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VOL. XXII NO. 3, MAY 16-31, 2012
Birdwatching Notes

Destiny's sightings in Kelambakkam's Little Rann of Kutch

March 10 & 12, 2012: The terrain at Kelambakkam in mid-March could be compared to that of the Little Rann of Kutch. The water had receded and a part of the mudflats sucked dry like a salty clay desert, a dreadful prequel to our still tense and complaining hamstrings. We inched the kilometre stretch of parched mudflats like crouching tigers looking for those unhidden dragons. The extra-fine sand diligently mud-bathed us. Worry for our cameras... yes...but the greater worry was the scowls we'd get back at home for getting all dirty.

Setting into a nice vantage point behind the bund, we watched brown-headed gulls in breeding and non-breeding colours mix with Red and Green Shanks... a solitary Curlew Sandpiper piling on. Whimbrels poked through the sky as all the five terns marked attendance... acrobatic Little Terns, Whiskered Terns in varying plumages, Caspian Terns flashing their orange bills, Gull-billed terns and one solitary Common tern. The noisy Sentinels (Shanks, Lapwings and Stints), though on high alert, surprisingly stayed calm. A flock of little Stints gathered five metres away and shutters raced rapidly. Ooh la la... that ended my rant of not getting them Stints all winter. GK and I walked back to the car (quite unwillingly), hoping either of us would say, "let's stake out a little longer..."

Back in the car, I asked him, 'Did you see that Ruddy Shelduck?' and he went 'Wheeeerreee?' His eyes popped and jaw hit the floor. It had flown over heads. I had erased 6 out of 8 images that I made of him, as my memory card read full while shooting Stints! I've seen the Ruddy in the Guindy Zoo, but never in the open. So I kept those two shots; little did I know about its uncommonness... and like providence would have it, that's the closest sighting to Chennai!

Now, I really wonder if sightings are by chance or are destined – I tend to lean more towards destiny. The last three months have really surprised me with so many rare and record sightings. But one thing I'm dead sure about is: you see more birds if you sleep with your boots on! And that's what we precisely did...

On Sunday we woke up with our boots on... word was that Ashy Minivets were playing in the gardens of the Theosophical Society. A break to recuperate before their annual exodus to Northern China and around. Thanks to Geetha, that Sunday morning got etched into our memories.

– Murugan Mohan

The Adyar Estuary's riches

Little Tern

Golden Plovers

Fiddler Crab

April 13, 2012, Adyar Estuary: The evening was quite eventful. Around 1,000 plus waders – mostly a mixed flock of Little Stints and Lesser Sand Plovers. There were about 6 or 7 Lesser Sand Plovers in breeding plumage. Looked quite transformed (with a dazzling white throat and brilliant orange bib below and a bandit-like black mask on the face from which the eyes glittered!) from the drab brown plumage that the birds ordinarily sport.

There were also around twenty or so Black Tailed Godwits of which quite a few were in breeding plumage. The Golden Plovers were also there (around 100 plus) with many of them in breeding plumage.

Apart from these, there were a dozen or so Common Redshanks (spotted and splotched and in breeding plumage again), half a dozen Green Shanks, a lone Curlew (which kept sticking the entire length of its considerably long bill into the squelchy mud), around 25-30 Large Egrets, 4 or 5 Little Egrets, one Grey Heron and a lone Dabchick. There were also four Terek Sandpipers on a tiny mound of earth in the middle of the river.

* * *

Crows and Little Egrets

Black-tailed Godwits

April 19, 2012, Adyar Estuary: There were around 20 plus Brown Headed Gulls at the estuary. The Lesser Sand Plovers and Little Stints were not around. However, a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers flew overhead. The crows were all out and harassing the Little Egrets and other birds. It was like an aerial dogfight during wartime! The banks of the river were full of Fiddler Crabs gaily waving their pincers with abandon!

Considering that most of the birds are getting into breeding plumage, it must be presumed that their take-off is imminent.

Text: Geetha Jaikumar

Photographs: Dr. T.P. Alaganantham

The prancing Golden Plovers

April 5 & 6, 2012, Kelambakkam: At seasons bird plumages blossom like floral wonder. Terns in proud, bright bills, Grey Plovers in majestic black bosoms, Lesser Sand Plovers and Kentish Plovers crowned in orange, Little Stints carelessly brushed with red… Kelambakkam was like a blooming garden in paradise.

The mudflats had changed. Imagine an old, worn out tarpaulin that holds small pockets of water after a shower. But it felt like a donut sprinkled with fine sugar!! But nothing stops me from my lifer that day; a dozen dozing Grey Plovers cuddled up by the edge of a small puddle. As I clicked away in abandon, surprise just stepped in… into the frame that is. A Pacific Golden Plover paraded its golden inscriptions. Together they pranced like horses in a synchronised dance.… A memorable image of two plovers sharing screen space!

Text and pictures: Murugan Mohan

(Courtesy: Madras Naturalists' Society Bulletin)

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In this issue

Heritage legislation at last
What should be done to space beneath flyovers?
Endangered historic site
Tiger, Tiger, burning bright (in Madras)
Birdwatching Notes
A post-box out of the past
The historical legacy of an engineering marvel
English Theatre returns
DRAVID – He fought the good battle every time

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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