Birds and brains! IISc students trip to Ranganathittu, 180120

It was a new experience for me…taking 27 students of IISc(from undergrad level to Ph.D. students) along with a professor and his young daughter, to Ranganathittu, on the 18th of Jan, 2020. Arun Kaulige also guided the group. Kiran and Ambarish organized the trip extremely well.

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The group. Photo: a passing tourist!

It was a first for me as I have never before taken such a large group which does not hail from Karnataka! Naturally, since the group consisted of people who have secured admission into various programs at IISc, they were from various parts of the country.

I was also a little doubtful about our later-than-usual start…we left Bangalore at 7.15 am, stopped for breakfast at Kumbalgodu, and then proceeded to Ranganathittu…but I need not have worried.

Flycatchers of three kinds…the Tickell’s Blue, the White-breasted Fantail, and a beautiful Verditer flitted around even as we entered the sanctuary. We were able to spot both Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds.

Since almost everyone was new to birding, and the group’s budget was not very big, we decided on the short boat trip for everyone, in two boats, Arun going in one and myself in the other. However, since our boatman, Manjunath, recognized me from the Ranganathittu bird census, he kindly gave us a little extra time!

We enjoyed watching the Spot-billed Pelicans, and the Painted Storks (they are so plentiful here that it’s difficult to remember that they are near-threatened) and Openbills

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flying and perching; Several Grey Herons stood quite nonchalantly, next to rocks that, our group realized in surprised (and vocal!) dismay, were not rocks at all, but glided through the water, showing their deadly scales!

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We saw several “crocs on the rocks”, too, basking in the sunshine. Prof Chandra pointed out one saurian on the island, crunching up a fallen egg; I was able to talk about the diet of eggs and nestlings that the crocodiles enjoy, apart from fish. Manjunath gave a brief history and account of the sanctuary, which I translated for the others.

It was good to see that several Spoonbills have arrived at the sanctuary,

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and were displaying their lacy breeding plumage; Little and Great Cormorants, and one Indian Cormorant, gave diving and drying displays. River Terns made their floating, graceful forays and spectacular aerobatics as they sought fish in the water.

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Stream Glory damselflies mating

After the boat ride, we walked along the bank of the river, and the presence of several tourists did not prevent us from seeing Scaly-breasted Munias, Tricolored Munias

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and Silverbills feeding off the bamboo flowers and seeds. Rose-ringed Parakeets called from above our heads, as did White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets. Black and Brahminy Kites floated overhead, mixing with the waterfowl. Arun and I also talked about the various flora in the area

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Mucuna monosperma, Negro Bean, a native climber.

We adjourned to the canteen for lunch,

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and I then suggested that we return via Naguvanahalli, trying our luck with the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. Google maps always takes us to the “wrong” side of the river and asks us to walk through the water to the sanctuary; so I was careful to take the bus through Naguvanahalli village to the “right” side of the river. I was able to show the group the completely non-touristy landscape of the beautiful Kaveri. Clothes, cattle, vehicles, and human beings..everything was getting washed in Her waters! (Oh yes, I use a capital letter because the Kaveri is a revered, life-giving goddess to me!)

We saw a few Indian Grey Hornbills flying into the trees, and a Black-rumped Flameback rat-tatted its presence on a palm tree-trunk. A few Green Bee-eaters had the group asking me if they were the birds I had told them about. Even while I was shaking my head negatively, thankfully, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater sailed in and landed on the wire, once again riveting the eyes of the group.

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Farmer washing his cow, Naguvanahalli, 180120

I must sadly add , however, that the Bee-eater sanctuary is in a shambles (For some reason, it is marked on Google maps as a Green Bee-eater sanctuary..that is one bird which, for now at least, does not need protection.). The sign and several of the granite poles with barbed wire strung across them, have fallen to the ground. Since the floods in the monsoon of 2019, the Forest Dept seems to have made no effort to build these up properly again. Instead of the hundreds of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters I have seen here in the past, we were lucky to see just seven of them.

The group seemed to enjoy the serene environs, and many of us walked up to the waters and cooled our feet. The rustling of the leaves of the huge Peepal and other trees, the breeze along the river, and sound of the river water…I most definitely recharged my spiritual batteries in the lap of nature.

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Banks of the Kaveri, Naguvanahalli

On the way home, I decided that I would introduce the group to some of our iconic foods and beverages…so we stopped at Bidadi, and the group tasted the Karnataka filter coffee, the Bidadi thatte iddli, and the Maddur vada. The softness of the iddlis encouraged several initially reluctant people to try one!

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We drove home in the glowing, golden sunlight of the evening.

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I was very happy to have shown the students, many of whom live and work almost exclusively in the cocoon of the IISc campus, a part of the State that I live in, and love so much. I am not sure how many missed the malls and the tourist spots, though when given a choice between Srirangapatna and Naguvanahalli, the unanimous vote was for the latter!

The eBird list for Ranganathittu is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528082

and for Naguvanahalli, at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528408

I have put up my photos on an FB album at

An outing for the students of IISc.

Posted by Deepa Mohan on Monday, January 20, 2020

and on Flickr at

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I will next be sending an announcement about the 4th Sunday walk this month, which is going to be on the 4th Saturday instead. Meanwhile, enjoy “Mittwoch” (in German, the middle of the week is called exactly that!) and look forward to the weekend, with Republic Day falling on Sunday!

Cheers, Deepa.

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One Response to “Birds and brains! IISc students trip to Ranganathittu, 180120”

  1. africanbirding Says:

    Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.

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