Monday, 15 August 2011

Pulikat Lake, 15.8.2011

We had to do something today . . . We'd been planning since sooooo long . . . .

And after a big discussion over Adtar Estuary vs Pulikat Lake, the latter came up trumps.
So Pulikat Lake it was! And what could be a better way to spend Independence Day!!!

So we (Bhavin, Saikia and me) left on our cycles at 5.30 reaching Thiruvanmiyur station and then plying forward to Chennai Central. We had planned a forty minute journey from Central - but it ended up being a two-hour trip! A complete miscalculation on my part!

Anyway, we reached Sullurpet (one of millions of pets in Chennai :P) at 9.30, and left immediately for the lake by auto. We raced away to the waters and took off on foot thereafter. . . After all, it was a bird-watching trip . . .

It was amazing - the scenery, the birds, the coolth of the lake - everything! The sun was beating harshly down on us, but we kept ploughing forward, looking for the odd heron to dash ahead of us. The first bird we spotted - and not unexpectedly - was the Paddyfield Pipit. A shy customer, it took off the  moment it noticed us - but not before I got a click from behind.

We went ahead, Saikia and me enjoying and absorbing the atmosphere. Bhavin sat down near a bush and watched as Painted Storks danced over the lakefront. The odd Little Egret flew over. Saikia and me went ahead to investigate some rattling motion in one of the shrubs only to find an Oriental Lizard hanging by a twig. . . I almost expected to catch a snake  :)


We then walked by the lake and we spotted a plethora of Egrets, Herons and Ibises. First of them all, a Little Egret stuttered clumsily near the water ahead of us. We skulked slowly and got a great view. Soon to follow was its eldest cousin - the Great Egret. The majestic bird waded gracefully through the lough, its slender yellow beak shining in the afternoon sun.




We then took a little break, the others a bit exhausted after the long journey and the bird-watching. So we huddled together and clicked a few photographs, some of us, some of the scenery and some of the birds far in the horizon. . .

Satisfied by the little recess, we carried on bird-watching. A bunch of bee-eaters perched on top of a wire glared down at us as we watched closely. First they looked like Blue-Tailed Bee-Eaters, but on closer scrutiny ended up being the common Little Green Bee-Eaters.

We trudged back to the main road. The main road was as beautiful as the lake spreading across it. On both sides of the road was damp marsh covered with that slight layer of saline water - just the perfect shallow fish-feeding habitat for waterbirds. So we decided to carry on bird-watching via the main road, rather than prodding along some arbit untrodden path with the sun burning our skin. . .

A great idea it turned out to be - probably the birds are just used to tourists. Just as we began moving along the road, we spotted a pair of Greater Flamingos - something I wanted to see for a really very long time! What a pleasant scene it was, their S-shaped necks swerving through the air slicing the scene into two. . .

We stopped and watched for five minutes - they were flamingos!!!


We than carried on as we spotted Egrets, Herons and Red-Wattled Lapwings. A large group of Purple Moorhens and Common Coots loomed in sight. We stopped just short of them - enough to get a close enough look at the flock. There was that odd Painted Stork grazing in the middle of a few Coots. Even a Black-Headed Ibis joined the flock in the grazing craze. . .



It was an awesome sight - so many birds - so many species - all together in one lough. . . It was truly exhilerating! We moved ahead and reached a tiny herd of five Common Redshanks. They were drilling into the rocks below while wading in the shallow marsh. I was befogged at first, but then I realized they were Common Redshanks - after seeing their typical drilling exercise. . .



Saikia, quite simultaneously, pointed out to a group of Grey Pelicans swooping down into a small pond adjoining the road on the other side. Our focus shifted entirely as we went and watched the Pelicans flap around and paddle away in the water. But the driver made a sound (which he claimed would get the Pelicans closer) but the plan backfired and the entire flock took flight again. We glared at the driver but said nothing - he just smiled sheepishly . . .



The trip was slowly coming to an end, and last but not least - we spotted a group of Ruddy Shelducks and Gadwall fluttering in the waters just while we were leaving the last parts of the lake. And a Sparrowhawk swooped down close to us just to add to the little cadenza. . .

An Indian Roller glowed brilliantly as if it was radiating an aura and attracted all our attention suddenly. Then a White-Breasted Kingfisher took over as it screeched violently near the Indian Roller making it take off. But we were not in a great mood to watch White-Breasted Kingfishers . . .

We were quite dehydrated by the time we reached the outskirts of the lake and decided to call it a day. It was more of a travelling experience rather than a bird-watching one - 6 hours travelling vs 2 hours bird-watching. . . That sums up the day for us!!!

But nevertheless - it was a wonderful day! It was awesome to have two of my friends from IIT come along with, making this an indelible experience. Maybe not the best bird-watching day (not the right season) but definitely one of the top outings of the year - thanks to the timely wisecracks of Bhavin and the Assam-related stories of Saikia - it all made up and was a great day . . .

A quick recap of the species seen at Lake Pulikat:

Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Black-Headed Ibis, Little Cormorant, Little Ringed Plover, Little Green Bee-Eater, Indian Roller, Paddyfield Pipit, House Crow, Thick-Billed Crow, White-Breasted Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Little Blue Kingfisher, Laughing Dove, Spotted Dove, House Sparrow, Sparrowhawk, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Painted Stork, Spoonbill Stork, Grey Pelican, Purple Moorhen, Common Coot, Garganey, Gadwall, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Redshank, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Blue Rock Dove, Spot-Billed Duck, Red-Wattled Lapwing

The Best Independence Day Ever!!!