I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been to Valley school this year for birding. The easy accessibility (just 15 odd kms from my home) combined with the undisturbed habitat and relative safety (something that women birders have to be mindful of, unfortunately) make it an ideal spot for a quick round of birding on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Some trip reports follow.
20th April 2008
We reached Valley school early in order to beat the heat, and were glad of our decision as the sun mounted. We started off with the bulbuls, and soon got a pale billed flowerpecker on the main road. A pair of small minivet enthralled us past the small gate off the road. Ashy prinias and common tailorbirds were in abundance and very vocal. Suddenly a loud cackling call from the trees ahead alerted us to the presence of a woodpecker, and we were thrilled to see the flameback as it flew across the trees. However we could not identify for sure which flameback it might have been as we did not get a good view. Next highlight was a raptor perched on a tree in the distance, which again escaped identification. It had a pigeon like head which made us suspect oriental honey buzzard, but being somewhat raptor-challenged, we cannot be 100% sure of the ID.
The barbets (coppersmiths and white cheeked) were in their favourite spots. We also spotted a single female golden oriole. Peafowl called in the distance. A few Blyth’swere spotted, and identified by the call and appearance. (Should they not have started the journey back to summer home by now?) At the T-junction we took the left path and then turned onto a small trail that led us to the embankment and the small pond, where we spotted a pond heron and a white breasted water hen. Further on, loten’s sunbird, and then very close encounters with a pair of Tickell’s blue flycatchers on the path opposite the staff houses.
Next up was a white throated fantail which performed for us beautifully. After feasting our eyes on the spectacle, we continued on the path which led us back to the T-junction. Towards the (erstwhile) arts village, where we had a brief glimpse of a female paradise flycatcher, good views of great tits and pair of common ioras chasing each other.
The area on the right, on the other side of the barbed wire, suddenly came alive with what seemed like mating calls (?) (two individuals calling from different directions) which we could not identify. The exceptionally loud calls came from the undergrowth, and could have been of some partridge.
By this time the sun was beating down, and we headed back, on the way picking up the small green bee-eaters perched on the wires, a single long tailed shrike, and pair of pied bushchats, all in an enjoyable summer morning of birding!
July 13th 2008
This Sunday we decided to return to our old favourite Valley school. As soon as we turned off Kanakapura road, we got the usual suspects of white browed bulbul, pied bushchats, green bee-eaters and some larks which we could later ID (with help from the experts!) as Jerdon’s bushlark. Before we reached the school premises, we also spotted a flock of tawny bellied babblers by the roadside, who were busy gathering nesting material. We had decided earlier that we wanted to see a flameback, and lo and behold, the very first bird that we saw after parking the car and walking into Valley school turned out to be a black-rumped flameback which gave us excellent views! Further on, coppersmith and white cheeked barbets had congregated on their favorite tree.
Inside the gate leading to the learning center, a pair of scaly breasted munia were huddled together for warmth and preening themselves. A pair of small minivets soon appeared on the scene, chasing each other. The feverish “brain fever” calls of the common hawk cuckoo had been heard right from the moment we entered the area, and now we saw the female perched on a branch and intently listening to the vocal male who was wooing her. Some feverish photo-clicking followed, and in the meantime a Tickell’s blue flycatcher passed by on its rounds.
We took the path leading to a well near the faculty houses, and on the way discovered the male hawk cuckoo serenading his woman. A puff throated babbler gave a brief glimpse in the undergrowth, as did a pair of white breasted waterhens. Near the faculty houses, a male Loten’s sunbird, and a gang of noisy monkeys. Crimson rose butterflies were in profusion and made the walk more enjoyable. We reached the small pond near the erstwhile arts village, and were observing some great tits and white throated fantail when suddenly a rufous male paradise flycatcher made an appearance, eliciting much approval from its appreciative audience.
On the return journey to our car, we observed several house swifts building their nest in a disused house bordering the valley school property. Further on, a hoopoe, which was also being observed by a group of birders on the other side of the barbed wire. A blue faced malkoha suddenly flew out of a clump of bushes located between us, while a dark phase oriental honey buzzard circled overhead. As usual Valley school did not disappoint!
More pics from Valley school: