Magical Wetlands of “Gajoldoba” is a major hotspot for bird lovers all over Bengal wherein thousands of ducks and waders congregate during winter months.
I had already contacted Thakur Da at Gajoldoba through Subhankar De –another birder from North Bengal who has vast knowledge about this North Bengal area and an avid birder.
After spending a day birding at a new destination “Rongtong” we descended down towards Teesta Barrage area the following day.
It was a long weekend of 26th Jan,2017 and you can imagine the crowd in any of the tourist attractions in Bengal and moreover if it is a river bed.
With speaker blaring in all corners there were picnics going on in full swing as we waded in our small boat through the waters and marshes.
Gajoldoba during winter is home to a lot of winter migrants’ waders and ducks and the habitat is quite rich.
However human infringement, ecotourism development, and its chaotic ecstasy is destroying the habitat big time and Government and authorities should take steps to curb this. Else, in near future we will lose this dreamland called Gajoldoba rather the immigrants would lose their winter home.
The entire area is a congregation of Ruddy Shelduck,Eurasian Wigeons,Lesser Whistling duck ,Northern Shoveler, Ferrugenious Pochard ,Red Crested Pochar,Gadwal etc and other waders as we move through the meandering course of the shallow waters of Teesta – a mesmerizing scene.
As Thakurda (our boatman) was steering the boat through the shallow waters of Teesta these two beauties emerged from nowhere to mesmerize us.
One of my favourite duck with a striking round orangish-brown head and red beak- as it is aptly called “Rangajhuti” . They are very frequent visitors at Purbasthali ox bow lake in Burdwan district . These diving ducks where moving gracefully in a flock and were busy posing for the camera, boasting of its beauty and elegance.
As we crossed the flocks of different ducks , Thakur Da with utmost care and precision took the boat close to a mud flat for the first lifer of this trip.
The “Three Musketeers” of Gajoldoba. As we were moving away from the loud cacaphony of Shelduck,Pochards etc these nocturnal creatures were busy foraging in broad daylight in a gravelled mud flat with very minimal movement,moving slowly and deliberately,with occassional short runs.We stood rooted to the spot admiring their beauty .
As we were busy spotting other waders on the mud flats, this migrant was busy foraging on the ground in search of food.
The next few hours was spent moving from one area to another and wherever you place your eyes you can see ducks gracefully coursing on water surface or waders constantly probing the muddy or sandy areas.
We spotted a pair of Bar Headed Goose,Dunlin,Common Sandpiper,Sand Lark,Northern Shoveler.
As light was fading away we could spot a Peregrine Falcon lurking in the sky and looking for an opportune moment to pounce on its prey – the ducks which were lazily wading
Day 2 :
Started the day early to venture downstream in search of Red Breasted Merganser -the first report from Bengal.
The journey started with the awakening of the ducks and waders as the morning chill was getting penetrated by the yellow glow.
Kingfishers always fascinates me with its agility and radiant colours .As we were frantically searching for the common merganser this “Black & White” beauty was hovering in front of us in search of breakfast. Unaware of our presence it lazily perched itself on the protruding branch above the water surface,a clear indication of its contentment with the morning meal.
This was followed by constant hide and seek of the Great Crested Grebe.
However frantic search for this migrant for a couple of hours did not bring desire result – that is the beauty of birding with lots of uncertainty, patience, and luck.
On our return, we got to see the most photographed bird this year far away from from the Arctic Tundra region.A rarety in this part of the hemisphere who found a home away from home in the company of a pair of Ruddy Shelduck- strange indeed !!!! The mystery will still remain whether it will find its way back home and whether this friendship will bring it to its second home again…
We were walking barefooted on the slippery mud flat in search of an unknown raptor spotted by Sourav and Avishek with constant chirping of these birds in the background. There were numerous of them camouflaged on the ground with roving eyes on us.
A couple of Black Stork flew away on the horizon as we were busy observing the pratincoles.
The most dominant inhabitant of the marshland , whose loud cacophony in unison can be heard throughout the day far across the distance.
It was the fag end of the day and as our boat was slowly moving past a water-soaked muddy stretch, this shorebird was foraging by looking, then stopping, then running and pecking to catch its prey.It was constantly probing the soil in search of insects or other invertebrates.
Another small plover characterized by the distinct yellow eye rings was present in abundance on the gravel river bed constantly probing the sand/mud flat for insects and worms.
Gradually our board entered the Lapwing territory and what a pleasing sight.
Its exuberance of colors and gracefulness mesmerizes me everytime I see this beauty from the lapwing family.Every year hundreds and hundreds of these near threatened lapwing species migrate to these grasslands to spend the winter at the foothills of the Himalayas.
It was August 2015 while birding in Sunderbans bio-reserve I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of this majestic beauty, and this time around the amazing marshland of Gajoldoba had revealed its biggest surprise – “Madan Tak” as it is aptly called bcoz of its bald head.As we were ruing the missed opportunity of a very close shot of a female Pied Harrier, the stork emerged from nowhere and started posing popping its head out from the marshes.Our beloved boatman “Thakur Da” took utmost care not to disturb the denizen and took the boat to a position where we get a close view of this vulnerable bird of the stork family.
The sheer presence of waders and ducks is a perfect foil for a raptor of the size of Marsh Harrier which constantly keeps a strict vigil over the area for any opportune moment to pounce on its prey.We very lucky enough to witness many such moments and capture it’s hovering over the marshy grassland in search of its prey.
The silent predator was hiding in the bushes constantly scanning the area in search of its prey with its protruding beak waiting for the final assault-the tall grasses of the marshland created a perfect ambush.
Hatt-ti-ti” as it is aptly called in native language bcoz of it’s loud and high pitched call.I have been fascinated by this bird numerous occasions during my birding trips all over Bengal but couldn’t get a decent picture of this colourful wader.As light was fading and our tired weary bodies wanted respite,this wader started fiddling in the soil and muddy waters in search of food and stock it up for dinner, unaware of our lurking existence.
With a tired body and contented soul we bid adieu to this amazing water land at the foothills of the Himalayas.
Birds List :
Common Teal,Eurasian Wigeon,Ruddy Shellduck,Northern Shoveler,Red Crested Pochard,Gadwall,Great Crested Grebe,Indian Cormorant,Great Cormorant,Asian Openbill Stork,Norther Lapwing,Spotted Redshank,Great Thicknee,Red Watlled Lapwing,Eurasian Marsh Harrier,Little Ringed Plover,Citrine Wagtail,Grey Wagtail,White Wagtail,Kentish Plover,Dunlin,Common Sandpiper,Tundra Bean Goose,Peregrine Falcon,Indian Cormorant,Little Egret,Intermediate Egret,Large Egret,Bar Headed Goose,Barn swallow,Asian Palm Swift,Siberian Stonechat,White Breasted Kingfisher,Pied Kingfisher,Purple Heron,Lesser Adjutant Stork,Spotted Dove,White Capped Water Redstart,White Browed Wagtail,Pond Heron,Bronze Winged Jacana,Common Coot,Moorhen,Pied Harrier,Steppe Eagle,Black Kite,Small Pratincole,Black Stork,Tufted Duck,Common Greenshank,Grey Heron,Pied Starling,Long tailed Shrike,Little Grebe,Sand Lark,Wire Tailed Swallow,Ferrogeneous Pochard
Birding Time :
6:30 AM – 5 PM