Birds of Hessarghatta Grasslands

I always loved watching birds. As I child I would accompany some of the researchers in the jungle where I lived with my parents and would be awestruck by their ways of tracking a particular bird. I remember Uncle G and Aunty L, who were from Bombay Natural History Society, conducting a research on the rare Bengal Florican and they would sometimes take me along with them. I have vague memories of sitting huddled up inside the Jeep while waiting patiently for the bird to show up. There would be a surge of excitement when the bird was sighted and Aunty L would offer me her binoculars to take a closer look the bird.

It has been ages since I left that life behind and yet I still feel that excitement whenever I see a new bird. Of late, I am inundated with these feelings after my repeated visits to Hessarghatta grasslands in Bangalore. We were on the look-out for a good birding place in Bangalore, having already been to Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary twice. The blogs were rife with accounts of a thriving bird life in Hessarghatta and we were only too happy to jump into the fray. 

We first visited Hessarghatta grasslands on 2nd September’12. We had looked up the approach road to the area on Google Map and it looked fairly simple. In fact, we decided to go a step further – we modified the road shown on Google Map to create a short-cut. Oh come on, how can that be stupid? And yet… It is another story that we took more than 2 hours to cover 25 kms on an early-morning-zero-traffic condition. In short, we were downright stupid not to have followed the simple way shown on the map. 

 Hessarghatta grasslands

So, we reached Hessarghatta at around 9 am when we should have reached at 7.30-8.00 am. We did not stay very long that day, but were delighted by our first sightings of birds like Paddyfield Pippit, Oriental Skylark, Indian Silverbill and Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark. In our subsequent visits to the area, we came across many more varieties. 

 Paddyfield Pippit

Oriental Skylark

Ashy Crowned Sparrowlark

While driving, beware of the uneven surface and the pits the field has. We had a nerve-wracking moment once when our car fell down a ditch and there was nothing we could do to alleviate the situation. Thankfully, another car had seen our car from afar and could make out that we were in trouble. Those guys were totally Godsend and they helped in lifting the car out of the ditch. So be very, very careful while driving. Keep one eye on the ground ahead of you, always. 

Hessarghatta is supposed to be known for raptors. People have reported sightings of tawny eagles, marsh harriers, booted eagles, montagu’s harriers and shikras amongst others. However, both my husband and I are very poor in differentiating between these birds. Most of the times I am to be found clutching Grimmet’s field guide, open at the raptors’ page, and straining my eyes through the binoculars to gauge a raptor’s name. And we always end up clicking black kites thinking them to be harriers or eagles. 

Luck struck on our last visit on 27th October when we came across the common kestrel. The kestrel is a winter visitor to these parts and presented us ample opportunities to capture it in our camera. That was also the day when we saw the maximum number of birders in their cars and all of us were excited to have spied this bird. As a matter of fact, I noticed our bird being featured repeatedly on a bird-watching community on Facebook where members can upload their birding pictures. The husband and I laughed when we saw picture after picture of the kestrel being uploaded on the site, all of them quoting Hessarghatta grasslands. What a day it was!

 Common Kestrel

Flight of the Common Kestrel

Another lifer on that day was the Eurasian Roller. Its colours are paler compared to its Indian counterpart but I found it lovelier and more elegant. Pippits, larks, bush chats and swallows seem to be the resident birds of this area and we saw many of them along with two varieties of shrikes. In fact, if you rest your car and try to take in the sounds of the area, you will mostly hear the clip-clop of the larks flying overhead.

 Eurasian Roller

A Jewel Bug

Every time I visit Hessarghatta I cannot help but wonder how the area might have been when there was water. It was supposed to be a lake years ago which had turned into grassland. On our first visit, we had found a little pool of water, in a dug-out. This disappeared in our later visits. The area is being dug up for some purpose, which seems to be ominous to me. Maybe this grassland will cease to exist in a few years, or perhaps months, just as the lake died away. I shudder to think of the fate of the birds that seem to be so content right now, oblivious of the future before them. Would anyone stand up for the rights of these poor creatures, I wonder.

PS: Another post on Hessarghatta here.

Complete list of birds sighted in Hessarghatta grasslands:
Paddyfield Pippit, Oriental Skylark, Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Bay-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Ashy Drongo, Common Kestrel, Indian Roller, Eurasian Roller, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Kite, Pied Bush Chat, Common Stone Chat, Jungle Mynah, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Indian Silverbill.


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