A Panoramic View of Mansagar & Jalmahal
Jaipur Mansagar Jalmahal, like so many other spots in the country, is under threat. Control of the famous palace in the water is now subjudice and the environmentalists are fighting a desperate battle against a powerful lobby of builders that wants to convert it into a money spinning tourst hub with boat rides, shopping arcade and the paraphernalia. Boating at Mansagar is on the cards. Future landlords have already served a notice on the resident/ migrant birds, animals, insects and the amphibians that throng the grasses, bushes and trees around the edge of the lake. The clock is slowly, but surely ticking and as we say in Hindi, बकरे की माँ कब तक खैर मनाएगी? If it happens, it will be a sad end to an oasis in this othewise crowded city. A recluse that has never ceased to fascinate the bird and nature lovers alike. For a regular like me, the cemented path around the lake, leading to the ruins of another era is arguably the most beautiful spot in this historical city.
Beautification of Historical Monument by JDA at Mansagar
When the last migrant has flown away and the placcid surface of the lake is still, save for the quivering, gasping hoards of fish along the coast, rows of black crowned night herons and cormorants, and the flapping of a stray moorhen, Mansagar still offers streaks of the unusual. A brown crake, a brahminy kite that has lost its way or the blue tailed bee-eaters on the way up north and of course, the resident stars of Mansagar!
Cormorants Lined up at the Water Dining Table at Mansagar
Beginning of the dry season for the resident birds of Mansagar has been good this summer. The rains were plentiful last year, the lake is still full and fish are there for the asking. Black Crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) and Spot Billed Ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha) breed here and food is so good that a few stray migrants cancelled their return flights almost till Mid May.
The all too familiar animals of Mansagar are a friendly lot.
Mongoose at Mansagar
The little mongoose, normally a shy animal, comes out in the open and there are lizards basking in the sun.
The Lizard at its Artistic Home
A family of langoors catching the first rays of sunlight make a pretty picture. Everyone is relaxed and the young ones are playful.
Langurs on the parapet of the fortress
Back from exotic birding trips to Bhutan and Sikkim, I still find the ordinary commonplace animals and birds of Mansagar equally fascinating. I share a few shots of the common and the unusual.
The Couple That Stayed Back For Dinner
Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) descend on Mansagar in large numbers during the winter months and take up most of the shallow waters everywhere. I found a couple that stayed on long after others had left. Here's a Walt Disney cartoon strip featuring Dad and Mom!
They decided to stay back for the Fish Dinner. Life was plentiful but lonely!
For a while, they were happy on their private island, till Mom started complaining, leading to a face-off.
Dad Tried to ignore her, but her 'yakkity-yakk!' was quite shattering!
Unable to take it any more, Dad called it a day! Mom, unaffected, carried on relentlessly!
Size Does Matter
Black Crowned Night Herons are night feeders but a late sunday morning all-fish breakfast is difficult to resist.
This bloke, blissfully unaware of the warning on the board in Hindi, decides to take a plunge into the fish buffet in the water.
Fish are so many that it is difficult to choose!
The juicy fish he finally selects is a little bigger than expected and a little difficult to handle. Not to mention the thousand greedy eyes watching your every step!
He finally decides to move to a secluded grove where he can savour the fish at leisure away from intruders!
Learning To Swim
This one is about Spot Billed Ducks and has nothing to do with story of the same name by Booker prize winning author Graham Swift.
Fleets of Spot Billed Ducks are a permanent feature of Mansagar. They move about freely and do not hesitate to pick up grain meant for pigeons. Small islands in Mansagar are their favourite breeding ground. This one is about a Spot Billed Duck family.
"Come on Lazybones!" Mother duck calls her two day old chicks! " It's time for school!"
"Come on children, follow me closely and be careful!" She seems to say.
"Now the difficult part. We have to go down the slope to the edge of water. Don't rush, just follow me!"
"See how I do it. Move one step forward at a time, OK?"
"Don't be afraid. It's very easy!"
"Now into the water! Don't be afraid. Just do it!!"
"Don't be a sissy! Just take the plunge!! Whoever heard of a duck drowning in water?"
" That's better! All in?"
And they happily swam thereafter!
So who says, commonplace birds don't have stories to tell?
At least at Mansagar, Jaipur it's happening all the time!
From Mansagar, Jaipur, May 2012
copyright Jitendra Bhatia