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 🙂
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!
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.
But, like I said we had some good signs in the beginning… the bird didn’t get spooked and fly away.
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.
And here’s my best pic of the day of this beautiful bird…
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)
Of course, we did see some usual birds on the way, for example, Sunbirds, Small Minivet, Bulbuls, Myna’s, Drongo, Green bee-eaters etc.
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.
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…
– Rohit Vijay Bapat
2nd December 2018