On the eve of New Year 2019, we four of us started from Jalpaiguri in search of winged beauties of Gajoldoba. In winters Gajoldoba becomes the home of migrant birds and waders. Presence of backwaters of River Teesta, Bakikunthapur forest, small islands (made of silt and mud) which crops-up and water-grass make Gajoldoba in an ideal destination for waders and other birds to flock around.
We started early in the morning around 5.30 am, to reach Gajoldoba by 6.30 am so that we can start in-time for our whole-day birding tour. We already informed Tapas(our boatman). It was a foggy morning. We reached Gajoldoba at 6.15 am.
Tapas was ready with his boat and greeted us with his usual shy smile. We divided ourselves a group of two, in two boats. Tapas was steering the boat through the shallow waters of Teesta. Hardly anything was visible, suddenly two Brahminy Shellduck flew past us with a nasal “aang, aang” call. The periphery of 300 meters from the river bank, is the prime location to find Brahminy Duck – commonly called Ruddy Shellduck. One of the favourite ducks of mine. A large orange-brown duck with paler head and neck and sometimes a faint black collar at its base. Wings white, black and glistening green. Tail black. Often seen on mud-spits and sandbanks than actually on water. By far the most dominant resident of this wetland, whose call can be heard from nook and corners of this beautiful ecosystem.
As we move forward, through the backwaters of Teesta, we saw at the far end were a flock of red-crested pochards. Distinctively identified by mop-like crest rich head, with bright crimson bill. Female is dull in colour with orange head.
Great Crested Grebe was in the mood to play hide and seek with us, we were also in the same mood to give it company. A resident of Baluchistan and Ladakh. A tailless aquatic bird with long slender neck and pointed bill. Two black ear tufts and chestnut and black ruff distinctive in breeding plumage, and less evident in other seasons. Both parents incubate. After a fairly long time, hide and seek play between comes to end and we were able to get a decent shot of this wader.
As we move slowly, with our companion Tapas(our boatman), who is more than careful and ensures we move as close as possible to the waders. It is a beauty to behold flocks of Eurasian Coot, Lesser Whistling Duck elegantly cruising on the water.
At the far end was a male Ferruginous Pochard. Again a favourite duck of mine. Generally rufous-brown and blackish brown in colour. Perhaps the most widespread and abundant of our migratory ducks. However, not so common in Gajoldoba and other parts of West Bengal.
As the light was dropping, we decided to return and try our luck with silhouettes. Sunset at Gajoldoba never disappoints the beholder. Bakikunthapur forest at the backdrop and our winged beauties returning to their abode make the atmosphere a marvel for the eyes.
Luck favoured us and we could capture few silhouettes. It was a long day and our body wanted some rest. As we steer back, we saw a Harrier overhead, ready to pounce on its prey. The unique habitat of Gajoldoba makes it an ideal hunting ground for both predator and prey.
Saying good-bye to Tapas, with memories to cherish and contended to the bottom of our heart, we said good-bye for the day to this wonderful wetland called Gajoldoba.