Of birds and friends…

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Painted stork at Kokkrebellur

Given my spartan lifestyle, my chronically single status and my aversion to most human beings, my social options are somewhat limited. The only outdoor activities I really enjoy are birding and nature photography. While I am happy to enjoy these activities in the scintillating company of my own self, my hobbies do bring me in touch with some really likable people, sometimes from outside India.

One such really likable person is Dr Ilana Belmaker, my new friend from Israel. An avid birder and nature-lover like myself, Ilana had come down to Bangalore along with her husband, Dr Haim, for a medical conference.

She took a day off to join me and my friend, Vishnupriya Hathwar, for a field trip down Mysore road. We set off at the crack of dawn, to avoid the ghastly traffic that Bangalore has become notorious for.

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Moode idli, uddina vada, sambar. One serving will not do!

First stop. Hearty Kannadiga breakfast at Kamath Lokaruchi, my favorite eating house on this route. This place has maintained its standard since the past decade, and deserves all the positive reviews it gets. Cordial service, authentic Kannadiga food, good standards of cleanliness and hygiene (about which I am paranoid).

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Ilana and Vishnu: Is that a bee-eater?


Next halt: Tailur tank, near Maddur. On the way to Kokkrebellur, this place is a hot favorite with birders and photographers. We have a special tree at this place, which is home to several species of birds – notably the blue-tailed bee-eater, which is endemic to this location. Also seen in this tree will be spotted owlets, coppersmith barbets, green barbets, black-headed ibises, the occasional red-necked falcon, and several others.

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You will also find an ancient artifact at this tank. Carved from a piece of granite, this ancient sculpture portrays seven goddesses, and dates back to the Ganga dynasty, circa 9th century CE. What a shame it is just lying there unattended.

Indian grey hornbill, Kokkrebellur

We proceed to another favorite destination, Kokkrebellur. Named after the painted storks that occupy every tree in this little village during winter, Kokkrebellur is virtually a place of pilgrimage for birders like myself. Since we went there off-season, there weren’t many painted storks around. But that gave us the chance to see several other species, notably, the golden-fronted leafbird and to my joy, several mating pairs of Indian grey hornbills. The hornbills alone were worth the journey.

After a substantial lunch at a food court off the highway, we proceed thence to Ranganathittu. Although this little bird sanctuary is fairly well maintained, I am not overly fond of this place. It is usually too crowded and they rip off foreign visitors. We did sight some interesting species, that I have described in an earlier post.

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The one place we were really desperate to visit was Ramadevarabetta. Until the recent past, this rocky hill was a delightful place to visit if one wanted to see vultures and rarely seen raptors. Gross neglect and criminal encroachment have nearly destroyed this place, and diclofenac has almost wiped out the resident vultures. The government woke up a little too late and fenced off what’s left of Ramadevarabetta and banned the veterinary use of diclofenac in the locality. Ramadevarabetta is the abode of the critically endangered Long-billed vulture.

We arrived at dusk, well past 6pm, to find that the gates were closed, and the watchman wouldn’t oblige. Thanks to Ilana’s spotting scope though, we were able to sight three long-billed vultures, to our great delight.

That to us, was a spectacular end to a great birding day. I had fun, I met a wonderful couple, and I learnt a great deal about Israel. And made up my mind to visit this remarkable country before I die.

“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marvelling at birds and revelling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”  Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir

Cheers … Srini.


4 thoughts on “Of birds and friends…

  1. Thanks for a wonderful day together, Srini, as summarized so wonderfully in your blog! It was one of my peak bird-watching experiences and an opportunity to make new friends! We’re waiting to go bird-watching with you in Israel, and to also take you to all the wonderful and interesting historical and religious sites here.


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