Wildlife at Mayureshwar Sanctuary, Pune

Situated at around 70 KMs from Pune, Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Tehsil Baramati in Pune district. The sanctuary is mostly made up of dry deciduous scrub forest and has a variety of flora and fauna specific to grasslands. Being a very small sanctuary (smallest in India), it can be easily covered in a day and is one of our favourite places for bird-watching as we have come across a good number of bird species as well mammals in the sanctuary.

Anyone who is visiting Mayureshwar WLS, has to 1st make an entry and pay the required fees at the forest office near the main gate (https://goo.gl/maps/pSz8BKKmsX62). After completing the formalities, one can proceed on the trails. Trails maps are available at office, so do ask for one.

The main trail (https://goo.gl/maps/nQgecAEvfzE2) is on the right side of the tar road (you get a huge green gate), however if you don’t take the right and continue on the tar road you will see a trail (https://goo.gl/maps/X2FWwiJWxXB2) on left as well. There are also few watch towers in place, however we have never used them much. Most of our images captured are through the car driving over the laid out trails.

We have visited Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary a good number of times in last two years during various seasons and have been pleasantly surprised when it comes to sightings of wild animals & bird species. Making excellent images gets a little tricky due to huge number of trees and also by 10:00 hrs the light becomes pretty harsh. We have found the time from 07:00 hrs to 9:00 hrs the best for wildlife activity. Here are some of the images we have managed to click in Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Birds

The bird activity is generally good early morning at Mayureshwar with a variety of ground dwelling birds like the pipits, larks, coursers, sandgrouse and so on in addition to the regular drongos, mynas & green bee-eaters. One also comes across 3 types of Doves here – Laughing, Eurasion Collared & Red Collared. In winters, one can see variety of migrants like the wheatears, warblers and some waders. One of the highlights from our recent visit was the Eastern Orphean Warbler and the Painted Sandgrouse.

Bay-backed Shrike
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
Grey Francolin
Indian Courser
Grey-necked Bunting
Indian Thick-knee
Red Collared Dove
White-bellied Minivet

Being a arid habitat with small hills, we have come across a good number of raptors at Mayureshwar – Laggar Falcon being one of the highlights in our trip in Jan 2015. Indian Eagle Owl, Bonelli’s Eagle & Short-toed Snake Eagle can be seen throughout the year and in winters one can often sight the Harriers and the mighty Steppe Eagles. There is also a record of the Amur Falcon at Mayureshwar, in 2015 winter season.

Laggar Falcon
Bonelli’s Eagle
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Steppe Eagle

You can read more about the Short-toed Snake Eagle encounter in the link below:
http://whistlingtrails.com/2016/05/the-majestic-short-toed-snake-eagle/

Mammals

Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is primarily famous for the Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) and you would surely see them in good numbers. Early morning & late evening is a good time to come across the Indian Fox as well the Indian Hare. One of the most recent sightings here has been a pair of Striped Hyena pair!

Indian Fox
Indian Wolf

We also came across a pair of Indian Wolf in our recent visit, read more about it in the link below:
http://whistlingtrails.com/2016/10/the-royal-indian-wolf/

Months visited with ebird checklists:

Nov 2014: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S20535580
Jan 2015: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S21515206
Jul 2015: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S24396923
Sep 2015: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S24396923
Jan 2016: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S26634595
Oct 2016: http://ebird.org/ebird/india/view/checklist/S32058076
Feb 2017: http://ebird.org/ebird/india/view/checklist/S34174751

Why to eBird? Read more about it below:

http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/973902-why-should-i-ebird-

How to reach:

Location on Google Maps – https://goo.gl/maps/4icQQXCRqtL2

Option 1 | Pune-Solapur highway: Drive up to a place called Kedagaon, and turn right. After driving for another 15 KMs, take another right and then right again after around 1.5 KMs to see the sanctuary entry structure on your right. Immediately after crossing the entry structure, you will see the forest office and quarters on left side.

Option 2 | Pune-Saswad-Jejuri-Morgaon: Drive up to Morgaon main junction and take a left. Continue for aroun 8.5 KMs and take the left when you will see the sanctuary gate  on your left. Immediately after crossing the entry structure, you will see the forest office and quarters on left side.

Sanctuary fees (as on 05 Feb 2017)

– Rs. 30 per person
– Rs. 50 per camera
– Rs. 100 per car

Tips

– Document the bird species you saw on www.eBird.org.
– Check with the forest folks on recent sightings.
– Drive the car on the trail itself.
– Refer Google maps for location. (https://goo.gl/maps/pSz8BKKmsX62)
– Keep the place clean.

Thanks for reading. Let us know in-case of any corrections, queries, suggestions and we will be happy to respond.

Join us in our upcoming tours.

Thanks for viewing. Let us know in-case of any queries, suggestions, critics and we will be happy to respond.

In-case you have destination & dates in mind, write to us at info@wild-india.in and we shall design custom wildlife tour as per your requirements.

– Team Wild India Eco Tours

Birding in Little Rann of Kutch

Being one of our favourite bird-watching destinations, we never miss out on Little Rann of Kutch and so was the case this year as well. We got some lovely sightings of over 100 species of birds along with some lovely photographic opportunities to capture species like Short-eared Owl, Montagu’s & Pallid Harriers, Dalmatian & Great White Pelicans, Greater & Lesser Flamingos, Greater Spotted, Steppe & Eastern Imperial Eagles and the endemic Indian Wild Ass.

(more…)

Short-toed Snake Eagle

Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

The Short-toed Snake Eagle is a medium sized bird of prey found in open cultivated plains, arid stony deciduous scrub areas and semi-desert areas across Russia, Middle-east and Asia.True to its name, it primarily feeds on snakes, however is also known to feed on lizards and occasionally on small mammals like hares. It does much of its hunting from heights of up-to 500 meters and can be seen hovering like a Common Kestrel in open grasslands.

Their life span is around 17 years. During breeding, they lay only 1 egg. As per IUCN v3.1, it attains a current status of “Least Concern“, however a steep decline has been observed in their population owing to changing landscape due to development and agriculture.

the Magical Bharatpur…

Foggy mornings, Sarus Cranes, Bluebulls, Pelicans, loads of waterfowls and some mesmerising sunrise & sunset scapes is what you associate with Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur. We at Wild India Eco Tours had one such trip with an amazing bunch of folks to this place in January 2017.

  • Tour dates: 13 – 15 January 2017
  • Group size: 8
  • Total birds species sighted: 115
  • Key highlights: Sarus Cranes, Dalmatian & Great White Pelicans, Black & Yellow Bitterns, Black-necked Stork, Dusky Eagle Owl, Oriental & Collared Scops Owls, Red-crested Pochards, Ferruginous Ducks
  • Mammals & reptiles sighted: Golden Jackal, Monitor Lizard, Bluebull (Nilgai), Spotted Deer

eBird checklists:

Day 1

Starting from Delhi, we began our journey to Bharatpur by 10:00 hrs after some expected flight delays. We took our 1st halt just after we joined the Yamuna Expressway for a quick snack. A 30 minute break and we were back on our journey. As we neared Mathura, we stopped for our 1st sighting – it was a family of Sarus Cranes!

This was surely some start to the tour as everyone got good views and photographs of this lovely species. Resuming our journey, we arrived at the resort by 14:30 hrs and after a quick lunch and freshening up, we were ready for our 1st excursion to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary by 16:00 hrs.


Splitting into groups of 2, we began our excursion on the cycle rickshaws. We came across various species of ducks – Common teals, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, Little Grebes along with numerous Common Moorhens & White-breasted Waterhens. We also got some lovely views of the Oriental Scops Owl – camouflaged perfectly in a tree. Going ahead, we reached an opening were we got to see a pair of Bluebull walking across the wetlands.

We spent rest of the the time at this place itself, watching the beautiful sunset. Some of the birds we saw here were Greylag Geese, Knob-billed Duck, Grey-headed Swamphen, Bronze-winged Jacana and the Bluethroat. While returning back, we were also greeted by a family of Golden Jackals.

We got back to resort by 18:30 hrs for snacks / tea and followed the rest of the evening in introductions, sharing wildlife experiences, making bird list, highlights of the day and finally winding up with dinner.

Day 2

The second day of the tour started as early as 07:00 hrs as we made our entry into the park. The weather was chilly with temperatures around 8 degree celsius. We explored one of the trails were we came across two Great Cormorants perched on a dry branches against the beautiful sunrise – giving us ample opportunities to try out various exposure to make the classic silhouette images. We explored the other side of the trail where we came across waterfowls in big numbers. We also got to see the beautiful Black-necked stork on these trails and a Booted Eagle as well. We returned back to point where we saw the cormorant and this time we saw 5 Spotted Owlets perched close to eachother – indeed a lovely sight.


We explored the trees around this place were we saw Red-breasted Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and also a pair of Long-tailed Minivets. After spending around an hour, we made our way to the canteen in the park for breakfast. We also got to see a Hume’s Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, White-cheeked Bulbuls, Shikra and a Golden Jackal crossing the road at this place.



After breakfast, we kept exploring on the main tar road in the park as we came across a variety of species – a Collared Scops Owl pair, a Marsh Harrier busy hunting for a meal, Northern Shoveler, pair of Red-crested Pochards, Bonelli’s Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle, White-tailed Lapwings, two pairs of Ferruginous Ducks and numerous Bluethroats, Painted Storks, Great Cormorants, Purple Herons, Grey Herons, Little Grebes, Common Teals and Common Moorhens. Couple of members from our group also got to see and photograph the Great Cormorant hunting and feeding on a huge fish!


As we kept exploring, we sighted the shy Black Bittern in its typical habitat – completely camouflaged in a thick bush. A little ahead we also got to see the Yellow Bittern, this one was bold though as it was busy hunting in the open.

We did not realise as it was 14:30 hrs already. We proceeded for lunch in the canteen at the park. After lunch, we explored couple of trails near the park were we got decent views of the Dalmatian Pelicans, Cotton Pygmy Goose and a pair Dusky Eagle Owls. We also sighted three types of kingfishers – White-throated, Common and the Pied Kingfisher. After exploring for an hour or so, we made our way back to the sunset point. This time we sighted numerous raptors perched on the trees – Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagles (2) and Marsh Harriers. As the light was fading, We also got lucky to sight the shy Black Bitten in open for few seconds before it jumped back into the bush.



Other species seen were a group of Knob-billed Ducks, Grelag and Bar-headed Geese, Black-crowned Night Herons, Grey-headed Swamphens, Oriental Darter and numerous Bronze-winged Jacanas.

Soon the day ended and we were back to resort for yet another experience sharing session, reviewing images followed by dinner.

Day 3

As with Day 2, Day 3 started at 07:00 hrs. The weather was a little more foggy today as we made way into the park. We wanted to take a good chance of sighting the Sarus Cranes and getting better view of the Dalmatian Pelicans in this final morning session and hence we headed straight to the sunset point which has best chance of sightings. We saw couple of Pelicans in flight but couldn’t click them. We started exploring on of the trails a little ahead of the point and soon came across a pair of Sarus Cranes. It was a treat to watch them in the typical Bharatpur scape – standing tall in the long dry grass against bluish foggy background. After getting some decent clicks, we came across similar frames for Oriental Darter, Purple Heron and a Booted Eagle.


As we were returned back to the main road, we saw numerous groups of Great White Pelicans flying to other side of the trail. We went to explore and could see them in good number (over 50 individuals) feeding together. We missed making decent images as it was opposite light. Being content with the sighting, we started back to return to the main tar road in the park when we saw Marsh Harrier flying with a kill and to our luck, it perched right in-front of us and started feeding on its kill..!


Final hour of our session and we had to get back to resort to pack bags start our return journey. We were just exploring for Bitterns again when suddenly a pair of Dalmatian Pelicans came and landed in a water body next to sunset point and began feeding, only to be joined by around 6 more of them. As if a parting gift, we finally got to make some lovely images of this ‘Vulnerable’ species (as per IUCN v3.1). There wouldn’t have been a better end to the trip.


Clearly Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur stands out as one of the best places to sighting a variety of bird species as well as to learn various aspects of wildlife photography – portraits, landscapes, silhouettes! you get a chance to try them all. Add to it delicious food and an amazing group, we just did not want to return.

That said, we have already planned to visit Bharatpur again in Jan-Feb 2018, this time a 4 Day trip. Stay tuned for the detailed itinerary and exact dates by subscribing to www.wild-india.in.

Thanks for viewing. Let us know in-case of any queries, suggestions, critics and we will be happy to respond.

In-case you have destination & dates in mind, write to us at info@wild-india.in and we shall design custom wildlife tour as per your requirements.

– Team Wild India Eco Tours

Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

The Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) is a bird of prey in family – Accipitridae which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, eagles and harriers. Contrary to its name, the species is taxonomically more closer to Kites than Buzzards as it has a small head and soars on flat wings. It has a short head crest and hence is also known as the Crested Honey Buzzard.

Oriental Honey Buzzards are specielist feeders, i.e. they mainly survive on the larvae of social bees and wasps, also eating bits of comb and honey. They are known to feed on other small insects like the cicadas.

This raptor species is also known to have a variety of plumages (over 15) which makes them difficult to identify. One of the best pointers to identify this species is their small (pigeon-like) head and flat winged flight while soaring.

Camera gear & EXIF:

– Canon EOS 7d Mark II with Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

– ISO: 160
– Focal length: 400mm (640mm in 35mm equivalent)
– Aperture: f/6.3
– Shutter speed: 1/800 seconds

 

Tickell’s blue flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae)

The Tickell’s blue flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) is an insectivorous species which breeds in tropical Asia, from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Southeast Asia. Its range stretches across all the countries from India to Indonesia and are found in dense scrub to forest habitats.

The Tickell’s blue flycatcher is a small bird, that grows to a length of about 11–12 cm long. It sits upright and forages mainly in the overgrowth. Apart from flying insects they have been noted to occasionally glean crawling insects as well and are also known to feed after dusk.

The name commemorates the British ornithologist Samuel Tickell.

Camera gear & EXIF:

– Canon EOS 7d Mark II with Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

– ISO: 800
– Focal length: 400mm (640mm in 35mm equivalent)
– Aperture: f/5.6
– Shutter speed: 1/200 seconds

Birding heaven – Chopta

At Wild India Eco Tours, Chopta – Uttarakhand is one of our favourite bird-watching destinations and this tour in April 2016 as good at it gets. We sighted over 140 species of birds and got some mesmerising views of the the beautiful snow clad Himalayas. Key sightings from bird-watching perspective included the Pygmy Wren & Scaly-breasted Babblers, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Bearded Vulture, Red-billed Chough, Golden Bush Robin, Koklass Pheasant, (more…)

Raptors galore at Tal Chhapar & Bikaner

For someone wants to observe the “birds of prey” up-close, Tal Chhapar and Jorbeer in Rajasthan are two names that come to mind. We had our Wild India Eco Tours tour to these areas in February 2016 which yielded over 80 species with three species each of the Vultures, falcons, eagles, two species of buzzards that included some rare birds like the Saker Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard along with Indian Spotted Creeper (more…)