A forest of my own

Every night before I go to sleep I set the alarm at 6 in the morning before dreaming away. Right outside my room’s window, there is a bamboo grove and a paddy field where the birds perch on every day and feed on insects. To my amazement, though I set the alarm at 6 I’m always almost awakened by the natural alarm sounds of birds chirping minutes before the alarm sets off. A quick look at the window and the rays of sunlight shining through the gaps between the wooden planks of the window chases the sleep away. This is how my mornings kick start.

With a pair of binoculars, my bird book and my camera I step out in the cold winter morning in a quest to identify and photograph as many birds as possible. Vannraj is one of the few resorts in Pench which has a mini forest on the property and is home to more than 25 species of birds. Every morning I’m greeted by the calls of the Black Hooded Oriole, the Treepie and the Racket Tailed Drongo along with hordes of other bird sounds. It is truly a Naturalist’s dream residence, where else would he like to reside other than in a forest of his own.

As I walk through the grassland I see flowers of different colors flying in front of me and sometimes along with me, these are the beautiful butterflies. The Tawny Coster flies by followed by a Common Leopard and on a blade of grass sits pretty the beautiful Common Jezebel. Sometimes it really becomes difficult to choose what to observe or which one to photograph with so many varieties of winged beauties around.

After spending an hour within the property I cross the road and walk to a lake located very closeby, now it’s time to observe birds that frequent water bodies. I tiptoe my way through the forest making sure I do not end up disturbing the birds on the lake. As I get closer and closer I see two pairs of Ruddy Shelduck in two different locations and the Open Bill Storks on the banks. The mist slowly lifting off the sun-kissed water and the sights of the birds is truly mesmerizing and needs to be seen to believe. I choose a spot and sit quietly scanning the lake from one end to the other and then on the top branches of the trees to see if I can spot the Grey Headed Eagle or the Hornbills. There are few trees where I’ve seen a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills resting and a Grey Headed Eagle once. Barely 50 feet from me there are two Little Ringed Plover’s looking for insects and absolutely ignores my presence. The Ruddy Shelduck or commonly called the Brahminy Duck is very sensitive and if disturbed will take to flight and keep flying around for sometime before deciding to settle down or will fly away to a different water body. A farmer trying to chase the Rose Ringed Parakeets from his field by bursting crackers scared the life out of the poor ducks as it took to the air in no time.

The Cotton Pygmy Goose and the Common Pochard both migratory birds are also known to frequent this lake in the winter and I can’t wait for their arrival. This is how I start off my day when I do not go for a safari early morning.

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