I had done extensive birding for many years in and around Dombivli from 1994 to 2001….However because of the Job commitments could not bird in these areas for some time now. However Bnhs was kind enough to organize an outing at Nilje today i.e. 13th Feb’05 (A village situated about 8 Kms from Dombivli station along the Dombivli – Sheel Phata- Mumbai Highway) but was little disappointed to see almost 80 people registered for the outing, including 36 college students. However had an opportunity to revive the old birding memories.
Nilje is an average sized “Agri”village that has this very beautiful pond just at the entrance. The surrounding area is a mixture of cultivated land / dry fallow land and Scrub country. We have recorded almost 150+ species from here over the period that we had birded including a number of uncommon sightings. A regular bus service from Dombivli station east takes you to this place in 20 mins. Nilje is also connected by rail on the Diva – Virar Route.
The Nilje pond is a size of two football fields that is covered with water lilies and other aquatic vegetation that attracts plenty on water birds including migratory ducks. We had good sightings of Gargeny teals (approx. c50) and Cotton pigmy goose / Cotton teals in Br+ plumage…..
Apparently I thought the numbers of these small but beautiful ducks has fallen considerably around Mumbai region with very few sightings as compared to past ( I used to see C.P.Goose in Bombay University Kalina Campus, Juhu-near D.N.Nagar,some ponds in Thane, Araey Pond etc., now they seem to be gone from these places)…
There were also good sightings of Lesser Pied Kingfisher couple, hovering & diving for fish in its usual spectacular display and there were Egrets and Pond Herons taking there favorite perches at regular intervals.Both the species of Jacanas found in India i.e. Pheasant Tailed (In Non Breeding plumage) and Bronze winged Jacanas were numerous and the most vocal of the lot.
What surprised me was, one Jacana had 3 nestlings about 4-5 days old. Usually the breeding season of Jacanas is from June to September at the onset of the monsoon with slight variations but I had never seen this during winter and February is too early for this bird to nest. The male was keeping a sharp vigil as the 3 babies feed nearby pecking at some vegetation or water insect (very clearly seen from the Scope) ……I say male bird as the Female of Jacanas are known to be “Polyandrous” i.e. It has many husbands and is known to kill even its own babies so that the male is induced to mate again. In Nilje Jacanas had been seen breeding and with babies only during the monsoon………..
The water vegetation was not thick and hence, probably the Purple swamp hens were missing from the gang that are otherwise present in huge numbers ( The pond was desilted this year, so the vegetation probably had taken time to grow). There were other birds in and around the pond / Lake that included Green Sandpiper, Little cormorant, White breasted water Hen, White throated kingfisher, Yellow wagtail, Paddy field pipit, Long tailed shrike, Blyth’s reed warbler, Tailor bird, Ashy prinia, Barn swallows, Palm swifts………A pair of Rufous tailed sparrow lark visited the pond to quench there thirst….. If you just decide to sit by the pond you will see many such birds visiting the pond as the day becomes hot.
The trees surrounding the pond were also very productive as the pipal and Banyan trees were fruiting and the Coral tree & Indian Silk cotton starting to blossom……..and on these were spotted plenty of Common Rosefinches (One of my sure places to sight these fellows), Coppersmith Barbets, Tree pipits, Golden Oriole, Black Drongos, Chestnut shouldered petronias, Common Ioras that was responding to the calls…
There is a Mango tree nearby and is the favorite place of a pair of spotted owlets that were very noisy at our approach.Further down in the cultivated fields were Indian Robins, Crow Pheasants, Crimson breasted barbets, Ashy crowned Sparrow Larks, Small green bee eaters, Red vented Bulbuls, Pariah Kites and an Immature Brahminy kite soaring…
I thought few birds were seen this time. A shikra was seen scanning the pond area latter in the day.
Though these are just few birds sighted within a span of 2 ½ hrs around the Nilje pond with 80 people around, the place has much much more to offer. And would like to share my past birding experiences around this area…….But sometime later.
Addi The Birde
Sincere thanks to Mr.Vithoba Hegde ( From Bnhs) and Mr.Parthiv Sanghvi for helping in managing the large No. of people that turned for the outing.