Dhanauri Wetlands – Jayantika Dave
Sunday, 1 Dec dawned….crisp, cold, and miraculously clear! So 50 birders, from age 4 to 75, set off to Dhanauri, which never fails to disappoint.
As we drove in, Greater Councils, spotlit by the rising sun, flaunted their glowing chestnut plumage. Sarus pairs, most with at least 2 juveniles accompanying them, bowed, flapped, and called. Loud honking, and we looked upward, to see a flight of more than 80 grey lag geese, coming in, in the typical V formation, and then scraggling out to descend in ungainly fashion onto the grassy wetland and wonder that is Dhanauri.
The Gods conspired to make sure everything was perfect! The water and wetlands around were teeming with fowl….they were relatively close….trusting….the light mist lifted, and lo and behold, the panorama we had all come for! The foreground was a shifting kaleidoscope of shades of blue dotted with red….of course, the Purple Swamphens, punctuating their movement with the white flashes of uplifted tail, all against a moving 8s flight background of 100s of Ruff, alternately looking brown or white, as they wove their intricate continuously moving patterns! Mid ground was a treat of common teal, pintails, shovellers, gadwall, the golden tilak’d wigeons, pochards….and of course, there it was….the flash of the Red crested Pochard! Grey Lag Geese were grazing away busily, and just as we were beginning to miss the Bar Headed Geese….a large flock announced its arrival with loud honking, and a low recce flight to make sure we didn’t miss the grand appearance! The golden light caught the bronze shoulders of the Bronze Winged Jacanas, and glowed off the glossy ibis, which stood out, amongst the Red naped and Black headed Ibis, which were also there in plenty. Marsh Harriers swooped low, and added to our Oohs and Aahs….as flights of Spoonbill and all the other duck, scrambled for safety, while the Grey, Chestnut and Pond Herons stayed in their statuesque poses.
The raptors of course were not far behind! As the sun hit the top of a tree, we realised that what was shining, was the gold head of an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle, white marking on a beautiful dark background and all! It then treated us to a descend to the ground, closely followed by a Bonelli’s, and then a Booted Eagle in flight, and on our way out, the much awaited Peregrine!
Once we could tear our eyes away from the water, we became aware of the other action around us! Black breasted weavers, the zit zit of the Zitting Cisticola, long billed pipits, Bengal Bushlarks…so much to see!
We ended, of course, with the famous DelhiBird breakfast, which continues to grow in variety, quantity and ingenuity….and somehow all disappears into very hungry stomachs!
A day to remember….ah Dhanauri!