Even before we started the walk, many Alexandrian & Roseringed parakeets that have a good population here and a Black hooded Oriole kept calling near the New Zealand hostel junction. Sunjoy briefed us all with the history and current status of this piece of green expanse which is now eyed upon by the land developers (mafias actually)….Once a flourishing centre, the governments apathy towards reviving this area for dairy development was evident with the pathetic conditions of Cattle sheds of which only few remain. With the current pressures from all corners, even this beautiful place would be someday lost under the artificial world of humans…..
Sunjoy also briefed us about the myriad life forms that abound this place in the form of birds, mammals, insects and plants and also on the leopard-human conflict that has kept this place in hot news in not so distant past.
There is a small pond clothed with water lilies and vegetation, which once harbored numerous water birds including Moorhens and Jacanas and used as a playground in summers, only produced a pair of Common Kingfishers and Little Grebe this time, infact I could locate an architecturally perfect yet a camouflaging "floating Nest" of the Little Grebe… one parent was seen incubating & the other feeding. A couple of Munias (probably Scaly-breasted) took off from a nearby bush even as we kept hearing the continuous calls of Ashy prinias and Coucals all over. A small flock of some Gulls were seen flying high up moving from west to east indicating that the season of bounty is not far. Further ahead a female Cuckoo with a really hoarse and exotic call kept the people confused for a while and the agile palm swifts continued their feeding in mid-air mindless of the water showers. The tailor birds were particularly vocal and active as well as the White-spotted Fantail flycatchers, one of which circled us for a few moments before it resumed its pursuits after the winged morsels. The Black Kites decided to shelter themselves on the many palm trees that dot this landscape.
I always feel that monsoon gives birders a reason to look around and appreciate other aspects of nature when the birds take refuge in the thick foliage ….. So, as the rains started pouring, we naturally diverted our attention around us surely to find many interesting small lives, each struggling for its survival. Stinging nettle caterpillars had devoured many plants yet were difficult to spot due to their amazing camouflage. A Signature spider here and a Lynx's spider there, a stink bug here and a katydid there, a looper caterpillar here and a Jewel beetle there kept, especially the newcomers amused. The green carpets of vegetation were looking very promising for the days to come and wild flowers had already started to peep in.
As we retraced, someone saw Black objects on the palm trees which looked slightly odd like stones placed high up , on having a closer view, these turned out to be 6 White-rumped Vultures resting lazily. These birds have become so rare these days that undoubtedly, they were voted by all of us as the "Bird (s) of the Day" and was a very heartening sight indeed. Everyone looked elated and rounds of discussion flowed, the reasons for their declines were discussed and how this particular small population has remained alive and sighted was shared.
We car-pooled and went to another site –the Nakshatra garden, where we saw some more birds. The spotted dove pair flirted with each other and the Common Ioras whistled to their mates from behind the leaves as if the lovers enjoying the mystical atmosphere. The Common Mynas and Asian Pied Starlings continued with their daily chores and a couple of Juv. Tailor birds played around. The White-breasted water hens, White-throated kingfishers and Yellow-eyed babblers were calling from far, while a grey-breasted prinia was announcing its mate that he is healthy and ready.
The Lush green carpets of vegetation were sprinkled with various colorful shades of wild flowers like the Indian Boraj, Balsam, Commelina, Bahunia, Tridax and Vinca.
With such a spiritual weather which can neither be bought even for a million dollars. nor one could get in any malls, the group was reluctant to leave the place, and we all decided to celebrate the heavenly atmosphere with atleast a cu-pa chai, with some garma garam wada and missal pav in the nearby "Tapri" …..It was nice to see joy on Little Ashok's face (Mrs.Nita Deb's Nestling :-), who was quick to remember many things that were seen....
Sunjoy and Kiran (Shrivastava) wanted to photograph some flowers, so some of us again went back while the rain stopped briefly and were rewarded with sightings of a couple of Common Mongoose. I was also fortunate to sight a lone Chestnut tailed Starling, a male Baya weaver in breeding plumage, a black drongo mobbing a Shikra and an Ashy Prinia with some nesting material frantically building her abode.
All in all a wonderful morning spent amidst a heavenly weather with quite a few wonderful sightings including the now rare Vultures…..
Pity for those who decided to spend their Sunday confined in the artificial walls :-)