A Bird’s Paradise Amidst Concrete Jungle– welcome to the Valley School area near Bangalore, Karnataka.
Arial root patterns of an old Banyan tree (photo credit: Dipankar Saha Chowdhury) Inside the Valley School adjacent forest area
I was never a birder and was contented with my ventures in travel photography, not because I don’t like birds but more because I have never been an early riser.I owe it to my friends DipankarSaha Chowdhury and Amrita Royfor my new found interest in bird photography, who have instilled in me the passion for birds. In the last few days of 2018, I visited the Valley School and its adjacent area near Kanakpura road, around 20 km south of the Bangalore city. It is considered to be one of the prime hotspots for different species of birds. Permissions are required to get inside the Valley School but the access to the school’s adjacent forest area is absolutely free with a mere visitor’s registration at the school’s security office at the entrance. Since birds know no boundary wall, one can find a lot of them in the woods adjacent to the school. It’s a long forest trail with a rich variety of flora and fauna. There are some trees standing tall for over 100 years. The spread and the patterns of the aerial roots of a particular Banyan tree thoroughly impressed me.
Upon entering the forest area we were greeted by a flock of Oriental White Eyes, Small Minivet on a tall tree. While we along with other fellow bird photographers were busy pressing shutters, whispered to me there is a male Indian Paradise Flycatcher sitting on another branch. We immediately turned our focus to the white marvel and remained speechless by its beauty. A Purple Sunbird couple was busy extracting nectar, while a Red Whiskered Bulbul was posing at us sitting on a branch. We were completely enthralled and excited knowing this is just the beginning of the trail and we might come across some unexpected sightings deep inside the woods. We continued to walk through the forest amidst the rustling of leaves, murmurs of the bamboo trees. This was an amazing experience as I never expected such thick greens at such a close proximity from the concrete jungle of Bangalore with its painstaking traffic. The more we got inside, the lights started to fade increasingly posing tremendous challenge for shooting. A narrow water stream was flowing through and we had to cross it to explore new areas. We found a group of photographers who had taken a stance and we realized there should be something. We also joined them in search for a female Indian Paradise Flycatcher which was busy eating something inside a tree and the view was not proper, so everybody was eagerly waiting for it to come out of the tree and it did. We were about to press the shutter when someone from other group sneezed loudly and the flycatcher went inside again. Everybody turned to that person with furious eyes and killer looks and one had to see the guilt on his face! It was quite hilarious and frustrating at the same time. I was facing a huge issue with auto focusdue to low light but tried my best to deal with it. Later on we could catch hold of the brown beauty with a magnificent dark blue crest.
We saw at a distance a blue colored bird flying from one branch to another across the stream. We wanted to move a little further to get it within our lenses’ range but had to squeeze ourselves through the dry tree branches and also minimizing the noise while striding over the dry leaves. We positioned ourselves and looked through the view finder to know it was a Verditer Flycatcher. In the same area we noticed another blue beauty, a Black Naped Monarch. We were clearly delighted. Suddenly, we heard a long call and becameexcited on deducing the origin of that particular call. We waited for quite some time, hiding ourselves in a bush to see a male White-RumpedShama sitting in a bamboo tree.
I checked the time to see it was already 10.30 am and we decided to head back home. We had just started to walk back when we heard a different call coming from a nearby tree and to our utter surprise we saw three Indian Grey Hornbill come flying and sit on a tall tree. Our shutters became busy again. On our way back, we found lots of Jungle Babblers playing around. In a little distance, we noticed a beautiful White Browed Fantail restlessly jumping from one branch to another and I just somehow managed to get a quick shot.
It goes without saying that it is our responsibility to protect this beautiful wilderness as from the onslaught of concrete civilization. With the growing footprints in this area there is a looming danger for a possible future imbalance in the entire ecosystem. We found several liquor bottles lying here and there. It is absolutely necessary that we keep this area plastic and garbage free. Stronger vigilance might protect this place from littering and tampering. Another issue which came to our notice is that some photographers are using unethical means to attract birds. I noticed a group of 3 photographers where one of them was playing different recorded bird calls from his mobile phone to attract birds in that area. This is an absolutely unethical practice which everyone should refrain themselves from,to allow the birds to remain in their natural habitat. Without some stringent safeguards it will not take much time for these birds to leave their final footprints in the Valley School area.