Monday, April 07, 2008

Bangalore Bird Race (Jan 20 2008)

It was exciting to take part in the bird race. Initially I was hesitant to be part of the team having little experience in identifying anything beyond about 20 common birds but when offered the chance by Sridhar, it was just too good not to take it up. With 3 other experienced birders in the team my job was just to sit back, enjoy and learn! How can I pass it up?

The plan was to drive up the previous evening to Arun's Purushanahalli farm and camp out. This was so that we could get an early start in the race which was to begin at 6am. Arun picked me up from my house at 4pm with Balesh, his colleague, a first time birder who was going to join as the 5th person. So, I wasn't going to be the greenest of the team after all! We drove to Aruns house in Sultan palya and waited for Harish and Sridhar to join us. We left from there at about 5pm and headed out over the Hebbal flyover. On the way there was much talk about conservation and decline of lakes in Bangalore. Learnt that all kere's that we have in Bangalore are man made! That is people of a village get together and create a bund to store water. That becomes a kere. Close to sunset we reached kakolu kere and stopped to evaluate the place as a potential habitat for the next days bird race. It turned out to be a great stop. Saw lots of Rosy Pastors (my first time) returning in the evening. Spotted a Marsh Harrier also.

Proceeded on to Aruns Farm, setup the tent and had a nice dinner. Later, we went out for a walk around the farm and got some impromptu astronomy lessons from Harish. Sky was clear and we spotted the Big Bear, Orion constellations easily.

Morning we were up at 6am and promptly set out to go around the farm and get our early morning spotting's. As soon as we got out, we were greeted by the so many calls that for an amateur like me it was amazing. The red wattled lapwing was very conspicuous with its "did we do it" call. Coucal, Junglefowl, and many more were all active and made our initial lists for the Birdrace. Coming around we also spotted Paradise flycatcher, Bulbuls and the greater flameback Woodpecker. It was time now to take down the tent, have some breakfast and head out to other habitats. In the farm got an nice shot of a spider web, Gastrocantha (Gastro=Stomach, Cantha=thorn). Opposite to the farm was a semi-wooded area and we spent some time there spotting shrike, Indian robin and some raptors. Arun played some pink panther style stalking to get the ID for a "hard to get a good look" at bird. We started out in the car after that to madhure kere for our water habitat. On the way stopped at a grassy area to get swallow, oriole and babbler added to our list.

At Madhure kere, an Egyptian vultures was quickly sighted. Stopped the car and trekked close to the lake. Arun and Sridhar spent some time IDing a flock of migratory birds. We got as close to the lake as possible without disturbing the Painted storks, Asian Open Bill storks and a solitary Woolly necked stork. Getting back it was already 2pm so we stopped at a village for lunch and did some more spotting from the road on the tank bund. Yellow wagtail, Medium Egret and others were added to the list.

It was getting late and was time to head back if we wanted to make it before the official end time of 6pm. On the way we stopped at various places to add owl, pipit, moorhen, coot to our list. After stopping at Aruns house, we got to the Hotel in time for the race end function. Found out that we had tallied about 80+ birds. Winner got 120+, but then they drove up to Nandi hills in the morning while we had the excitement and adventure of camping! :) Our pick of House Swift as the most common bird missed made the Dip of the day!

Overall, great experience. Learnt a lot and enjoyed at the same time. What can be better than that?

More images can be found on Picasa.

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