Posted tagged ‘lakes’

The winter visitors are here!

8 February 2009

The CTW Lake, CME, Dapodi in Oct 2008

The hottest thing happening in town is that hundreds of really good-looking birds are here all the way from Russia, Siberia and Central Asia and having a great time at our very own lakes. And with the decline of Pune’s traditional wetlands of Mula Mutha and Pashan, for Pune’s wildfowl, CME is the happening place in town.

A flight of resident Spotbill come into land.

A flight of resident Spotbill come in to land.

Our staid resident community of a three hundred Spotbill duck have been enlarged by the arrival of almost a thousand migratory duck. The first which you will notice when peering over the embankment of the CTW Lake are the bright chestnut Ruddy Shelducks, known in India as Brahminy Ducks, the giants of the duck community. Faithfully organised in spouse-pairs, they stand uneasily amidst the hoi-polloi of hundreds of Northern Shovellors with brown heads down into the water, their boat shaped bills trawling relentlessly for snacks and their tails wagging as they go about their dodgem race to get at the good stuff.

The ruddy shelduck in full splendour over the CTW lake.

The ruddy shelduck in full splendour over the CTW lake.

Interspersed amongst them are the Northern Pintails with purple necks and a beautiful white stripe running down their seductive neckline and pointed tail feathers which give them their names. Smallest of all are the Common Teals, their males looking anything but common with shining green and brown heads.

In between the crowd, a few strays – a forlorn female Nakta or Comb Ducks, her white-woolly body peppered with black spots, looks all around in vain for the prominent combed beak of the males of her species. Someone didn’t give her quite the right directions! And all around this fish-market are the cheeky brown Little Grebes or span Dabchicks who dare each other as to how close they can get to this frightful human who thinks he’s invisible to the birds by being half-defiladed behind the bund. Amidst these, bob the plump-staid Coot, residents of CME, looking distraught at the riff-raff which arrives each season. Over head, the Grey Herons and Painted Stork are unimpressed, they have seen all this before. What is much more important is to decide whether he/she should invest in a time-share at this fish-abundant but crowded spot or go to another beckoning shallow with uncertain fish and no jostling neighbours. The Black-headed  White Ibis have no such qualms about fratenising with their cousins, a flock of Glossy Ibis.

The Purple Swamphens who entertained us all summer by their bumbling antics are now joined by the more prim and proper Common Moorhens. The Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, always a treat to watch, are now mostly gone; they don’t like the wood and leaf-smoke which is the characteristic odour of winter in our campus and do not hesitate to make their displeasure known.

The clearing of brush-wood by the roadside has deprived many dozens of Great and Little Cormorants of privacy, shade and perch and they have moved out of CME to the Mula river. However, their absence was not missed as a new bird appeared on the scene in Pune – the Darter or Snake-bird, a pair of which were recently seen at the Middle Lake opposite the Sailing Club.

Record shot of  Darter at Upper Lake, CME by Girish Vaze

Record shot of Darter at Upper Lake, CME by Girish Vaze

The hottest chick in town was undoubtedly the solitary svelte Greater Flamingo which daintily trawled her upside-down head waggling her pink body in the tasty swallows in the upper lake. But her arrival put a frown on the foreheads of the bird-watchers – are the CME lakes turning brackish, as every-one knows flamingos are only found at sea-shores and brackish lakes.

However, where duck are plentiful, the birds of prey follow, in our case a pair of Marsh Harriers with gorgeous chestnut coloured neck head and shoulders, causing waves of duck to alarm and fly off as they carry out a low vigil over the reed-filled shorelines.

The Marsh Harrier on patrol.

The Marsh Harrier on patrol.

It is getting late now. A flight of elegant Black-winged Stilts resembling the chic models of Vogue as they cross their legs in the shallows, are disturbed by two pesky Green Sandpipers who buzz them as they spot the raconteurs. A flock of 150 Wire-tailed Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows hawk insects in the reddish glow of dusk as some birds take off – a few for their nightly outings for feed, others en-route to communal roosts on the riverside, while the rest settle down in a low muttered squabble for the night.

Hush, night falls in paradise!

( First published in CME Weekly in Nov 2008 )

(Note: Text available under GFDL or Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 . Images  are copyrighted by the authors. Email addresses of Gaurav Purohit and Girish Vaze available on request.)

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The Living Lake

8 February 2009

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.

Girish Vaze)

The lake is well stocked with fish and supports a large community of resident fish-eaters such as cormorants, herons and storks. (Photo:Girish Vaze)

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 associated reedbeds and grass patches of the CME lakes support inordinate populations of Purple Swamphens!

The associated reedbeds and grass patches of the CME lakes support inordinate populations of Purple Swamphens! (Photo: Girish Vaze)

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.