A day of wonders at Hessarghatta grasslands
This was our 5th visit to Hessarghatta grasslands, a name which has become almost synonymous for birds, especially raptors, in the Bangalore birding circle. Not a day passed by when we didn’t come across someone posting a picture of a raptor clicked in Hessarghatta, eliciting long ‘sigh out loud’ (SOL, eh?) from the husband and I. We had been particularly unlucky with the raptors on all our previous visits to the grassland. Every time we sight these birds, they invariably turn out to be black kites. Now, if I wanted to see black kites, I just had to step out of my home to find at least three of them circling overhead. Hence, the SOLs.
As a matter of fact, this had almost become our private joke. Each time, we would be excited to see a group of raptors sitting on the ground from afar and drive out fast to click them. “Umm, sure they are not black kites this time?” I would venture doubtfully. But the bright-eyed husband would shoo away my suspicions. “No, every time we think they are black kites and ignore them. I am sure these are eagles or harriers. We just have been too pessimistic.” He would solemnly declare. And so, we would click away like crazy at the birds. “I think they are black ki..” I would start. “Shhh!!” the husband would violently shush me up. “We shall download the pictures and then take a closer look. These are not black kites!” Well, you can imagine what happened next after downloading the pictures. “Don’t worry, one day we will definitely get them,” I would try to console the crest fallen and no longer bright-eyed husband.
So, it was with this hope that we started our day on 22nd December, 2012. Actually, the day started with a slight mishap. We had planned to get out of home by 6.00 am, but forgot to set the alarm and woke up at sharp 6.00 am. The following things then began to take place at a breakneck speed – (1) Get the baby ready (2) Get ourselves and the in-laws ready (3) Pack breakfast (4) Have tea (5) Pack the cameras, guide book and the binocular. We finally managed to start our trip at 6.40 am. Not too bad, I think.
We reached Hessarghatta grasslands at around 8.00 am. Surprisingly, there were not too many cars that day. We were greeted by the familiar clip-clop songs of the oriental skylark and the pippits. As in previous trips, we were surrounded by barn swallows, which were maybe defending their nests somewhere close by. We drove around for an hour and could see no new bird. In fact, we felt there were not enough birds that day. On other trips, we could locate drongos and shrikes all across the grassland. The area seemed oddly uninhabited and somehow wore an abandoned look. Even the black kites were missing. Finally, we managed to spot our old friends huddled up together at some distance, soaking up the early morning sun. This time we did not waste much camera battery on them and decided to move on.
Common Stone Chat
We met another friend of ours, the common kestrel, who is never tired to pose for us. Post breakfast, we came upon our first new bird in Bangalore, the common hoope – a familiar sight in my Assam home. This created some excitement as we had almost given up hope of seeing any new bird. Soon, another familiar sound caught our ears, the loud ruckus of the babbler. Sure enough, a large group of these garrulous creatures passed us by and we counted them as ‘new birds’ again.
We were following car tyre marks and went ‘deeper’ in to the slightly wooded part of the grasslands. Suddenly, the husband caught sight of a kite-like bird sitting atop a tree. “This is definitely not a kite!” he cried before disappearing into the thorny bushes. I fixed my binocular on the bird and agreed with the husband. Finally, we were on to something – a ‘real’ raptor, at last! What we captured in our camera that day was the Indian Spotted Eagle. The fruit of patience and perseverance is indeed sweet.
Indian Spotted Eagle
That was how the overall feeling was – we didn’t know which God to thank. But the Gods were not done yet. Just as we thought nothing could beat the eagle and vulture sightings, there came the Western Reef Egret in front of us, happily scouring for food in that pool of water. Typically, these egrets are found near the sea or the coast-line. Sightings in land-locked Bangalore are very rare. But there it was, alongside another new bird in Hessarghatta grasslands – the common sandpiper (or was it a stint?).
Western Reef Egret
I don’t remember being so happy and satisfied after a birding trip. There are no more SOLs. That day in Hessarghatta will always be a red-letter day for us. I am sure our luck has turned around the corner and we shall come upon many more new raptors in Hessarghatta and elsewhere. I shall keep you posted, for sure!
Complete list of birds sighted in Hessarghatta grasslands (including those in the previous post):
Paddyfield Pippit, Oriental Skylark, Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Bay-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Ashy Drongo, Common Kestrel, Indian Roller, Eurasian Roller, Barn Swallow, Black Kite, Pied Bush Chat, Common Stone Chat, Jungle Mynah, Jungle Babbler, Common Hoopoe, Indian Silverbill, Indian Spotted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Common Sandpiper (?), Western Reef Egret, Cattle Egret, Red-wattled Lapwing.