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.

Noisy

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.

Together

Fantastic trip, on the whole!

Links:
Complete list of birds
Photographs from trip

4 comments:

Sharath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharath said...

Black eagle in Banthi Maari Betta.. i dint know abt this... have trekked to that place.. amazing find...

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Sharath
http://isharath.com

sri ganesh said...

Hello Shreeram,
Neat write up.
I had been to BM Betta over the past weekend after I read about it on your blog to try my luck with photographing vultures. It was an amazing place, I did not stay atop longer as I was alone and could not spot vultures. I spent some time near the lake bund on the way, Dodda Tandya lake, spotted Ibis, Kingfishers White throated and Pied, and lot of raptors hovering over the lake during the early hours of the day, I will post the photos soon and let you know. Mean while here are my other photos.

sri ganesh said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sriganeshp