Finally, a birding session after nearly two months! Summer birding can end in a nasty heat stroke if you’re not careful, but this Sunday morning in Hyderabad was conveniently cloudy and cool.
The Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park in Hyderabad is well within city limits. Earlier the Chiran Fort Palace Grounds, it is now a walled protected area of about 300 acres. The vegetation is typically dry deciduous and thorn scrub forest. Many experts believe that this park, with its variety of big and small bushes, and grassland areas, is the last tract of the indigenous flora of the Deccan. Over 110 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles, 15 species of butterflies, 20 species of mammals and numerous invertebrates. Also home to Forest Cats, Palm Civets, Wild Boars, Hares, Mongoose, Monitor Lizards, Pythons, Cobras and other snakes.
Not all is hunky dory, though. The problem with this ‘National Park’ is that it is popular with Hyderabadis for recreational walking. Indeed, we saw that at once. Our group – about 18 persons – gathered at the gates and the entrance to the KBR park wore a distinctly ‘mela’ like appearance. Being a Sunday must’ve upped the attendance considerably. Not a parking space available for yards and hundreds, hundreds of people. Conservationists have tried to limit walking within the park but determined walkers have held sway.
The park has other problems too. Pitta’s editorial (the monthly newsletter from the Birdwatching Society of Andhra Pradesh) from September 1998 discusses it: “The latest catastrophe is the planting of trees all along paths and in grasslands. Does the management not realize that once these trees grow, they will shade out the grasslands? The loss of grasslands in KBR will lead to the disappearance or drastic reduction of populations of a host of birds, small mammals and insects that are dependent upon this habitat.” Read the whole thing here.
We managed to have a nice time though. By 7.00 am the sun was high enough to clear the park of most people. Among the highlights of the trip was a good look at a sparrow hawk and for me, my first clear sighting of Tickell’s Flowerpecker, the smallest bird in these parts of the world. There was also a quail that disappeared in the undergrowth before I could get a decent look; it was the rain quail, Coturnix coromandelica, I think, but I’m not sure. Of course, there were peafowl everywhere: it will bear saying again – what handsome creatures these are, and what a blue it is.
We saw a Shikra as well; it’s a relatively smallish bird of prey, and Priyank and I were wondering what it was about this bird that so alarms the others? A lot of raptors aren’t greeted by such a flurry of calls. Then there were the others: bee-eaters, spotted doves, little browns, common babblers, a pair of white throated kingfishers, coppersmiths, a long tailed shrike, a black shouldered kite, purple-rumped sunbirds, minivets, a very handsome iora… all this topped by a good look at wild boar.