Sunday, February 05, 2006

Karnala and the Quest for Ultramarine Flycather

Hi All,

I have been birding extensively for the past 15 years or so…..predominantly in and around Mumbai and also in some parts of India…but missing out on those favorites as the Himalayan foothills, Northeast and the South India for some reason or the other (mostly due to commitments with various groups, as a result of which, exhausting all my leaves)… hence it was my endeavor to atleast see as many birds, recorded in the Mumbai region, that leads me sometimes to become a t witcher of some sort………

There are approx. 360 bird species recorded in the Mumbai region so far (Sunjoy Monga's excellent compilation) and I have managed to see around 321 species in Mumbai from these, including some recent first time records like the Rosy Pelican, Red necked Phalarope, Great knots, Brown wood owl etc…….The others, not sighted, included some rare, uncommon records…….The Ultramarine Flycather is one such bird, that I am dying to see….and was on a look-out for the last 4-5 years. This bird has been sighted from SGNP and Karnala quite occasionally……..and the bird race gave an opportunity for many to sight it in Karnala.

It was with this hope that I went after it almost thrice in a span of 15 days to Karnala Bird Sanctuary……BUT no luck for me….inspite of how hard I observed and how patiently I waited near the spot where it was sighted……….It was similar to my Tiger luck…..I had a glimpse of a tiger for the first time after about 14 years and after visiting 9 Tiger reserves…….But was this "Bad Luck" good for me?…….as I returned home this Sunday (5th Feb'06), I realized that, this "bad luck" was my encouragement to go out in the jungles again and again, to explore and observe the denizens of the wonderful natural world and I thank my "Bad luck" for this.

However, all said and done….I do come up with some very good sightings. This Sunday I had been to Karnala with Bob "Iwan" Roberts, Dr.Neil Soraes, Anil Pinto & Parthiv Sanghvi…….The Highlights were White-Rumped Munias, Forest wagtail and Verditer flycatcher.

While Dr.Neil, Anil & Pathiv had already gone ahead, I along with Bob arrived later and took the first right immediately after the forest check post (Hariyal trail)…..this trail meets the "Mortaka Trail" further ahead and is cut by various streams that flow only in monsoons… such stream however had small puddles of water, that attracted various birds to quench their thirst, getting cover amongst the cacti that lined the edges.It was on this stretch that we had most of our sightings including Paradise, Monarch, Verditer and Red-Breasted flycathers, a Nest of a Purple sunbird (One more completed nest elsewhere), Yellow-crowned Maratha woodpecker and \nB.Capped pigmy woodpecker (On an earlier visited, we had sighted a White napped woodpecker)…..common wood shrikes, Ashy drongo, E.Golden oriole…..and surprisingly 3 White Rumped Munias.

I remember few years back when I was new to birding and explored the area around Dombivli with my good friend Nayan Khanolkar. We used to follow the checklist of Maharashtra by Humayun Abdulali then……It was monsoon and a peak breeding season for the resident birds, we were birding in Murbad (Beyond Kalyan) and came across not only sightings of the W.R.Munias (White backed munia) but also found a very healthy breeding population there….It was surprising as this bird was not listed in Humayun Abdulali's list……..This turned out a reason for us to meet Mr.Humayun Abdulali in Bnhs and ask him about the distribution…..I still remember his words "The Checklist is made by Man not the Birds"…."However checklist of the region, does give an idea of what to expect, so that we eliminate those which are not supposed to be found…..tough such surprises do come up, but it has to be questioned and confirmed", he said.

White Rumped Munia is an uncommon species for Mumbai (Sunjoy's list) and I think this would be a first for Karnala B.S ……….returning back and near the rest houses, we had Forest wagtail, Tickell's blue flycatcher, Call of Rufous woodpecker, Crested Serpent Eagle, more Red-Brested Flycathers, Golden & Black hooded orioles, Greenish and Booted warblers, Paradise flycathers, P.R.Sunbirds…….But no Ultramarine FC.

The Hill Myna confiscated from the "Dolphin aquarium", Vileparle was seen enclosed in the cages along with Red breasted, Alexandrian and Rose ringed parakeets……..the falling leaves reminded us the gentle change in season.

On our way back, there was this person who said that "20 years ago when I used to visit Karnala as a child, there used to be lots of birds….now there are very few"……Offcourse, he was referring to the caged birds…………For me there are plenty of birds in Karnala, so what if I didn't get the Ultramarine Flycather…..I am sure I will see it someday.

Happy Birding,
Addi The Birde