Sunday 12 May 2024

Celebrating Mother's Day at the Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon

Sunday School Children at the end of the service

A Gathering of Mothers at the End of Mass

Mother's Day was celebrated at the Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon as a special day with the Sunday School children reading out dedications to all the mothers in the world. The poems, hymns and presentations were simply amazing!

Revd. Mrs. Jyoti Pillai delivered a crisp and to-the-point message on Mother's Day, putting the congregation into deep thought.

A special thanks to Marion Aunty, and Bother Sunil Sannoo for organising an amazing Sunday Mass and of course, Revd. Prateek Pillai, the Presbyter in charge of the the Church of the Epiphany Gurgaon.

Saturday 11 May 2024

Photographing Wildlife at a National Park

A Male Asian Antelope stands guard over the Does.

One of the greatest joys of a wildlife photography enthusiast is to get a few good pictures of wildlife that tell a story. Having more than those is like a treasure trove. Recently when I visited the Sultanpur National Park I was the first one inside the whole park. This proved to be a boon for me as I was able to spot a large number of birds and animals.

Spot-billed Ducks take to the air en-mass
Spot-billed Ducks in the air

Knob-billed Ducks attempt a takeoff

Perhaps the best part of having the whole National Park to myself was that I spotted the elusive Asian Golden Jackal. Of course, the Jackal was unaware of my presence as I was hidden in the bushes and the sun's direction helped a lot.

An Asian Golden Jackal on the way to feed its cubs

An Asian Golden Jackal looks at the camera with curiosity.

Photographing birds in flight can be tricky sometimes even having a shutter speed of 1/1200 might not give you the best possible results! That is of course in the case of photographing larger birds. I took these amazing photographs of Sarus Cranes taking off at a much slower shutter speed of 1/200, but then panning the camera and focusing on the birds' eyes gave me an amazing result! You might check out the results yourself.
A Pair of Sarus Cranes attempt a takeoff

It takes a lot of runway for Sarus Cranes to take off!

Sunday 5 May 2024

Amazing Birds of Gurgaon - A comprehensive list

These graceful Sarus Cranes were spotted at the Sultanpur National Park

Gurgaon is a conundrum, balanced between what was once an old sleepy, town with an amazing ecosystem to what is today a dusty urban jungle where buildings have replaced trees, it once supported a vibrant ecosystem with vibrant wetlands, wild brushes, and grasslands and even lush green farmlands of wheat or mustard stretching into the distance. Now Gurgaon is driven by increasing demands for space to build up residential apartments. These activities are gradually eroding Gurgaon's capacity to host what was once a vibrant wildlife community.

These Bar-headed Geese were spotted at the Basai Wetland

A Heron skims over the Basai Wetland

Northern Shovellers at the Sultanpur National Park

Knob-billed Ducks at the Sultanpur National Park

Common Teal spotted at the Sultanpur National Park

Spot-billed Ducks, (commonly seen) at the Sultanpur National Park

A Eurasian Spoonbill in the company of an Egret 

Bar-headed Geese soar into the air at the Basai Wetland

We once had wetlands that hosted an environment that supported a wide diversity of life, including aquatic species. Today, the grasslands and wetlands of Gurgaon have been denuded of their efficacy in supporting a wide range of wildlife, both native and migratory. 

Silver bills are rarely spotted!

Silver bills are spotted on the outskirts of the city.
A Barbet at the Sultanpur National Park

This Wire-tailed Swallow was spotted at the Basai Wetland

A pair of Hornbills spotted at the Sultanpur National Park

A couple of Red Naped Ibis were spotted at the Najafgarh Lake

A Hornbill spotted at the Sultanpur National Park

A Green Pigeon was spotted at Palam Vihar, Gurgaon

A Green Pigeon spotted at a school in Sector 62

A Barbet enjoys a breakfast of figs at Palam Vihar

One of the latest victims of development is the Basai Wetland. This biodiversity region once hosted a vibrant ecosystem that once provided space for native species of birds and migratory visitors of exotic birds worldwide. I have noticed a steady decline in the number of migratory birds in the region such as bar-headed geese. Greater Flamingos are very difficult to spot because they appear at the wetlands of Gurgaon for a brief period on the way to other more abundant wetlands. I had photographed a few Flamingos at the now-defunct Basai Wetland.

Flamingos soaring over the now-defunct Basai Wetland

Flamingos stick together

These Flamingos were spotted at the Basai Wetland

Gurgaon was once blessed with verdant grasslands, ample wetlands, and open spaces that provided ample spaces for wildlife to survive without being threatened by development activities. Today, however, empty spaces have been replaced by buildings that cater to an increasing need for space to build commercial spaces and residential units. Developmental activities have taken a toll on the wildlife that once teamed in the area. Development is like a double-edged sword and has impacted the city's ecosystem.

A Spotted Owl photographed at the Sultanpur National Park

The bunds once constructed in the late 1880s have disappeared and the entire landscape of Gurgaon has been altered drastically. Farmlands have been converted into sites for residential zones. The Aravalis are being steadily denuded of their forest cover and the ultimate victims are the wild birds and animals that once inhabited this rich biodiversity region.

Starlings are rarely seen! This one was spotted at the Basai Wetland

A Starling at the Basai Wetland

This Quail was spotted at the Sultanpur National Park

It is not therefore surprising to see Kingfisher birds striving for survival in urban settlements, or to that effect, Hornbills and Green Pigeons nesting on denuded trees. One cannot imagine spotting Hornbills and Greater Flamingos in large numbers anymore. I was lucky enough to spot Greater Flamingos twice at the now vanished Basai Wetland, and once in the floodplains of the Najafgarh Lake. The first time I spotted Bar-headed Geese was also at the Basai wetland. This year I did not spot any Bar-headed Geese either at the Sultanpur National Park or the Najafgarh Lake.

Whistling  Ducks at the Sultanpur National Park

Ruddy Shelduck Ducks at the Sultanpur National Park

Ruddy Shelduck Ducks at the Sultanpur National Park