Bangalore Bird Race - Jan 2009 : Grey Junglefowls

Locations: Valley School, Lakes along Kanakpura Road (Kaggalipur, Gabbadi or Akka-thangi, Harohalli), Byramangala Tank
Date: 18th Jan 2009, 6am to 5pm

January in Bangalore means the HSBC birdrace which is held the 3rd Sunday of each year. I was fortunate to team up again as the Grey Junglefowls with Harish, Arun and Sridhar. However Balesh was replaced by Raghavendra this time around. Last year (report), we did fairly well bagging 85 but the focus was more on the fun side than really competing as we enjoyed camping the previous night, did late night astronomy and had good food all through. So, this year we made a pledge to reach atleast a respectable 100 which meant the need for some preparations. The first decision to make was north or south Bangalore. After much debate south was picked more for a change from last year than anything else. Plan was to spend most of our morning at Valley school and in the afternoon visit the lakes along Kanakpura road.

So, there we were, up before dawn and parked along the road to Valley school around 6.15am. Just like last year, first light brought along with it a burst of calls and experts started calling out the bird names. I have to confess that I still could only make out the Red-wattled Lapwing and maybe the Red-whiskerd Bulbul. Have to work on this important skill. The thrill this time was we heard the call of our team bird ie Grey Junglefowl which we had missed last year. The sun brought up along with it lots of bird activity. We managed to tag Bulbuls, Babblers, Golden Oriole, Shrike, Greater Flameback woodpecker among others before we even reached the school gate.

After getting the required permission, we took a path which goes through the school, next to a man made pond and reached some paddy fields on the other side of the school. Using a roundabout route we got back on the road which leads back to the parking lot. If that sounded long, it was. I feel we trekked maybe 4-5km in about 6 hrs making it back to the car around 12+. Near the pond, Harish along with Raghavendra scaled a viewing platform quite adroitly and called out Common Kingfisher, Cormorant from up there. While trekking the paths we kept a constant look out in the dense shrub for Indian Pitta with no luck.

At the paddy fields we were rewarded with good views of a Grey - bellied Cuckoo (ID confirmed later). Near the valley school guesthouses a Tickels Blue Flycatcher was happily singing. Harish mentioned that it jerks its tail up in exact sync with the number of notes in its call, which I thought was pretty neat. It was confirmed to be true by our amateur observations at that time. He also noted that the Tickels Blue likes to nest in the cup shaped barks of the wild date palms (Phoenix sylvestris) of which there were several. Around that area we were able to observe a Copper-smith Barbet for a long time digging away actively at a tree. One of the most colorfull birds I feel. We also saw a Monarch Flycatcher (or The Black-naped Blue Flycatcher), Monarch azurea briefly. I say briefly because I had only a glimpse and spent the short amount of time it posed for us trying to photograph it, in which I failed also. A bit disappointing there as it is a very beautiful bird. On the road back, we were very lucky to spot a pair of Common Rosefinches which we later nominated as our bird of the day.

We now got back onto Kanakpura road and made stops at lakes along the way. Kaggalipura Tank gave us Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Egrets etc. We stopped for our lunch in a school yard beside a large lake. Here, we could add only a Black headed Ibis which flew by but our bodies got a much needed boost of energy at this stop! Next lake Gabbadi (or Akka-Thangi Kere) which in reality is a twin waterbody one hidden behind a bund was a little better with many Garganeys and Pintails. We continued until we reached Harohalli which has a large lake near its Bus Stand. Here there was quite a bit of water plants and therefore a lot of swamp birds. We checked off Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Moorhen, Purple Heron, Spot-billed Pelican, etc., An Oriental Honey buzzard gave us several fly-bys at this spot.

The time then was around 3pm and we had about an hour of birding left. We drove on towards Byramangala hoping for more ducks. On the way we added Black shouldered kite and Tree pipit. The tank itself is very huge but was disappointing birds wise. My first visit here and I got to know where all our garbage ends up! Not a very pleasant sight. We saw Glossy Ibises, Wagtails, Sandpipers among others thriving prosperously here. The drive back was uneventful with quick stops again near the previously visited lakes yielding nothing more.

Though this time around we tried to focus on the "race" we still found time to just simply explore for natures sake and ended up with some more knowledge in the bargain. How a Shrike stands as a lookout, notes on Tickells Blue Flycatcher behaviour, palm swifts build nests using saliva, etc..etc. Nature with its never ending mysteries to be understood, learnt and unravalled can never be boring! And ya, this time we did manage to crack 100. Final count 105. Winning team, Pied-Harriers had a count of 145!

More bird pictures taken during the day can be seen on Picasa

Notable birds from our checklist:
  1. White-browed Bulbul
  2. Black-headed Cuckooshrike
  3. Grey-bellied Cuckoo
  4. Ashy Drongo
  5. Garganey
  6. Northern Pintail
  7. Crested Serpent Eagle
  8. Short-toed Snake Eagle
  9. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  10. Black-naped Monarch Flycatcher
  11. White-browed Fantail
  12. Pheasant-tailed Jacana
  13. Small Minivet
  14. Spotted Owlet
  15. Tree Pipit
  16. Common Rosefinch
  17. Rosy Starling
  18. Ashy Woodswallow
  19. River Tern
  20. Black-winged Stilt
  21. Little-ringed Plover

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