This post is the second of a short series that documents our first foray out of our city after the pandemic started. We had finally dared to leave the safety of our homes in Mumbai and risk a short trip to the fort resort of Jadhavgadh in our own car. (Jadhavgadh, Part 1 – a Mini Trip to get back into the groove).
We had explored the fort and the gardens in our first morning at the resort but we had yet to find the Quarry / small pond that the better half had seen photos of online. While it was far from being a picturesque lake, the pond appeared to be a peaceful place and more importantly where there is a pond there are always birds around. ( Everybody has their own vested interests!) So we asked the helpful hotel staff for the location of the said quarry and were directed to a part slightly beyond the Old Ganesha Temple that we had visited the previous evening.
With a heavy lunch in our tummy courtesy the delicious food and polite service of the restaurant staff, we dragged ourselves to the quarry. It was early winter and I wanted at least some hours with good light to take a few decent photos of the birds that might be there.
The pond was just a some distance ahead of the lawns where I had enjoyed ” Hoopoe Hour” and the hotel also had the tents which could be rented on a path near the pond. Luckily most of the tents were unoccupied, which meant that it was silent and peaceful at the pond itself.
Most people would hardly have spent a few minutes at this non descriptive pool of water. I spent most of the time with daylight that I had left here, and with good reason. As soon as we reached we saw a white browed fantail flycatcher (a cousin of whose provides me regular practice back home) catching his meal in the bushes near the pond. It was the first of the many bird photos I would get here.
As I was being entertained by the flycatcher, the better half pointed out that the guavas on the trees were half eaten. Within minutes of that we saw one of the culprits. A dainty little oriental white eye that was plucking at the ripe fruit on the trees.
The white eye soon left and I turned my attention to the laughing doves that were trying to hide in the undergrowth. Although it is a very common bird I can’t resist taking a photo of a bird that is sitting right there in front of you.
A laughing dove at the edge of the pond in the undergrowth
The better half, the expert spotter that she is, drew my attention to a bird that had just landed at the water’s edge. It was a white browed wagtail trying to have a drink in peace. Luckily for me it turned and checked if I was a threat giving me the perfect pose to capture it in.
A White browed Wagtail poses for the camera
As soon as the wagtail flew off there was a purple whir flying right in front of my face. It was a male purple sunbird. These are very pretty but extremely fidgety birds who I usually struggle to fill the frame with because of their small size. And here was this specimen who literally landed on a branch so close to be that I actually had to move back so the my lens could focus. It is the closest I have even been to a sunbird and the best photos I have of it.
A Purple Sunbird poses on a twig very close to our seat
I was ecstatic at getting the sunbird photos when a blue and orange blur flew into the bushes at the edge of the pond. I went to investigate and it was a common kingfisher (which is not that common to be frank). I tried to get an angle to it which was not obscured by branches, but to no avail. It was sitting in complete shadow of the bushes and was not in a mood to oblige me. So I did the best that I could and got a record shot.
A common kingfisher in no mood for posing
Even though I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a good shot of the kingfisher the other birds kept me busy and reduced my disappointment. There were Indian Silverbills in the bushes, one of whom sat still long enough to get a photo.
An Indian Silverbill in the bushes
There were also tens of Dusky Crag Martins flying around above the pond. Even with my d500 I still am not good enough to get a good photo of this supremely agile bird in flight. So the best I could do was to wait for them to sit on the crags (hence the name) in the hills lining the pond and get a group of them resting.
A group of Dusky Crag Martins taking a breather before flying off again
There was also an inquisitive common rock thrush flying around the tables to see if he could find any scraps. Disappointed at the lack of any he flew to the pond edges and find his meal the hard way.
A Common Rock Thrush at Fort Jadhavgadh
The light was now fading at the pond and we decided to end our vigil at the bench and go and see the museum that is located at the base of the fort. Our departure was delayed by a few minutes by the arrival of a green bee eater that had landed on the tree just in front of us with the light falling on it just perfectly to accentuate its vivid colours.
A Green Bee eater looking all pretty in the soft dusk sunlight
So saying goodbye to the quarry for now we left to see the museum, I would be back early next morning, only fools don’t learn from their mistakes.
The Aai Museum at the fort base has been curated by the owner of the Orchid group which owns the hotel. It has a collection of artefacts from the Maratha empire era ranging from ornate combs to huge vessels to fully decorated palanquins. It also has a great caretaker / guide who explained about each artefact and its heritage. Sadly no photography is allowed inside the museum itself, but it was an hour well spent.
Outside the small but impressive Aai Museum at Fort Jadhavgadh
We then walked back to the fort itself. Since it was too dark for birds I turned my attention to the huge hibiscus flowers that lined the main wall of the fort. In addition to these huge flowers the gardens had various colourful flowers of all shapes and sizes. Though unlike birds I can’t name a flower other than the most common ones I couldn’t resist taking photos of them.
Beautiful flowers in the gardens of the fort
Happy at an evening well spent we returned to our room for some rest before returning to the restaurant for an early dinner.We slept early that night since I needed to get up early the next morning and rectify my blunder by getting some good bird photos on my last morning in the resort.
Sure enough, I was up at dawn and I drank a hot cup of black coffee, courtesy the tea / coffee maker in the room before leaving for my mornings birding. It was a beautiful morning and I took a photo of the sun rising above the plains before leaving the ultra wide lens behind and concentrating only on my feathered friends.
The beautiful colours of dawn from our room balcony at Jadhavgadh
I headed straight for the quarry as birds are usually most active and around water early in the morning. Even though it wasn’t yet bright enough to take photos I was surprised to see the sheer number of bee-eaters on the wire above the quarry. It was like the group meeting point where they would decide which individuals will patrol which area for insects.
A line full of bee eaters
Waiting at the pond side on the rocks was a lone red wattled lapwing. I took a photo of this noisy bird with its reflection in the placid waters.
A Red Wattled Lapwing at the edge of the pond
I walked around the edge of the pond and climbed part way up the hill to see if I could find the common kingfisher that we had seen the previous day. Sadly the bird had decided not to grace me with its presence. I was just standing part way up the hill and just scanning the hills on the other side when something ran from the grass and across the hill face into the bushes on the other side. I instinctively took a few photos, earlier I would have managed a blurry shot but thanks to the d500 I got my in focus photos of a Chinkara! It was something I had never expected but was ecstatic to see.
A Chinkara making a run for it!
The Chinkara sighting made me wait on that spot for some more time hoping that it would re emerge (Though I knew in my heart that it was long gone!). In that time I saw the cat that I had seen slinking around in the gardens basking on the top of the hill!
The hotel cat on the top of the hill!
The same cat caught an hour later walking stealthily back into the lawns
I was whiling my time away by taking photos of a laughing dove sitting on the wire just in front of me when the nature Gods decided to give me some reward for my patience.
A laughing dove helps me pass the time
From just beyond the hill a raptor soared into view and started flying lower and lower before it finally descended onto the top of the hill. Once again the new d500 proved it’s worth by locking focus in a blink of an eye and getting me a series of photos of the Short toed serpent Eagle. Just this series of photos made the morning worthwhile and I would get a lot more!
A Short Toed serpent eagle gives practice to the new D500
I was about to get off my hillock top when I saw that the dove had been replaced by a White breasted Kingfisher. So I took a few photos of this Kingfisher, which is actually more common than the common kingfisher, and moved down from my hillock.
A White breasted Kingfisher in the beautiful morning light
I still had an hour or two more left before we had to check out , have breakfast and return home. So I turned my attention to the birds on the lawns and the gardens. The first to greet me there was the Red vented bulbul giving me the stare.
A Red Vented Bulbul giving me the stare
The lawns had the usual Drongos and Brahminy Starlings. I was taking photos when I noticed a flurry of activity on a tree just at the edge of the lawn.
A common Drongo takes off
A pair of Brahminy Starlings on the lookout for worms
I went to see what all the fuss was about and I was greeted by a group of scaly breasted munias. In close proximity and in perfect light to highlight their patterned chest feathers.
Scaly Breasted Munia in perfect light
After that start it was like a roll call of small birds on that tree. First came a couple of bright yellow common ioras, then came the sunbirds – both purple and purple rumped (There was even a purple sunbird in eclipse /breeding plumage). They were followed by the Indian Silverbills and Brahminy starlings. It was as if they were lining up to get their photo clicked. I certainly wasn’t complaining & clicked away to my hearts content.
The Beautiful Common Ioras
A purple Sunbird lines up for the photo
A purple dumped sunbird doesn’t want to get left behind
A purple Sunbird in breeding plumage
The Indian Silverbill in perfect light
The Brahminy Starling poses for the 300mm
As the free bird show ended I got down from the path and back onto the lawn to see if I could get a few more photos of my favourite Hoopoes. I spotted them feeding on a patch of the lawn a bit farther away. On my way I stopped to take photos of a beautiful male Indian Robin shimmering in the sunlight.
A male Indian Robin on the lawns of Jadhavgadh
I started again towards the Hoopoes and stopped almost immediately to take photos of a bee eater and a white browed wagtail. Yes, I had already taken numerous photos of these birds already but when you get birds sitting in good light you shoot first (photographically!) and think later.
A bee eater rests on a bench in the lawn
A white browed wagtail on the lawns
I finally got to the Hoopoes and they didn’t disappoint. My last few minutes on the lawns were dedicated to these regal looking birds finding and tossing up their meal while intermittently posing for the camera.
A Hoopoe tosses up its meal
Posing perfectly for the camera!
We returned to our room to pack up and check out. I was about to pack away the gear when I heard incessant chirping from the balcony. It was the common sparrow which had made its nest in the crevices of the rocky wall. It posed beautifully for me to take a few photos before I finally put the camera and lens away.
A sparrow near its home in the rocky crevices
We had our last breakfast at Jadhavgadh sitting on the balcony of the restaurant above the main gate. It had been a morning worth the effort of waking up early!
Breakfast on the balcony above the main gate
We left Jadhavgadh after taking one last set of photos on the ramp leading up to the main gate.
On the steps to the fort before departing
It had been a great return to travel after 8 months of being home bound. Even though it was just a short 2 day break, it had provided welcome relief for us from our jobs as healthcare professionals.
We returned back to our professions the next day but with a renewed spring in our step that the pandemic had slowly taken out. This provided us with the courage to venture farther in our vehicle and plan a trip to the birding paradise that is Ganeshgudi.
But that is the topic for another series of posts, some other time, some other day.
Happy us with great memories of Jadhavgadh!
The gear is happy to get a workout too!
PS – Wishing my readers a very happy new year 2021. Here is to hoping that the new year brings more hope, more happiness & most importantly more travel than the dumpster fire that was 2020. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed! Cheers!