Birdwatching in Koyna

Koyna or Koynanagar is yet to be known as a birdwatching destination. It was our sudden visit to Koyna that gave us some fantastic surprises in the form of some unique, not seen before (by me) birdwatching experiences. With this personal understanding, I would definitely claim that Koyna is a bird-watching destination. All thanks to the naturalist, Raj Rathod the curator of (www.explorekoyna.com), who along with his team gave us an amazing tour through the off-beat track in search of the winged beauties.

A Russel's Viper crossed the road to enter in the bushes
A Russel’s Viper crossed the road to enter the bushes

This is my second visit to Koyna and I was so astonished that I have little to no words to express my feelings. My last visit was in the monsoon of the previous year and I was decked up with all my photography gear in the hope to get a glimpse of at least a few birds if not many (as monsoon is no good time for birdwatching). All my gearing up was in the hope of birding activity that was promoted on the resort website.

That monsoon trip was good too in its own way but not for birding. We returned empty-handed (rather empty memory card-ed) though had the other beauty of the place captured in the camera. (Read about my previous trip to Koyna.) This time, on our sudden one-night trip to Koyna, I decided to travel super light and left my camera and lens back home. This was probably my worst mistake of the year. I had no plan of going for a birding session. It was the sudden chirping in the trees that caught my attention and on close observation, a tree within the resort was full of various birds – Veriditer flycatcher, orange-bellied flowerpecker, Indian white-eye, purple sunbird, Tailor bird and other common birds.

At once I decided to go for the birding in the evening and there was a big assurance from the naturalist and his team for great sightings. This time again we were accompanied by the friendly Naturalist and Conservationist Raj Rathod who took us to the offbeat track beyond the village on a moonlit (full moon) night for nocturnal birdwatching.

The moon shining above the shimmering water
The moon shining above the shimmering water

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It was a different kind of experience altogether, the otherwise dark jungle and the hills were all lit up by the moon creating a magical aura around. The Koyna river was shimmering in the glow while the rest was still and silent. The silence of the surrounding was broken by the mechanical noise of the jeep we were travelling in and its headlight was cutting straight through the unpaved road. All of a sudden there was something sitting on the road. Ah! The first jackpot was the Savanna nightjar quietly resting on the road.

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Then came one after the other on the same road, they were unperturbed by our presence. What a sight it was, the Savanna Nightjars seemed to be a common bird at this time of the year in this area. I missed my camera so much. Raj captured the moments with his camera with a promise to share the pictures. Then we came across a different aspect of birding where on a speaker the call of a particular bird is played and the response from the original birds around is tracked and then photographed.

The moonlit road captured by phone camera
The moonlit road captured by phone camera

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We were so thrilled to be a part of this process and in this process, we got to see the Srilankan Frogmouth. Then there was the Jerdon’s Nightjar and the Indian Nightjar. Raj and his team were eager to take us to the Wood owl’s spot and also to see the new Barn owl family. Probably when everything falls into place something goes wrong, this is when we got repeated calls from our resort as they were closing up for dinner that night and we were the only ones left so we had to hurry back to our stay leaving the birding session incomplete.

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The next morning after checkout there was another surprise awaiting us and it was either a Marsh or a Pied Harrier hovering over the other bank of the river. I have never cursed myself more than at that moment. I left my camera back at home and I had one of the best birding experiences of my life. I end my story with the hope to get back to Koyna soon with the camera and now sharing some pictures of that night captured by Raj Rathod.

Read about my previous visit to the beautiful Maneri near Koyna.

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