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We more or less dragged ourselves out of bed at 6 am (I know I did) this morning. What for? For another commemorative event to celebrate Wildgoa’s 6th birthday.

A quick breakfast, and a glance through our checklist (binocs, cameras, wallets, our wakefulness(!)) and we were off to the rendezvous: Miramar circle.

Panjim is such a joy on an early Sunday morning. As we pass through the market, it is already alive with activity, and some early birds are already haggling and making purchases.

We park at the circle, and for a moment wonder if there’s been a misunderstanding, as there’s no-one else around. Did I misread Clinton’s email? Could the event have happened YESTERDAY?? Can’t be, as we discussed this with another Wildgoan just yesterday as we broke bread (puris actually) together.

But then, Clinton appears in his leonine avatar, and we silently sigh in relief. “There’s going to be about forty of us!” he grins.

Our numbers increase in minutes, and after a brief introduction, we’re on our way, scuffing through the sand toward the shore. Two tiny birds fly tantalisingly over us. Are they swifts? Well, they live up to their name, that’s for sure! I try in vain to get a decent picture. But I pursue them, undeterred. No-one can ever fault this photographer for effort 🙂  

We come upon tiny flocks of plovers, each of them so miniscule and so well-camouflaged amidst the sand that I have to squint to zero in on them. The beach strays help as well as hinder, as they blow the plovers’ cover but also chase them away in the process.

I marvel at the driftwood washed up on the shore, each one like an art exhibit in a gallery. C draws my attention to a flock of egrets, a bunch of tiny white “m”s, flying in perfect formation, far away, thrown in relief against the green backdrop of Dona Paula.

We’re a motley crew, from all over (Panjim, Dona Paula, Vasco, Margao), and from all walks of life (botanist, art graduate, writers, journalists, business, real estate) and all ages (primary school to retired). It strikes me that this is the first “formal” birdwatching endeavour on my part in my own city (not counting training my binocs from our verandah).

We stop and pore over our bird atlases as we deliberate whether the current flock of birds we’ve just spotted are also plovers, and if so, what kind. My eyes seem to always falter, and have to tap the chap (or chappie) next to me “What are we looking at??”. And just as I home in on the subject, it chooses to flit away. And don’t get me started on birds in flight. I share my problem with whoever is willing to listen.

Presently we wend our way back onto the road. We spot crow pheasants, mynahs, stints along the way.  Atul points to a family of bee-eaters in the palm fronds. Frantic juggling between binocs and camera, straps hopelessly tangled, silent cursing (all mine).

A solitary golden oriole plays hide-and-seek in the vegetation, allowing us mere glimpses of golden yellow, but even fleeting flashes are sufficient to elicit gasps of delight.

A few starlings, kites and shrikeslater, we return to the point we started, a good two hours later.

The party is far from over, as a trek to Dudhsagar awaits us next week.

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