In the quest of the Ibisbill

“Kuch dikha?” “Nahin”…..”Kuch dikha?” “Nahin”….and so on we went every ten meters till we reached the bend in the Kosi river. Six pair of eyes were scanning the small pebbles, the big pebbles, the river bank on our side, the river bank on the other side, the river, the algae on the river side, but no luck!

Last year we had visited the same area in the hope of seeing the beautiful Ibisbill. This year too it seemed we were going to be disappointed. Having traversed the stretch of the river from the temple till the end of the river bend, we resigned ourselves to the fact that this year too was going to be a ‘No Ibisbill’ year!

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While we were on the hunt for our target bird, the other birds were keen to impress us with their antics. It is common to see the River Lapwing in this area. They were not just foraging and flying around, we were also witness to some of them trying to attract each other true to the spirit of the Valentine month!

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An Egyptian Vulture flew past holding onto some pickings from a kill. We also saw Kingfishers in this area. When we walked down from the suspension bridge, we spotted the Crested Kingfisher a few times. The Common Kingfisher too was looking for breakfast early in the morning! Along the river were Pied Kingfishers squatting on their favourite large stones on the bank. High on a teak tree was a Himalayan Goldenback.

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Egyptian Vulture

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Common Kingfisher

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Pied Kingfisher

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Himalayan Goldenback

After a couple of hours, it was time to head back to our vehicle. There is a footbridge across the river from the temple to the other side. Just before getting onto it, I decided to walk till the edge of the river and cast one last glance. Across the river, along the grey water beaten stones, I saw a movement. I could see the back of the bird. Thought it was too light for a pigeon. Decided to look through the camera. The bird turned! Hello Ibisbill!! I almost fell off the edge! There was one Ibisbill foraging in the algae covered fresh waters of the river. Much calling out to the others in the party ensued. All plans to return were shelved!

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Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii) is special as it is credited with its own family among the birds. It is a simple looking yet beautiful bird. The bill is curved quite Ibis-like and is a vibrant red in colour. In winters, it comes down to the foothills. The grey and white body colour is a perfect camouflage, merging seamlessly with the small boulders along the river bed.

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As I quickly clicked a few images, the bird flew up stream. We all trooped behind to get a better sighting.  Our sweating brows and straining eyes were rewarded with the Ibisbill posing for a considerable time for us to get images. In between our hearts sank when it took off again but fortunately, settled again not too far. The short flight was a big bonus as I managed to get a few shots of the bird in flight.

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As we crossed the footbridge after an hour with the Ibisbill, we could see it foraging below in the pristine waters of the Kosi river. What an amazing morning it was!

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