After we had all filed through the narrow lane, past the ex-pig farm (yes, the pigs have gone, as have the noise and noisomeness!)
Abandoned Pig farm.
in a long, distance-maintaining, straggling line, we peered into the trees as we reached the lake bund, and immediately someone pointed out a large bird in the clutter of dry branches, in the overcast morning.
More peering brought about the near-certainty that it was not a Kite...but a Booted Eagle! I had, of course, mentioned earlier that Muthanallur Lake is noted for sightings of this beautiful migrant raptor, but certainly I didn't expect to sight one as the boni bird of the morning!
Booted Eagle, showing the feathered legs that give it its name.
Very pleased with this start, we started our each-person-a-few-feet-behind-the-one-in-f
But that didn't matter, as the trees and bushes gave us plenty to look at! A flock of Starlings,which had both Rosy and Chestnut-tailed varieties, took to the air, and I was able to talk about starling murmuration. A little further on, we looked at the Little and Great Cormorants, and we found many nests on the bare trees. And along with them were many others...a Golden Oriole, a pair of Black-rumped Flamebacks, juvenile and adult Black and Brahminy Kites (we repeated the discussion about the names of these birds!)...and lo and behold, another Booted Eagle!
Through the trees, on the water, we saw our first Spot-billed Pelican, floating gently and serenely; a Darter, a snake-like silhouette in the gray light;
Spot-billed Pelicans and a Darter.
an Oriental Magpie Robin calling, a few Small Minivets flying (they looked like grey Minivets!) A Pied Cuckoo surprised us by sitting and posing on an Eucalyptus branch, making sure almost all of us saw it before flying off.
I was wondering how far the path would be walkable, after we reached the Bhavani temple and the majestic Mahua tree; in July, when I had gone, a huge hornet's nest had blocked the path, as had the overgrowth. But now, the path was cleared for quite a distance, and we walked on,
sighting the jewel of a Small Blue Kingfisher zipping back and forth across the water, both Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters going about the business of despatching their insect breakfasts. And...here and there, each time eliciting more expressions of Oohs and Aaahs from us, were Booted Eagles! A total of seven of these birds were sighted, delighting both the newbies (yes, there were at least two people on their very first bird outing...students of Sriram Prabhakar, who motivated them enough to wake up early on a chilly morning and attend!) and the more experienced birders.
Two Black Drongos had a face-off followed by a serious difference of opinion; in fact, a juvenile Black Drongo with the white down feathers just growing out, gave the opportunity for to talk about id'ing these bird. Though the breast was white enough to think of it as a White-bellied Drongo, the rictal spots were the way to say clearly that was, indeed, a Black Drongo...and that to call it the White-bellied Drongo.... was wrongo! Here is the bird:
Nor was audio lacking. Francolins called , as did both Blyth's and Clamorous Reed Warblers. The former never could be seen,but queries of "Where? Where?" echoed as the latter jumped in their usual restless way in the reeds. Both the Green and Greenish Warblers called their respective 3-and 2-syllable calls. The Southern Coucal's "Houk-houk-houk" resounded every then, as did the Spotted Doves' cooing, which reminded me of Tennyson's onomatepoeic line about "the murmuring of doves in immemorial elms".
Listening and looking, the long line of nature lovers were also able to see a mongoose running across the path, several damselflies and dragonflies, how a Lynx Spider lay in wait under a leaf to ambush unwary prey, and saw a Common Four-ring Butterfly fly into a spiderweb. I pointed some of the interesting plants on the way, like Sida acuta (Common Wireweed), Calotropis (Milkweed) and so on. I must say though, that Lantana, Parthenium and Eupatorium have almost completely taken over the path. I was able to see a lot of the Common Four-rings,and Coomon Grass Yellows, but one young boy was able to photograph (and ask for the id of) an Indian Grizzled Skipper too. I was able to point out a Zebra Blue at the end of the walk.
We took the path back through the field, and were treated to the sight of a few woodland birds; a skulky Blue-faced Malkoha, the usual Sunbirds and the Pale-billed Flowerpecker.
When we arrived back at the Bhavani temple, I brought out the fresh-from-the-garden papaya which my friend Radhika had given me...I had cut the fruit carefully, and was able to offer its juicy sweetness to everyone.
On the way back, we met Anil, who was on a cycle, and was carrying a DSLR mounted on a tripod. We wondered how he was managing to do both activities at once, but he explained that he lived not too far away, and had only just mounted his camera on his tripod.
He suggested that we go even further on the path, but time constraints meant that we had to return.
On the way, I was able to show the Loranthus (Mistletoe) flowers and explain how Flowerpeckers open these flowers in their search for nectar.
Very happy with all that we had seen and enjoyed, we returned to the (many!) parked cars, and some returned to their family commitments, others to spend a little more time at the lake. Brajesh treated Nicholas and me to a lovely breakfast at Adayar Ananda Bhavan (the scientific name is A2B).
With our hearts, tummies, and memory cards full, we went home!
The group at the end of the walk
When people started arriving, rather than ask them to get closer for a group photograph, I decided to take a video of some of them. Here it is on YouTube, set for public viewing:
The eBird list is
My Flickr album of the walk is
and the FB album
Wishing everyone who celebrates the festival a very merry Christmas, and happy holidays to those who don't...and if I don't write again before that, here is a wish that 2021 will prove a year that might bring us back to a semblance of "normal" again!
The tiger of Corona is still very much in the woods; but we villagers have to live our lives...so do observe all the protocols, while trying to lead a normal life!