Monday, February 14, 2011

The lost lake story!

Living in Gurgaon for years and hearing of the lake of the flamingos and not seeing it was eating me. I have been to many places like Bharatpur and Ranthambore and all that, but to realise that there was a lake with flamingos in it right here near our home and not go there has been too much for me.

I set off once or twice in a valiant attempt to locate the lake and ended driving in circles for hours and getting nowhere. Google maps I found dont help when nothing looks the same and people are digging deep sewer lines and the kids in the car are clamoring for Coke and respite.

Finally I decided to leave all the half hearts behind and take off. Coke bah, respite forsooth! But this plan too grew moldy on the shelf as I get busy with work and all that hinders a birder from simply getting out there. Wandering around in circles also did not appeal to me and my faith in google having been shaken I was in need of a good tonic to make me get out there again. The bracing brew came in the form of an idea. Take a cab!!! The local driver would surely know or at least speak enough haryanvi to figure it out. Sheer genius.. I told myself smugly as I asked the kids if they were ready for flamingos, (I had a change of heart and since I was not driving...). The chorus of no's told me I was on my own and my tripod toters had just given me the brusheroo. I would have to tote my own tripod, along with my new 3 kg lens, I was going to get my gym time alright.

Next morning the cab arrived and sure enough, our man Flint, had not the foggiest that there was a jheel before Karnal 140km away. I assured him that Google had clearly marked it on the map and all we needed to do was believe and drive. His face showed the level of his faith in Google as he mumbled something derogatory about nuts and lakes under his breath and prepared resignedly to drive me to the kingdom come. He was a sport tho' as it turned out and in short order he had the area of the lake pegged and after a little shady driving on the wrong side of the road with a weather eye out for cops on bikes, he brought me to the same fields and ponds where I had lost my way last time.

Here the haryanvi paid off and he asked some people for directions and of course they knew the lake, so before you could say sweet lassi, we were off lickety-split down the road to the lake.

I spotted a group of curlews and stopped him and as I set up my camera to shoot he really got the shutterbug bug (to coin a phrase). I shot the curlews and over exposed them like the khans. Further along a shikra caught my eye and that I did better with.
When I got back in the car he asked me all about my camera and my other bag (tripod) and all that I was up to. As I explained I realised I had a tripod toter right here. When we arrived at the lake which is adjacent to a nice resort type place (where the beer is cold btw), I asked him to join me look at birds. He was flipped and after paying 5rupees (!) each we were given a free rein over the 150 acre of parkland and lake.

Let me tell you that there were no flamingos at the time I went. Apparently about 100 species of bird migrate to this place in the winter, I got a good look at a few birds but it was a lean time. The heronry was almost enpty with only a few grey herons and painted storks there. The purple heron which is seen here a lot is a shy bird and even the long lens could not give me a shot, though there were a few. A whole slew of ducks and other swimmers were in evidence, shovellers and teals and so on. I am really bad with ducks so could not id a lot of them. Purple Moorhens and teals were in the reed beds groping for food, the kingfisher was in action close by and gave me a lot of practice focussing the manual lens. The dear taxi guy Krishen carried the tripod and we had a long 6 km walk around the lake into the dry areas and grassland behind the lake.

There are a few raptors in residence there and we saw a few fish eagles and one that looked a serpent eagle but too far to really clearly id him. The parakeets both rosy ringed and alexandrine keep you company with their calls. The dove population is really up there with collared and spotted doves everywhere. They are called 'thodi' in haryanvi. nice!

The grasslands proved to be rich in bird life and I got munias, a handsome drongo, a redstart and a 'wryneck' never heard of it but my buddies on indiamike say its true. Another bird I spotted was a beautiful red all over, a little perching bird. since I could not get a clear shot I could not id it.

All in all the lost lake was certainly worth the wait and the drive. I hope to make it a regular feature earlier in the morning so the heat does not kill me. ha!

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