Monday, 8 August 2011

Khadakvasla - Panshet Lakes, 22.5.2011

Bird photography requires a lot of patience. . . And I've learnt that the hard way.

The agenda was Khadakvasla Lake, then Panshet Lake and then back home because my parents hadn't allowed me to venture into the Sinhagad valley forests on my own. I left at a characteristic 4:30 am in my Dad's Honda City and reached Khadakvasla lake by 7 am thanks to a few wrong turns on the way!

Down to business, at Khadakvasla Lake. First thing that I realised - this would be a different sort of experience. It was waterbirds and they were going to be completely new to me as I was quite used to Forest and Shrub Birds. Egrets, Ducks and Waterfowl was the general plan in mind. Always ready to tackle a new challenge . . .

First I spotted a few lazy Jungle Mynas idling by the lake. A cattle egret flew away as soon as it spotted me - unfortunately that happened before I could spot it. But I was determined and trudged into the marshes to the other side of the lake. I soon realized I was too common a location as random couples strolled onto the lakeside. So I went back to my car and drove to the other side of the lake.

So - I wasn't at the romantic end of the lake. Nor was I at the NDA end of the lake. Birds never wander where humans hang out. So I made my way to the back end of the lake, slightly off the road to Panshet Lake. And the sight was amazing!

This rear end of the lake was teeming with life. A Plains Prinia chirped merrily on a thorny twig and an Ashy-Wren Warbler sang gleefully into the winds. A whole bunch of Spot-Billed Duck were quacking away into the morning sunshine and a Red-Wattled Lapwing grazed happily next to the Ducks. A cattle Egret was trudging in the shallower areas of the lake not too far away from an Intermediate Egret. I looked on stunned and my camera was clicking automatically. This was what paradise had to be!

This was what nature had made the world to be - so beautiful and flowing with life - Prinias, Egrets, Lapwings, Herons, Warblers, Robins, Ducks, Coots, Cormorants - the list was too long!

I was soon joined by another common visitor to this part of the lake - another bird-watcher. The guy turned out to be from Mumbai and was on his way to do some bird-watching at Sinhagad Valley :(  He joined me with a menacing looking lens for his SLR camera and that easily overshadowed my modest Nikkon.
He took a few pics of the Spot-Billed Duck (which I could hardly see) and left gleaming. . .

Competition Everywhere!!! Wasn't IIT enough?!?

I spent almost an hour watching the birds at their best - a pair of White-Breasted Kingfishers nose-diving into the lake, Egrets dishing out little fish from the shallow marsh, Coots basking on a solitary rock jutting out in the midst of the lake and about a hundred Spot-Billed Duck generally flapping about happily.

This is serious birding!!!
I got back into the car and proceeded to the next spot - a deserted marshy area between Khadakvasla and Panshet Lakes. Just tailor-made for bird-watchers! And the first sight itself made me watch in awe . . .
The awesome Pied Kingfisher! And to treble the delectation - a pair of White-Breasted Kingfishers glaring down at me, perched on a sagging wire!

Beautiful Birds - Kingfishers are truly built like bird models :P Their long beaks and brilliant colouring just sets them apart from other birds.

The two Kingfisher species from this close had taken the limelight completely. Awesome!!!!

I spent almost another hour chasing the kingfishers and watching them nose-dive into the lakes through my binoculars. They were simply amazing and their acrobatics were equally mind-boggling. How had I lived nineteen years in Pune without knowing such an awesome place existed!!

There was no need to go to Panshet Lake now. The prime agenda was Egrets and Ducks and other Waterbirds, but the Kingfishers were a surprise package. An awesome experience, to say the least. Surely one birding outing to remember!!!

And, as usual, a few reptiles, too, on the way back home :)

A quick recap of the species of the morning :

Ashy Wren-Warbler, Oriental Magpie Robin, Plains Prinia, Jungle Babbler, Red-vented Bulbul, Red-Wattled Lapwing, Common Coot, Spot-Billed Duck, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Intermediate Egret, Spot-Billed Duck, Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, House Sparrow, Greater Coucal, White-spotted Fantail, Purple Sunbird, Purple-Rumped Sunbird, Pied Kingfisher, White-Breasted Kingfisher, Common Myna, Jungle Myna, Brahminy Myna, House Crow, Black Kite. . .

Great Birding!!!