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.