BirdWalk at Indian Institute of Technology

There was a very enthusiastic participation for this morning's Mumbai Bird Club's BirdWalk at the campus of Indian Institute of Technology, Powai. Our passionate birder, S…, led us through the leafy campus and along the lake for a very enjoyable birding lasting over three and half hours. It was also heartening to see so many young children in the group today.

Before arriving at the lake, Shailaja showed us through the campus; the highlight of this walk being a pair of Oriental Magpie Robins at almost fifty metres interval numbering to a minimum of over fifteen pairs, including seeing many nests, along the length of our walk. They seem to be extremely successful breeders in the campus here and extremely territorial presently with one of them 'fighting' its own reflections in the glass covered building of the Management School !

The winter migrants have departed but the other beautiful resident  arden birds – Coppersmith Barbets, Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Rose-ringed & Alexandrine Parakeets, Redvented & Redwhiskered Bulbuls, Common Tailorbirds, Common Iora, Ashy Prinia, Greater Coucal, Common Myna, Asian Pied Starlings, Rock Pigeons etc along with ubiquitous Asian Koel, House Sparrows and House & Largebilled Crows were abundent. Also many Palm Swifts flying near about the Bottle Palm trees that dot the campus and few Dusky Crag Martins were flying in the vicinity of the buildings. A Black Drongo sitting on its nest in the branches of a high Rain Tree was very exciting. Also a flock of Jungle Babblers and someone in the group managed to get a nice picture of the Yellow-eyed Babbler too.

The pride of IIT is surely the lake, which is a unique freshwater ecosystem that supports innumerable life forms including birds. Sadly, the signs of decay of this beautiful lake makes one feel sad; there's large expanse of water hyacinth, carelesly thrown garbage, development along its banks and a busy arterial road of teh city that skirts it on its southern periphery. However, atleast today, the birds at the lake were delightful as ever!

Nice view of tens of Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana in breeding plumage and a small flock of the latter flying about sporting its long tail. Purple Heron, a fairly scarce bird around Mumbai that inhabits freshwater marshes, is easily seen here and a couple of individuals were present. Few Black-crowned Night Herons also flew over towards their daytime roost. Migrant ducks have all gone though resident ducks including small flocks of Lesser Whistling and Spot-billed Ducks and few Cotton Pygmy Geese seem to have established themselves well for teh season. Later, Mayuresh expertly picked out a lone Common Coot far away in the marshes.

A large scattering of Purple Swamphens are usual as also are the many White-breasted Waterhens and a few Glossy Ibis. Both Little and Indian Cormorants and Egret species – Great, Intermediate, Litlle and Cattle, were quite numerous at the lake. A pair of Common Kingfishers pleased all with their antics. Long trill of the White-throated Kingfisher resonated through the campus almost continuously. A few Asian Openbill storks came by at mid morning and settled on the dried lake bed. These dry flats in the lake also showed up a few Paddyfield Pipits. A pair of White-browed Wagtails flew by and sat on the small wooden boats.

Whiskered Terns, many in breeding plumage and showing black bellies, were quite numerous and a small flock of Whimberel flew overhead in purposeful northwards flight; perhaps on return to their summer habitats in much higher northern latitudes. Expectedly, no other winter migrants today though seeing a lone Barn Swallow, flying over the lake, was rather surprising for such late in the season.

White-browed Bulbuls, a shy and wary bird, posed nicely for many birders to admire it and see its features well. Also a Spotted Dove in the shrubs and many very vocal Zitting Cisticola. On his return walk, Rajesh Sachdev also reported that he saw a lone Cinnamon Bittern over the marshes and a Black-shouldered Kite hovering over the open dry patches along the margins of the lake.

Over 55 species were seen during the course of a very rewarding walk, this early morning in summer. It was equally delightful to share the company of almost as many passionate birders who came for the BirdWalk this morning. Thank you, once again, Shailaja for coordinating it for all of us.

Best wishes and happy birding.

Mumbai Bird Club


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