Vanessa and I cashed in on a long-standing invitation to visit a privately owned vineyard in Nashik, Maharastra. It was a trip that I was itching to do for some time with the promise of ‘plenty of birds’ providing the proverbial dangled carrot!
The vineyard, situated just off the Mumbai-Nashik highway is a three hour journey by car. I must say the roads were excellent except for an uneven stretch of about 2 kilometre that eventually led to the vineyard.
As a birder, having to drive slowly on that last stretch suited me perfectly and allowed me to get the large grey babbler (above) and a ‘lifer’ shot of the male Siberian stonechat in breeding colours (below).
The countryside is predominantly open shrubland. With tomatoes being the dominant crop in the area, the insects that they attracted ensured that the birds were plentiful.
It was in these tomato plantations that we spotted the tree pipit, another lifer, (above) and the laughing dove (below).
We had not even reached the farmhouse and I was already on a roll!
On second thoughts calling it a ‘farmhouse’ is a gross understatement and if the designer interiors and perfectly landscaped exteriors were not enough, it was located bang on the edge of a lake where sunrises were a photographer’s dream.
Ruddy shelducks, spot-billed ducks, little grebes, pond herons and cormorants were the water birds that I could identify on the lake…
…and white breasted kingfishers and red-wattled lapwings on the banks…
…while a flock of painted stork and western marsh harriers circled the skies.
For the one night that we spent here, the clear starry night sky was a welcome change to the smoggy ones we city-dwellers are accustomed to. Add to that a rising moon and that was more than enough reason for me to try my hand at night sky photography.
I must confess that my first attempts left much to be desired! In my defence, zooming into the image (by pressing ‘Command’ ‘+’ several times on a Mac) allows for better visualisation of the stars. There is still, admittedly, plenty of scope for improvement!!
I was thrilled to hear the early morning calls of both grey francolin and painted francolin. And though I did get a fleeting sighting of a pair of the former as I spooked them on one of my walks they were much too fast for me to get a shot off.
The trees around the lake were full of birds.
Interestingly, when I questioned one of the local villagers to identify the bird above he replied: “chiming ahey” (it’s a sparrow). It turns out that, to the local population, all small brown birds are sparrows. A reflection of their keep-it-simple approach to most things in life and a far cry from us city-dwellers that insist on tongue -twisting, confusing nomenclature that has us running around in circles hell-bent on accurate identification rather that simply enjoying the moment.
All in all it was an absolutely fabulous weekend! A truly superb start to the new year and one that really set the bar for the rest of 2018!
Below are a selection of some of the images taken.
On a narrow path led down to the water’s edge a pair of little green bee-eaters were busy feeding on passing insects in-between posing for some great images.
Fantastic start to the Year Sir. Looking forward to seeing more of your trip reports. TFS.
Thanks! And I look forward to your beautiful images too!!
So that’s where you disappeared on Sunday morning!! Thanks for this visual treat! Two n half years down and we hadn’t seen any of these beauties!! Cheers to many more trips!!
Actually these were the just tip of the iceberg. I took over 2000 images!! I must thank you guys for being such perfect hosts!
What an amazing set of pictures. Now I believe you are truly a photography god. We learnt so much from you about the birds. Come again!
Ha Ha! Thanks Luis. You guys were such great hosts! It was a fabulous weekend!
The photos are a visual treat Dr. Like your informative blog. Nicely written.
Janhavi Desai says
I missed the morning walk. Better for you! 😄
Quick thought on identification… Birders and enthusiasts are much more sensitive to biodiversity depletion, the need to protect indigenous species, and that kind of critical stuff. I sometimes think simplicity is a luxury knowledge renders unaffordable.
Brilliant pictures, I’m almost jealous our eyes can’t see this clearly (because I couldn’t possibly carry that lens 😂). Thanks for this post and the IDs, I’ll see if I can find others! 🙂
Thanks Janhavi and well said!
Carmen Colaco says
Looks and sounds like a corner of Heaven! Wish we lived closer to visit!😀❤️
That it was, Carmen, complete with a couple of Miranda cherubs!
Beautiful images and descriptions!
What a great start to 2018! May this year bring you many more trips doc.
Vianny Dsouza says
Beautiful images and well written
Gireesh Warawdekar says
Just truly brilliant Ian. Proves my point that you wild life photography talent apart from your professional talent are extraordinary. Would love to see the rest 2000.
Thanks Gireesh! Thoroughly enjoyed the evening BTW! Must do it again!!
Vidula Warawdekar says
Hey Ian what a treat! I hear them all all the time but had no idea what they were except for my constant ‘did you do it’ feathered friend and the kingfisher…. I bemoan my feeble eyesight.. thank you so much for this. It was a great start to 2018 indeed ,,… To many more trips at waldevi!
Thanks Vidula…and yes… most definitely to many more trips at Waldevi!
Viren Mantri says
Absolutely magnificent! Lost for words.
Thanks Viren. You are too kind!
Glenn Mascarenhas says
A beautifully written piece with superb photography to supplement. Almost felt I was there too.
Thanks Glenn. Looking forward to doing another piece on the Andamans…wink, wink…!!
Priya Fernandes says
Wow, Dr. Lovely pics
Vidula Warawdekar says
Ian it’s been a year since u last visited with the Miranda’s… Let’s plan another one 😊
Great idea! Let’s do it!!