‘There goes the neighbourhood’ is a phrase I’m fond of reciting, internally most times, when I see the city I once knew and loved caving to successive spates of greed. Gold rush after gold rush has left our aspiring metropolis limping. Net-net, all that remains is rush and practically no gold. Its lakes, that taught most of its birders their first moves, are now impoverished. Choked with garbage, hemmed in by landfills, usurped by land sharks, and poisoned with effluents, most of them have been extinguished without ceremony. Among the few success stories, relatively speaking, is Kaikondrahalli Lake. It was saved by a determined citizen effort of almost superhuman proportions a few years ago. Thanks to a small group of concerned citizens who lobbied, picketed, persuaded, convinced and asserted their rightful way to reclaiming what was going to be just another story of paradise lost, we got this lake back from the dead. By recharging and reinvigorating Kaikondrahalli Lake, they created a commons that is now being enjoyed by so many more people, many of whom are wholly ignorant of its backstory.
I used to be a frequent visitor to Kaikondrahalli lake a few years ago but various reasons have contributed to my tardiness. On good days I made a number of bird checklists, some of which are up on eBird and some mere scrawls in notebooks. Time was when the lake in winter abounded in Northern Shovellers, Common Teals and Lesser Whistling Ducks. Most of these I have seen while wandering camera-less along the trail around the lake. I’ve seen Grey Francolins on the far boundary wall outside the lake. Now, a new construction is rising here and all the habitat for francolins is history. The water has become more turbid in the wetlands skirting the lake and these days there are more Black-headed Ibis and Black-winged Stilts to be seen here. There used to be plenty of Indian Moorhens but their number seems to have reduced. Seasonally, the bird diversity changes. I have noticed a huge flock of Whiskered Terns here one day. Another day, the sky overhead teemed with Openbill Storks. Monsoon brought in pelicans in large numbers. Strangely, the Little Grebes were missing in action. Where do the little guys go, I wonder?
On February 6, I added a new species to that ever-growing list of winter finds at Kaikondrahalli. Two male Northern Pintails — first time I’m spotting them here although the species has been recorded here by other birders. They were among a flock of Spot-billed Ducks sleeping in that adorable way that ducks do — head tucked into their wings. An amateur photographer was afoot, trying to get close to the birds. Upon his approach they scattered and swam splashily out into the water. When I returned on my second circuit, I saw that they had come back and were sleeping quite fitfully.
My walk lasted a little over two and a half hours and I listed a total of 54 species. Among the interesting finds were Ashy Drongo and Indian Golden Oriole. The 300-strong flock of Rosy Starlings that I observed the previous week at Kasavanahalli Lake were absent. The possible reason for this is that the Ficus tree at the lake entrance, as well as the ones in the graveyard adjoining the trail on the eastern side of Kaikondrahalli, are not in fruit while the ones at Kasavanahalli, hardly a kilometre as the crow flies, is in heavy fruit. There was a very large number of Black-headed Ibis and a big flock of Black-winged Stilts. Usually, Spot-billed Pelicans are numerous here but there was just a solitary bird. A fair number of Black-crowned Night Herons were seen as were Purple Herons. One was observed carrying a twig. A number of immature and juvenile Brahminy Kites were about as well as very large number of Black Kites. Their presence may be explained by the garbage dumping ground that has come up opposite the lake across the main road.
The Northern Pintail sighted at Kaikondrahalli is among the species on the watchlist at MigrantWatch. According to the website, data uploads have now been integrated with eBird. So, if you are a casual birder, your sightings can still add value to the global effort towards understanding the migration of bird species. eBird is available for iOS and Android.