Empress Garden, Kavade Mala, Ghorpadi, Pune


A sudden flash of white darts into my peripheral vision and it gets me thinking is it what I think it is? Turning my head as fast as I could toward white, I saw a beautiful male Indian paradise flycatcher with all its grace sitting on a delicate branch low on a tree. Some things in nature are truly breathtaking and this is one of those things for me. It wasn’t my first time spotting IPFC, but it takes my breath away every time. My response to it is always the same and will probably never change because of its sheer beauty. How can something so vivid and gracious survive out in the dangerous wild? What a beautiful creation of nature! People go far and wide in search of IPFC but it can be found in places well-preserved amidst the city if you are patient enough for it.

Winter has truly been a season of birding delight for me. No wonder it’s my favorite time of the year. Migratory birds have started flocking in lowlands and it’s been an absolute pleasure spotting them. Warblers, Flycatchers, Openbills, Ducks and so many more varieties of birds to see and wonder about. And just like that me and my co-worker went on a short birding excursion in the garden, motivated by the intent that we might catch at least one of the migratory species. We walked up to the stream and waited there for a while, saw an extremely bold white-throated kingfisher sitting on the bridge pole like it owned the territory. There was a lot of activity going on – Red-whiskered Bulbuls flying in and out, Cinereous tit adding to it, two white-breasted waterhens, shy as ever, going about their day.

Amidst all this lo and behold we catch a glimpse of a myna sized bluish black bird sitting at the edge of the stream. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to double-check just to be sure of myself then I whispered ‘Malabar whistling thrush’ to my coworker while she went ‘Parvat Kastur’ (its local name in Marathi) unable to contain her excitement. It was the calmest bird there between all the ruckus others were creating, it went about its business like it had been there before. We watched it till it disappeared in the thicket of green. Malabar whistling thrush is a bird endemic to western ghats*. I had seen and heard its calls before but never did I expect to see it here between the hustle and bustle of a busy city like Pune. It felt like an honor and I will always cherish this moment for the rest of my life.

Then comes a flash of metallic blue and we both looked at each other. We had been in search of this bird for a month now and we thought to ourselves maybe the day had arrived when the search ended. We looked hard in the thicket trying to make sense of what we saw when suddenly the bird came down in the stream to take a bath. We were jumping out of excitement; it was Verditor Flycatcher in all its glory. The beauty of its metallic blue color, and the daintiness was truly a wonder. It took a short bath before it flew off in the background. To top all this off we saw the white-throated kingfisher swoop down for a nice meal. It had caught a crab and was sitting peacefully relishing it.

*This was the first record of Malabar whistling Thrush for Empress Botanical Garden, Pune after tallying data in eBird.

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