In the gloaming, we were still able to see a couple of Spotted Owlets flying around as they finished up their night of hunting. All of us strained to see them as they landed on a banyan tree close to the gate.
We walked up to the water's edge, looking at a few trees (including that icon of Karnataka, the sandalwood!)
Saraca asoka, the real Ashoka tree with flowers.
and in the stiff, nippy breeze, peered across at the island and on the water, trying to spot some birds. The silhouettes of a few Grey Herons and Little Cormorants, darker grey in the general gloom, were visible. "Is that a Grey Heron?" someone asked. "At this time, all the birds are grey!" I replied.
And then, quite suddenly....we gasped as a large flock of Rosy Starlings flew right overhead, and swooped past in the half-light.
Again and again, unable to move ahead, we watched, as in larger and smaller groups, these winter visitors gave an aerobatic display of their murmuration.
Video of Starling Murmuration from the net
I never expected that I would be able to share such a stunning sight with so many people, many of whom were coming birding (and to Madivala kere) for the first time. In a swiftly changing pattern of dots across the sky, the murmuration ebbed and flowed...and we watched, spellbound. It took us quite a while to decide to move on!
The sun made a brief appearance and sank into the clouds again.
Reaching the end of the open-to-morning walkers area, we found that the main gate and the parking area had not yet been opened up. Vidhya kindly offered to go and get the guard to open up, and meanwhile, I pointed out some other waterfowl to the people: Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Asian Openbills, Painted Storks, and Sandpipers.
As the parking area got opened up, we walked further and I was also able to point out the pod of Spot-billed Pelicans which glided in. I was able to show how different birds use the different levels of water to forage for food.
At this point we got a sighting of the Grey-headed Ornithologist; Dr M B Krishna, who had taken two buses, came to join us.
We got a very lively account of the history of birding and conservation in Bangalore, particularly in reference to Madivala Lake.
We walked past a bamboo gate to the area which is now off-limits for visitors. This is a mud path that goes along the retaining area and then follows the bund of the lake. As we did this, a long,disciplined line of Coots appeared, delighting everyone with their numbers...and their orderly progression! A couple of Little Grebes were also pointed out. Swamphens quarrelled and foraged in the Water Hyacinth, in their usual way. Egrets, LKG, Intermediate and Graduate, sorry, Little, Intermediate, and Great, were seen, too.
Waterfowl in the invasive Water Hyacinth
It was very nice to see the Madivala Kere Marsh Harrier, as we call it, appear, floating over the bird flocks and, as usual, alarming them at once. The Brahminy and Black Kites do not seem to upset the birds the way the presence of the Marsh Harrier does!
Erythrina mitis or umbrosa, Shady Coral Tree
Out came the snacks, and Vidhya's "ammani kuzhakkattai" and "sundal" were much appreciated, as were the biscuits and fruits that others shared.
Young Dolphin (that's the nickname of the youngest person in our group, Srishti) was able to identify several birds very confidently. Her parents bring her regularly for the nature walks, and she is gathering knowledge very fast. There were some other young people too, and I found all of them very keen.
I had to bring the group back outside the restricted area by 9.30 am, which arrived far too soon for my liking! But Vidhya and a few others went on ahead, and birded till 11am.
A few of us breakfasted at Check Post in J P Nagar afterwards,
while others dispersed to waiting families. Well satisfied with the morning's sightings and observations, off we went to our other Sunday commitments.