Apr 10, 2010

The curse of R, birdwatching, deceptive cellphone alarms and an angry bull

11.30 at night my friend R, ditched me in favour of a night of binging (who can blame him?). I decided to change plans from Yamuna Biodiversity Park to Okhla Bird Sanctuary. I taunted and teased R in an attempt to get him to come along, but he was helpless in the face of alcohol and women. I think at some point he wished me ill, and I brought upon myself, the curse of R.

I set the alarm to 5.29 am, 5.31 am and 5.35 am, and prepared to sleep.

Alarm Timings

Suddenly a few minutes after midnight I got a wave of inspiration to do something about a perpetual problem with my digital camera. When I am in sunlight or even bright light I can’t see the display. Which means that I can’t see the picture that I am taking, which means that I cannot take a picture. So I set about making a cardboard device to solve my problem. A pen, a pair of scissors, an old cardboard folder, scotch tape and a metal scale (which I found much later) were at my disposal. I first made a dummy with some white paper, made some minor changes to the die, and then constructed the all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device. I proudly reproduce it here. It may look simple, but I had to make pretty precise openings for the camera strap, the clicking and zooming switch and for sliding in the camera.

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device another view

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device yet another view

all-light-digital-camera-display-enhancer device aaargh yet another view

Well the great thing was that it worked wonderfully, I could take pictures in bright sunlight. But then the curse of R was upon me. Three things contributed to my not reaching Okhla Bird Sanctuary before 7.30 am.
1) The cellphone’s alarm was highly deceptive and I forgot to change the setting to every day, instead of weekday, as displayed below:

Deceptive alarm settings that regularly deceive me

2) I slept at 2.45 am as I was making the cardboard device
3) The curse of R was at work

I woke at 6.50 and hurriedly got everything together, and set out. I reached the sanctuary at about 7.35, and desperately started to take pictures of anything with wings. I took a few pictures of green bee eaters, and even the signboard for the two new watch towers. I had only been to the first one (Watchtower no 2) and was planning on going to the other one (Watchtower no 1), but my attempt, as you will soon find out, was foiled.

Not three leaves, one is a bee eater

The bold watchtower signboard

I would also, at this point, like to introduce you to the great sizzling electric wires of Okhla Bird Park. There are many high tension wires running overhead, that sizzle and crackle very loudly. It sounds like rain. Here they are in all their splendour, the sizzlers of OBP.

OBP Sizzler

Heavy Duty Sizzler

Where all the sizzlers start

Bee eaters sky gazing

The path to the first watch tower was as always really inviting and beautiful. En route I saw a huge number of birds flitting from one stalk of tall grass to another. I was feeling very happy with the ease with which I could see my camera’s display in the bright sunlight. Of course the birds had all made a very powerful pact to elude my camera at the very moment when I was about to click. All I got was bushes and sky and grass stalks.

The lovely path to the first watchtower (Watchtower No. 2)

My awesome shadow

Ashy Prinia

Same Ashy Prinia

A real beauty

Watch tower no. 2 looking dramatic

I climbed on to the tower and revelled in the cool breeze and the awesome view all around.

A forest in the city (notice the edge of a billboard)

They had recently a made a roof, and it was really nice. But the curse of R was at work. I decided to take the device off the camera for a while and try to catch some nice quick shots. Even as I thought that the wind might blow it off, the wind blew it off.

Dropped to the ground

Not too far away now...

I retrieved it with minimal difficulty, but once off the watchtower, I made my way back to the main path. While walking through the grass and the reeds, I got a few nice pictures of prinias and birds that I couldn’t immediately identify. Suddenly with a heavy grunty squawk a purple heron flew out from behind a clump just a few feet ahead of me. I saw another one land nearby. Very quietly and carefully I approached it, but it flew off. Yet I kept hearing this persistent grunt. I looked around for another purple heron, but this grunt was very different, it was heavy and angry.

Common Stonechat

The common stonechat again

Common stonechat female

Common stonechat female

A Long Tailed Shrike that came quite close

Pied Bushchat Female

Pied Bushchat

Plain Prinia

An Indian Koel that kept hiding himself from me, and succeeded very well

A pied mynah

Yellow Bellied Prinia

The mandatory second picture of the Yellow Bellied Prinia

Happily taking pictures, I started to walk up the incline to the main path, when a very angry red wattled lapwing rebuked me and flew off.

An offended Red wattled Lapwing ("did you do it")

It was then that I saw the bull. He was right at the point where I would be meeting the main path and he was in a bad mood. Grunting and bellowing, he was stamping his foot and raising dust and sand with his horns. He hadn’t seen me, and after a minute walked ahead. I sure didn’t want to meet him in this open area.

I took a few more pictures, including of a drongo which was perched on a barren tree, and then headed out towards the second watchtower, which was towards the other end of the path, beyond the great Peepal tree.

Drongo on a barren tree

Young buffalo in the grass

Sandbathing pied mynah

Still sandbathing

I caught a glimpse of the bad tempered bull walk towards the very path I would have to follow, so I waited a few minutes then proceeded on the path. Not knowing which way to go, I followed the wrong path, so I backtracked and went on the actual path.

Just then I heard a loud grunt. A few meters behind me and looking quite irate was the bull, eyeing me and grunting deep angry grunts.

I began to walk back to the Peepal tree. The bull’s horns looked quite sharp and he was big and angry, and I wasn’t Tarzan. I said bye bye to watchtower number 1. From the Peepal tree, I saw the angry bull walk up to a harem of cows. Then he looked straight at me and gave out a great bellow proclaiming his territory and his harem.

The bull in a bad mood

Giving out bad vibes

Bellowing his brains out

I walked on to the other side, where the wading birds were. En route I met another photography enthusiast with slightly better camera equipment than mine. Here is a comparison of our equipment.

His camera, view 1

His camera, view 2

My camera view 1

My camera view 2

There I caught a glimpse of a large raptor perched on a branch. With many white streaks on the back of its neck and head. It had a smallish head and a beak with a yellow tip, but beyond that I couldn’t see. Being very far away I could only take a few grainy pictures, I am reproducing the pictures with the hope that someone may be able to make out what it was.

An unknown raptor

Which raptor?

There was another bird I couldn’t identify, it seemed to be some kind of a weaver, but I couldn’t figure it out. If you can identify it from these pictures, do put in a comment.

Tried but couldn't figure this one out!

Another view of the same bird

Ciao, until the next time!

Two yellow footed green pigeons

Spot Billed Ducks

No wonder they are called stilts, look at the length of their legs, and there's more under water...

A council of Cattle Egrets

Purple Moorhen

Painted Stork, Purple Heron and Egret

Gulls and Ducks


  1. You had a wonderful morning!
    Keep going.
    Dr P S Sangwan.

  2. Dear Dr. Sangwan it was great to receive a comment from you. Thanks for the encouragement... warm regards, Sanjeev

  3. Dear Sanjeev, Nice presentation! straight from the heart. I think u r visiting yamuna barrage (OBP) since long. Have u visited asan barrage (UK) and yamuna at sangam Allahabad? I want to make a comparision of water quality of all 3 places, while asan stood best, okhla worst and yamuna at Allahabad better.

  4. Absolutely simple yet marvelous narration, the pics are not too bad comparing to the gizzmo you displayed ...lol... better yet, i liked your identifying skills and your candid way of narration..... hats off.

  5. I really enjoyed reading you blogpost. For anyone who loves and enjoy bird watching should definitely head to Asan Barrage in Dehradun. The best months to visit the barrage are from October to March.