There was no master plan but the fact is:
you must stay with me and learn the secret language of birds
From Secret Language of Birds by Jethro Tull
We had planned our X’mas break back in August ’15 and the idea was to spend a few days in Udaipur before we head down to the Jawai Leopard Camp for some leopard spotting. We had never been to Udaipur before and had done a bit of research before we zoomed into Fateh Garh at Sisarma as where we would be staying.
One of the things that I definitely wanted to do at Udaipur was to do some early morning birding in the area. Some research on ‘Birding in Udaipur’ led me to the site of Indibirding.com, a bunch of guys who were keen birders themselves who are happy to help people during their stay in the city. Not knowing anything about the city, let alone good birding locations, I let Vijendra Parmar, one of the Indibirding.com guys I reached out to, chalk out a plan for us. It involved an evening trip to the city garbage dump in Balicha, where the new IIM Udaipur campus was being set up, and a couple of morning trips to Menar Lake and Mangalwad Lake about an 60-75 mins away on the Udaipur-Chittorgarh highway.
Vijendra was promptly there to pick me up at the 3pm appointed time and we were off to the garbage dump on the day we arrived. He explained that this is a great location for spotting raptors like Steppe Eagle, Egyptian Vultures, Kites and, if we get lucky, the Eastern Imperial Eagle as well. The garbage dump was exactly as you would expect – the kind and quantity of waste that we generate is really something that all of us should be concerned about. From a distance we could make out Steppe Eagles circling in the sky and saw a flock of Rosy Starlings as soon as we entered. As we moved further into the yard we saw the Egyptian Vultures, Black Kites, Black-eared Kites and Steppe Eagles. With smoke all around from the smouldering fires, it required a bit of driving around to create opportunities for photography. While we were doing that we spotted a large eagle land on a mound of garbage which I reckoned was a juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle.
The plan for the next day was to go to Menar Lake. I was picked up at 6am and we reached the lake just past 7am. It was just about sunrise and we sat down by the lake and waited for the sun to rise above the trees. While we were waiting we spotted several species of ducks – Mallard, Gadwall, Common Teal, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe, a lifer. I had set my tripod up at the edge of the water and managed some good portraits of the Great Crested Grebe. After an hour in that area we decided to go to other areas around the lake in search of other subjects and came across a Marsh Harrier roosting, Shrikes (Bay-backed, Long-tail and Isabelline), Common Snipe (another lifer), Bar-headed and Grey-lag Goose, Lesser Flamingos and a couple of pairs of Sarus cranes. After an interesting and productive 3 hours at the Menar Lake, we packed up around 10 am to head back for the day driving around the lake and through the village where we spotted the Clamorous Reed Warbler, Ashy Prinia, Wood Sandpiper and the Brahminy Starling.
For Day 3 I decided to go back to Menar Lake again since the place had a lot of variety and I wanted to get some better pics of the birds that we had spotted. We started 30 mins later so that the light would be better when we reach, but this time we decided that we will drive around to an area at the western side of the lake first. As we were driving we spotted what looked like a pair of falcons on the wires and, lucky us, they turned out to be a pair of Red-necked Falcon, one of them with a kill. We tracked them for a while getting a few pics of 2 of them in a single frame – something that made me very happy. While we did see the same variety as the previous day I focused on getting better pics and was lucky to catch the Great Crested Grebe fishing.
All in all, a very satisfying 3 sessions in a city in the company of a very passionate birder like Vijendra. He runs his own software development business in the city and is a compendium of stories about birding in and around Udaipur.