Thursday, January 23, 2014

Birders again - Chilika Lake

I know you people have lost hope of being free of the bird-brain but you must have thought that you had, at least, finished with the Birders. Not really! There is more to come but, thank my kind heart, no more than this one. At least for now.

The trip to Sunderbans was followed up with a trip to Chilika Lake, some 100 odd kilometers off Bhubaneswar in Orissa. Since this is considered the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in India, it was a vain hope to avoid Birders - and, of course, birds. Not that the birds were any problem to me, in and of themselves. The problem only was that people kept asking me things like, "Did you see that bronze-skin Jacana?" and I go "Ho! Hum!" - looking 45 degrees away from where it was - only to hear a derisive laugh and the words, "That's a little egret, you idiot!" Times like that, I wished heartily that Nature had not been so creative and had stuck to making only one type of bird.

Anyway - there we were on a boat, propelled by a pole on the marshy lake with birds galore around us. Marsh Sandpipers, Black-winged stilts, egrets and herons - they were all over the place. After those days at Sunderbans of peering hopefully at the shore in the hope of finding a lone Kingfisher and jumping with joy when a distant bird deigned to make an appearance, this was boring. I mean, when there are so many birds around you, where is the excitement in sighting one?

As usual, I was wrong. When you have a plethora of birds, you apparently started looking for the ones that were not so ubiquitous and felt excited about it. So, you start looking at distant dots and scream,"There is a Brahmini duck" OR "There is an open-billed stork" and go into raptures. Soon I was into the full swing of things, clapping the guide's binoculars to my eyes and going gaga over rara avis - while concealing the fact that I could only manage to swing the binocs between the sky and the water and could sight nary a bird with it.

This was the evening of the first day. Apparently far more birds frequented the place in the morning. I went to bed with visions of shooing off the pesky pond herons and jacanas, which were too mundane to be noticed, in order to view the Grey heron and other such relatively rarer birds.

The next morning, when we went to the lake, we found that there had been a communication gap. Birds were supposed to flock the lake then but, apparently, no-one had thought to tell the birds. We found only as many birds as on the evening before. Maybe the birds thought it was a pity to have traveled so far and not take a look at the dolphins and had gone over on a sight-seeing trip.

The trip had its moments as usual. There were a couple of egrets engaged in either a mating dance or a fight (And people assure me that the two are different in humans as well as in birds. It is all hearsay evidence for me). One bird kept jumping close to the other only to have the other fly off to a different location every time. There was that Casanova of a buffalo with both a drongo and a little egret perched on its back while the others had to do with only one or none. (Did I forget to say? The locals apparently grazed their buffaloes in the lake). There were those couple of drongos ecstatically putting on a virtuoso aerial display - maybe a mating dance again or maybe they were just show-offs playing to the gallery.

We rounded off the trip with a visit to the Lingaraju tempe in Bhubaneswar - a marvelous example of Kalingan architecture. Needless to say, I prayed to be saved from the fate worse than death - of becoming a Birder!

38 comments:

  1. So can we call Suresh a Birder now ;) ?

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    1. No - puhleeeze :) You cannot be THAT hardhearted Naba :)

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  2. Aah Sureshji, you'd been to my native state. Great to know that. Hope you enjoyed other places here as well.

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    1. Nope Anupam - did not go anywhere else. I preferred to take more time to see all the other beauties of Odisha. Did not want to do it in a hurry merely to say I had been there.

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  3. Looks like a classic case of what we say in Assamese, " odhik maasot bogoli kauna", loosely translated as the confused crane in the middle of too many fish swimming around... :p. Wouldn't mind some more bird stories. :)

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    1. Hahaha! Well this is about it for now :) Let me see if the Birders STILL take me along in future :)

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  4. Bought a smile to my face .. and some memories too .. have visited the place long back with my parents .. if you are bird lover .. try ranganathittu .its peak season too.

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    1. Been there too - but that was without Birders around :)

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  5. I think you should try birds of a different feather, Suresh!

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  6. Good that you are into birds now, Suresh. Maybe when my work allows me time, we can go around bird watching in Bangalore.

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  7. Interesting. I Would love to visit Chilka lake :) Where are the pics ? By the way hearty congos for sirens of the spell . .Would try to read soem day !
    ALL THE BEST

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  8. Oh, it does me good to read you again! Such wholesome humor Suresh! How on earth do you do it? On the other hand, what does it matter? As long as you write and I get to read, can the modalities be important?

    Dagny

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    1. Thanks Dagny! Here I was, wondering why I could never think to write things like '...busily directing traffic....' and you come and praise my humor :)

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  9. haha Now why do you go bird watching when all that you do is not 'spot' birds? Yes, the knowledge of people is amazing. When you go on a botanical garden tour, there are those who just seem to know each tree, leaf and plant and really end up making you feel miserable for just enjoying the green.

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    1. Now THAT is not being able to see the wood for the leaves :P

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  10. remember Chilka largely for the crabs.they are delicious.we weren't allowed to eat the birds.now that you are a veteran birder,visit the mecca- Bharatpur. mating/fighting dance of storks and cranes on display.Python will be bonus.But you cant eat either

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  11. Some day I will have to retire from working life and check out what all this birding is all about. To me all feathered friends, apart from chicken and partridge (both edible) look the same

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    1. And the appropriate birding term for birds like the chicken and the partridge is 'a good table bird' :P

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  12. I am off to a bird sanctuary soon - Hope I'll see something more than just crows :-)

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    1. Phailin had caused some havoc in the Chilika lake area accounting for lesser birds than normal. Birds are more dependable than cats, at least, Ruchira as you probably know all too well :)

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  13. Interestingly, I possess the same feeling about the whole exercise of bird watching. Those bird watchers who unfortunately happen to be my friends have invited me numerous times on their trips and I have always managed to excuse myself. Moreover, I have no camera more than 3 mega pixel and I fear it could capture only the sky and not the tiny dots flying up there!

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    1. Hmm - Birds all over the place here - not just in the sky :)

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  14. Try Hebbal lake, heard many go bird watching there in the mornings... And the "birder" that you are now, you might teach those novices a thing or two ;-)

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    1. Ha! I see enough on the Agara Lake where I go for my morning walks :) And not even 'novice' Birders for competition - though desultorily I do spot a few with mini-bazookas :) (Looks like I have taken to spotting Birders instead of birds :) )

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  15. Nice to read about your Chilika Lake experience. Looks like you had a wonderful time -bird-watching' :)
    The Chilika Lake is the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Wish more info about Indian Tourism is shared proactively so that bird-watchers from the world over can come...

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    1. I know Anita! We have such riches in natural tourist spots like this, historical and sculptural spots and all - and we fail to do anything to propagate the information.

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  16. For me ,it was almost being there myself after reading this post

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  17. Chilka Lake sounds delicious....but I dunno when i will get call from that place...for the time being, I am doing with the local crows in my neighborhood :P

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    1. At least you are with birds you can recognize :)

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  18. @Suresh, thanks for such a lovely post for wildlife lovers like me. Although its pretty much bird-related, I loved the fact you described even the smallest aspect of your trip to the flawless Chilika Lake. A couple of pic would've helped though!

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    1. Thanks! Unfortunately I am a total dud as a photographer :)

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