Avian Outing: Birdwatching In Lalbagh
Silver Talkies organised a birdwatching walk recently with avid birder Subbarao Gopinath. Pushpa Ranganath writes a detailed and well observed report on the experience.
It was the 19th of November 2016. The day when around 16 members of the Seniors Citizens Club, young in mind and spirit, eagerly set out on a Bird Watching Walk at Lalbaug Botanical Gardens! All the sprightly members sporting their walking gear and equipped with cameras and binoculars met at the gates of South City Park at 6.20 am, full of enthusiasm and anticipation. By 6.30 sharp, we were on our way to the Gardens. As most of the birds there are aquatic birds, our walk was confined to the lake area. We were ably led and guided by Subbarao Gopinath, an avid bird watcher with a mine of information on the feathered creatures. He was accompanied by his wife Tara Gopinath, who is also knowledgeable about birds but prefers to call herself a ‘trainee’ still!
When we reached Lalbaug at 7 am, the park was full of morning walkers enjoying the invigorating exercise in the pleasant Saturday morning. However, we were on another important mission! We hurried towards the lake least the birds take flight or disappear from our view. With binoculars in hand and cameras poised, we hung on to every word Mr. Gopinath spoke! As he pointed to the different species of birds we craned our necks to spot a bird among the bushes, or another perched on top of a branch in the middle of the small island on the lake, or some skimming the water or a bird even camouflaging itself to escape from being preyed upon by larger birds.
No doubt many of you would have visited Lalbaug on earlier occasions, perhaps for just taking walks in the vast tree lined park, or jostled with the crowds to have a glimpse of the beautiful flowers on display at the flower shows. However, believe us, this bird watching excursion was one of a kind. It was an exhilarating and enjoyable experience indeed. The sheer number of birds we observed was a revelation. Avians of various sizes – big, small, medium; of different hues- black, white, brown, multicoloured; some deftly catching fish, others drying their wings on branches, or still others showing off their beautiful plumes to be caught on camera, were a feast for the eyes. We saw about twenty nine different varieties of birds including some common ones like the mynas,, crows and pigeons. There was the black kite, a bird of prey with its yellow legs and black claws; the jungle crow which is extremely versatile in its feeding habits; the little egret – a small bird with white plumage, which breeds colonially often with other species of water birds. We spotted the purple heron – a wading bird that adopts a posture with its neck extending obliquely; the moorhen with its apparently nervous behaviour also nicknamed the “skitty coots”; the Little Grebe which is a small water bird with a pointed bill. The Little Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver and pursues fish and aquatic invertebrate prey underwater. We also spotted the tiny Purple Sunbird, which has a down-curve bill with brush-tipped tubular tongue that aids in nectar feeding. Then there was the tailor bird! A small songbird getting its name from the way its nest is constructed. The edges of a large leaf are pierced and sewn together with plant fibre or spider silk to make a cradle in which the actual nest is built.
We also saw the Little Cormorant and the Indian cormorant. The Indian cormorant has emerald green eyes and the Little Cormorant has black eyes. The Spot Billed Pelican was a majestic bird and a sight to watch wading in the waters or waiting to catch its prized fish. The Black capped Heron and the Grey herons were also spotted by us. The White throated kingfisher with its beautiful coloured feathers was a sight to behold. It might interest you all to note that these birds were hunted for their bright feathers to adorn hats in the 1800s! Other interesting birds were the Bulbul, a song bird popular as cage birds in the Middle East and frequently mentioned in Persian poetry and the Darter also called the Snakebird. This bird swims nearly submerged, with its head and neck showing above water and darting snakelike from side to side. It spears fish, which it carries ashore in its serrated bill. Some birds did not want to be seen but only to be heard! We heard the Ashy Prinia making sounds like ‘electric sparks’ during its flight; the barn swallow making a peculiar call and the Brown headed barbet making repetitive sounds like ‘kutroo, kutroo.’ We also managed to have a glimpse of the Rose ringed parakeet which flew past, over our heads.
Mr. Gopinath enlightened us on some lesser known facts about the birds-their different feeding habits, their life span, their behavioural pattern and so on.
After the enriching experience of bird watching we were, well, not tired but hungry! So off we drove MTR Restaurant in Jayanagar for a sumptuous breakfast and returned home with the birds captured – in our cameras and our minds.
This unique experience was made possible because of Silver Talkies, a multidimensional platform for Indian Senior Citizens and Caregivers, organising and promoting workshops to explore and experience something new and connect with like-minded people. South City Senior Citizens Club in Bangalore is an offshoot of this organization. This club has participated in a couple of workshops and talks by eminent experts in their fields, from how to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; how to improve one’s mobility and balance as one ages. Apart from the scheduled talk on money management and tax planning, there are many more outings and interesting outings on the anvil.
Impressed? Come be a part this club of spirited young seniors; share your thoughts, experiences, hobbies, ideas and make new friends with like-minded people, and enjoy your second innings! All these years all of us have worked and sacrificed for our children. Now it’s time to enjoy our twilight years with enthusiasm and verve. Wishing you all a pleasant, engaging and stimulating company with each other.
It’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years that count!
All photographs: Nidhi Chawla for Silver Talkies