Barely 24 hours in-country and it was clear we were going to need some adult supervision – luckily top bird guide, taxi driver extraordinaire and all-round good egg Rayman picked us up at 0600 on 9/12/18 and we barrelled off to the fantastically productive birding area around Carambolin Lake.
Not before he’d called in an Indian Scops Owl at our apartment though – this fabulous owl peered down at us as we loaded his wheels.
Too dark for a photo (I don’t like blatting owls with flash) I drew the bird instead, unwisely embellishing said sketch after a few snifters later in the day – proof if proof were needed as to why digital photography is such a blessing to the modern birder.
Oh dear, at least I got the eye colour right.
Owled up we headed off into the pre-dawn arriving a short time later at Carambolin, just as the place was starting to stir…
Barely had the first “clown horn” honk advertising the arrival of the morning bread bicycle echoed over the grasslands than White Breasted Waterhens, egrets, drongos, munias and Indian Rollers started to emerge from the gloom.
(picture courtesy Chris Kehoe)
A superb place, Rayman moved us slowly down the track from the the open fields and drying marshes towards a small area of woodland with a humble homestead in, and the birding really began to pick up.
Paddyfield Pipits, Malabar Lark and Siberian Stonechats lurked on the parched heaps of hay, while raptors took to the air, and Rose Ringed Parakeets squawked the dawn serenity into oblivion.
The woodland – a well-known stake-out for Spotted Owlet and Brown Hawk Owl (top birds in anyone’s Boo-Book) – revealed Oriental Magpie Robin, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red Spurfowl and Banded Bay Cuckoo as we walked slowly down the road while India stirred.
It was a pleasure strolling down the lane – not for the first time in this exciting country I was struck by the abundance of birds, despite the density of the human population, traffic, prodigious amounts of dumped rubbish and poor air quality.
Folks leave birds be here (unless you happen to be an unfortunate curryfowl that is), and while some populations are crashing (don’t get me started on the Diclofenac vulture disaster) there still appears to be more birds on the ground here than anywhere in the UK.
Walking down the track felt like some autumn lane nirvana (it was probably the light – or the Bombay Sapphire hangover) as more and more species popped up and Trops perfected his birding hand signals…
Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, elastic winged Pallid Harrier overhead, Common Iora, White Browed Bulbul, Hoopoes, Baya Weavers, Small Minivet etc etc – marvellous.
Loten’s and Purple Sunbirds began to appear as the morning warmed up and we walked round to an open area overlooking the vast expanses of marshes here, where Oriental Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagles and Shikras were starting to thermal.
The raptors had to wait as we indulged in a spot of “big boy” birding to grill a warbler flicking about in the scrub beside us – Booted Warbler it was, but it was fun getting there, which of course is the whole point of all this bird-spotting…
Eric Sykes would have been proud.
Moving off under the watchful gaze of a bazillion Brahminy Kites we headed to a causeway through the wetlands which afforded us spectacular views of waders, wildfowl and raptors galore – can’t beat a good wetland….
It was like Marshside, except a bit warmer, (and I don’t think palms will grow on Hesketh Golf Course) and unusually for India, with fewer cars…
We were greeted by a Brown Shrike and wintering Isabelline/Daurian Shrike, which would admittedly raise a few eyebrows in Sandgrounders too.
Out on the shallow lagoons a wader fest boasted Redshank (longer billed and paler than ours), Greenshank, Avocet, Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Green, Wood, Common, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers.
Yellow Wags of many persuasions, Bluethroats and prinias were in the reeds, while Teal, Ruddy Shelduck, Gull Billed and River Terns and Glossy Ibis crowded the roost.
Wow – and that was before we cast an eye over the nearby Great Spotted Eagle, fishing Osprey and squadrons of Little Swifts overhead.
Rayman hadn’t quite finished with us, and before motoring back to the coast we called in at a tower hide, where Crested Serpent Eagle circled overhead and the marshy expanse was carpeted with Grey Headed Swamphen, Lesser Whistling Ducks and both Bronze Winged and Pheasant Tailed Jacanas.
Even the Purple Herons looked stunned by the spectacular variety of the place…
On the way back as the temperatures soared and the dancing girl on the dashboard did her thing, I couldn’t help breaking into a chorus of “Honolulu Baby” in appreciation of the Carambolin tick-fest and afternoon of Kingfishers and Jalfrezis that lay ahead…life was good.
Thank you Rayman.
Carambolin haul, 9/12/18:
Indian Scops Owl, Openbill Stork, White Breasted Waterhen, Asian Koel, Tree Pipit, Black Drongo, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Black Headed Ibis, House Crow, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Plum Headed Parakeet, White Throated Kingfisher, White Rumped Munia, Indian Roller, Purple Heron, Rufous Treepie, Jungle Myna, Brahminy Kite, Indian Golden Oriole, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Little Cormorant, Baya Weaver, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Siberian Stonechat, Paddyfield Pipit, Malabar Crested Lark, Wire Tailed Swallow, Indian Cormorant, Common Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Alexandrine Parakeet, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Spotted Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red Avadavadat, Purple Rumped Sunbird, Pale Billed Flowerpecker, Green Warbler, Common Iora, Oriental Magpie Robin, Ashy Drongo, White Cheeked Barbet, Banded Bay Cuckoo, White Spotted Fantail, Red Spurfowl, Loten’s Sunbird, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Purple Sunbird, Indian Reed Warbler, White Browed Bulbul, Plain Prinia, Indian Darter, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Shikra, Booted Eagle, Booted Warbler, Black Headed Munia, Pallid Harrier, Small Minivet, Little Swift, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Grey Headed Swamphen, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet, Ruddy Shelduck, Teal, Little Stint, Bluethroat, Black Tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Great Spotted Eagle, Gull Billed Tern, River Tern, Daurian Shrike, Brown Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Osprey, Curlew Sandpiper, Crested Serpent Eagle, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, Bronze Winged Jacana, Moorhen, Lesser Whistling Duck, Pied Kingfisher, Peahen.