18 December 2015 at Diksal Village near Bhigwan.

Facts : courtesy wikipedia

Birding in the Nilgiris

Birding in the Nilgiris

Birding is a great hobby, it makes you go places looking for birds. From the internet I learnt about the Black and Orange Flycatcher and soon me and my wife were on our way to the Nilgiris looking for them. We stayed at Wellington (Military Station) near Coonoor. I was stationed here in 1984 while attending the Staff Course at Staff College Wellington.

The place is still as serene and quiet as 30 years ago but the near by towns of Coonoor and Ooty are fast becoming concrete jungles. We had arrived at our destination late evening so we just relaxed and met old friends in the evening. The adventure began the next morning. I was up just before sunrise, got my Canon 70D and the 400mm f5.6 lens ready and was out on a walk looking for birds. I could here the chirping of birds all around and spotted a tree which had plenty of bird activity and manged to get few shots.

he Red Cheeked Bulbul’s were very active on this Bottle Brush Tree. It was fun watching them chase each other.

In close vicinity we spotted a pair of Common Hoope digging for insects.

Occasionally we came across few Oriental White Eyes.

..and then off-course the House Sparrow and the Indian Robins were all over.

Still trying to find the ID of this bird. Tickell’s Leaf Warbler ??? or Brown Breasted Flycatcher ???

….and then we moved to the Sim’s Park in Coonoor as we were informed that this is the place to site the Black and Orange Fly Catcher’s.

The entry fee here is Rs 30.00 per person and you have to shell out Rs 50.00 for each camera you carry.

As we walked around in the park, we could notice bird activity but the Black and Orange Fly Catcher remained elusive. This is what we came across after few steps.

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher

Then we saw two Malabar Giant Squirrel’s…

As we walked around the park, we came across few more species of birds but the Black and Orange Flycatcher remained elusive.

Spotted Dove

Indian Black Bird

White Browed Fantail

Nilgiris Flycatcher

Grey Canary Flycatcher

Blue Capped Rockthrush

It was nearing 11.00 am and we had not spotted the Black and Orange Flycatcher. Feeling quite disappointed, we started walking towards the exit entrance of the park and then saw few people peeping in a bush. We halted and inquired and were informed that they had seen the  Black and Orange Flycatcher . So we waited along with them and were rewarded, we sited them perched on a branch many a times. Our mission had been accomplished. Lovely birds indeed !!

Black and Orange (female). Females have a grayish crown were as males have black.

 

God was kind and we went back to our room thrilled and happy.

We made a trip to Ooty Botanical Garden the next day looking for these but being a holiday the park was too crowded.

There are many more species of birds in the Nilgiris. You need to walk the beaten path in the wilderness, stop were you see some water and flower or fruit tree and wait patiently for them to perch.

During a walk in Wellington we spotted this Besra up in the trees as if bidding us farewell. We left for Pune in the afternoon happy and satisfied.

DANDELI : BIRDS OF GANESHGUDI

DANDELI : BIRDS OF GANESHGUDI

The long overdue trip to Dandeli (Wildlife Sanctury)  fructified in Mar 2015 when we combined it with our trip to Bijapur, Badami and Hampi. The drive from Hampi started with rocky and barren terrain to begin with, but slowly the surroundings changed to sugarcane and jowar fields all around.However when the ascent began to the hilly areas of Dandeli and the forest, the smell of the verdant foliage and the purity of the atmosphere reduced the stress of travelling and freshened the mind, enlivening the senses.The chirping of the birds, the huge variety of trees, the monkeys and the langoors brought back memories of far off jungles we had travelled to during service life.

Me being a nature lover who thrives in hills and jungles, felt my senses suddenly sharpening and a feeling of pure joy pervaded my entire being. As we approached our destination at the ‘Hornbill Resort’the chirping of the birds, the sounds of the jungle and the mystery of the sunset enveloped us.

The cottage were we stayed (above)

A tree house at Hornbill River Resort, Ganeshgudi

The resort was aesthetically constructed on the banks of the river Kali with tree houses, cottages and even tented accomodation merging into the serene surroundings.The people working at the resort were friendly and cooperative. My spouse was happy to meed another avid bird lover in Gopi, who is their birder and takes people around the jungle.

The two days at Dandeli passed in the blink of an eye,as there was so much to do.We shot birds (with the camera) and saw lots of Malabar Black Hornbills, Grey Hornbills,Green Parrots, Sunbirds, the Red Whiskered bulbul, The Brahmini Kite,various water birds, langoors, Giant Squirrels,The Flying Squirrel and many tiny birds I was unable to identify, as they were so tiny.

Malabar Pied Horn Bill

Malabar Grey Hornbill (above)

Brahminy Kite

Pompadour Green Pigeon (above)

We enjoyed the boating on the R.Kali and saw young revelers white water rafting over the rapids,rappeling and enjoying the river crossing, kayaking indulging in other water sports which I was too timid to try,Spousy of course was going crazy clicking the birds and the scenery.However, what I enjoyed most were the two nature walks we had, early morning, with Gopi pointing out various birds one doesn’t even notice.

People having fun in Kali River adjacent to Hornbill Resort

Before we knew it, it was time to depart even though our soul longed to linger there for some more time to soak the beauty of the pristine surrroundings and environment. We bid Adieu to Dandeli promising to be back,as soon as we could,for another stint.

Not having had our fill of Dandeli,we decided to revisit it again and were again there within ten days or so.

This time our preferred place of stay was ‘The Old Magazine House’- a known birder’s paradise.So off we were again!Ispent the entire journey looking forward to the jungle environs again.Lo and behold! the Lemurs seemed to have laid out a welcome for us. Just after we passed Ganesh Gudi, we saw a family of Lemurs sitting in the middle of the road. They were in a winsome, frolicky mood and hubby just couldn’t seem to take his finger off the trigger – of his camera. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the young ones who were wrestling playfully and playing catching cook.

The lemurs blocking our entry to Birds Paradise

Being watched and tracked!!

On reaching the resort we didn’t even get time to check-in properly or freshen up before the birding activity was in full swing. Spousy forgot all about me and the luggage,to appease his thirst for the enormous variety of birds.I was astonished to learn – from Juma,the resident birder- that birds bathe and clean themselves before retiring for the night.Thus the flurry fo activity near the watering spots.

Prashant setting up for the shoot

uddenly Juma pointed to a shrub and shouted ‘Trogan’ and we saw a small red breasted bird sitting majestically on a branch.This ( I was told) was the red breasted troganwhich is known as the “Tiger of Birds”-as spotting it is very rare. It seems,it is so elusive that people keep looking for it for months before they get a sighting.We really felt blessed as we had spotted it as soon as we had arrived. After a few minutes,I raised my eyes and saw the trogan sitting on a branch 5 mtres away posing for us – as if asking us to soak in its presence. Hubby dear went crazy trying to get it from different angles.

Malabar Trogan (above)

From then it was a birders delight as we saw the emerald winged dove, the trogan, the yellow oriolle, the shama,the jungle myna, the barbette, the giant squirrel, the basra and the bee eater. It was difficult to leave the spot,even as dusk approached and the light faded, as the birds kept coming and there were some ‘late latifs’ as well. The cameras could no longer catch them but, they were a visual treat.

Emerald Dove (above)

Common Flameback (above)

Red wishkerd Bulbul (above)

Yellow Browed Bulbul (above)

Malabar Starling (above)

Black capped/ Ruby throted  Bulbul (above)

Black Capped Babbler (above)

Veriditer Flycatcher (above)

As darknes descended I was amazed at the lack of mosquitoes, or any kind of insects.A hush enveloped the forest and it became eerily silent.

We had an early dinner and retired to our cottage as we were terribly tired after the long journey and then the excitement of seeing the wide array of birds.Spousy was elated as he had managed to click at least 20 different species of birds.The still and soundless environment cloaked us and we fell asleep instantly- looking forward to the next day.

Next morning after waking up at dawn, we were off to the Timber Depot to spot the Hornbills and the Woodpeckers. The Hornbills led us to a merry chase, flying off as soon as we were in range to click. However, spousy got some good shots of Woodpeckers, Lemurs and the lovely and vast surroundings. We returned to the resort after spending about 2 1/2 hrs. We enjoyed our breakfast and freshened up but, kept veering back to the birding spot,as if,pulled by invisible threads.

Timber Depot, Dandeli (above)

Malabar Grey Hornbill (above)

Malabar Giant Squirells (above)

White Bellied Woodpecker (above)

The noon brought a lull to the activity among the birds and we kind of lazed around soaking in the peace and solitude of the environment.

Suddenly, in the late afternoon we saw many vehicles approaching and around 50- 60 young professionals alighted.They were volunteers for the Tiger census being conducted by the Govt of Karnataka.They were on the penultimate day of their training (for survival in the jungle) so they had come there for another workshop.The minute they arrived it seemed as if the birds acknowledged their presence and put up a wondrous performance.They twittered and came down to the bathing spots in droves to hop and bathe. It seemed as if the were performing a graceful ballet,totally unmindful of the racket the youngsters were creating.The birders went totally trigger happy with their cameras.As for me- I just soaked in the atmosphere with the beautiful birds on one side and the youngsters with their exhuberance on the other.Ah! what one would give to be young again.

Oriental White Eye (above)

White Bellied Blue Flycatcher (above)

White Rumped Shama (above)

Racket Tailed Drongo (above)

Grey Headed Fulvetta (above)

Orange Headed Thrush (above)

Tickells Blue Flycatcher (above)

Black Naped Monarch (above)

Malabar Rock Thrush (above)

Little Spider Catcher (above)

Black Headed Babbler (above)

Malabar White Headed Starling

When there were no Birds, monkeys were around to keep you engaged.

As the light faded we moved off from there to visit sunset point. From here we captured some awesome sights of the setting sun in the backdrop of the hills with the golden rays reflected in the waters of the Supa reservoir.The sunset had a dramatic and theatrical beauty in it.

Sunset at Supa Reservoir, Ganeshgudi

Hubby dear was a little disappointed as he felt he had not been able to capture enough variety of birds and had already started planning his next visit.I flaked out as I was exhausted with the days activities, while he was downloading the photographs so that he had enough digital space for the next morning.

When I woke up next morning I found spousy missing- as expected.He had gone looking for more birds.

I set myself to packing and freshening up.At around 7.30am I also went down to the birding spot where I found five young birders allready with their huge cameras and lenses all camouflaged as if they were in war zone. However, they kept talking incessantly so no bird ventured near (in my mind I wondered why people say women talk too much).Here were a group of guys who couldn’t seem to keep quiet for a second.

Their nonstop chattering was just about getting on my nerves when I saw a family of giant squirrels frolicking on a tree close by.I got so engrossed in their antics – running up and down the trees , chasing each other and jumping fron branch to branch that I blanked the guys out.Let me describe the Malabar Giant Squirrel to you – it is as big as a large hare and rust brown in colour with a whitish chest and a long bushy tail. Can you imagine the beauty of it ?

Malabar Giant Squirrel (above)

I was so lost in their world that I didn’t here spousy till he called out to me. From the grin on his face I could make out that he had a successful morning. I didn’t have to wait for long because he was so full of a new birding spot he had found on a tree nearby- the flame of the forest. He captured gorgeous birds like the hanging parakeets,parrots,racquet tailed barbettes and .We hurried up and had a speedy breakfast because he wanted to spend some more time near that tree before we headed home.

Plum Headed Parakeet (above)

Flying off as we got nearer

Grey Headed Parakeet (above)

Malabar White Cheeked Barbet (above)

Eurasian Black Bird (above)

Chestnut Headed Bee Eater (above)

Vernal Hanging Parrot (above)

Eurasian Golden Oriole (above)

Spotted Dove (above)

Ashy Drongo (above)

Hill Myna(above)

However he made a tactical mistake by telling the five young birders about the spot. Before we could settle down and capture some more birds, these guys came roaring right up to to the tree in a diesal Innova trying to photogrph them from the car- little realising that all they had done was scared them away.We waited for some time but it was of no use so we packed the camera and started our drive back home.

The Rapids (above)

A view of Supa Dam Reservoir (above) 

About Dandeli Wildlife Sanctury

The sanctuary now covers an area of 834.16 square kilometres. This sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary of Karnataka.Along with its adjoining Anshi National Park, Dandeli is an abode to 40 tigers albeit very difficult to spot.

It’s not just tigers, the sanctuary is a natural home to leopards, black panthers, elephants, deer, beer, antelopes, reptiles and more than 300 bird-species as well.

The best time to enjoy the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is between March and October and the centre is open between 6am and 6pm.

There are so many attractions and opportunities on offer at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, whether you choose action and adventure with white water rafting or slow the pace down with peaceful birdwatching and wildlife photography. You’ll be spoilt for choice..!

During August and September, Malabar Pied Hornbills flock to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in large numbers to feast on the fruit trees. They create quite a show – not to be missed..!

During August and September, Malabar Pied Hornbills flock to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in large numbers to feast on the fruit trees.

Ganeshgudi, about 20 km from Dandlei is famous for birding and can truly be called a Birder’s Paradise.

How to Reach

Dandeli is

• 57 kms from Dharwad

• 75 kms from Hubli

• 110 kms from Belgaum

• 117 kms from Karwar

• 150 kms from Goa

• 481 kms away from Bangalore

Getting There:

By Air

Closest airport: Belgaum (110 kms) Hubli (75 kms)and Goa (150 kms).

 By Train

Closest rail head: Alnavar (32 kms) Londa (48 kms), Dharwad (57 kms), & Hubli (75 kms).

 By Road

Dandeli is well connected to Bangalore, Mumbai (Bombay),Pune,  Goa, Belgaum, Karwar and Dharwad, Hubli by road. Several buses ply to Dandeli everyday.

BIRDING AT SINHAGAD VALLEY : 2017

BIRDING AT SINHAGAD VALLEY : 2017

If you want to do some exciting bird watching then Sinhagad valley is the place. Just 45 minutes from heart of Pune located at the base of Sinhagad Fort this is an amazing place for birds. Within an area of 200 x 200 meters you can spot a large variety of fly catchers which come here to bathe in few shallow puddles. I have been visiting this place for many years and each visit has been a great experience. I was once again there last Sunday (08/01/2017) and got some good shots of few fly catchers. Sharing these with you…

Asian Paradise Fly Catcher (male). This place is famous for these.

Asian Paradise Fly Catcher (female)

White Breasted King Fisher

Bay Backed Shrike

Indian Silver Bill

Asian Brown Fly Catcher

Red Vented Bulbul

Tickels Blue Fly Catcher

Indian Scimitar Babbler

Orange Breasted Fly Catcher

Asian Brown Fly Catcher

Oriental Magpie (Juvenile)

Asian Brown Fly Catcher having a bath…

Red Cheeked Bulbul

Do take some time out and visit this place. You will be delighted.

Best Wishes