A visit to Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in midst of scorching heat this summer season threw up a pleasant surprise in form of a close encounter with the majestic Short-toed Snake Eagle that will be cherished forever. It was very much of an impromptu plan to visit this place in summers; and we are glad that we took the chance..!
I was joined by Arun & Rohan this time, as we started at around 5:00 AM and managed to reach the sanctuary gate by 6:30 AM. Add another 15 minutes for paying the park entry fees; we finally entered the park by 6:45 AM. We were greeted by the usual Bay-backed Shrikes, Red-wattled & Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Sykes’s Larks and a pair of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse busy foraging for food. It was 7:30 AM already and the sun was shinning bright, although we got lucky with diffused light due to clouds for the next 20 minutes; which were filled with a close encounter with the Short-toed Snake Eagle.
As we explored the sanctuary further, we came across the Short-toed Snake Eagle perched on a tree. Approaching it cautiously, we reached a point were we stayed put. It was some sight watching this beautiful raptor with its bright yellow eyes. It took few flights again, circled and soared.. only to perch again. Here some of the images that I managed.
Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
The Short-toed Snake Eagle is a medium sized bird of prey found in open cultivated plains, arid stony deciduous scrub areas and semi-desert areas across Russia, Middle-east and Asia.True to its name, it primarily feeds on snakes, however is also known to feed on lizards and occasionally on small mammals like hares. It does much of its hunting from heights of up-to 500 meters and can be seen hovering like a Common Kestrel in open grasslands.
Their life span is around 17 years. During breeding, they lay only 1 egg. As per IUCN v3.1, it attains a current status of “Least Concern“, however a steep decline has been observed in their population owing to changing landscape due to development and agriculture.
I also managed to capture few images of this raptor with its Nictitating Membrane.
The nictitating membrane is a transparent / translucent additional eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye for protection and to moisten it while maintaining visibility. Unlike the upper and lower eyelids, the nictitating membrane moves horizontally across the eyeball and is usually translucent. In birds of prey, it is known to protect the parents’ eyes from their chicks while they are feeding them.
After spending around 20 minutes, we decided to move ahead and explore for other birds where-in we came across Fan-throated Lizard, Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Small Minivets, White-bellied Minivet, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks, Indian Silverbills, Eurasian Collared Doves, Laughing Doves and a good number of Chinkaras.
An alarming thing we noticed was around 12 odd healthy dogs that were seen chasing the Chinkaras. We did inform it to the Forest office at the entry gate; hopefully they would take the necessary action as required. Soon it was 11:00 AM and sun was already at its scorching best; when we finally called it a day. I have seen this species in past but spending time observing a species is always special. Just like the encounter with Wolf last December, this was yet another memorable encounter.
Click on the link for more information about bird-watching at Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (Will be updating this page soon).
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha