With the onset of monsoons around a month back, we had started exploring relatively drier regions of Pune – Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary & Morgaon. However the rains seemed to have halted for sometime, which made us take a chance of birding at Veer Dam last Sunday. What followed next was a close encounter with the small yet beautiful Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera). Incidentally, this day also happened to be 3rd anniversary of Whistling Trails! 😀
Out of the 15 odd trips we have done to Veer Dam till date, this was our 2nd trip to Veer Dam in monsoons as we generally avoid going to Veer Dam in this season due to high water levels of river Nira. As we entered the area, we could see lot of greens around with Baya Weavers busy building their nests all along the trails. We came across the usual birds sighted at Veer Dam – Grey Francolins, Indian Silverbills, Scaly-breasted Munias, Brahminy Starling and the monsoon special – Common Hawk-cuckoo, singing its heart out. We also came across a pair of Painted Francolins right next to the trail, which was a real good sighting. Soon we reached a small patch surrounded by trees were we saw around 6 Common Hawk-cuckoos! All were busy with their breakfast as they were hunting insects and worms in the moist soil fields, gobbling them up in no time. And just as we were busy clicking them, we saw a similar sized bird swoop down on a pair of Jungle Crows. We could instantly confirm that it was a falcon based on its flight. There were few dry trees a little ahead in the direction we saw the falcon fly, hence we positioned our car around 20 feet away from one of the dry trees and started scanning the area. We quickly spotted it on a huge dry tree which was at a distance of approx. 200 feet – following is the 1st view of the Red-necked Falcon.
This is when we decided to stay put in the car, hoping that it may come on one of the dry trees close to us. While we were waiting, we enjoyed some fantastic action via binoculars as it swooped down couple of times on Rock Pigeons foraging in the fields. It was really special to see the way it planned its hunt – Slowly closing in the distance by taking low flights from one tree to another and when it was in range, it just took off with a flat low flight trying to pick on the pigeon flock. We also saw it hovering on a field, probably taking an aim in a mixed flock of Munia & Baya Weavers. Unfortunately none of the hunting attempts were successful and every-time it went back and perched on the huge dry tree. An hour had passed and it took off again, again swooping onto a flock of pigeons (another unsuccessful attempt) but this time instead of going back to the huge tree, it came and perched right on top of the dry tree next to us. I have seen a Red-necked Falcon in past, but never from such close quarters – such a beauty this little raptor is (click on the images for a larger view).
We were busy clicking to our hearts content, when the falcon decided to try balancing on a thinner branch. It tried to balance for a good 30 odd seconds, giving us time to make some unique images with its wings open. Eventually, it couldn’t balance and just jumped onto another thicker branch on the same tree(click on the images for a larger view).
It was around 20 minutes and the falcon finally decided to swoop again, this time taking a low flight that made it vanish beyond the grown bajra fields. We went back to the patch were we saw cuckoos, captured some more images and started to return back. A strong call of Painted Francolin, made us halt again… we couldn’t see it, but what Sandip spotted was the Falcon; again perched on yet another tree, this time right next to the trail and more closer..! (click on the images for a larger view).
After spending another 10 minutes with the Raptor, it made yet another unsuccessful hunting attempt and this time it went back to the huge dry tree. We finally decided to call it a day and started out return journey. This has to be one of our best outings in Pune this year and also at Veer Dam. Here are some of the other birds we managed to capture (click on the images for a larger view).
Along with Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Veer Dam is another place we have visited almost throughout the year. One can read more on Birding at Veer Dam in the link below:
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha
eBird checklist for the outing:
More information on Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera):