May 19, 2013

THE CHANCE ENCOUNTER


GOA DIARIES: MEETING THE BRAHMINY KITES


As I had mentioned in my last post (Link), we reached Bhabi's place at Goa Velha by 11:00 am in the morning on 27th April. The locality in which they stay - Soji Kade lies on the busy road connecting two of Goa's most prominent cities - the administrative capital Panjim and the commercial hub of Margao. It is a residential area with simple bungalows located amidst lush green Bhaatts (Goan Konkani word for 'Plantation'). Each house has either a tulsi altar or a holy cross in the centre of the courtyard, signifying the faith of its occupants. The narrow, serpentine road carpeted by dried leaves falling from the trees growing along it seems to be catering more to pedestrians than vehicles. Once in their home, Bhabi's parents were kind enough to keep the entire top section of their sprawling two storeyed house just for mummy and me. 

This part of the house which was built just a couple of years ago is huge and extremely well maintained. The neatly painted walls, spacious rooms, big windows, well laid out bathrooms, minimal furniture and most importantly, the 'first class' treatment that we received there, made us feel as if we were staying in a holiday home. The balcony adjoining one of the bedrooms provides a spectacular view of the vegetation around which is soothing to the eyes. The first time I went there, I spotted several species of avians - Common Mynas, Red Whiskered Bulbuls, Magpie Robins, Black Kites and Flameback Woodpeckers to name a few, in just about 10 minutes. Not so surprisingly, this was to become my favourite place for early morning bird watching in the days to come. The surrounding greenery, the chirping birds, the feeling of breathing clean air and the house itself reminded me of our Porvorim home, making me quite nostalgic.

A pair of Brahminy Kites

While mom decided to be at home for the rest of the day since she was tired after the 15 hour long arduous journey, my plan was to meet my friends from GEC in Panjim. Two of them - Niks and DD were travelling in the latter's car from Margao and I decided to hop into it at the Goa Velha bypass road. This served two purposes. For one, I got to spend more time with these guy who had come down from Pune to meet me. The other and the more sinister motive was to avoid commuting by the crowded Kadamba buses in the scorching heat. With Bhabi's dad dropping me there, I arrived at the designated place well before time... for a change. There was very little shade here; the high humidity levels - something that I am not used to in Bengaluru, took its toll on me and I started sweating profusely. I called the guys just as to check where they had reached and was thoroughly disappointed when they told me that they were still about 20 minutes away.

After cursing them for about five minutes and watching cars and buses go by at break neck speeds, screeching sounds (keeyeee) from the sky, suddenly caught my attention. As I looked towards the heavens, I saw a pair of Brahminy Kites hovering above, sailing across the light blue sky like fighter jets. One amongst them was executing some breath taking mid-air stunts including sharp turns and nose dives, before flying higher and repeating the whole thing again. This continued for some time before the duo - probably a male and a female engaged in pre-mating ritual, finally perched on a nearby tree which offered an excellent view of the entire area. Since the guys were still about 15 km away, I decided to make the best of this opportunity, crossed over to the other side of the road (so as to utilize the 50X optical zoom of the Canon SX50HS to the fullest) and took pictures of these majestic birds of prey - some of which are posted here.

The Brahminy Kite - Haliastur indus

The Brahminy Kites and their cousins - the Black Kites are the most common members of the Accipitridae family (eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures) that are found in the country. In the peninsular region, the latter is predominant in the interiors; however, the tables are turned along the coast where the former is comparatively more widespread. Mother Nature seems to have been extremely kind on these avians and their unique colour combination - rusty brown plumage, white underside, yellow beak and round bronze eyes make them very adorable and easy to identify. Scientists have discovered four different sub-species of Brahminy Kites and the one seen in the country is called Haliastur indus. In India, they are found in most areas, from the Himalayan foothills to down south. In general, their range extends from the Indian Sub-continent to Australia covering most parts of South-east Asia and islands in the Australasian region.

Primarily scavengers, their diet consists of dead fish and crabs, explaining their abundance in coastal areas. Nonetheless, they are decent hunters and are known to prey upon bats and rodents. The mating season of the Indian sub-species is said to last from April to June, just before the onset of monsoon. Generally, the two eggs laid will hatch after an incubation period lasting for about 25 days. Presently, the species is classified as Least Concerned by the IUCN, though their numbers are on the decline in some areas. For the people of southern and south-eastern Asia, these birds have tremendous cultural significance. In Indian mythology, it is generally associated with Garuda - the King of the Birds and the mount or Vahana of Lord Vishnu. They are also the official mascots of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta where they are known as Elang Bondol



Perched: The Brahminy Kite
Coming back to the Goa trip after all the gyaan, after clicking several snaps, I kept my camera aside and stood there just looking and admiring these winged creatures. Though, I was fully drenched in sweat, I wasn't complaining. Who gets to see these amazing animals everyday, especially if you are an IT professional employed in Bengaluru. After waiting for half an hour, at about 12:30 in the afternoon, I spotted a grey Wagon R coming my way. As the car approached closer, I could see clearly see DD behind the steering wheel with a devlish grin on his face as Niks frantically waved at me through the window. I got into the back seat and as the car headed towards Panjim, I looked at the pair of the Brahminy Kites still perched on the trees through the back window, being grateful for the company that they had given me for the last 30 minutes.

The two impromptu photo shoots on the same day - the Cormorant at Ankola (Link) and the Brahminy Kites at Goa Velha was a fantastic beginning to the Goa trip. Though the snaps are just ordinary, as any ace photographer will point out, the whole experience will be etched in my memory for a long time. It re-affirmed my faith that the Western coast, which is undergoing modernization at a rapid pace still continues to be one of the most beautiful places in the country, especially for a nature lover like me. From the mesmerizing salt pans of Kutch to the pristine beaches of Kerala, it is full of surprises, some known, others yet to be explored. The mighty Western ghats and the vast Arabian have colluded to make it one of the most ecological diverse regions of the world and it is in our interest not to tamper with it. 

SOURCES


(1) Wikipedia: Brahminy Kite (Link)

For more on the Goa Trip:
(1) A Trip To Goa... Finally (Link)

(2) Dil Dosti Etc (Link)
(3) An Evening in Vagator - Part 1 (Link)
(4) An Evening in Vagator - Part 2 (Link)
(5) Life is a Beach (Link)