Birding at the pond. There are two pond herons in the picture (one at the center, other at the right bank). When Promit tried to sneak in, but both herons flew off. They were soon back, however.

The image of Kanpur for the average IITK-ite consists of ugly tenements, congested hovels and the carbon-monoxide death-traps on GT road. However, there are grand vistas in other directions that many people are not aware of.

The campus sits at the fringe of civilization. Beyond the boundary flows the Lower Ganga canal, a rich birding area. Beyond it are many picturesque villages: Gambhirpur with its old temple and jheel, Baghpur with its three herds of free-roaming geese, RaiGopalpur with a lovely bridge over a branch canal, Samratpur where I saw a field covered with three species of storks and black-headed ibises, all within 10-15km.

All the birds on this page (except the storks at bottom) were observed at a pond just outside campus during a two hour period before dusk, January 23, 2010. This pond is just 1.5km from IITK. Promit, whom you see in this picture, had learned bicycle barely a month back when he joined me on today's bicycling trip.

Route to the canal. Click on image for interactive map at

To get there:
Ride out from the path opposite the HC, and make the sharp turn right onto a bumpy lane into Bara Sirohi. Kids may need a little guidance at this point, and also while crossing the Shiwali Road at the end of this lane. It's an easy ride from there down to the canal bridge.

The pond is to the right just before the bridge, between the IITK boundary and the canal. This pond is actually a transient - it forms around July, and lasts till January, (a bit longer if rains are good).

This winter, I had been seeing at least two, sometimes four, pied kingfishers at this pond; invariably, you would see them diving into the water (see photo below). You also see little egrets, cormorants, several kinds of wagtails, common sandpiper, etc. I often bring students here on our way out to bumpy trail bicycling, and its a big hit with campus children. Today we spent an hour here, took a little ride along the canal, and then on the way back, we stopped at the oxidation tank opposite hall 8 where we caught some white-browed wagtails.

Sometimes you may get to see a black-shouldered kite, or the painted stork. Even with the more common birds, it's a great adventure and an enjoyable introduction to birdwatching.

UPDATE: A couple of weeks after this trip, one morning I saw a bunch of men dredging the pond for fish. Subsequently, the kingfishers were gone, but in late February, I saw a little egret and a couple of cormorants foraging... In March this area is rife with green bee-eaters.

Here are the birds we saw between 4PM and 6PM on Jan 23:

Indian Pond Heron

This is a very common bird around water, and are quite tolerant of humans. It is called bagula in Hindi (bagula is also the name for egret). It seems to be reflecting on life, without any sinister intent whatsoever.

Red-wattled Lapwing

This is also very common around here, and is among the noisier birds on campus. Last year one bird had colonized our lane. It has a loud cry an alternate name, going back to British time is "Did-ye-do-it" - which is what its cry vaguely sounds like.

Little Egret

Not as commonly seen as the cattle egret. It's beak is black, unlike the yellow of the cattle egret.

Cattle Egret

Pied Kingfisher

Two kingfishers were sitting on the electric wire, looking down steadily. Once in a while, one of them would dive underwater and emerge a bit later. So far as we could tell, despite some two dozen attempts, we didn't see them catching anything.

Kingfishers on the wire running above the pond. I have been seeing two kingfishers here on many occasions this season.

Sometimes the kingfisher will hover, looking down intently, and then plunge. After a few seconds, it emerges and flies out. Out of more than a hundred times I have watched them, only once did one get a catch I could see.

White Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

This is not a very common bird either.

Pied Myna (Asian Pied Starling)

These birds are quite common inside campus as well. Also called the Asian pied starling.

Black-shouldered Kite

This beautiful raptor, also called the Black-winged Kite, is often sighted around here. Today, we saw it sitting on a wire just beyond the IITK wall - inside the campus. A few seconds after we stopped to admire it, it flew off. Since then I have seen this bird here twice.

Bicycling on the canal near where we saw the Black-winged Kite. The IITK boundary wall can be seen at right.

Collared Dove

This large flock roosts on the babool trees behind Hall 8. This photo is taken from the Shiwali road,

White-browed Wagtail

On the way back, we entered IITK from a gate behind Hall 8, and came via the oxidation tank near Hall 8. There we found these white-browed wagtails, in addition to a pond heron and some red-wattled lapwings. After the decay of the tank in the Am bAgichA, this oxidation tank has emerged as a major birdlife destination. Read about the Black-winged Stilts and Little Grebes and Wagtails visiting the tank in my Dec diary.

The oxidation tank in IITK. There is a pond heron sitting on the stairs opposite, but you can't see it well in the gloom.

Greater Coucal

We also saw a couple of these.

Greater Coucal. Image not from this day.

Kids also like being near the water. At the Kursauli pool, a bit further along the canal.

Jan 26: Painted Stork and Woolly-necked stork

A painted stork (with the orange beak) and a Woolly-necked stork (with the white neck) on top of a tree near the pond.

These two storks were sighted next to the pond on January 26, 2010, at the start of a long bike ride. I have seen them here just this one day, though, so don't count on finding them there...

The painted stork is sighted quite often at fields along the canal, or in various village jheels, but the Woolly-necked is a bit rarer, though I saw many of them on a field near Samratpur about a month back.

The storks are near the top of this tree; at bottom, you see the IITK boundary wall. The canal is just behind me where this picture was taken. The pond is a bit to the right.

Amitabha Mukerjee January 25, 2010   Feedback: m u k e r j e e [at] g m a i l