This definitely is one of the best experiences I’ve had in the wild so far. After a ‘not so active’ birding session, I decided to settle by the marshy land near a small pond. There were reeds at one side of the pond, towards my left, which is a perfect spot for waterbirds to hide. A ‘Pond heron’ was perched on a lump in between the reeds, fishing, and a shy ‘White breasted Waterhen’ was cautiously moving along the reeds probably looking for food.
Two ‘Red wattled lapwings’ were sipping water, standing on the marshy mud at the opposite side of the pond from where I was sitting. A ‘Little Cormorant’ was sitting on the rock to my right, basking in the sun. All these birds were doing their own thing peacefully and I documenting everything silently from a perfect spot.
Suddenly, a ‘Shikra’(a small bird of prey) raced in out of nowhere and settled on a tree close to the Pond Heron, just behind the reeds. This caused a lot of chaos. The Waterhen ran into the reeds, the Lapwings started shouting at the top of their voices and to my surprise, even the Pond Heron panicked. Lapwings go nuts for even the slightest reasons, so that wasn’t much of an awe, but I wasn’t expecting the Pond Heron to go crazy. The Pond Heron is a huge bird compared to the Shikra. It appears to be very small because it always sits pulling its neck completely in, but the Shikra freaked him out so much that it raised it’s long neck as much as it could, the feathers erect as if it had suffered from an electric shock, trying to appear big. I had never seen a Pond Heron in this mode earlier. It occasionally looked here and there, then at the Shikra followed by an alarm call.
All the birds were on high alert. It was really fun as well as thrilling to observe this from such close quarters. At one instant, the Shikra just dived in the reeds and back, which totally stopped the heartbeats of all the birds for a second and the calling intensity rose the next moment. The Pond Heron took a flight and settled next to the Lapwings. The Shikra took another dive, this time in the water behind the Lapwings. That was it, all the birds shouting flew away for their lives except for the Cormorant who was the silent observer all this time. I was really excited. The Shikra started drinking water and I filming, when I sensed a slight movement right next to me. I instantly turned my head(the camera still pointed towards the Shikra) and what I saw next left me stupefied for a moment. It was a huge Rat Snake which had slithered by my side from such a close range, without me noticing it. Thankfully I paid attention to that slight ‘Spidey sense’ and turned my head. I immediately panned my camera around, which was handheld and tried to get as much of the snake as possible in the frame before it vanished into the rocks. (I have it recorded in a video, couldn’t attach it here directly. So I’ve added a link of the video at the end of this blog)
I couldn’t process what had just happened, with all these events taking place so quickly. I just sat there for a while thinking about everything that I had witnessed. It was peaceful before the Shikra arrived, after which it all happened in a flash. My ‘not so active’ birding session turned out to be so fruitful in such a short span of time. Anything can happen at anytime on the field. At one moment you’re having a dull day with the sightings and you see something maybe totally unexpected the next moment. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. Even small decisions can totally transform the day. Say I wouldn’t have decided to sit by the pond and had explored a different area instead, I wouldn’t have had such a lovely sighting. Maybe I could have had a better one, or nothing! Who knows? It’s about taking chances and doing what you are doing with dedication, persistence and patience. You’ll sure earn the fruits at some point. Nature has taught me so much, unknowingly, through such outings 🙂
Also, I should have captured a wide angle image of the scene, just to give you an idea of the place, the atmosphere and for you to connect more. But then, who knew, didn’t think of this a year ago.
Link to the video when I was filming the Shikra taking a dip and suddenly panned it towards Rat snake-