Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Valley of Birds

There are many good birding spots in & around Pune. Mumbai people can easily go there on weekends. Bhigwan, Varvand Dam, Kavdi, Pashan are very good places in winter, specially for ducks. But an all season favorate birding spot is Sinhgad valley.

It all started with a call from Adesh, asking for going to Pune for Raja Purohit's exhibition. We* decided to leave Mumbai by Saturday afternoon, reach Sinhagad valley by night, stay there, Morning birdwatching in singad valley, visit Raja's exhibition in the afternoon & come back to Mumabi.
Sinhgad is apprx. 25kms from Pune. We stayed at "Ranvara" resort, situated at the foothills of Sinhgad. The area around the resort has a cultivated land on one side & valley on the other. Early morning the area was very active with various bird acitivities. Eurasian Black Birds, Plum Headed Parakeets, Baya Weavers, Spotted & Laughing Doves, Oriental White Eye, Indian Robin, Red Rumped Swallow and a Black Shouldered Kite.

Sinhgad valley birding trail starts from the left side of the main route. The valley was full of bird calls. A juvenile White Bellied Drongo, Small Sunbird in eclipse plumage, Purple Sunbird, Black birds (in plenty), Bulbuls, Ioras, Pair of Indian Robins busy in feeding their chicks were seen at the start of the trail.As we moved on a Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Black-lowered Tit, Black-headed Cuckoo Shrike were seen.

Later on we were joined by Gaurav Purohit and his colleagues from Pune. Tickell's Blue Flycathers were seen almost everywhere. Some pairs busy in hatching the eggs, some busy in preparing the nest. A changeable Hawk Eagle was sitting majestically high in the valley and a pair Crested Serpant Eagle was circling around.
But still we were not satisfied as one special bird was still remained to be seen. A beautiful "Crested Bunting", which is commonly seen in Sinhgad valley. But no luck... till afternoon when we all were ready to leave the place. Just in front of the rest house this beatiful bird came & rested on a barren tree branch in full sunlight to give us some splendid views. The dark blue & copper colors were shining brightly and its crest.. ohh... what a beauty!! No doubt why it is called a "Yuvraj"!!As now mansoon is ready to set, it will be interesting to visit this valley again in August, when Black Eagle comes to the valley.
Later in the evening we visited Raja Purohit and Anant Zanjale's Wildlife Photography exhibition. We all were stunned to see those beautiful captures from varioues wildlife sancturies of India & few from Africa as well.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Pre-mansoon rain has transformed the color of jungle from brownish-yellow to green. You feel refreshed being there.

We* started the Tungareshwar trail (north side) by 7.30am (A bit late). The first bird we saw was, Indian Grey Hornbill circling overhead. A great start. The bird activity was on high. Various calls coming from all directions. Yellow-eyes Babblers, White-browed Bulbuls, Grey-breasted Prinias, Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Indian Robins, Magpie Robins, Chestnust Shouldered Pertronias, Thick-billed Flowerpeckers, White-rumped Shama and Orange-headed Ground Thrush were vocal. All this at the foothills!!

But the most interesting sighting was of 4 Blue-breasted Quails, probably a family!!

Crab Calotes 1 Calotes 2

As we climbed higher Black-hooded Oriole, Crimson Sunbird, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Brown-headed Barbet, A pair of Black-rumped Flameback, Rufous Treepie, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra were seen. We also saw a Black-hooded Oriole chasing Shikra! Probably its nest was nearby.

Lily flowers have emerged after the first rain. A calotes with a combination of Orange-Black colors was seen along with another calotes of plain black color.

No Cuckoos, no oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, but still, it was an excellent first outing for this years mansoon. I'm sure by July the beauty will be more picturesque as waterfalls will also start flowing, and atmosphere will be more pleasant.

* Animish Mandrekar, Ritesh Bagul, Pallavi Joshi and myself.

Mandar Khadilkar

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tungareshwar Philia
With the memorable birding (Rufous Bellied Eagle) last Sunday we* all again decided to visit for one more time to Tungareshwar from North side.
We started early morning, just at the start of the trail saw a pair of Rose Finches & few steps ahead heard & saw Malabar Parakeets flying by. Next on the seen was Shikra sitting on relatively low branch & fortunately for quite a long time. Just at that time saw 3 raptors flying high and chased by crows. One was Oriental Honey Buzzard but others two couldn’t be identified.
The party continued with sightings of Small & Scarlet Minivets, Iora, Eurasian Golden & Black Hooded Orioles, Monarchs, Verditer & Paradise Flycatchers, Yellow Crowned Woodpecker etc… The excitement was even more when we saw Leopard pugmarks on the way. Another significant sighting was of Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike.
At around 10.30am, as temp. was on the rise & the raptors started to occupy the sky space. First to be seen was a pair of Changeable Hawk Eagle. Myself & Venkat had a good shoot of the couple & Amod also had some nice pics. We all spent quite a few time in identifying the raptor, since we were confused between Mountain hawk & Changeable Hawk Eagle. Shikras were continuously seen flying here & there, at one place a shikra was seen chased by Jungle Babblers. Next was Booted Eagle & Black Eagle flying in its typical style.
We returned back by 2.00pm & at the foothill saw Booted Eagle in dark phase, maybe, just came there to say Good bye & invite again...
Happy Birding
Mandar Khadilkar
* Adesh Shivkar, Abhijit Narvekar, Animish Mandrekar, Pallavi Joshi, Mandar Khadilkar, Venkat, Amod Karkhanis & Anil Kunte
Birds Seen & Heard
01. Yellow Crowned Woodpecker
02. Brown Headed Barbet – heard
03. Coppersmith Barbet
04. Green Bee-eater
05. Plum Headed Parakeet
06. Malabar Parakeet
07. Rose Ringed Parakeet
08. Black Kite
09. Black Eagle
10. Shikra
11. Oriental Honey Buzzard
12. Booted Eagle
13. Changeable Hawk Eagle
14. Golden Fronted Leafbird
15. Long-Tailed Shrike
16. Rufous Treepie
17. House Crow
18. Large Billed Crow
19. Eurasian Golden Oriole
20. Black-Hooded Oriole
21. Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike
22. Small Minivet
23. Scarlet Minivet
24. White Browed Fantail
25. Black Drongo
26. Ashy Drongo
27. White Bellied Drongo
28. Racket Tailed Drongo
29. Black Naped Monarch
30. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
31. Common Iora
32. Common Woodshrike
33. Red Throated Flycatcher
34. Verditer Flycatcher
35. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
36. Pale Martin
37. Dusky Craig Martin
38. Red Rumped Swallow
39. Crested Tree Swift
40. Red Vented Bulbul
41. Red Whiskered Bulbul
42. Grey Breasted Prinia
43. Western Crowned Warbler
44. Jungle Babbler
45. Pale Billed Flowerpecker
46. Purple Rumped Sunbird
47. Purple Sunbird (eclipse)
48. Tree Pipit – heard
49. Common Rose Finch

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tungareshwar Surprise ... Rufous Bellied Eagle

Tungareshwar always gives you some special moments in each trip and when it’s from North side (not the normal route), you better be ready for the surprises.

We* parked our vehicles at the start of the trail & started walking upwards. The first surprise was a flock of around 50 Malabar Parakeets flying in small sub groups.

There are few sightings of Malabar Parakeet from Karnala, but not in flock of 50 or so. The perfect start required to gear up everyone. Just when we trying to see where the Malabar Parakeets land up, saw some another green birds flying in flock, they were Yellow Footed Green Pigeons. The pigeons settled down on a tree top (looong away from us), but we could spot them from Adesh Spotting scope.

Moving on saw Loten’s Sunbird sitting on a tree very close to us and a Black Hooded Oriole flying overhead. As we move up & sun started shining brightly the bird sighting started to reduce down. But still we saw 2 small hunting parties comprising Common Wood Shrike, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Black Naped Monrch, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo etc…

Among the raptors, a pair of Shikra went flying in their usual fashion, a lone Oriental Honey Buzzard looking for some breakfast, a probable Besra & as usual plenty of Black Kites.

Also flying high were Crested Tree Swifts, Dusky Craig Martins & Red Rumped Swallows.

While coming back suddenly some raptor came very close to us, all the binocs pointed in the sky & suddenly Adesh shouted (as ususal), “hey it’s a juvenile Rufous Bellied Eagle”, we all saw the dark mask, white supercilium & white underparts to confirm that it was really a Rufous Bellied Eagle. Wow!!! What a sighting, don’t remember to heard any sighting of this bird in Mumbai or nearby area. The excitement was so high & no one took the picture, which could be a great evidence… But we all enjoyed the moment & I think that’s for we all go for bird watching…

Adesh Shivkar, Ashwini Vaidya, Animish Mandrekar, Abhijit Narvekar, Pallavi Joshi, Muralishar & Mandar Khadilkar.

Birds seen & heard:

01. Large Green Barbet (LGB)– heard
02. White Breasted Kingfisher – on the way
03. Malabar Parakeet
04. Plum Headed Parakeet
05. Rose ringed Parakeet
06. Crested Tree Swift
07. Barred Jungle Owlet – heard
08. Yellow Footed Green Pigeon
09. Black Kite
10. Shikra
11. Besra?
12. Oriental Honey Buzzard
13. Rufous Bellied Eagle
14. Golden Fronted Leafbird
15. Rufous Treepie
16. House Crow
17. Large Billed Crow
18. Eurasian Golden Oriole
19. Black Hooded Oriole
20. Small Minivet
21. Scarlet Minivet
22. White Browed Fantail
23. Black Drongo
24. White Bellied Drongo
25. Black Naped Monarch
26. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
27. Common Iora
28. Common Woodshrike
29. Red Throated Flycatcher
30. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
31. Dusky Craig Martin
32. Red Rumped Swallow
33. Red Whiskered Bulbul
34. Red Vented Bulbul
35. White Browed Bulbul
36. Grey Breasted Prinia
37. Oriental White Eye
38. Booted Warbler
39. Common Tailor Bird
40. Greenish Leaf Warbler
41. Pale Billed Flowerpecker
42. Purple Rumped Sunbird
43. Loten’s Sunbird
44. Chestnut Shouldered Petronia

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Alibag - Top to Bottom

Hi all,

After reading almost daily emails about quality birding in Alibag from Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh, we all were anxious to do some birding there. Opportunity came when Dr. Vaibhav posted mail for Raptor Watch at Ramdharaneshwar on Sunday 23rd October 2005. We reached Mandwa Jetty by boat from Gateway of India and from Mandwa to Maniphata by bus. The boat ticket is inclusive of bus travel from Mandwa to Alibag.

Just when we* started climbing up the Ramadharaneshwar hill, saw a raptor hovering, which was Short Toed Snake Eagle. Also flying above him was Booted Eagle & Shikra. Later on Short Toed Snake Eagle gave us a very good view by soaring at very low level. So the raptor watch was on… Climbing up the hill gave us some very good sightings of various raptors including, Eurasian Hobby, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Common Kestrel & a pair of White Bellied Sea Eagle.

After lunch break we went to Akshi beach. Here, Dr. Vaibhav & his Alibag birding team had seen a large flock of Gulls previously.
A small flock of Chestnust Tailed Starlings welcomed us to Akshi Beach. Moved some distance ahead, saw Lesser Sand Plovers, playing with the tide. But the main attraction was a huge flock of Gulls & Terns, must be around 5000. We could identify 6 Gulls species & 3 Tern species from that flock. (Thanks to Adesh Nikon & Dr. Vaibhav Swarovski). The most interesting were Sandwitch Terns, Lesser Crested Terns & Slender Billed Gulls. When we were busy in photographing the Gulls & Terns someone went very close to them & within the second the sky was full of Gulls & Terns. We all were thrilled to see this. That was really an amazing sight!!!

Thanks to Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh for arranging the wonderful birding trip. I Would request all to visit Alibag, who missed out on Sunday, as Alibag is full of various birds from Top (hills) to Bottom (sea shore)

* Alka Vaidya, Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh (Swarovski), Adesh Shivkar (Nikon), Shashank Dalvi, Ritesh Bagul, Srinivas, Rajeev Bhatkar & Mandar Khadilkar

Enjoy Birding
Mandar Khadilkar

Birds Seen & Heard:
Lesser Whistling Duck
Common Kingfisher,
White Breated Kingfisher
Small Green Bee-eater
House Swift, Alpine Swift
Laughing Dove, Spotted Dove - heard
Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper
Bronze Winged Jacana
Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover
Red Wattled Lapwing
Yellow Legged Gulls, Huglin's Gulls, Brown Headed Gulls, Black Headed Gulls, Palla's Gulls, Slender Billed Gulls
Gull Billed Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Sandwitch Tern
Black Kite, Btahminey Kite, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Short Toed Snake Eagle, Shikra, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby,

Little Cormorant
Little Egret, Western Reef Egret
Pond Heron
Glossy Ibis
Long Tailed Shrike
House Crow, Large Billed Crow
Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo
Indian Robin
Chestnut Tailed Starling
Dusky Craig Martin
Barn Swallow, Streak Throated Swallow, Red Rumped Swallow
Red Vented Bulbul, Red Whiskered Bulbul
Greenish Leaf Warbler, Tailor Bird
Tawny Bellied Babbler, Jungle Babbler - heard, Yellow Eyed Babbler
Malabar Crested Lark, Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark
Thick Billed Flowerpecker
House Sparrow

Thursday, October 13, 2005

URAN As Usual. . .

October starts birding season in Uran, as the visiting birds start to pour down. But since Uran is quite a distance away from Mumbai & due to present road conditions it becomes very hectic for the mumbaities to go there frequently. So we* tried a different option on Sunday 09th October 2005. We went to Ferry-Wharf (Bhaucha Dhakka) on bike & carried the bike in boat till Mora Bunder. So we were quite fresh when we reached Uran. (Otherwise reaching Uran itself is quite hectic.) Uran is 8kms from Mora.

Birding in Uran was as usual excellent, saw 92 species. We started the birding from Phunde village & ended at JNPT tower.

The sighting of the day was Sanderling. We saw them at pond near Phunde village.

Other interesting sightings were Pied Bushchat - 2 males[] &

Greater Sand Plover []

* Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar

Birds Seen & Heard:

Lesser Whistling Teal, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Spot Billed Duck, Common Teal, Gargeney.
Small Blue Kingfisher – heard, White Breasted Kingfisher.
Small Green Bee-eater, Blue Tailed Bee-eater.
Alexandrine Parakeet – heard.
House Swift, Palm Swift.
Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove.
Purple Moorhen, Common Teal.
Black Tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Green Shank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Little Stint, Temnick’s Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Black Winged Stilt, Pied Avocet.
Bronze Winged Jacana, Pheasant Tailed Jacana.
Kentish Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Red Wattled Lapwing.
Yellow Legged Gulls, Heuglin’s Gulls, Black Headed Gulls.
Gull Billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Tern.
Black Shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Brahminey Kite, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Peregrine Falcon.
Little Cormorant, Little Egret, Large Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Western Reef Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Gray Heron.
Glossy Ibis, Oriental White Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbills, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill Stork. Brown Shrike, Long Tailed Shrike.
House Crow, Large Billed Crow.
Black Drongo, Common Iora – heard, Indian Robin – heard, Oriental Magpie Robin – heard. Pied Bushchat, Common Stonechat.
Asian Pied Starling, Common Myna.
Wire Tailed Swallow, Barn Swallow.
Red Vented Bulbul, Red Whiskered Bulbul.
Ashy Prinia, Plain Prinia.
Zitting Ciscticola, Booted Leaf Warbler.
Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark, Rufous Tailed Lark, Malabar Crested Lark, Oriental Sky Lark. Purple Rumped Sunbird.
House Sparrow.
Citrine Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail.
Paddy Field Pipit.
Baya Weaver.
Red Avadvat, Indian Silverbill, Scaly Breasted Munia