Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Hot Afternoon at Basai

It takes courage to go out birding in June, what with 45 degrees C and power outages. But then, which hard-boiled birder can say no when friend Wingco Vijay Sethi asks you if one is interested in testing the new Nikkor 80-400 AF-S VR ED lens? So the RV was fixed for Basai for 4:45 PM and equipment were packed and also some lemon tea and cold water.  Just as I was leaving from Faridabad, one could see the dust storm and the approaching pre-monsoon rain. What the hell! We will brave the storm and just have tea on the Basai Dhanwapur Road!
It rained all the way from Faridabad to Gurgaon, but stopped just short of Gurgaon. Met Wingco at the Basai turning and moved into one car.
I had one of the most amazing days of birding in Basai in the Summer.
We started off by watching a bunch of Pied Bushchats, male, female  and juvenile. There were many Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters sitting along the road, but did not give any good shots. One could see a large number of White-winged stilts sitting on newly flooded field and we wondered if there were eggs or chicks there. A walk into the wet fields had all the Lapwings and Stilts excited enough to attack us by diving for our heads from above and only the lenses saved us when we pointed the camera at the dive bombers!

In the clump of Bulrush one could see activities of Streaked Weavers, but not close by. There was some visible trampling of the tall grass, but no idea what caused it.
Further on, we spied a lone Female Painted Snipe which refused to oblige by coming out of the grass over.

Towards the Drain across the road, there were a number of Pond Herons and Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage, some with red legs and all.

As one crosses the drain, one is struck by the unsightly view of JCB making a road from BPTP to another upcoming colony across the road towards, Basai Railway Station. This tells the death toll of the Basai Wetlands! Soon there will be a booming housing complex here, where for decades we have had the pleasure of watching some of the best waders!
Even as the road was being built, and the JCB was pushing dirt into the wetland, we saw two pairs of Painted Snipes, nonchalantly foraging and taking bath! God bless these intrepid wild birds!
On the return journey we spent several Cattle egrets in full breeding plumage, some with striking red bills and red legs. At a distance we could see on our binoculars a group of White Ibis, a few Spoonbills and some Spot-billed Ducks. A flock of four Lesser Whistling ducks took off from close by and the road was full of courting Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. One male was feeding the female and probably would have mounted also, but for a motorcyclist who drove past them and they took flight. Green Bee-eaters also were in good number, but the start was a pair of Pied Cuckoos.  These harbingers of Monsoon seemed unperturbed by the presence of two old men with long lenses and continued to feed on caterpillars from the Water Hyacinth growing along the road.

More Streaked Weaver activity was noticed deep inside the Bulrush grove. A flock of about a dozen Red Avadavat displayed to bid us farewell.  

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