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Mesmerizing Mangalajodi (conclusion..)

There are quite a few clickable images in this post, click on them if you want to see a full sized one. It’s a multipart report: part 1 part 2

Mangalajodi is home to 40 resident of about 150 migratory species of birds according to this article. I would tend to agree although my identification skills suck for plovers and larks (and probably a ton of other birds). Sanpipers, plovers, ruffs, gulls and whiskered gulls were every where. Some of the shysters like Ruddy-breasted Crake, Baillon’s Crake, Snipes (common and painted) and Slaty-breasted Rail shed their inhibitions and were giving some fantastic views.

Some of most sought after species in Mangalajodi are from bittern family. Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern and Black Bittern in ascending order of difficulty in finding. Thankfully we scored two out of three. Unfortunately Black Bittern remained elusive, but other two did make their presence known. In-fact Yellow Bittern even put up a little show in an unabashed way. Very not-bitterny, but I am not complaining.

Cinnamon Bittern was a little shy and only gave up a few fleeting views and choose to stay away from the cameras. But one evening, it did step slightly out of the reeds in the fading light. As you know, people like me take what comes our way.

Just in case you thought that I have exhausted my quota of images, let me warn you that I have over 200 images from this trip that made the cut. But I will not inflict those on you. I think most of the delay in finishing this trip report is due to shortlisting the images. Anywho.. Let get going.

Mangalajodi is also famous for it’s huge flock of Black Tailed Godwits, that put on a show of synchronous (it looks that way) flight. Also, as Godwits are commonly found feeding in a group, territorial fights do erupt. Having seen a few images of Godwits in action, I was looking forward to finding an opportunity to capture this action. The opportunity presented itself when I saw a fishing boat moving towards a roost.

While talking about wetlands, how can one forget about ducks. This place is a paradise for those who want to observe ducks. Most commonly encountered one is Northern Pintail. A beautiful and striking bird, that can take off like a bullet if you approach it beyond it’s comfort zone. After multiple failed attempts, I realized that placing myself at a strategic location and waiting for another fishing or tourist boat to pass by will be a good way of capturing some images of this bird. Was pleasantly surprised when I realized that a few Northern Shovelers were part of the group too.

Apart from these two striking ducks, there were a few more on our wish-list. Knob Billed Duck was what we were looking for but did not succeed. On a positive side, we did find Ruddy Shelduck and Garganey. Unfortunately the beautiful male from Garganey was too shy and we did not get to photograph it.

While these were the iconic birds of Mangalajodi, don’t think that otherwise common birds disappointed us. Whiskered terns made their presence known from time to time and we also got a flyby from the Peregrine. Stilts, Purple Swamphen, Citrine wagtail, Jacanas (Pheasent tailed and Bronze winged), Small Pratincole, Oriental Pratincole, Ruff, Sandpiper (common and wood), Temminck’s stint, Pacific Golden-plover, Spotted redshank, Glossy ibis and numerous other birds were seen and photographed with relative ease. Following are a few images, please do help me identify some of those via comments.

I admit that at times I am too involved into waiting and watching for birds and do not end up capturing the landscape and travel experience. This time, I tried a little (literally a little).

So, by the end of 4th day in this paradise, we reluctantly got back to Bhubneshwar. Tired, with aching back and very very tanned (I think sunburned) we boarded the flight and I have no recollection of events thereafter. I am told that people sitting around us felt some turbulence and they were blaming my snoring for it !! Honestly I don’t understand people.

Here are some of my (completely mental) notes about visiting Mangalajodi:

Enjoy the food – I can not emphasize on this enough. They have simple but good food and you are in luck if you like seafood. I was in luck as I love see-food (I love food when I see it). The staff is very accommodating and will make adjustments to your dish to your liking. Don’t be the guy who ask them to make things that you are used to eating at home. You are in a new place, enjoy the local food.

Don’t expect a 5* treatment – I speak of my experience at Godwit. The staff is friendly and accommodating. Hilton/Taj this place is not. The rooms are clean and sheets are clean(ish). If you are averse to slumming it for a few days, carry your own sheets, problem solved. Don’t start to berate the staff, most are local lads who are temporarily employed during season. Empathizing with them will go a long way

Boating area is fairly far – I think it used to take us about 20-25 minutes to reach the boating area. Roads were not good and mode of transport was auto rickshaw (suspension is not it’s strength). After two trip in the boat, my lower back was on fritz. Each ride to and from boating point was an experience in itself. May be it was my back or may be it was the poor suspension on bad roads.

Boats are small and very little padding on seats – You are typically given a thin cushion to rest your tush on. In my case, this was not enough. May be you will want to carry a cushion to sit on. Specially so if you decide to sit on boat floor to get better low angle while photographing( I recommend it). Also, the boat is a small dingy. Every movement of every occupant will be amplified. So, if you are not the only occupant of the boat, you should have a good understanding with your mate to minimize this. Using a tripod or bean-bag is on your own risk. At times you are sitting so close to water that a miscalculated movement can send your equipment down the muck. It happened to us, but fortunately it was only a lens hood and it was rescued promptly.

Long lens vs Small Lens – I think this is based on personal preference. I met someone over there who is a regular visitor and only shoots with 85mm/F1.2. While this may be a one off case, I was longing for a mid-range lens as my 500mm was too much. Don’t get me wrong, I will still carry my 500mm when I go next, but there will certainly be place for 100-400 and 70-200 in my bag. I personally like to shoot landscapes with my phone camera which gives me similar results as a 17-40mm but if you are inclined you might want to add a wide lens too. Number of bodies to carry is completely upto you and amount of punishment you are willing to take carrying all of the above.

Guide and Boatman – While the association mandates you to take both with you, I realize that their job is interchangeable. I realized that these men got busy discussing their daily life instead of keeping an eye out for birds. A firm but gentle reminder worked well for me. Also, at times I found it better to help them position the boat to get the right light/angle. Do remember to tip them at your discretion (most of them deserve it and it will go a long way).

Guide and Boatman – While the association mandates you to take both with you, I realize that their job is interchangeable. I realized that these men got busy discussing their daily life instead of keeping an eye out for birds. A firm but gentle reminder worked well for me. Also, at times I found it better to help them position the boat to get the right light/angle. Do remember to tip them at your discretion (most of them deserve it and it will go a long way).

Have questions? Shoot me your query via the contact form.

1 Comment

  1. Raghunath Singh · February 16, 2019 Reply

    Fantastic read Kartik, as always. Refreshed my memory of this amazing trip.

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