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9 January 2012

A trip to Chilika, Bird Census_7-8 Jan 2012 :)

An amazing weekend trip to Chilika (Odisha), for the Annual Bird census.

It’s quite a time, I have been a member of a virtual group called ‘Birds of Orissa’ on facebook. Fellow members informed about the Bird Census program which happens yearly for study & research on migratory birds and for developmental purposes of the wetland eco-system. Me and Udayan jumped out for it and planned a bike tour to Chilika.


N.H. 5
7.30 am: Started our bike journey towards Chilika. The weather was perfect for a ride. Foggy and pleasing with cold air. To re-energise, we snacked up on the highway, tea with hot aloo-chops (potato chops) and Baras (Vada) with green chilli :D. We then continued our journey towards Chilika passing through Balugaon. The meeting was supposed to start at 10.00am.

The briefing by Dr.U.N.Dev
10.00 am: We reached the venue at Chandraput almost at the right time. The place was beautiful from the very start. The lake, the heavy cool breeze...simply wow :) We entered our names and got seated inside. More people came in. People we recognise and senior members which followed namastes, waves and smiles :) The room was full with Ornithologists, wildlife activists, bird lovers, forest officials and enthusiasts. Introduction started on Chilika, the wet-land and how we are going to help protect it. Our Chief guests there followed the briefings in addition to presentations and guidelines on recognizing and counting birds of the wetland. Finally the time came when all were to be divided into groups with assigned places for bird counting. We waited and waited and then we were grouped for the place 'Rambha'. I had never heard of this place, but all along was very excited to explore ^_^ Our team leader was Akash Rath, guide Purna Ch. Guru (F.R.O) and fellow members were Umakant Biswal the expert in this, S.K. Mohapatra (ICZM), Me, Udayan and Aditya. We had lunch and were off  to our destination 'Rambha'. Other birders I know Satya bhai, Shakti bhai, Sanjib bhai also were off to their designated places with their teams. :)

2.30 pm: We were in the Bolero with the associate members, discussing and talking by. We reached at the place and took our assigned rooms. After getting freshened up and little rest all decided to look around the near by places. :) I was super excited to look up more of the place and specially the water. 

4.15 pm: Rambha, of what we saw was a beautiful place. It comes under the famous District Ganjam in the Indian state of Odisha. We traveled along the lake side with the forest official and also went through beautiful villages. There were mountains and greenery everywhere, with boats and humpy roads, cool wind and people looking at us strangely. We halted at a place to view and click some birds, then proceeded to more interior places. Mountains all had round smooth stones, that looked as if they'll just make a fall. We reached at a place which looked like greasy water. There the forest official Mr. Jena spotted a small turtle in the fishing nets. He called the fishermen, rescued and carried it to drop him to better water resource. The turtle was super cute and its head and body went inside the cover when turned upside down. :D :)

The beautiful 'Rambha'

Went more alongside the lake, inside villages, visited some ponds, photographed, watched various birds and at a place even saw and clicked a peacock roaming inside the fields. What a beautiful sight. I had never seen a peacock like this :) Mr. Jena dropped the turtle in a fresh water pond there. By evening all were back to the guest house at Rambha and chilled out :P We had little discussion over the birds findings and then roamed in the village markets for some snacks. I was little tired and wanted to rest for tomorrow. 

10.00 pm: Having dinner at the forest official place, I was knocked out for the main day aka Tomorrow.

5.00am: Early morning we were ready to be packed in the Bolero and reach the Chilika Lake. It was super cold and chilly. We waited ....

The Dramatic Dawn
6.20am: The Jeep came and took us to the venue of bird counting. The view of the magnificent lake just before the sunrise stupefied me. It was so so beautiful, the weather, the redness in the sky, the silhouettes of the boats and the little birds feeding and flying by. Our bird counting started with little pond patches full of Egrets, Bronze winged Jacanas and Pond Herons. Mr. Mohapatra wrote down the names, as experts (few by us too) called out the names and numbers. We also spotted Small Blue Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher. :)

All got into the boat, except Aditya who hadn't accompanied the team. The journey towards the deep, red-dish, blueish water and sky started... All got seated with notebooks, cameras, binoculars and breakfast. We started our journey of bird counting by getting deep inside the lake...water and water all around. In comparison to my visit to Mangalajodi, wet-land birds were less here. Expecting to spot some interesting species, we got deeper and started spotting birds like Black Winged Stilts, Tufted Ducks and Brahminy kites. 

Black Winged Stilts
We spotted birds, some in a group of three to four and some in such large numbers that we only could estimate the numbers. The experts examined the species and counted and it was written down. Akash bhai had a good 70-300 Nikor lens to capture the beauty as well as Udayan. I clicked with my Canon SX10IS :) With Akash bhai's and Udayan's photography, it went easy in recognizing the species and counting. The Forest officials Mr. Purna Chandra and Jena also spotted on birds. To some extent and areas there was nothing, just water and water far far away. But then we saw birds in between in large flocks and nearby some Islands. 

The place was such a beauty. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the vast lake...nothing but water...everywhere...flocks of birds flying by, staying by, posing by.....

Then came places where we were near the mighty mountains. What a view! The mountains, all full of round sloppy stones, beautiful brown shiny bushes, trees of green and red and gold...the feeling was simply amazing. There were beautiful fields also marking human habitation. Found Brown Headed Gulls, Cormorants and so on.. nearby the mountain places. Hoping for some decent photos :) The boat was a power driven one and didnt actually stay to view the bird flocks when asked a result of which the the birds flew away making the bird counting task difficult. We even saw one lighthouse, made by the Raja of there, followed an island with a life size sculpture of a dinosaur :P

Brown Headed Gulls
The singing cold air, heavy water ripples, splashes, the weather sometimes cloudy, sometimes gloomy and sometimes just sunny. The weather was in some mood, showing us its many colors but never did it hurt. Even the bright sun was pleasing. many. Tern and Ducks, Kites, Cormorants, Kites, Gulls, Kingfishers and who not :) And of so many varied colors, whites, greys, glossy blacks, bushy browns, spotted, printed and with the primary colors too :) I shall include a list of birds in the end...

and Hey did I forget to mention we saw Dolphins too ? yeah, we sighted some Dolphins. They played hide and seek, yet we spotted them when they jumped outta the water.

The moody weather
10.30 am: Till now we covered across places 'Gaurangapatana' and 'Kumarpur'. We had our breakfast. Bread, jam, bananas, eggs, oranges & apples. Hmmm....I was full...yum :) After some more of traveling in water, we stoped by on an Island 'Talatalanasi.' Everybody got outta their shoes and roamed the Island. The Island was typically green, with fields, marshy land and ponds. Mr. Mohapatra and Uma bhai roamed around to recognize and discuss on birds there. Akash bhai went a little deeper to click birds and Me and Udayan roamed near the fields. He spotted some good birds to click and I went near the bushes to click some beautiful Butterflies. Few bushes were just full of Plain Tigers and Common Crows. :) I also spotted some wetland birds also plus the hoopoes :) A little later all gathered. The boaters who accompanied us and local villagers made us coffee in the near by huts and also offered smoked fresh fishes to snack on.

We left the Island and then again the tour on water started. Again the routine of spotting, recognizing and counting birds started with the same excitement. A little later tiredness gripped us and I started feeling sleepy in between. I guess others silently slept too :D After around 6 hours of ride on the boat we landed on land. :D
Tufted Ducks flying by...

As we had carried all our luggage, we were directly exported to Chandraput from where we had started. There we had our lunch and everybody sat down in circles for counting. Uma and Akash bhai started on the given list of birds and Mr. Mohapatra held his written down list to mark it. One by one, species by species all got counted. Birds who couldn't been recognized were dealt with the help of photos. Other troupes also started arriving and after lunch started counting. :)

Counting was done, copied to various sheets with list of birds, team information and the task was done, of course majorly by the senior members,we were just a little help. :) We bid goodbye to bhai manes, other senior members and the DFO and started out journey back to Bhubaneswar, Our home. I reached by 7.20 pm. :)

Counting over
Special thanx to Sanjib bhai for getting permissions for us :) Satya bhai & Shakti bhai plus Bird of Orissa group for inspiring us in the field. It was a great learning opportunity, exploring the b'ful place of our amazing Odisha and participating in a noble cause of Bird Counting. :) Feeling lucky. ^_^

List of Birds spotted: As per the final census record

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Little Cormorant
  3. Cattle Egrets
  4. Little Egrets
  5. Intermediate Egrets
  6. Grey Heron
  7. Gadwall
  8. Gargeney
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Water Rail
  11. White-Breasted Water Hen
  12. Bronze-Winged Jacana
  13. Black Winged Stilt
  14. Little Pratincole
  15. Yellow-Wattled Lapwing
  16. Kentish Plover
  17. Marsh Sandpiper
  18. Wood Sandpiper
  19. Common Sandpiper
  20. Little Stint
  21. Brown-Headed Gull
  22. Whiskered Tern
  23. Little Tern
  24. Small Bee Eater
  25. House Crow
  26. Jungle Crow
  27. Black Drongo
  28. Brahminy Kite
  29. Common Hoopoe
  30. Lesser Pied Kingfisher
  31. Small Blue Kingfisher
  32. White Breasted Kingfisher
  33. Osprey 

Few more photos from the trip. My camera couldn't capture many birds :( 

Flickr link :)


With my obvious and old interest in Birds, I have always loved watching and capturing them whenever I could. In fact taking out time for them. :) I hope we create a good living place for them with our any little effort.


  1. It was nice hearing your side of experience in the chilika trip :) .

    Very well informative and well written ;) .

  2. Tanuja, a wonderful narrative of your experience. Could actually visualise everything sitting here in Mumbai. I am surely visiting Orissa one day, especially for the wonderful birds :))