Watching the birds come to bathe in the Dandeli forest

WITH a faint rustle and swish, she lands on a close-by bent bamboo swaying within the wind. She casts a sidelong look on the water bowl. It has been a sunny day and he or she might do with a very good dunk earlier than it will get darkish. Maybe mites are troubling her. What higher technique to eliminate them than a hearty splash? However wait, what are these shiny black cylinders protruding from a thatch display and reflecting gentle? In addition they make some suspicious clicking sounds now and again. There appears to be some motion behind the thatch display too. Is it protected to land on the water bowl now? She waits and watches for some time, furtively glancing on the thatch. Quickly, the solar will go down and it will likely be too late to wash. Finally, her urge to cleanse herself wins over her trepidation and he or she takes the plunge, actually! Tonight, one blue-capped rock thrush will take pleasure in a sound sleep unmolested by mites.

This was the second we birders had been ready for. Fast-fire clicks hire the air. Gimbals transfer silently like robots, following the motion of the birds in an arc. First, the birds are available ones and twos, however quickly a veritable procession of would-be-bathers traces up on the fowl hammam positioned there strategically for his or her profit. The air glistens with droplets of water splattered from fanning wings that sparkle like diamonds when the daylight displays off them.

For me, that is my first peek into the universe of avian hygiene. The three days I spent in Outdated Journal Home within the Dandeli forest, in Ganeshgudi, Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka, in December 2020 had been really a revelation when it comes to fowl habits.

Initially, I assumed the water bowls had been positioned for birds to drink, however I discovered that they seldom dip their beaks into the bowl. As an alternative, they immerse their tiny ft within the bowl after which sway this aspect and that, dipping their wings and shaking them dry, repetitively. Some linger to survey their environment whereas others chirp noisily on close by branches to preen themselves after their tub. All that is achieved with a lot dignity and with out hustling or quarrels.

It’s nonetheless early afternoon. I spy a pair of orange-headed thrushes. They perch on adjoining branches for a very long time as if questioning whether or not to make the leap. One among them, presumably the feminine, tentatively flies to the birdbath, flits from rim to rim, however appears to rethink her resolution and flies again to perch beside her mate. She whispers one thing to him in fowl language, and the 2 fly off in the interim though they do return later within the night to finish their ablutions.

Some birds, just like the Oriental white-eye, are available raucous teams arguing in regards to the occasions of the day. Others, just like the fulvetta, sit at a discreet distance, hidden behind tree cowl, watching and ready. Inexperienced pigeons arrive in dozens, trying like a trend parade of avian high fashion with their exquisitely patterned iridescent wings gleaming within the setting solar. Rock thrushes choose the tiny pond on the bottom slightly than the birdbath. Maybe it provides them higher cowl. The Oriental magpie-robin sings from the bush, asserting its intention to make use of the tub, whereas white-bellied blue flycatchers sit silently awaiting their flip. Paradise flycatchers, a brown-cheeked fulvetta, an Indian yellow tit, a puff-throated warbler, a black-naped monarch and a number of other noticed doves, all take their flip one after the other. The warbler is skittish although, consistently watching out for hazard.

At instances, two completely different species perch on the far ends of a water bowl and dunk their heads into the water similtaneously if on cue. All of the birds appear to be cautious to not soiled the water. When it’s nearly nightfall, the magnificent shama in her blue and crimson silken gown alights on the department above the birdbath. She doesn’t splash within the water however merely regards it contemplatively earlier than flying off.

The Outdated Journal Home is really a birder’s delight. From a single spot hidden by thatch, one can watch dozens of fowl species, uncommon and customary. We arrived at this jungle lodge by noon after a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Goa by means of Ponda, Mollem and an impossibly potholed Anmod Ghat highway the place freeway work appears to have been deserted halfway, making it a digital moonscape. My buddy Amita in whose automotive we drove from Goa to Dandeli is unfazed although. She is a veteran fowl photographer who lugs round bazooka lenses and even a 7 kg bean bag in pursuit of that uncommon shot. Three days earlier, I drove all the way in which from Bengaluru to Goa in a single stretch. It took all of 15 hours with two meals stops. The Chorla Ghat highway, which we took from Dharwad in Karnataka to Goa on our means again, was solely marginally much less bumpy than the Anmod Ghat highway.

The reminiscence of the bumpy rides melts away as we head in direction of the eating corridor for lunch. Three Malabar large squirrels dangle from branches of timber outdoors the eating corridor, placing completely different poses as if to entertain us with their virtuoso antics. Their shiny coats bespeak a profusion of squirrel meals. The lusty calls of unusual birds echo by means of the thick forest, holding out the promise of wealthy sightings over the subsequent two days.

The subsequent morning, after the regulation watch on the birdbath for an hour from daybreak, we take off on a trek across the property, craning our necks on the tall branches to identify an occasional noisy woodpecker or an impressive noticed eagle spreading its wings. The solar emerges from the clouds, dispersing the mist and glinting off the dazzling patterns on the backs of a flock of inexperienced pigeons. Just a few hundred yards from our lodge, we’re startled by raucous avian chatter overhead, accompanied by the loud helicopter-like drone of flapping wings. We glance up and spot a military of Malabar pied hornbills perched atop just a few tall eucalyptus timber. Their ungainly and outsized beaks appear to name for some deft balancing on the slender branches of the tree, inflicting them to regularly flap their wings and alter place. This tree is certainly crowded. Dozens of hornbills perch cheek by jowl with jungle mynas and rock pigeons, all chattering away noisily.

After an hour or so of squinting at these birds by means of my grossly insufficient 400 mm lens, I surrender. Our information guarantees higher sightings of a fair larger military of hornbills at one other spot. So, we restore to a close-by pond, which is roofed in inexperienced slime and surrounded by a thick cover, to search for some uncommon species of kingfishers which can be recognized to inhabit this stretch. Lengthy-stalked crimson flowers populate the banks. The information factors to a darkish bush the place he believes the kingfisher is hiding. A lot as I squint and stare, I see nothing. However then, reward comes from an unlikely supply. Perched on the tall flaming crimson stalk is slightly spiderhunter with its curved beak. He’s oblivious to our presence as he pokes his curved beak into the flower, trying to find spiders, I presume.

We transfer on. The trek leads us into thorny bushes and pokey shrubs that go away our garments sequinned with burrs and nettles. However recognizing a velvet-fronted nuthatch hanging the other way up to get at bugs hiding behind the bark is reward sufficient to disregard the sting of the nettles. We’re again on the water bowl for our night fill of frolicking avians. They don’t disappoint. A yellow-browed bulbul and a white bellied blue flycatcher flit previous. A typical iora additionally places in a visitor look. We spend a convivial night within the firm of beautiful plumes.

Later within the night, as we sit round a campfire, just a few birders go on the lookout for owls with highly effective searchlights that they shine on the cover, sweeping a large arc by means of the foliage. They find a scops owl, however with all of the commotion and the cruel gentle, it flies away, with just a few diehard birders chasing after it into the darkish deep jungle within the hope of catching a shot. I return to my cottage.

Round 8 p.m., as we’re discussing the day’s sightings and ticking off our lists, the supervisor of the property, shushes us into silence, intently listening, his ears cocked to the wilderness. He has heard a grunt and needs to find out whether or not it’s a wild boar or a bear. He says the campfire website adjoins a wildlife crossing path. He has noticed each bears and boars right here. He asks us to restore to our cottages simply in case. Wild boars are recognized to cost unprovoked. If the bear has a cub, she could possibly be skittish when passing so near individuals. We wait with bated breath for the animal to maneuver away because the supervisor regales us, sotto voce, with tales of his encounters with every kind of wildlife at this very spot, together with a black panther, which crossed by means of the property through the lockdown. Dandeli is without doubt one of the few forests in India that shelters this elusive cat. There are additionally tigers about, however they keep deep within the jungle.

The subsequent day yields rewarding sightings of scarlet minivets, of which there appear to be an inordinate quantity on a selected tree. The males flaunt their flaming scarlet plumes whereas the females appraise them with nonchalance. The males flit from one tree to a different hoping to catch the solar’s rays on their beautiful wings, however the females fake to not discover.

Emerald doves and noticed doves coo soothingly as they line up on an electrical wire, coppersmith barbets arrange their “kukkukkuk” in a excessive pitch whereas inexperienced bee-eaters deftly seize, what else however, bees in mid-flight, to savour them at leisure on a department. We additionally spot Indian gray hornbills and an awesome Indian hornbill however they’re too swift for my lens to deal with them.

Being a rookie birder, I fumble with the identities of a lot of the birds I see. However Syamala Kumar, an avid birder from Hyderabad and a frequent customer to Dandeli, is ever able to share her huge information of the avian universe with me. She will even determine the gender of the birds and, aside from reeling out their names and their peculiarities, tells me which birds are of their breeding plumage and that are juveniles. Having Syamala Kumar round enriched my Dandeli expertise.

Within the night, we make our technique to the Supa dam on the Kali river. On a freshly harvested subject are a clutch of hornbills mudbathing. As our group advances slightly menacingly, I presume, for a greater shot, they take off in unison. We comply with their flight path with our lenses and discover a tree stuffed with hornbills noisily chattering overhead. Studded with ripe golden figs, this tree is a magnet for hornbills, which feast on them. However they by no means sit nonetheless and are all the time flitting from department to department. After a while, I surrender making an attempt to {photograph} them and let the magic of the second wash over me.

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