ARAI Hill (Vetal Tekdi) Never Stops Surprising – 2 Dec 2018

It’s almost like a treasure hunt when you are birding on ARAI Hill or Vetal Tekdi. I have been there many times and I can assure you, as a bird watcher it never stops surprising. In my experience as a bird photographer, it is not guaranteed what will you find near Pune. This time also, Vetal Tekdi did not disappoint me. Now, some bird watchers might go “what you found is commonplace for us” but, you must remember I go there probably once a couple of months so it’s still surprising for me 🙂

Panoramic view of ARAI Hill or Vetal Tekdi quarry

Graffiti on the wall which you have to cross to get on to meadows

It was a gloomy and cold Sunday morning (2nd Dec 2018) morning so I and my friend cum brother-in-law Rohan decided to wait at a tea shop the ill sun rises. At around 7:30 AM we reached the top of the hill and marched towards the quarry as usual. As we crossed the Hanuman temple we sighted a juvenile Peacock (Peafowl) and Bharadwaj. It was a sign that we will be having a good time today. I am a bit superstitious when it comes to birding. Don’t frown at me… many are!

Juvenile Peafowl in the Woods 1

Juvenile Peafowl in the Woods 2

This was an early indicator not to do what we thought we would do. So instead of going towards the quarry, we took a left turn to go towards the backside of the Vetal Tekdi over the meadows. And guess what, as soon as we went passed through the goofy wall we spotted an Indian Roller. Some might say what’s so surprising? Even though I have seen Indian Roller many times but, never at Vetal Tekdi or around ARAI Hill. So, it was still a pleasant surprise for me.

Initially, it was hidden in the branches. But the brown background threw it off because it’s bright bluish colors. I quickly grabbed my camera and took aim before it got spooked.

Indian Roller hidden in the branches

But, like I said we had some good signs in the beginning… the bird didn’t get spooked and fly away.

Indian Roller on the branch

The amazing thing which worked in our favor was his position. It was directly facing the sun and hence we could go near to it crawling without disturbing. We watched it for a good 15 minutes and took photos in various poses on the branch, in the flight, eating etc.

Indian Roller on a branch 2

Indian Roller on a branch 3

Indian Roller on the ground

Indian Roller busy with the breakfast

Indian Roller in flight 1

Indian Roller on the ground back again

Indian Roller in flight 2

And here’s my best pic of the day of this beautiful bird…

Indian Roller closeup with shiny colors

After around 15 minutes we decided to leave it alone and move ahead to check out the meadow. Unfortunately, a major portion of the meadow was burnt down. I believe this is a mental disease we have because anyone in healthy mental condition won’t burn the dried grass in the wild. Anyways…

After walking a bit we found a nice little Bayback Shrike. It was sitting nicely sitting on a branch of a burnt down bush looking for insects (food) on the ground. I took a fair snap. But, we couldn’t get much out of him as a pet dog spooked it and forced it to fly away. (Pet dogs is another issue, but maybe not for this blog)

Bayback Shrike sitting on a branch with burnt grass in the background

Of course, we did see some usual birds on the way, for example, Sunbirds, Small Minivet, Bulbuls, Myna’s, Drongo, Green bee-eaters etc.

Juvenile Drongo

Green Bee-eater with its back towards the sun

It was around 9:30 AM by this time and the sun had come up nicely. While walking along the ridges at the edge of the forest of Vetal Tekdi, near a small cliff what I initially thought was just another bulbul, it turned out to be a Wood shrike. Another kind of shrike, which mainly lives in thick vegetation. Because of its color sometimes it is almost impossible to track it. Finally, after 15 mins of wait, I finally got a couple of nice snaps at it.

Wood Shrike in the branches 1

Wood Shrike in the branches 2

It was around 10 AM by this time and we had to leave this wonderful treasure due to some other commitments. In short, it was a nice trip. Although not a lot of sightings, whatever we saw surprising and refreshing at the same moment.

This small gem within the city limit of Pune called ARAI Hill or Vetal Tekdi never stops surprising…

Beautiful shiny colors of Indian Roller

– Rohit Vijay Bapat

2nd December 2018

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