I always worry when visiting a bird/nature location either for the first time, or after a long gap, if I am bringing a group along. What will the place be like? Will what they see hold the interest of the group? Will they curse themselves (and me) for coming on the outing?
Well, I have been a fairly regular visitor to Hulimangala Lake, but this was the first time in more than a year, because two lockdowns had intervened. So it was with a little trepidation that I announced an outing...but I need not have worried!
Several people gathered at the meeting point, and though it was gloomy and dark, the avenue of majestic Ficus and Mango trees decided to take pity on us. Had the Spotted Owlets stayed still in those high branches, we would not have been able to see them at all; but for some reason, five or six of them were flying around, with their shapes and silhouettes unmistakable against the cloudy sky. All of us watched them for a while, forgetting the muddy path, and the trash underfoot.
We do not crowd each other on these outings. There is plenty of space!
Most of the group. A few more friends joined later.
We then crossed the road and came on to the tank bund, and we spotted a Black-winged Kite. I had just finished saying that these were solitary birds, when another appeared, and both settled on a tree, giving the photographers ample chances of clicking.
The next sight was also a black-and-white one like the kites; two Pied Kingfishers started flying and hovering, and they kept up this hunting/fishing pas de deux throughout the time we were there. Some Grey Herons flying in added to the monochrome, too.
As the light improved, however, so did the variety of birds we saw. A Bronze-winged Jacana, one solitary Grebe, several Coots, Purple Swamphens which darted among the severe overgrowth of the Marsh Glory plants....and then our attention was drawn to the sky, where several Lesser Whistling Ducks flew around,
landed, lifted off again, and settled down at a different spot. It is always gratifying to be able to explain the name of a bird to a group; these Ducks made it easy by whistling as they flew overhead! Several Spot-billed Ducks also joined the aerobatic show. As villagers walked through the lake bed, they kept rising up,and settling down. Purple Herons followed their example, as did the Egrets.
Old stone pavilion
We soon found the other Kingfishers too: the little jewel that I call the Vijay Mallya kingfisher, and the White-throated Kingfisher that also flies in a flash of cobalt blue. Red-rumped Swallows swooped overhead, and a few Swifts joined them. A majestic Brahminy Kite seemed to guide its young one in swooping down on the water to fish.
A concatenation of Darters on a bare tree in the middle of the lake gave us their black-and-silver feathers and zigzag necks.
The black,white and silver of the Darters.
Their darkness was offset by the white of a group of Little Egrets who decided to fraternize nearby.
Baya Weavers nesting.
One lovely sight was seeing not one but three Cinnamon Bitterns rising up above the plants, delighting us briefly, before disappearing again, in hiding. Some of the more adventurous in our group walked on; I settled down at the little temple on the bund, very happy to watch the show the birds were putting up. As I looked around, I found a Blue-faced Malkoha, some Scaly-breasted and Tricolored Munias, and a few Avadavats too in the bushes, and the Pongaemia trees. Once in a while, it's good to just sit in one spot and watch the birds! Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers....the smaller birds did not disappoint us, either.
We noticed several butterflies as the morning progressed; there were both the Crimson Rose and its mimic, the female Common Mormon, which was being amorously chased by the male! Grass Yellows fluttered around, and I saw Lemon Pansies, Common Emigrants, Common Jezebels, Pale and Lesser Grass Blues, all around me.
Common Bush Brown
It was very nice to see that Naveen Arur and Swetha had brought their daughters Shaarvi and Saanvi,
and Anuradha's son Samyak had cycled over, too.
Samyak (centre, in blue) discussing with the others.
I feel very happy to see children, and have been missing them very much over the past few months. I do hope more of them will come on the walks, if and when the pandemic eases.
I pointed out various medicinal plants and herbs to those near me.
Vitex altissima, the Peacock's Foot Tree, extensively used in Ayurveda.
The majesty of the trees, of course, was clear for everyone to appreciate.
One of the huge trees.
In my haste in the morning, I had picked up the box with the remnants of the snacks from the previous day's outing to Pearl Valley, instead of the biscuits that I wanted to share with everyone. That was probably my only disappointment of the morning! However, Gayatri and Balaji shared their snacks generously with everyone.
Gayatri's yum snacks.
I do hope that the magnificient tree-giants of the avenue at Hulimangala last for years more...the fact that it has been made a dumping yard may actually keep them from being cut down. Would there be a way to have them declared heritage trees, and protected? These thoughts went around in my head as we made our way back home, very satisfied with all that we had seen and observed this morning.
The eBird list (70 species) made by Naveen Reddy, is athttps://ebird.org/india/checklist/S92262401
My Flickr album of the morning, with very few birds, but whatever I noticed, is at https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157719587290829
The FB album is athttps://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10158672321823878&type=3
Already looking forward to the next outing,