Birding at Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) Reservoir
It has been raining almost every day here in Bangalore, leaving the air fresh and cool in its wake. So, finally, I could go out birding without the fear of the harsh sun breathing down my neck. Of course, there is always the chance of rain playing spoilsport just as you are about to shoot your favourite bird. But, I will take the droplets rather than the migraine inducing heat. The husband may beg to differ as he wields the camera most of the time and feels the need of proper light.
Anyways, we have been out looking for birds quite frequently in the last few weeks and re-visited several areas like Gulakmale village, Hebbal lake, Valley school and Hoskote lake. Last weekend, we decided to cover the hitherto uncharted (by us) locations of Manchenbele and Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) Reservoir. Both were at close quarters of each other and we felt a day would be enough to dedicate towards them. TG Halli was bestowed with the honor of being our first stop of the day.
So, here we go!
Location: TG Halli Reservoir
Distance from Bangalore: 45 km (approx.)
Route taken: Bangalore - Magadi Road (via NICE Ring Road) - Kengeri Road - TG Halli
I must confess that I don’t know whether the road that we took to the reservoir from the main road is actually the correct one. We reached TG Halli village, with the reservoir on our right hand side, and came to a dead end. The sign post there said ‘Village Limit’. Since we did not speak Kannada it was not possible to communicate with the few locals who had woken up early. We took a U-turn and decided to use our logic in finding out a route to the lake. (Logic = Follow the lake view.) An unpaved but reasonably motorable-looking road presented itself off the main road after a few minutes and we decided to take a leap of faith and follow that road. If only our Alto K10 could speak, it would have told you tales of severe harassment inflicted upon it by us.
We rattled down through that road and finally reached the reservoir. It was around 8.30 am and there were dark, ominous clouds over us. Nevertheless, the reservoir looked absolutely resplendent. We parked the car, had breakfast and left our toddler in charge of the in-laws so that we could quickly take a tour of the area before the heavens spilled over. There were lands being tilled by farmers and cattle were grazing lazily all across. We walked silently lest we disturbed any bird roosting or looking for food on the ground when suddenly there was a loud whooshing sound overhead, startling us. Before we could comprehend, another whoosh and this time it came from above the tree near us. We looked up to see a huge bird of monstrous wing span leaving the tree. There seemed to be someone sitting there still. As I fixed my sight on the tree I was met with the steadfast gaze of the magnificent Tawny Eagle. Although we had come across tawnies in the past, this was the first time we realized the profundity of its size. Perhaps, because we were so close to them. We could not tear off our gaze from their course of flight; such was the splendor of these raptors.
Indian Spotted Eagle in flight
We decided to move on and noticed a number of pipits and larks flying about in the grasslands, filling the air with their beautiful songs. One of the pippits seemed to be suffering from some ailment, which came to our notice only when we enlarged its photograph at home. I hope the little birdie does not suffer too much. Meanwhile, the usual gang of bulbuls, babblers, lapwings and robins kept us company on our walk. We also heard a peacock call but the bird itself did not come into view.
Paddyfield Pipit with its deformed legs
Eurasian Collared Dove
As we climbed over a hillock, our gaze fell on a lovely structure - a dilapidated temple, in a little island of its own. It stood forlornly amidst the water and yet exuded a nameless pride. I wonder what history lies within its crumbling walls.
I moved my binoculars away from it and observed a large dark patch near the bank of the reservoir. A closer look and I found that patch to be a congregation of Eurasian coots and cormorants. There were quite a few Great cormorants around and they were busy skimming the water for their breakfast, while a pied kingfisher gave them fierce competition in the game. Not to be outdone, a juvenile river tern seemed to be honing its skills and flew about with a purposeful air. In sharp contrast, the spot-billed ducks were snoozing lazily by the side of the water. A lone painted stork stood tall among the ducks, as if it was guarding the sleeping birds. We noticed a few rust-coloured plumages among the spot-billeds and they turned out to be whistling ducks and little grebes. A little far away, a pair of Ibis were busy pecking for food. Quite a crowd they made, I must say!
River Tern (Juvenile)
We observed an interesting phenomenon regarding Brahminy kites. There were scores of them circling about over the waters and strangely, all of them turned out to be juvenile kites. We looked around for the adults and saw a few of them on the ground. It was almost as if the young ones were having a training session while the older ones played the coach, watching them from the sideline. These young kites were a plucky lot as one of them even attacked the tawny eagle, which was almost twice its size. “Guts matter, not size,” the husband proclaimed sagely.
Brahminy Kite (Juvenile)
Juvenile Brahminy Kite attacking Tawny Eagle
We checked our watches and agreed that we should turn back to our car if we wanted to keep our appointment with Manchanbele dam. As we walked back, we could not resist clicking pictures of the egrets, otherwise common but greatly attractive in their breeding plumages. I found a molted snake skin on the ground and there were hundreds of bristly caterpillars around. So be careful where you step on!
Indian Pond Heron
Snake skin (molted)
We drove through that barely-there road back on to the main road and thanked God and our car for standing by us. A few minutes on the road and the husband suddenly stopped the car. He had noticed a bushchat and trained his camera on the bird. I got a little bored as bushchats don’t appear to me as very exciting when a slight movement in the tree leaves caught my eye. There was a black bird there amidst the leaves and at first I thought it to be the Asian Koel. Till I saw the eye – the blue ringed eye. It was a blue-faced Malkoha! Just as I cried out to my husband to let go of the bushchat and click the malkoha instead, a villain of a bulbul appeared on the scene and shooed off my precious malkoha. I didn’t want to give up and sent the husband out of the car to follow the bird into the shrubbery by the side of the road. While he could not get the malkoha he managed pretty well to frighten off a pair of bush quails and sent them scurrying into the undergrowth. He then came back crest fallen into the car and in his sadness he made us take the wrong road and our GPS went bonkers at the same time.
Luckily, we came across a helpful villager and he gave us the correct directions to Magadi Road. On the way, we saw a bird sitting on a fence which appeared to me as dove-sized. As we approached, it flew away and rested on a coconut tree nearby. It turned out to be a shikra. In fact, the first time that one had presented itself to us so close. “You should thank me for losing the way,” the husband said. “Or else you would have never seen this shikra.” I guess he was trying for redemption.
As we continued driving towards Manchanbele, I tried to recollect the birds we had seen in TG Halli. Altogether we had seen around 44 species of birds. Would Manchanbele be able to stand up to this list, or would it surpass TG Halli? One way to find out. Stay tuned for my next post on birding in Manchanbele!
Indian Spot-billed Duck in flight
Complete list of birds sighted in TG Halli:
Common Mynah, Jungle Mynah, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Paddyfied Pipit, Oriental Skylark, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Pond Heron, Little Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Lesser Whistling Duck, Eurasian Coot, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Painted Stork, Open-billed Stork, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Blue-faced Malkoha, Jungle Bush Quail, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Tawny Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Jungle Babbler, Red-vented Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, River Tern, Green Bee-eater, Shikra, House Sparrow, White-browed Wagtail, Indian Robin, Oriental Magpie Robin, Pied Bushchat, Southern Coucal, Indian Roller, Red-wattled Lapwing, Oriental White Ibis, Pied Kingfisher, White-breasted Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted Munia, Indian Peafowl (heard)