Sunday, 26 February 2012

On kites and kingfishers

22nd February

There is a house gecko in my room at Sunderbans Jungle Camp who says thik thik thik thik thik, which in many north Indian languages means fine or good. Bengali people take this to be a good omen, which is lucky as there is a gecko in every Bengali room. What a pragmatic omen to espouse.

Today we reached the Sunderbans by road from Kolkata, through miles and miles of fishponds, paddies and villages. From the end of the road we sailed through the high-tide waters of the mangroves for an hour, past our first dazzling black-capped kingfisher and a small group of worried-looking Pacific golden plovers. Why do golden plovers always look concerned, while their grey (black-bellied) cousins always look cross? These are the questions which trouble a naturalist’s mind.

Having checked into our camp we sailed for the range office at Sajnekhali where carmine-bummed rhesus monkeys trotted across the mud and terrorised tourists in the compound. Here too mudskippers skipped over the mud, though I am afraid they have not made it onto my vertebrate list as there are several species which no-one seems to know how to identify in the field. Nearby, our first water monitor scrambled through the roots of the mangroves. 

Our permits to visit the park granted, we briefly explored a broad channel where a young brahminy kite sat sentinel, collared kingfishers shone turquoise from dead branches in the dying light and a fluffy-tailed grey mongoose scampered delicately across the tidal gloop.
It never ceases to amaze me, after years of coming, how diverse are India’s landscapes, cultures, beliefs, tastes, songs and cultures. Here in the tidal mud we are in another India altogether.

New (and wonderful) today


Axis axis
grey mongoose
Herpestes edwardsii


black-winged stilt
Himantopus himantopus
Pacific golden plover
Pluvialis fulva
black-capped kingfisher
Halcyon pileata
collared kingfisher
Todiramphus chloris
brahminy kite
Haliastur indus


water monitor
Varanus salvator

2012 Totals
Mammals: 31
Birds: 318
Reptiles: 4
Amphibians: 0
Fish: 0

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