Koyna has become our go-to Birding site. Situated close to Pune, it takes a few hours of driving to reach Koyna. Here the hills, the river and the jungle meet making it a beautiful place which is also preferred by the birds to feed and breed. We were adequately geared up for birding this time and the results were fascinating. Let ‘Footlooseinme’ take you through this interesting and adventurous session of birding in Koyna.
Our previous visit to Koyna was on a full moon night and the night birding session was tremendously thrilling. (Read my previous birding session in Koyna.) Leaving aside the birding part, the clear starry sky and the moon-lit surroundings had an ethereal charm and I was completely bewitched.
Silently waiting in the wild to listen to any call from the nocturnal birds and track them in the forest. We already had a taste of this adventure birding in Koyna before so we did not wait any longer and planned our visit again. This time definitely we had our gear as we wanted to capture the birds and the moments with our camera.
All decked up we went out for our session of night birding in Koyna with our naturalist friend Raj Rathod. (Read my previous post to get his details.) This time too it was on a moonlit night though it was on a certain day of the waxing phase. The sky this time was not very clear due to haze but there was enough light on the forest floor.
With no artificial lighting in the surroundings, it brought back the charm of our previous visit. We were patiently waiting for the calls and meanwhile watching the moon and the stars. The hills around looked dark and daunting. We strictly followed Raj’s instruction of no light and sound disturbance. The results were happy sighting. That night we were blessed with the sighting of Savanna Nightjar, Oriental Scoops Owl and the Indian Palm Civet.
After a session of 5 hours, we returned back to our resort (Forest Escapes Koyna) at 12:30 AM to rest for the night. The next morning was a little dull for birding in Koyna though we did find a few birds around. Probably the haze and the windy weather affected their behaviour.
The weather improved in the afternoon and it brought along a new hope for the night birding that I was eagerly waiting for. Apart from birdwatching being under the clear starry sky undisturbed by any artificial light gives me an unknown sense of tranquillity.
Our evening started with the first sighting of a Barn Owl family that we missed during our last visit. The chicks have grown into juveniles but are still with their parents. We saw the family of five together but sadly could not capture them in a frame. However, I do not regret it as everything is not meant to be captured on camera.
Then Raj and his team took us to a dried river bed where there was a fish owl sighting the previous night after we returned. We walked in the semi-darkness with rough pebbles and boulders beneath interrupting our pace and balance. At some patches, they were pretty slippery too giving a hint of water nearby.
The reward that we got was remarkable – a pair of ghostly eyes staring down at us in the darkness. It would be unfair if I call this magnificent creature the ghost of the forest, but trust me the very sight of this large Brown fish owl with its glowing yellow eyes in the darkness can definitely scare anyone unaware. But it was a spectacular sighting of the Brown fish owl bobbing its head. We returned back from the riverbed to the road.
Now we were on unknown roads within the jungle again under the stars and the moon. This time we waited on a concrete bridge with metallic railings over a dried stream. We kept waiting for a long long time with no sounds around. I almost counted every star within the visible patch of the sky. I was supposedly losing my patience when there was a sudden metallic click somewhere very close.
This was an unexpected sound in this silent forsaken forest. No wild animals can produce this kind of sound. We were highly surprised and looked around to find the source. Even after a long search, we had no results. Again we resumed our wait for the call when suddenly there was a faint call from somewhere far away.
Raj played the call on a speaker to get a response again in the hope of locating the bird. It did reply and this series went on for a long time when the team could probably guess the spot. They asked us to follow them under the bridge walking on the stream bed. We were then walking in complete darkness, as the forest cover was pretty dense and the bed was rough.
Raj asked his mate to stay at a certain point and play the sounds in reply to the calls while we moved ahead tracking the direction. We were then in a certain patch, completely surrounded by thick overgrowth. Suddenly Vijay (Raj’s mate) came running and took charge. Then it was a bit of a trek through highs and lows and uneven tracks on the dried river bed and the hilly terrain within the jungle.
We ran in the darkness to match his speed. I twisted my ankle, tripped over a boulder and brushed against the bushes, but somehow prevented a fall (and also protected my camera) by grabbing a thick branch of certain outgrowth. Panting hard we reached the site where the Wood Owl was calmly watching our craziness giving calls repeatedly. It was a lifer! The way the team tracked the site and the way we reached there was an adventure in itself.
We were so thrilled and grateful that no words could explain our feelings. We were on our way back when Vijay informed us that he left the speaker at the spot where he was left alone to play the calls. He said that while he was alone playing the calls he heard the same metallic click but much louder this time. Out of fear, he ran to us to have company.
We were a little shocked to have this sound again which is very unnatural in these surroundings. Raj asked us to wait in the vehicle while they went to bring back the speaker. In this span, we discussed multiple theories to justify the source of the sound but none could actually hold the ground finally resting the source to the ghosts. (Everything unexplained is either credited to God or a ghost. If good, then it is an act of good and if bad then an act of a ghost.)
With this unexplained sound and a successful night safari or jungle exploration, we left the wild behind and returned back to our stay. Our next few day-bird-watching sessions were equally fruitful. (A-aa sorry! Rather ‘bird-ful’.) Here I end my story with pictures of the birds for you to enjoy.
All thanks to Raj and his team for this amazing birding session.