The Living Lake
The Upper Lake at CME, Dapodi, Pune. May 2008
If you approach the Upper CME Lake cautiously on the Nasik road itself and halt a few metres from the culvert right next to the lake, you can see a plethora of bird life on the banks. What appears to be a melee soon distinguishes itself into a large number of interesting objects each asking for your attention.
The grass bank teams with Egrets, completely white with fine feathers on head or chest. Plump Purple Moorhens with basketball shaped bodies and red wattles on their hands gambol around on the mud. Staid Grey and Purple Herons with sharp spear-like beaks and long eyelashes which extend backwards beyond their heads stand immobile with S-shaped necks coiled like springs. Suddenly the bird strikes forward and comes up with a frog which is summarily gobbled up before they strike another pose.
The piece de resistance of this view point are the Painted Storks, the largest birds residing here, with long beaks slightly turned at the end, egg yolky in colour, red eye patches and with delicate pink feathering on their backs reminiscent of the flamingo. It steps forth with measured step of an arthritic delicately probing as it goes for delicacies in the mud. Sprinkled amongst the storks are the Black-headed White Ibis, with curved beaks, resembling undertakers. Silently the birds plunge their beak in the morass for titbits for Ibis, unlike other birds, do not call.
The water gently ripples from the breeze of crystal clear air causes the lake to band the landscape. Above the blue-grey water is a green band of grass and rushes. They are punctuated with water birds. Most prominent are the completely black Cormorants which dive into the water, upturn and fish coming up for a breather with body underwater and only the neck above the surface looking like a snake-bird. When the fishing is done, they return to their congregation on a tree next to the culvert or stand on dead tree trunks with wings spread wide open to dry their wings for as you know cormorants lack the oil glands possessed by ducks which prevent their feathers from getting waterlogged.
Speaking of Duck, there are very few on this lake. They are to be found on the CTW, middle and lower lakes with a few skeins at other ponds in the campus. We shall meet them next when we visit the CTW Lake. The black duck-like birds with white on their faces on their foreheads and beak floating amongst the water hyacinth are Coot, a different kind of water-bird. Some of the browner and smaller individuals among them on the shore are the juveniles of the last breeding season which are yet to strike out on their own.
The setting sun hangs a while poised above the horizon as a whiff of the cloying smell of decaying vegetation is whisked on the cool breeze. In the peace punctuated by the squawk of a heron above the low pitched rumple of the rowing channel machinery can be heard coming back to laager after a day’s work. A large fish jumps well out of the water, showing off its scales, confident that there is no danger from the ubiquitous Kingfishers so late in the day.
Slowly darkness falls, the cormorants fly off in batches, aligned in oblique lines to their nesting place across the River Mutha. Occasional Vs of duck can now be seen as they move to their night time foraging in the fields. The storks, egrets and herons settle down on the bunch of trees which they have selected as a heronry on the other side of the lake. It is now time for us to go home having enjoyed some of that quality of life which so many aspire to, so few get and which is already there within reach only requiring us to open our eyes and drink it all in.
(This writeup first appeared on CME Weekly in Jun 2008).
Photo Credits: Girish Vaze. Copyrighted. His email available on request.