Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Chatushringi Hill, 8.6.2011

Its not common to find a bird-watcher on top of the Chatushringi Hill. Its a rather untrodden area, a small protected forest atop the hill, with not much to offer.

But we decided to give the hill the test. This time I picked up my brother and two cousins for the quick excursion. Four binocs and a camera, we reached the spot in my Dad's burnished Honda. So, it was around 6 am and the birds had just about woken up. A good time to catch them surprised. . .

And so we began ascending the long flight of stairs and then the hill itself. On the way up I found a couple of Lesser Whitethroats playing merrily in a shrub. My brothers didn't seem too amused especially since I had promised them Kestrels and Hornbills. But there wasn't a sign of a single Kestrel or a Hornbill. It was almost as if they had known my plan . .

But the first interesting bird for my brothers was a solitary Spotted Owlet. A regular on the Pune University Grounds, and a usually nocturnal species, it was probably just winding up that day. But the owlet screeched and flew off before I could even focus on it. That would have been my first owlet pic. . .

We saw many tiny birds like Prinias and White-eyes but they wanted to see the majestic Hornbills. There was a White-Breasted Kingfisher whining away near a shallow pond to the edge of the hill. Even that sparked just that minute amount of interest. That was a rather banal sighting for me, though I still wowed at the sight.

It was then that a big Black Kite switled into the air and swooped down the end of the hill. Not a Kestrel, but awesome enough to bring back life into us. We followed it and reached a point where there was a small wall upon which the Kite stood. It pointed its hooked beak towards us and rose up again, hovered around and then swooped out of sight. I was too busy looking at its leviathan presence, I forgot to capture the raptor on cam.

Then there was the incident my brother will always remember. . . We were watching the Kite with rapt attention while an Indian Ratsnake crept up behind us. I did hear a hissing but dismissed it as some silly insect. But it started getting more exigent and irksome when I whirled around to see the slithering serpent swerve towards us. I alerted everyone and the snake made a beeline for my brother. Only then did I realize that he was standing directly atop a large hole, probably one the Ratsnake didn't want to share!! My brother freaked out and dashed out of the path and the Ratsnake unnoticingly circled around the hole twice before disappearing inside. I did manage to get a quick pic, albeit slightly late, but enough to give the impression of a menacing 6-foot serpent.

Startled by the sudden twist in events, my younger cousins started having second thoughts of ploughing forward. So I decided to give everyone a break and we returned to the safer section of the hill. We looked through the binocs at some of the more plebeian birds, even Bulbuls and Sunbirds. Then we spotted a Barn Owl flying across us. It swooped down onto a treetop not too far from me, but I was with the binocs this time, so a pic was not on the cards. I was surprised at the wingspan of the owl as compared to its tinier structure. Owls . . . They will always remain a mysterious category . . .

It was nearing 7.30 am and it was time for us to leave the hill to itself. It is great fun to have my cousins along for such trips but is a slight handicap to the art of bird-watching. A compromise has to be struck. . . So we trudged down the declivity of Chatushringi, reached the stairs where I took some pics of an Oriental Magpie Robin over a streetlight. And then we continued our way to the car. It was a short and variety-less bird-watching trip, but exciting due to the presence of my cousins. . .

So that was Chatushringi Hill if anybody wants to explore that area for birds. A quick note of the species spotted:

Lesser Whitethroat, Oriental Magpie Robin, Jungle Babbler, Common Myna, Jungle Myna, House Sparrow, House Crow, Thick-Billed Crow, Plains Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Asian Koel, Oriental White-eye, Common Tailorbird, Black Kite, Spotted Owlet, Barn Owl, Green Bee-eater, Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian Robin, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, Red-Vented Bulbul, Crimson-Backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Purple-Rumped Sunbird, White-Breasted Kingfisher, Cliff Swallow, Wire-Tailed Swallow, Black Drongo, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove

A long list, but a long list of common birds except for the two owl species. Thats why it isn't a favourite spot for bird-watchers. Maybe a trip to the hill behind MIT might yield a few interesting species. Probably even the majestic Grey Hornbill . . .  :)