Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ragihalli - A lifer and a bee "attack"!

Back-to-back birding on both days last weekend! After the amazing visit to BM Betta, Vineet and I were totally inspired to do another trip on Sunday. We decided to check out the Bannerghatta area towards Ragihalli. Ragihalli is a small village about 8km from the Bannerghatta-Anekal road.

There are a lot of birding spots on the road to Ragihalli. The first one is a huge empty plot of land that comes very soon after you make the right turn from the Bannerghatta-Anekal road. We spotted a couple of lapwings there which looked somewhat smaller and unusual. Looking through the binoculars gave us a huge lifer. Yellow-wattled lapwings!

Yellow-wattled Lapwing 2

Yellow-wattled lapwings don't have the black throat and breast that is present in red-wattled lapwings. Of course, they have yellow wattles and are marginally smaller. I think the pair that we saw had a nest somewhere on that patch. They were relentlessly mobbing crows and kites that were flying overhead and were returning to the same place.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing - In Flight

This was lark-land. All around us, larks were calling, running, flying and catching their morning meals. We identified Indian Bush Lark, Singing Bush Lark and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark. A black kite chased a black-winged kite for a short distance. A Jungle Bush Quail made the briefest of appearances before disappearing into the undergrowth. A pair of red-wattled lapwings were bounding from one place to another screaming their characteristic "Did you do it?".

Proceeding from this place, we came across a crested serpent eagle soaring. A little ahead, the road comes onto a cliff and we thought this would be a promising place to get some raptor action. We got off the bike and walked towards the cliff. Suddenly, we saw a huge swarm of bees flying towards us. We ran back to the bike at full speed hoping for the best. Very luckily, the bees took another route and flew away from us. An attack by a swarm of bees in the middle of nowhere was the last thing on my mind for a beautiful Sunday morning.

Ragihalli lake was very dry compared to a couple of weeks back. A pair of frogs was busy with its mating "song and dance". Pond herons, Paddyfield pipits and White-browed wagtails were everywhere.

White-browed Wagtail

This has truly been a weekend of lifers! And great birding even in summer.

Complete list of birds
Photographs from trip

Driving directions:
Drive towards Bannerghatta. At the Bannerghatta "circle", instead of driving straight towards the Bio-park, continue on the road towards Jigani-Anekal. Around 3km from the circle, there's a board on the right-side of the road which indicates the road to Ramakrishna mission, Shivanahalli. Take a right turn onto that road and follow it. You'll come across 2 forest department check-posts. At one point, the road forks; take the right fork. At Ragihalli, ask the locals for the lake. The lake is not visible from the main road and the turn is pretty nondescript. Happy birding!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Banthi Maari Betta - Of landscapes, raptors and lifers...

A rocky region is hardly the place to be this summer. Luckily for Vineet and me, the weather gods were merciful enough to provide lots of rain last week. And, we set off for Banthi Maari Betta (aka BM Betta) off Kanakpura road at 5AM on Saturday.

Where is BM Betta? Within a couple of kilometres of crossing Kanakpura, there is a small tank called Narayanakere on the right side of the road. Immediately after the tank (pretty much a bund of the tank), take a right and drive on and on. Around 8km ahead, a small village with a bus stop and you need to take a right here. Beyond this are a couple of villages and the villagers would guide you to your destination.

Kanakpura road is a fantastic road for birding. Our drive to BM Betta was filled with multiple stopovers. Birds in breeding plumages - Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and that most notable of all makeovers, the humble Pond Heron - were a treat to watch. A Hoopoe was fetching food back to its nest. Flocks of White-rumped Munias and Indian Silverbills were flying from one bush to another. A Jungle Bushquail (lifer for me) made a brief appearance in the open. A closer look and we almost fell backwards when 4 of them took off in a loud whrrrrr that almost made the heart stop! At another place, we were greeted by a huge flock (around 20) of Large Grey Babblers (another lifer) raising a huge alarm even though we were a good 100m away!

White-rumped Munia

BM Betta was a totally different world. The landscape is awesome as the area is surrounded by rocky hills, very green for this time of the year. A little trek up and the first sighting there - a Black Eagle (first time near Bangalore) gliding above us. It was soon joined by another one (possibly its mate). They were flying slowly, perching for a short time before flying off again.

Black Eagle - Record Shot

As we were enjoying this amazing sight, we were greeted by another pair of raptors. In our excitement, we were struggling to identify them when, thankfully, Vineet found his cool and asked me to observe the tail closely. Egyptian vultures! A huge huge lifer as I've never seen vultures of any kind. They landed near the temple and we got a good view of them for a short while before they flew away.

V for Vulture

The hill was very noisy with cicadas and crickets (I guess) making a din. We spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle (CSE), a few Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHBs) and Rufous treepies. A shikra was closely following a black eagle in the air. An agama made a go for a noisy insect.


On the way back, we stopped at one of the villages when we saw a CSE being mobbed by mynahs. We stopped and walked through the fields. The vultures made another appearance, this time flying very low. A pair of White-naped Woodpeckers were going after a coconut trunk. Surprisingly, they were at the same place on the same tree for more than 15 minutes. Not sure if they found a large hole filled with insects or were making a nest. We followed an OHB from perch to perch as it was being mobbed by mynahs.


Fantastic trip, on the whole!

Complete list of birds
Photographs from trip