May 15, 2010

Waiting for the watchtower

I was pacing up and down the road in front of my house. Everything was ready, I had woken up by 5 am and was ready to go by 5.15. All my books, binocs, water bottles, paper devices et al were ready. So what was stopping me from going to Okhla Bird Sanctuary.

Disorientation due to slow speed was.

A friend who stays a few kilometers away was to join me and we were to proceed together. He had decided to cycle down to my house, and it turns out, he lost his way because landmarks and turns came much slower than usual (i.e. when he drives). It was an unusual case of disorientation due to slow speed.

Anyway, a half hour delay later we were off. At 6.10 in the morning the freshness in the air and the freshness in the mind is something else altogether. The photographer duo were already there, happily chattering way about this that and the other, and of course settings of their cameras, angles, colour versus black and white and aperture versus speed.

Early morning the bird sanctuary looks pristine and inviting

We went straight for watchtower no. 1. Up till the great Peepal tree, we only saw crows. Once in the grassland after the temple, the air was abuzz with bird songs. There were prinias and babblers everywhere, but that was almost it. A few pied mynas, crows, a pied bushchat or two, and prinias and babblers.

A crow's profile (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

Striated Babbler (as corrected by Ramit, thanks!) in flight (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

As I walked into the grassland following the trail to the watchtower, suddenly there was a disturbance in the tall grass to my left and out came a dog. Earth brown in colour, with liquid hazel eyes and a wistful expression, the dog wordlessly looked at me, and came forward a few steps and then signaled me to follow.

The leader of the pack takes a water break

Since that moment to the time we left the grasslands and reached the temple, this dog was our constant guide and companion. The walk was really beautiful, lovely tall grass stalks on either side, the river nearby and a cool breeze. The others followed a little behind, as I walked pretty fast trying to dispel my nagging doubt about whether the watchtower actually existed or not. I kept looking in every direction but couldn’t see anything.

Bluethroat (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Bluethroat (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

I plodded on expecting to see the watchtower at any time, but nothing appeared. For a moment I considered stopping and taking photographs on the path itself. Just then the dog came back to check on me, and then went ahead again. I followed it.

The path was out of the world, it had an other-worldly beauty about it, and the constant sound of birds, the river nearby and tall grass that obliterated the inhabited world around, made it a beautiful experience.

Yellow Bellied Prinia (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

I took a few pictures of birds, but kept walking. To my right I caught a glimpse of stunning purplish blue, and it was somthing flat and wide. I looked closely and discovered a purplish blue kite that must have been swept by the wind to the middle of the grasslands.

The purple kite in the grass

My friends were left behind, and I was walking faster, bent on finding the end of the trail or the watchtower.

My friends approaching (if you look carefully, you will see one of them)

Suddenly a bare wooden watchtower came into view. It was pretty far off, but I could see that it was a watchtower with real character. No roof, but a gaunt and lofty feel, like it was the entry to a monastery somewhere in Ladakh. I felt like as if something magnificent and holy had been revealed to me.

Watchtower No 1 is real!!

I walked up to the watchtower and gazed at it. It was in a place that was so far from habitation (by city standards) that I felt cut off, delighted and elated. I was in the wild. The wind was blowing wildly, the birds were calling wildly, the tall grasses were obscuring my vision wildly. It was wonderful.

The Distant Birdwatcher (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Simply breathtaking, the beauty slowly unfolds!

A watcher on a watchtower (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

I climbed up the watch tower and took in the sights around me. Slowly, like tasting a particularly delicious dish, I partook of the beauty around me. My friends caught up in a while. Everybody was tired out by the unexpectedly long walk, but it was well worth it.

After-the-walk-shoes + after-walk-rest

After-the-walk-shoes 1

After-the-walk-shoes 2

We hung around trying to see new birds, but they were all hidden. We talked, clicked and waited. I suggested that we wait till evening, everybody thought I was joking, and I guess I must have been.

View from the watchtower

Another View from the watchtower

Purple Heron in flight (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

The way back was much more hurried, I had to catch an important appointment. It was one of the least fruitful when it came to bird species, but one of the most peaceful visits to OBP. I will savour this visit for a long time to come. Hope you can find some joy in the pictures of everything but the birds.

A squirrel making faces (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

Purple Sunbird (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

Pied Bushchat (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

Red Cheeked Bulbul (Copyright Yamini Chandra)

Pond Heron study (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Long Tailed Shrike striking a pose (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Greater Coucal thinking nobody can see him (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Common Stonechat (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

Striated Babbler (as corrected by Ramit, thanks!) (Copyright Sanjeev Singh)

White Breasted Kingfisher (Copyright Yamini Chandra)


  1. Your visit to OBP was inviting enough for everybody to visit it again & again. We really benefitted by your and your friends' regular visits and fine snaps. Purple kite was the good catch!

  2. I am looking forward to visiting OBS for the first time this fall. Your blog was a great introduction! Thanks!

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