Hoskote Lake - A Little Haven for Birds
We have been very busy with our lives after returning from our short vacation to our respective home towns where we had some terrific birding experiences. So busy that we have not ventured out looking for birds for a long time now. This weekend we just had to break free of our fast setting monotony of life and enjoy some bit of fresh air and listen to the chirping of birds.
I mostly depend on Vaibhav from bangalorecaptured.com who always manages to click the best of birds and is a very ethical photographer at that. I recalled that he had posted some great pictures of birding at Hoskote Lake and that was where the husband and I decided to go, too. I was a tad apprehensive at first, wondering if there would be enough birds at this time of the year. What if the migratory birds had already returned to their bases? I did not know then that I was in for a lovely surprise.
Vaibhav had detailed out the area to us and where we might find birds. Unfortunately, we could not locate the ‘off-road birding place’ he had specified and so made way for Hoskote Lake. We followed the service road on reaching Hoskote, after veering off the Old Madras Road or SH-84 (past the defunct-looking toll gates), till we came across a sign-board depicting a temple and turned right. The lake, or rather, a large marshy area with water bodies, soon came into view.
It was around 8.00 am and the sun had started its warm up. We parked the car beside the temple where there was enough shade. I got out of the car and took a panoramic view of the lake.
“So,” said the husband gently. “What do you say?”
What could I say? There were hundreds of migratory ducks in the lake as well as a host of other birds in the water, in the trees and bushes and heck, even in the skies!
There were Purple Moorhens and Eurasian Coots a-galore but I was more interested in the ducks as they always stayed too far away to have a really close look. I could make out the Little Grebes and Indian Spot-billed ducks without much trouble as they were the most commonly found ducks in the water bodies in Bangalore. As are the Cormorants and Grey Herons. I focused my sight on some beautiful duck specimens which sported a prominent white marking on their heads. Garganeys! My first sighting of Garganeys in Bangalore! While they were happily cruising along the water with the grebes and the spot-billeds, some other unidentifiable ducks kept snoozing lazily with their heads underneath their wings. It was hard for us to identify them till they showed themselves fully.
Garganey in flight
Indian Spot-billed Ducks
There were also several Black-winged Stilts in the lake. It is always a pleasure to watch these lovely, long-legged beauties. The Little Stints and Common Sandpipers seemed to be dwarfed by the presence of the stilts.
Black-winged Stilt and Garganeys
Significantly, there were a large number of Purple Herons in the area, even beating out the Grey ones. I don’t remember seeing more than one or two Purple Herons in the same area, in Bangalore. But, here they could be spotted everywhere. Not surprisingly, we witnessed several fantastic territorial fights between these beautiful, long-necked birds. I wish we could give up our jobs and find out the reason behind the presence of so many Purple Herons at one place. Till now, I had taken them to be solitary birds.
It was a peaceful haven for the birds, the grebes and cormorants happily water-skiing while the spot billed ducks languidly swam about in pairs. The moorhens and the coots continued their search for food without a care in the world. The kingfishers, both White-breasted and Pied, kept their vigil atop leaf-less trees. Suddenly, there was a ruffle among the ducks, sandpipers and stints. They began flying about with loud quacks. We were a bit perplexed at this abrupt behaviour till we found the source of their apprehension. A pair of marsh harriers was circling about low, most probably to prey on these little fellows. As we observed later, they would rest for sometime after one of these expeditions and again take off, a routine which they continued through the hours we were there.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier (female)
Eurasian Marsh Harrier (male)
We saw another raptor sitting quietly on the top of a tree some way ahead – an Indian Spotted Eagle. Surprisingly, the bird did not make any movement the whole time we were there. Perhaps it was biding its time for something special! A White-eyed Buzzard and a Black-Winged Kite passed by, circumventing the area, but did not stop. As did a Woolly-necked Stork and a Brahminy Kite.
We must have spent an hour in the area when a black shapeless mass appeared in the horizon. A large group of Glossy Ibis had arrived, much to our delight. They landed gracefully and straightaway got onto the task of looking for food. We noticed a few Oriental White Ibis among the dark ones as well. A little later, another group of birds alighted in the area. This time it was a white mass and consisted of grey herons. Maybe they didn’t like the fact they were losing out to the purple herons in number.
A group of Glossy Ibis
While the waters were alive, so were the shrubs and trees in the area. There were raucous groups of Rosy Starlings flitting from bush to bush, without spending more than a minute on any of them. Barn swallows were present in large numbers and it made a pretty picture when they sat on the electricity wires, preening and grooming themselves. A closer look at the undergrowth near the water yielded several chirpy warblers, Yellow Wagtails and Ashy Prinias. Unfortunately, both the husband and I are seriously lacking knowledge in the ‘warbler department’ and we could not identify the warblers nor take better pictures. Just when we had given up trying to locate the little warblers, a bigger warbler-like bird came and sat on a bush in front of us. This fellow was the Clamorous Reed Warbler, a winter visitor and a new bird to add to our kitty. A warbler we could identify, at last!
Close-up of Red-rumped Swallow
Clamorous Reed Warbler (record shot)
The sun had started to shine good and proper by then and the snoozing ducks were brought out of their slumber. Some of them ventured for a quick swim and in the process, offered a good view of themselves, although they were very far out. We took note of their prominent beaks and realised that we were looking at our very first Northern Shovelers, a species we had missed out while birding in Assam as they had already left. This trip was proving to be a jewel!
Meanwhile, my parents who were visiting us from Assam, were smitten by the tranquillity of the place and busied themselves getting to know the area. While we were observing birds, happily leaving our toddler with them, they had been making their own enquiries regarding the temple. My father spoke to a temple-goer and confirmed the fact that the temple was indeed a very old one and there were plans to expand it. This was evident from the construction material lying near the temple. He also learnt that water had been pumped in to the area and fish released. A park with boating facilities was in the offing, among other ambitious plans to beautify the area and attract people. Finally, the person advised my parents to buy land in the area as it was quite cheap.
“Imagine,” I told the husband. “If we had our house just in front of the lake, wouldn’t it be wonderful then? We could watch these birds everyday!”
The husband smiled indulgently to please me and then rolled up his eyes.
“Sure, why not?” he replied. “Provided there is going to be a lake in the future, here. We have seen the fate of Hessarghatta, haven’t we?”
So that dashed my imagination and I landed on Earth.
The sun by that time had proved to be too much for our liking and we decided to call it a day. In fact, an amazing day! We called out the names of the birds we had witnessed on our way back and the number totalled a whopping 46 species. Not too bad for a just a few hours of birding!
I hope the lake remains a preferred spot for the birds, till the park and the boats come along. In case you do decide to visit the area, kindly ensure that the birds are not disturbed in anyway, in their habitat. There are only a few birding areas in Bangalore and I really wish the birds would keep coming back to these places. Also, do carry a bag along with you so that the place is not littered.
You may not be able to get very good photographs from afar but I am sure just being able to see these beautiful birds will gladden your hearts. As it did ours. Happy birding!
List of birds sighted in Hoskote Lake:
Clamorous Reed Warbler, Pond Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Oriental White Ibis, Ashy Prinia, Plain Prinia, Black Drongo, Red-rumped Swallow, Little Green Bee-eater, Rosy Starling, Jungle Mynah, Red-vented Bulbul, White-breasted Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, White-eyed Buzzard, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Long-tailed Shrike, Purple Moorhen, Garganey, Spot Billed Duck, Eurasian Coot, Black Winged Stilt, Black Winged Kite, Black Kite, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Cattle Egret , Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Indian Spotted Eagle, Northern Shoveler, Little Grebe, Brahminy Kite, Woolly-necked Stork, Red-wattled Lapwing, Yellow Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Unidentified Warbler, Purple Sunbird, Pied Bushchat, Indian Robin