Top 5 Pictures of 2017

Blue throat(DSC_0102)
Bluethroat
Tricoloured munia 1(WG9A1925)
Tricoloured Munia
Forest owlet(WG9A0294)
Forest Owlet
Black headed bunting(DSC_0049)
Black-headed Bunting
White eyed buzzard(DSC_0067)
White-eyed Buzzard

 

Advertisements

Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary

Tansa wildlife sanctuary is located in the Wada, Shahapur and Mokhada Talukas in Thane district of Maharashtra. It is at a distance of only 90kms from the city of Mumbai. The sanctuary covers an area of around 320 sq. km, houses many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
The wildlife sanctuary at Tansa in Thana district comprises the catchment area of Tansa Lake and the surrounding forests of Shahapur, Khardi, Vaitarna and East Wada Ranges in Shahapur tahsil of Thana district.
The Tansa Lake is an artificial lake inside the sanctuary acts as a good source of water for all the wildlife that exists in the sanctuary as well as the city of Mumbai. Formed across the River Tansa, Tansa Lake is one of the largest lakes in the state of Maharashtra which has a capacity to store 3 million gallons of water.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0050.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0051.JPG

IMG_3212
According to eBird 250 species of birds have been seen at Tansa which include some rare and endangered species like the Rosy Minivet and Forest Owlet.

screen-shot-2018-02-25-at-5-26-03-pm-e1519559816829.png
One fine day, when we visited Tansa post our morning birding, we tried our luck for the owlet in a specific area where people had often spotted it. On reaching the spot everyone started scanning the top level of the trees with their binoculars. After spending 15-20 minutes near it and not finding it, we lost all our hopes that day. To my astonishment… just as we were about to leave, we heard the owlet’s call from a short distance. An adreneline rush for the gang! The complications we faced were (1)the possible noise from the crushing of the dry leaves would’ve alerted it (2)which was beyond an elevated climb of 15ft. Gasping our breath we managed our first encounter with the “Forest Owlet” after multiple heart breaking attempts.

IMG_3214.jpg
Forest Owlet (Picture captured using phone camera + binoculars)

If you wish to hear the calls of the Forest Owlet click on this link:
https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Heteroglaux-blewitti

 

Pictures taken at Tansa:

Forest owlet(WG9A0294)
‘Hi There!’ Forest Owlet (Critically Endangered)
forest-owletwg9a0211.jpg
Forest Owlet (Critically Endangered)
IMG_2426
White-eyed Buzzard
csedsc_0169.jpg
Crested Serpent Eagle

Check out other species seen at Tansa:

https://ebird.org/india/hotspot/L3166421?yr=cur&m=&rank=mrec

How to get to this place:

By Rail:
The nearest railhead is Atgaon on the Central Railway 13 Kms away from the sanctuary.

By Road:
This place can also be reached via road from the town of Shahapur, situated on Mumbai-Agra National Highway No.3.

Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

Tungareshwar is a mountain plateau situated between Virar and Vasai, an hour’s drive from Mumbai. It is a dense forest region with lush green surroundings and flowing waterfalls during monsoon. At an altitude of about 2177 feet, it is a popular destination for trekkers and mountaineers.

The main tourist attraction of Tungareshwar is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva amidst the forest.

One can start birding near the temple area – the birds which are likely to be seen here are the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, White-throated kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, and Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
As you move ahead and cross a bridge, the path is slightly inclined you’re most likely to see the Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

On 13 February 2017 we reached at 6:45 am and decided to begin birding near the temple area for sometime then moving up to the Ashram which is quite close to the highest point of this mountain 660 m above sea level. Recently there had been sightings of the Black capped kingfisher (which was my lifer) near the temple area which is quite unusual because this bird is restricted to the mangrove habitat. As my luck had it, I got to see it. Upon reaching the Ashram, we saw a gate like structure down the slope leading to a rugged trail so we decided to sit on the rocks from where we could see the beautiful valley below where the Crested Serpent Eagle was soaring right below our eye level (PLEASE SEE IMAGE BELOW). Sitting there patiently, we saw the Blue Rock Thrush and then came the surprise crawling. It appeared to be a squirrel at first but the lack of three white stripes on the back confirmed it to be a Treeshrew. To my knowledge tree shrews were seen at Tungareshwar but I expected to catch that experience.

Pictures taken at Tungareshwar:

Black capped kingfisher(DSC_0627)
Black-capped Kingfisher
APFC(DSC_0062)
Indian Paradise Flycatcher
Rufous Treepie(DSC_0753)
Rufous Treepie
vigors-sunbirddsc_0046.jpg
Vigor’s Sunbird
White Throated Kingfisher(DSC_0059)
White-throated Kingfisher

Other than birds what else can you see in Tungareshwar?

Treeshrew, Leopard, rusty-spotted cat, common palm civet, common langur, common mongoose, black-naped hare, sambar deer and barking deer.

Tree shrew(DSC_0694)
Treeshrew

Rarities from Uran

Uran is part of Navi Mumbai city of Maharashtra, India. It has a mixed habitat of mangroves, freshwater, reeds and grassland. Having a rich biodiversity this place is abundant in species of birds and animals.

1. Asian Desert Warbler

The Asian desert warbler is a typical warbler which breeds in the deserts of central and western Asia and the extreme east of Europe (Volga Delta area east to western Inner Mongolia in China), and migrating to similar habitats in southwestern Asia (Arabia to northwestern India) and the far northeast of Africa (Red Sea coastal regions) in winter. My personal experience; as a boy who went as an amateur wildlife enthusiast had no idea how fortunate they would be on that day catching sightings of the Asian Desert Warbler which became the second record for Maharashtra.
My first encounter with the Asian Desert Warbler – 28th October 2015 at Uran, surprisingly my second encounter with this rare bird was at Nandivali, Dombivali (16th October 2016) took almost a year for my little friend to show up in our city! Ha-ha!!!

 

desert warbler(DSC_0117)
Asian Desert Warbler (Picture taken at Uran in October 2015)

 

 

asian-desert-warblerdsc_0164.jpg
Asian Desert Warbler( Picture taken at Dombivali in October 2016)

2. Caspian Plover

Caspian Plover is a rare migrant with very few records in India. This bird was sighted by a group of birders probably in mid of October 2016. Identifying this bird is quite challenging because it looks similar to the Oriental Plover.
On 1st November 2016 we visited Uran in search of this rare bird, upon reaching at 7:00am we set out to scan the area for the Caspian Plover. If you look closely at the picture taken, the biggest challenge here was to primarily spot this bird within such a strikingly similar background; the mighty sun roasted us for over 5 hours before we actually caught a glimpse of this expertly camouflaged bird.

caspian-ploverdsc_0675.jpg
Caspian Plover

 

Bhandup Pumping Station

One of the most famous birding spots in Mumbai – Bhandup Pumping Station(BPS) is located off the Eastern Express Highway. A creek area – home to many species of wild birds and animals. The best time to visit this place is early morning around 6:30 am.

Surely a paradise for bird watchers, BPS has never failed to amaze me since my first visit – an absolute pleasure to catch rare sightings.

Recent rare sightings (for Mumbai region) of the Common Shelduck and Long-billed Dowitcher in January 2017, Black-necked Grebe in October 2017 and Grey-headed Lapwing few weeks ago has put this place on top of every bird watchers wish list.

Pictures taken at BPS:

Black headed bunting(DSC_0049)
Black-headed Bunting
Common Kingfisher(DSC_0159)
Common Kingfisher
European roller(DSC_0553)
European Roller
Flamingos(DSC_0299)
Flock of Lesser Flamingos
IMG_0983
Lesser Flamingo
IMG_0957
Northern Shoveler (Male)
Marsh harrier(DSC_0144)
Marsh Harrier
Northern shoveler(DSC_0133)
Northern Shoveler (Female)

Other than birds what else can you see in BPS?

Mongoose(DSC_0343)
Indian Grey Mongoose
golden-jackaldsc_0007.jpg
Golden Jackal

 

How To get to this place:

Rail:
Get down at Nahur railway station – go to Nahur East – walk to Eastern Express Highway (Thane-Airoli turn on Eastern Express Highway). Then use the link below to reach the point of entry from the highway. https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Entrance+Road+To+Bhandup+Pumping+Station/@19.151744,72.9551581,21z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3be7b88fa156823b:0x4cecf9bbdd2960ca!8m2!3d19.1517266!4d72.9552708?hl=en

A friendly visit after five decades

Let me first begin with why I named my blog – “A friendly visit after five decades.”
While researching on the Red-breasted Merganser I came across some undeniably interesting facts that I was unaware about back on the day I had my first encounter with it.

There have been obscure old records of the sighting of this bird in India, once in 1889 and other in 1961, both from West Bengal, both of which cannot be supported by any authentic documentation. So, officially, this sighting from 2016 is the first of its kind.
[Source: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/conservation/news/10503-red-breasted-merganser-sighted-for-the-first-time-in-india]

The solitary bird was sighted in one of the ponds at Madhuvan by a few birders from Vasai in December 2016. To my knowledge people came all the way from Pune and nearby cities just to catch a glimpse of this stranger in a foreign land.

The Red-breasted Merganser belongs to the subfamily of Sawbills, a specialised group of fish-eating ducks with bills that have thin, serrated edges that help them grip their prey (hence the species name, ‘serrator’). Recorded as one of the fastest ducks in flight (it can achieve speeds up to 100mph), it is also among the most widespread of the group. The species breeds in much of North America, Europe and Northern Asia, usually spending its time in freshwater lakes and ponds. During winter, it migrates south to the coastal waters of Mexico, the UK, the Mediterranean, China, Japan, and the southern coasts of Pakistan. [Source: https://www.natureinfocus.in/story/a-mega-lifer-in-maharashtra]
 

Red breasted mergenser(DSC_0825)

Red breasted merganser(DSC_0844)

Red breasted merganser(DSC_0711)

I had the good fortune to observe and click this bird while it was roosting, swimming and flying.

Bird watching at Veer Dam

Veer Dam is one of the most important dams in Maharashtra, India. It is a rubble-concrete dam constructed on Nira River. It is located in near Shirwal, Satara district. The water is mainly used for irrigation and farming. The dam is located around 70 km from Pune. This place offers a good stretch of 7-8 km along the river Nira. This entire belt along the river is extremely rich with Avifauna (the birds of a particular region, habitat, or geological period).
Not only is this place good for birding but it’s a great spot for picnics and bike rides.

veer dam.jpg
Credits: Dr. Nayana Amin

On 13th August, 2017 we visited this place for bird watching. We had been planning to visit this place over several weeks as it is known to be good for grassland birding. We left at 4:30 in the morning and reached somewhere around 9am. This was my second visit to a place near pune for birding and I was quite excited about seeing different species which we usually don’t get to see in and around Mumbai.

We were hoping to see the Indian courser, Rock Bush Quail, Painted Francolin, Grey Francolin(though we heard calls of this bird, we didn’t get to see it.) and the Red necked Falcon. All these species are my lifers.

Since we were unfamiliar with the place and birding spots we didn’t get as many pictures as we would have liked. Nevertheless, it was a good experience and we got to explore the place.

Pictures taken during the trip:

Yellow wattled juv(WG9A2011)
Yellow Wattled Lapwing (Juvenile)
Yellow Wattled Lapwing(WG9A2062)
Yellow Wattled Lapwing (Adult)
Pied bushchat1(WG9A2065)
Pied Bushchat (Male)

How to get to this place:

Take the Mumbai-Bangalore highway and drive up-to Shirwal, where you need to turn left onto the Khandala-Loni road to Baramati. Driving for around 4-5 KMs, take a left and you will reach the Tondal village.

 

 

 

SGNP – My Second Home

Let me first begin by saying why I named this blog “SGNP – My Second Home.”
It’s barely 10 minutes away from where I live and I’ve seen half of my lifers here (don’t quote me on this. Haha). I visit it quite often hence my friends and family started calling this place my second home.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), is a large protected area in the northern part of Mumbai city (preferably called Mumbai Suburban district) in Maharashtra State in India. It encompasses an area of 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is surrounded on three sides by India’s most populous city. It is notable as one of the major national parks existing within a metropolis limit and is one of the most visited parks in the world.

IMG_2759.jpg
As you enter SGNP from Manpada this is the first pond you’ll see which has two crocodiles.

 

croc(DSC_0232)
This picture captured one of the crocodiles basking in the sun during winter.
IMG_2839.jpg
View from the top of the hill – Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Manpada)
IMG_3490
The view on the other side of the hill.
IMG_3492
Co-existence

 

Pictures taken at this place:

Coppersmith Barbet(DSC_0131)
Coppersmith Barbet
IMG_2420
Orange Headed Thrush
Indian Roller(DSC_0017)
Indian Roller
Jungle Owlet(DSC_0234)
Jungle owlet
Drongo cuckoo1(DSC_0600)
Drongo Cuckoo
Golden Oriole(DSC_3443)
Golden Oriole
Green Bee Eater(DSC_0060)
Green bee eater
Indian eagle owl(DSC_0743)
Indian Eagle Owl
Oriental Honey Buzzard(DSC_0016)
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Oriental honey Buzzard(DSC_0101)
Oriental Honey Buzzard being mobbed by a crow
Shikra(DSC_0188)
Shikra
Black redstart(DSC_0237)
Black Redstart (Female)
ODKF(DSC_0231)
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
Shikra(DSC_0593)
Shikra

How to get to this place (From Thane) :

Take State Transport or BEST Bus going to Borivali/ Mira Road/ Bhayendar from Thane Station. Get down at Manpada Bus stop.
Alternatively catch the TMC bus going to Tikuji-ni-wadi. And walk towards the gate of SGNP at Manpada.

First visit to Matheran

Matheran is a hill station and a municipal council in Karjat Tahsilin the Raigad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the smallest hill station in India that is located on the Western Ghats range at an elevation of around 800 m (2,625 feet) above sea level. It is about 90 km from Mumbai, and 120 km from Pune. It is Asia’s only automobile-free hill station. Matheran has been declared as eco-sensitive region by Union Environment ministry. The reason behind it has been vast flora and fauna it inhabits. It is one of those forests which attracts all kind of wild lifers, Florist, Herpatologist, Ornithologist etc. When it comes to birding, winters have been paradise for birdwatchers at this forest. Small water bodies starts attracting flies which makes flycatchers active all throughout the day.

IMG_3611.jpg

 

Well, I can’t tell you how long I had been waiting to visit Matheran for bird watching. On 17th February, 2018 my wait was finally over. I left home at 4:55am and I was running a little late for the rendezvous. We started our journey around 5:10am and we reached Matheran exactly at 7:30 am.
As soon as I got out of the car I saw the Malabar giant squirrel on a nearby tree which I had never seen before and to my surprise my friends confirmed that this species was very popular around here.

IMG_4127
Malabar Giant Squirrel (Pic taken at Goa)
Credits: Abhishek Shankar

The Indian giant squirrel, or Malabar giant squirrel(Ratufa indica) is a large tree squirrel species genus Ratufa native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal and mainly herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia.

 

Later we went to a nearby stream where we were expecting to see flycatchers and other birds which are commonly seen there. Near the stream we saw the Indian Blue Robin (Female), Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Yellow-browed Warbler, White-cheeked Barbet, Oriental Turtle Dove and heard calls of the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon.

 

Pictures taken during the trip:

Indian Blue Robin(DSC_0433)
Indian Blue Robin(Female)

The Indian blue robin (Larvivora brunnea) is a small bird found in South Asia. Formerly considered a thrush, it is now considered one of the Old World flycatchers in the family Muscicapidae. It was earlier called the Indian blue chat. It is migratory, breeding in the forests along the Himalayas of Nepal, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. They winter in the hill forests of the Western Ghats of India and in Sri Lanka.

Yellow Browed Warbler(DSC_0428)
Yellow-browed Warbler

The Yellow-browed warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) is a leaf warbler (family Phylloscopidae) which breeds in temperate Asia. This warbler is strongly migratory and winters mainly in tropical South Asia and South-east Asia, but also in small numbers in western Europe.
It was formerly considered to comprise three subspecies, but P. i. humei and P. i. mandellii are now split as a separate species, Hume’s leaf warbler P. humei, leaving P. inornatus monotypic. The two sister species differ slightly but consistently in morphology, bioacoustics, and molecular characters. Before the species was split, the names yellow-browed willow warbler and inornate warbler were used by a few authors.

Checkout all the birds we saw at Matheran during our visit: https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S43083451

 

What can you find other than birds in Matheran?

Reptiles

Bamboo Pit Viper
Green Vine snake
Green Keelback
Indian Rat Snake
Common Krait
Russels Viper
Indian garden Lizard
Keeled Grass Skink
Cat Snake

Amphibians

Cricket frog
Wrinkled frog
Fungoid frog
Tree frog
Bush frog

Butterflies

Malabar Spotted Flat
Common Spotted Flat
Small Banded Swift
Grass Demon
Common Bluebottle
Blue Mormon
Common Grass Yellow
Glassy Tiger
Common Tree brown
Common Fivering
Chocolate Pansy
Painted Lady
Danaid Eggfly
Blue Oakleaf
Blue Tiger Moth

 

IMG_3613
Blue Tiger Moth

How to get to this place:
By train:

You can catch either catch

  • a Karjat bound local train
  • the 07.10 Deccan Express (arrives at 08.38 in time for the 08.50)
    from CST (a.k.a. VT Mumbai, India) on the Central Railway to Neral Station.

From Neral Station , there is a toy train which runs to Matheran about 4 times in a day. This toy train is not operational when railway route is under maintenance or when there is a perceived hazard e.g. the monsoons. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is at the Neral Station.
The train is often full, so turn up in good time to ensure you get a ticket – tickets usually sell out 1 hour in advance of the journey time and waiting time in queue can be as long as 30 – 60 minutes.

By car:

Cars are not allowed within Matheran. However you can drive up and park your car at Dasturi car point, or take the newly introduced mini bus shuttle from Karjat or Neral railway stations upto Dasturi.
Alternately you can walk from Dasturi along the rail line and make your way up to Matheran which may take 20 minutes to half an hour.