Monday, November 2, 2009

Nangal Wetland by Narbir Kahlon

(This photo was sent to me by Navjit Singh on 10 Nov 09 on behalf of Parbhat Bhatti)

(first part - Swaan Nadi)

With the coming Punjab Wetlands Survey in Feb 2010 in mind, we decided to visit Nangal and the Swaan river last Saturday (31 Oct 09). We left Chandigarh at about 5 am with the intention of hitting the Satluj at Kiratpur Sahib at daybreak and we succeeded.

The Canal water is released into the Satluj river bed just upstream of Kiratpur Sahib, What appears to be thousands of cusecs of water is released into the river and offers an incredible sight. As the sun rose, birds began to converge on this stretch to feed; the flow of water was very fast and cormorants were unable to hold their position in the water. They flew upstream landed in the water and a single dive later they found themselves 50 meters downstream, the cormorants braving these waters were mainly the Great and Indian Cormorants.

The spray-washed boulders seemed to be the preferred hunting ground of the Plumbeous Water Redstart and a few Pallas’s Gulls could be seen patrolling this stretch of water. In the bushes adjacent to the railway line, there were some Grey Francolins. A Black Kite was perched on a dry tree nearby. After enjoying the river for a while we proceeded towards Nangal and Anandpur Sahib. While driving down this road we saw some Egyptian Vultures, the juv plumage was a little confusing and this called for a brief stop for verification.

At Nangal, Mr. Prabhat Bhatti was already waiting for us and we proceeded towards Swaan Nadi (river); we decided to drive along the man-made bund made to tame this (at times destructive) river. There were lots of larks on the dusty track mainly the Crested and the Sand Lark. After driving for a while we stopped by a natural pond (Toba) which had a fair share of reeds growing beside it.

Amongst the reeds was a Striated Grassbird its distinctive call making it easy to spot. The pond had some Common Pochards, Common Teals and a Little Grebe. Two Eurasian Marsh Harriers were surveying the Khadar for breakfast circling in the sky.

A short distance away there were two Wool- necked Storks perched on a pole, they seemed to be used to humans, as they allowed me to approach quite close. In the squealchy grassland a few Citrine & Yellow Wagtails and Paddyfield Pipits were seen. A lone shrike brought about a brief discussion on the plumage of grey and long tailed shrikes and it was concluded that it was indeed the Long-tailed Shrike.

Driving along the track we came across a heavily streaked Black (eared) Kite (probably Milvus migrans lineatus), along the waters edge there were a few waders - a Green Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Little stints and Little Ringed Plovers. Little cormorants could be seen harvesting the water for fish and a large Pied Kingfisher was seen perched overlooking a stretch of the Nadi. In the distance we could see Intermediate Egrets feeding in the water and a tree along the bund had a Cattle Egret on it.

A rather aggressive Common Drongo was guarding its area and could be seen chasing away larks, and even Black Kites, this prompted Navjit and Prabhat ji to check out the tree for a nest , but it turned out that it was just in an aggressive frame of mind for no apparent reason.

At the water's edge another heavily streaked wagtail sized bird attracted my attention and after we climbed down the embankment and got a closer view (and a few snaps) we realized it was the Rosy Pipit. A bird I remember seeing a few days earlier near Chatbir but at that time, I had not been able to id it correctly. It was in non breeding plumage and therefore a trickier id.

On the drive back we saw a gull approaching and while I was in the drivers Seat Navjit took a picture it appeared to be either a Yello- legged Gull or a first wintering Pallas’s Gull.

This stretch is home to one pair of Sarus Cranes and Prabhat ji spotted them in the distance. Parking the car on the Bund we approached them on foot but they were rather wary and moved off a short distance as we approached, we were not in a mood to give up and so we followed and I am glad we did, because they led us to a group of Northern Lapwings and a majestic Long- legged Buzzard. I had not seen either of these birds earlier and one could definitely say discount pe lifer.

The Long-legged Buzzard was a mature bird, while perched its distinctive cinnamon tail was clearly visible, in flight the tarsus also indicating it to be the classical Long-legged Buzzard (No difficulty with its Id). The Northern Lapwing is another bird which is one of its kind and is unmistakable in the field with its distinctive plumage and plume/ crest. The fact that Prabhat ji was very familiar with this lapwing was a help, as he was able to identify them from their flight at a distance.

After this special encounter we drove onto the Mehatpur road, as we drove past a few ponds by the roadside we saw Common Coots, Common Moorhens, and Purple Moorhens, plenty of Black Ibis but surprisingly no Black-winged Stilt . After paying a 'safe distance' couretsy call to the the other pair of Sarus which lives here we drove back into Nangal.

Courtesy Prabhat ji’s hospitality, we had a hearty brunch of aloo ke Parathe (fogot all about Dr Sudhir Oswal's advice to reduce my waiste line) at Chiefs Resteraunt - a nice scenic spot in the middle of Nangal. While we were having our brunch, we were entertained by a thirsty crow that preferred the filtered water on offer in a jug rather than the blue clear fast flowing water of the nearby canal.

I am given to understand that there is a very large colony of Rose-ringed Parakeets in the NFL forest at Nangal and also a growing healthy population of Rock Pigeons and House Crows. A brief discussion on the culling of no-native species in Dubai followed, the pros and cons of such exercises continued to be discussed as we moved on towards the Nangal Lake for the next session of Birding.

Narbir Kahlon
02 Nov 09

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