Sunday, March 6, 2011

Way down on the Ghaggar river.

I was up at Phil's place in Panchkula and having some time on my hands I tried to recruit him for a bird walk. He was busy. Heading off out of country for work. Just when I thought I would have to go alone, Jimmy his 17 year old offered to come along. Nice! So we took off for the Ghaggar river. He said that was the best place for birds in the morning and so we got a cycle rickshaw and off we went.

It was a freezing day. I mean it was really cold. I dont normally get cold so easily but the wind down from Kasauli in the himalayan foothills and the overcast low cloud ceiling all added up to a muggy, will-rain-wont-rain sort of day. I was trying out my new lens 500mm Catadioptric lens, a mirror lens. First time I was using it so I had a back up 70x300 (No VR) along as well and Jimmy was the lens toter.

On the way there we spotted a few doves flying by and the odd egret off hunting more cows to sit on and then a handsome little pied wagtail. I had seen these in Kashmir before and not gotten a shot so stopped and took a few pix. He was amenable and obligingly stood there n between his foraging for bugs. When we hit the river we saw about 200 kites and other raptors just sitting there on the stones on the river bed. It was really odd. Why so many and why there. There was nothing there to eat and they did not do much, just sat there and stared at each other like they were in Parliament. Looked strange! A few others had spotted them as well and watched to see what next. We decided to make our way down the side of the embankment to the river shores and get some pix of waders. On the way there we saw a lovely rufous backed shrike in the reeds. Really a handsome fella. A drongo was busy in the bushes and then all at once above us was a beautiful Egyptian vulture. How he got to Panchkula dont ask me. I even saw one in the Taj once. I got a picture but it was so hard to shoot a white bird on an overcast day from below.

Walking down the embankment we reached the river bed and were able to enjoy the swifts aerobatic display much better. They were doing figure-of-eights at high speed and I marvel that they dd not hit each other at all. Amazing to see them. A whole bunch of waders were plying their business, Black winged stilts, ring necked plover, sandpipers at least two species and egrets galore.

I was pleasantly surprised to find not much filth around the river banks and it was passably ok to walk on and even sit on the sand if you wished. The bank is a bit crumbly in places and I bit the dust once trying to get a good shot of the swifts.

I called it quits after about an hour down there and on the way back home walking along we saw a Eurasian Hobby (?) and a crested serpent eagle. This last was marching about among the stones in the river, totally engrossed in his goal of getting a meal. The hobby also shifted about from one perch to the other and the local tea shop guy said "oh he sits here every day." so someone else noticed him as well evidently.

We got home as the light faded to a low and the sun glowed through the clouds at house top level, the egrets were heading home to roost and the crows were getting all feisty on the roofs of the houses as we pulled in by rickshaw and headed in fro a hot cuppa.

Good fun for a couple hours, just filling up the day as we lazed around on a cold Sunday, waiting for something to happen.

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