Tuesday, April 10, 2007



I stopped pedaling and dismounted the cycle, had a sip of water from the bottle and stood listening to the whistling of Idle School Boy (Malabar Whistling Thrush). I was at the entry point to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and the time was 6.50am. I had cycled some 14Kms distance from my home town Ponda.

It was warm April Sunday morning and I had mounted my new TREK 3700 Mountain Bike 50 mins ago. Water bottle strapped to the seat post of the cycle and the pair of binoculars strapped to my waist I pushed on the pedals heading towards the sanctuary

Bondla wildlife sanctuary is a small forest reserve some18Kms from Ponda (town where I reside). I have frequented this sanctuary since my college days. The sanctuary is great place for birding. Within the
sanctuary there is a ZOO for injured and orphaned animals maintained by the forest department of Goa. Bison, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Porcupine, Leopard, Malabar giant Squirrel are some of the mammals roaming free in this reserve.

Near to the Entry point of the sanctuary is a sparsely wooded place, which apparently is a play ground for birds, for, on number of occasions I have noticed a party of Black headed Orioles (6 to 7, never seen so many Orioles together), Drongos, Bulbuls, Magpie Robins playing the chasing game and this morning was no different, the usual members were joined in by two energetic juvenile Blossom Headed Parakeets.

I pedaled along with ease in the low gear, a 4Kms winding road with two sharp bends and steep climbs lay in front of me. A little distance further I spotted Shama twittering away at the usual spot. I put in little effort climbing up the steep slope arriving at a spot where 3 months ago I had spotted 4 Asian Fairy Blue birds and today there was a lonely fellow calling softly from the tree top.

This 4Kms of winding road runs parallel to a stream which gushes down with great energy during the monsoon but goes dry in summer, along the stream I could hear Grey Jungle Fowl and Malabar Grey Hornbill, with little patient wait at the bend in the road I spotted both these birds.

Further up I saw a Ruby Throated Yellow Bulbul (state bird of Goa) chasing away its cousin - the Red Vented Bulbul. It had rained last night, I could smell the scent of earth. On a Near by tree were the Paper Wasps buzzing around their big nest.

One hour of slow pedaling brought me to the top of the hill near the forest cottages when a Lesser Flame back (woodpecker) flew just above me and settled vertically clinging to the bark of a tree.

Going along this stretch has always been rewarding, the number of bird specie one encounters along this road is really amazing. At one spot high up in thick canopy I could hear hooting of an owl but could not spot it.

After relaxing a bit I started off on my return downhill journey. It was thrilling to just hurtle down the steep slope. It was a great test for the bicycle brakes. On my way back an Indian civet ran across the road disappearing into the bush on the other side.

It was nearing 9 O clock and I was 2Kms away from
home, the traffic had thickened and trucks were roaring past me on the Goa-Belgaum highway. The final kilometer I speeded up making 30 to 40Kms/hr. The trip left me energized despite the physical effort of pushing the pedals for 36Kms.

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