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RV Matters

I was watching birds at the paddy-fields in our School campus, that had recently been transplanted and were covered with a sheet of water on the afternoon of 16th August 2022. A Little Egret was foraging all by itself and behind it were White-breasted waterhens, calling loudly and moving about in the edge of the fields, close to the Percolation tank bund. Several Indian Pond-herons were scattered across the fields, standing still, looking for prey. A record number of seven Red-wattled Lapwings were seen in the fields to the east of the pathway between the fields, often calling. Nearby was a pair of White-browed wagtails, wading in the shallow water, calling and feeding.

My attention was then drawn to two brownish lumps which could easily have passed off as clods of mud or vegetation. Focussing my binoculars, I could see they were the elusive pair of Greater Painted-snipe that have been playing hide-and-seek with us since past few months. They were right out in the open without any vegetation cover but for the thin blades of the newly transplanted paddy. Since I always wanted to see these birds I felt good to see them in full view.

I decided to approach them from the bund which had some tree-cover, hoping to get a better and closer view. As I approached them, I momentarily lost sight of them because of the leafy vegetation cover. I viewed the spot they were last seen a few minutes later but I could not see them. Had they taken flight sensing my approach? I spent a few minutes looking for them and regretted disturbing them. I moved a few paces and turned back to have a last scan of the fields, trying to locate where they could have flown to. And then I saw them!

The birds had not moved an inch from the spot I had first seen them and were very much there all along! They only had squatted in the water and remained still! They had blended so well with their surroundings. It was remarkable that despite being in full view they were easily overlooked and that too in good light! Not wishing to prolong their agony, I just moved away, wishing the birds will continue to remain in the campus for the next few months, offering more opportunities to study them.

Can you spot the Greater Painted-snipe pair now?

- Santharam / 17 August 2022