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RV Matters!

This morning, I went out with my brand new camera, eager to try it out and see how it performs. This was despite the overcast skies with dark grey clouds hovering low over the valley. The soil was wet and squishy after the rains, last night. I was not too hopeful about getting any photographs given the light conditions. Yet, I proceeded to the paddy fields near Malli Baavi, which has been attracting several birds over the past few weeks.

 The bird activity here was much low today as expected, with fewer Pond-herons and no Lapwings. A few waterhens were heard calling but from the cover of vegetation. There was some activity at the Malli baavi where the Baya weavers were nesting. A Black-crowned Night Heron flew from the Percolation tank, calling.

Walking ahead, I caught sight of a largish bird with white underparts, perched on a dead tree stump, bordering the paddy fields, close to the coconut grove. Without binoculars, I initially thought it could have been the Night Heron that just flew past. It was about 250 metres from where I stood and I was not sure if I would get a good enough photo. I zoomed the lens to the fullest extent possible (1200 mm) and clicked four shots. Just as I finished, the birds stretched out its wings and took off.

Through the lens, I could make out the bird was not the heron but a duck. The name “Knob-billed Duck”, a resident duck, came to mind but I immediately dismissed it knowing it to be uncommon and never before reported in our area. But when I downloaded the images on my computer, I realized my first guess was on the spot. I could not believe that this duck turned up in our campus. The bird gets its name from a black knob-like structure on its bill, found only in male birds.

Until the past two decades, this bird was rarely seen in its native haunts in southern India except in some waterbodies in southern Tamil Nadu. Now, in the past two decades, their numbers have been on the rise and these ducks are regularly seen in the wetlands of Chennai and surroundings as well as around Bangalore. It is also making a come back in Sri Lanka in the past two decades or so, after its near total disappearance in the 1960’s. Let us hope to see this bird more regularly in our campus in future.

 - Santharam. 29 August 2022