Monday, 8 August 2011

Bhimashankar, 19.5.2011

Brilliant new day for Bird-Watching. And Bhimashankar is just the perfect place to go in such a mood on such a day. It was my second major "Bird-watching trip" and I was off at 6 in the morning. Reached there by around 8. The entire Bhimashankar area was shrouded in clouds and the entire area echoed with the inviting tweets of thrushes. There was an aura of mist encircling the entire hill and the scene was really gripping. . .

Managed to spot some sort of a pathway and just as I began to enter the place, awhirring orange flew across me on to the branch to my left. What a way to be greeted! An orange-headed thrush squatted on the branch next to me and tweeted with anxiety. It was unbelievably beautiful and I was awestruck at the sight of the pretty bird. I forgot I even had a camera then, the sight was so befogging. . . It flew away and I was enthused the moment I entered. It had to be a great day for bird-watching!!!

An harbinger of paradise, that's what the thrush was! A few steps ahead and I was greeted by another furry friend - it was the cynosure of Bhimashankar - The Malabar Red Squirrel, also called Shekru in the local tongue. I didn't let go of the opportunity and took a quick snap before it bounded away to the treetop furtively.

What a start! I ploughed on ever so clandestinely, taking every effort to ensure I didn't crack a twig or slide a pebble - anything to alert the callous birds of my presence. . . It is an effort, but its worth it!

Then I spotted a couple of common visitors - Red-whiskered Bulbuls. Not so common anymore in cities - at least not as common as the Red-vented Bulbuls - but still a pretty sight, with their black crest and beautiful call. This fellow was enjoying basking in the morning sun . . . Decent  spot . . .

Red-Whiskered Bulbul

It was time to move on. I soon realized the place was packed with Red-Whiskered Bulbuls and their beautiful euphony was slowly sounding more like clangour. I went along what I started to beleive was the "nature trail" . Dotted with small just visible pebbles and covered with a dusty coat of gravel. I trudged on camera in hand, ready to capture any sudden movement or whirring bird. Soon enough, I was rewarded. It wasn't a bird, but an adult changeable lizard me in the eye and then turned away as if it was throwing a tantrum! Yeah right - not so photogenic. But I clicked nevertheless.

On with the trail. Left behind the lizard and hoped for more birds. But it was getting hotter and the cacophony of tweets was slowly dwindling into oblivion. I spotted a couple of blossom-headed parakeets in the hedge below but it was just a cursory glance. Not sure, though. Could have been anything. But they seemed to be Blossom-headed parakeets as a first instinct. They disappeared into the heavy foliage. . .

An hour later, and with no luck I began to give up. Birding in the afternoon was never considered a great time for birding. There wasn't a single bird call anymore and even the raptors encircling me above had gone back to rest. So I shifted attention to reptiles and started looking for some snakes. Didn't find a real snake but spotted a Brahminy Skink sidling in a bunch of leaves. Cute fellow . . .

Brahminy Skink

It was sweltering hot - a great contrast as to what the early morning zephyrs had to offer. . . Even the Asian Water Buffaloes were feeling the heat and I walked into a little herd cooling off in a pit of water. . . Even the ever-jabbering Hanuman Langurs were sitting separately on the branch tops grooming themselves in an enervated state. And yeah - the Langur wasn't so glad to photographed!

It was time to leave as I had come close to the end of the trail. Hmmm. . . not as awesome as I had expected. Probably I spent too much of the afternoon on the trail - a rather unproductive time for bird-watching. It was an auspicious start which dwindled down to just a thirsty afternoon. But Bhimashankar had a farewell sight to offer - Green Bee-Eaters. At first sight they looked like Bulbuls, so I didn;t take a second look. But when the flash of green blew across me, I realized they were Bee-eaters and not just Bulbuls. And there was a Pied Bushchat sitting non-chalantly on a branch end next to the Bee-Eaters. A sight to rejoice, after a rather weary afternoon, so I took out my camera again and made a few useful clicks.

To wrap up the day . . . A quick recount of the birds I spotted at Bhimashankar:

Orange-Headed Thrush, Pied Bushchat, Common Tailorbird, Large Wagail, Grey Wagtail, Grey Francolin, Green Bee-Eater, Blossom-Headed Parakeet, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove, Asian Koel, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, Red-Vented Bulbul, Little Blue Kingfisher, Jungle Babbler, Puff-Thraoted Babbler, House Crow, House Sparrow, Large-Billed Crow, Bkack Kite, Common Myna, Crested Serpent Eagle, Purple Sunbird and Purple-Rumped Sunbird.

And not to forget the Malabar Red Squirrel!!!

Hmmm. . . . That's a lot of common birds! Not expected from Bhimashankar. Maybe an evening trip would have proved more fruitful. . . Anyway - thats goodbye, Bhimashankar.

There are many off days in bird-watching, but the passion still burns within. . .