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.
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 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
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.
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
Not as commonly seen as the cattle egret. It's beak is black, unlike the
yellow of the cattle egret.
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
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.
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.
This large flock roosts on the babool trees behind Hall 8. This photo is taken from the Shiwali road,
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
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.
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
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.
A painted stork (with the orange beak) and a Woolly-necked stork (with the
white neck) on top of a tree near the pond.
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