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Many thanks to Michael for publishing my interview on BoingBird website!!!

You can read it here – http://boingbirdtv.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/boingbird-talks-to-photographer-ruhi-malgaonkar-northern-mocking-bird-photo/

And also for picking up my ‘Barn Swallow’ snap as “Bird pic of the day!” 😀

I have also posted the same interview below –

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Boingbird talks to photographer Ruhi Malgaonkar

In an interview with Boingbird CEO Michael Clark, Ruhi Malgaonkar talks about her photography, her master’s degree, her passion for birdwatching and where she wants to go in the future:

Ruhi, what is like to live in Pune, Maharashtra India? I originally belong to a city called “Ratnagiri” which is on western coast of Maharashtra state in India. I am born and brought up there. And then “Pune” happened to me. Pune is called “The Oxford of the East”, due to the various educational institutions. I came to Pune for my higher studies in 1999 and since then I am completely in love with this city. Pune has amazing climatic conditions and gifted by beautiful nature from all sides.

Who is Ruhi Malgaonkar? What is your life’s passion? Ruhi is a simple, optimistic gal. I like to enjoy each moment of life, crack jokes and like make others happy. I make friends wherever I go. I value relations more than anything else. I like smiling faces.

I started working at early age of 20 when rests of friends were busy enjoying their college life. Mine was more of “earn & learn” types. Along with work, I completed my Graduation and post-grads with flying colors.

In simple words,

By Camera, an amateur.
By Heart, a nature lover.
By Passion, a bird watcher.
By Career, a software professional.

What type of work do you do as a software professional? Are you still a student? I am working in a software organization as a ‘Module Leader’. Yes I am still a student. I am on verge of completing my masters in Computers.

Why did you become a birder and bird photographer? My home at Ratnagiri (native place) has a beautiful garden. Thanks to my Mom for her gardening hobby. It attracted lots and lots of birds. Some to name among them are Rose-ringed Parakeets, Cattle egret, Asial Koel, Purple-rumped sunbird, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-Crimson Sunbird, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tailor Bird, Orange Headed Ground Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, Red whiskered Bulbul, Indian Mynah, Pond heron, etc.

Bulbuls, sunbirds, robins had usual nests. I was always fascinated with them and spent hours watching them nesting and feeding their young ones. I grew with up them and knowingly or unknowingly birding started since I was a kid.

There is huge ‘Sacred fig‘tree near and a flowing water canal behind my apartment in Pune. And birding continued. New birds were Indian Grey Horn bill, Parakeets, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Babblers, Pied Kingfishers, Cormorants, Darters, Oriental White-eye, Coppersmith Barbet, Kite, with bulbul, koel, crow and pigeon as common ones.

I became a Bird photographer much after birding. I capture birds because I like them. Still bird watching remains first love and then comes clicking. Given an option among these two, I would go for bird watching rather than photography.

When did you start your birding hobby? How long have you been a photographer? I don’t’ remember when Birding hobby bug hit me but roughly it started when I was 2-3 yrs old. I still remember my first pet was a Rose ringed parakeet when I was 2. It was gifted to me by my grandma. I enjoyed playing with it and feeding it. After a year or so, I just opened the door of the cage and set it free.

Photography started much later when I bought my camera in 2006.

I do have few friends who have similar interest i.e. photography. I belong to some few great groups on flickr.com. I have participated and organized in few photography exhibitions here in Pune. Our exhibitions financially supported some social causes like a deaf-and-dumb children school and an orphanage. It was altogether different feeling to interact with those children in our exhibitions.

What brought you from India to Dallas, Texas and what is the travel time from your home to Dallas? My work brought me to Dallas, TX. Travel time is approx 22 hours.

What do you think is unique in your approach to birding and bird photograpy? The unique thing about my approach is I don’t wish to disturb any bird while I do birding or I do bird photography. I won’t disturb it or its natural habitat for sake of my hobby.

I prefer wearing camouflage kind of clothes rather than wearing bright color when I do birding so that birds don’t get annoyed. I do take calculated risks on own in pursuing my hobby like climbing huge stone to get a desired shot, etc.

What methods and equipment do you use? I use a simple Canon digital camera – Canon S2 IS. I wish to upgrade to DSLR soon.

Talk about your experiences in Dallas and in America. I really enjoyed my stay in Dallas. It was good work (profession wise) and great fun at personal level. I stayed in Irving. The main reason behind enjoying is again “birds”. There were lovely birds around my hotel place. I got to see new American birds like Northern Mocking birds, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwings, Grackles, Swallows, etc.

When I found any new bird, I searched for bird’s name on the net and soon found that there is extensive birding done in TX. I was lucky that I visited here rather than any other state in the US. I quite liked Dallas but not sure about other states in the US.

I visited Nashville, TN and Catherine State Park in Arkansas. I also went to Fossil Rim Wildlife centre, Glen Rose, TX and enjoyed being with wilderness.

Where do you plan to travel to in the future for your birding and photography? I like driving, traveling, birding and photography and together they make great combo. I have already listed down quite a few places around Pune for monsoon trips.

In near future, I wish to travel and explore my own country across its boundaries. In India, we have all the essences together, from ice to deserts, from beaches to lakes, from naturally formed pot holes to mountain peeks, from rivers to wild life sanctuaries, from religious holy places to historical heritage monuments. It is my dream to see entire India.

On the other hand, definitely I would like to travel all around the globe and see the world!

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Lakaki LakeEvery time I passed from Jagtap Dairy in Model Colony, this beautiful lake caught my attention. Finally one evening, I decided to go there and find it out. I bought the ticket and entered in the park. I was pleased to see beautifully developed park around the lake with walking track. Another attraction was obviously birds. To name a few are Spotbills, Egrets, Waterhen, Coots, Crow Pheasant, pigeons, Indian Mynah, Cuckoo, Kites, and Robin.

“Model colony lake” or also known as “La-Kā-Ki” (named after Industrialist ‘Laxmanrao Kashirao Kirloskar’ whose residence is just near by) is supposed to be more than 100 years old and unique nature reserve. Since 1995 there were some controversies going on its development but finally it was open to public.

WaterhenI found a water hen with its three chicks. The parents were busy in building new nest for this season. Dad walked on the lotus leaves and came up to bank to get the sticks. It carried new stick and passed it on to the mom who was actually putting it in the place. Even in this bird species, interior was of home-minister’s choice. I waited and watched their activities endlessly and they were so busy and did not bother about the rest of the world. Dedication was key factor.

I clicked some snaps of birds. The park care-taker came up to me and we had talk about park, birds, etc. I told him Marathi names of birds and he seemed to be satisfied.

Lakaki lake is supposed to be ‘silent-zone Park’ and ideal place for reading, writing (i.e. for poets and writers), bird watching, meditation, being with nature and peace. May God save this place from vulgarity of couples like Sambhaji park and Saras Baug.

Gentle Request: To all people reading this post, please avoid making loud noise or talking loudly if you happen to visit this place. You can sit and speak softly along with enjoying amazing nature here.

The park timings are 6:00 to 8:00 AM and 4:00 to 6:00 PM (In summer, till 7:00PM)

Ticket for park is Rs.5/-

Note: For more snaps click – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/modelcolonylake/

Google Map: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=111578650756510337605.00046bd0fe4ad9c3ad2be&ll=18.531192,73.841794&spn=0.007182,0.009656&z=17

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I accompanied my friend to ‘Sinhagad valley’ on Saturday morning. I started from home at 5:30 AM and reached my friend’s place. Two more friends joined in and we all headed for the valley.

Common Iora‘Sinhagad’ or ‘Sinhagad Fort’ valley is an amazing place for bird watching. In monsoon, there is a stream which flows by the fields and on another hand there are dense trees. Local people use this way to climb up the fort. Valley has now become famous among the birders. All you have to do is – search for a suitable place, sit quietly, set your gadgets (camera, bino, etc) and you could have darshan (glances) of all varieties of the feathered beauties.

I have my friends who have spent hours and hours in valley to get desired shot of ‘Asian Paradise flycatcher’ and believe me friends, it is no more less than doing meditation. 😛

I have been there twice and that was among some of the best bird watching activities I have done. We reached the base and had tea at local hotel. We climbed up and entered the valley. We scattered in search of different birds. We saw a Crested Serpent Eagle hovering in the sky.

Here is the list of some of the birds found in Valley:

  1. Ashy Prinia
  2. Jungle Prinia
  3. Pied Crested Cuckoo
  4. Scaly breasted Munia
  5. Red Munia
  6. Red whiskered Bulbul
  7. Red vented Bulbul
  8. Purple Sunbird
  9. Black Drongo
  10. White-breasted Kingfisher
  11. Common Kingfisher
  12. Pied Kingfisher
  13. Crested Serpent Eagle
  14. Blue napped Monarch flycatcher
  15. Asian Paradies Flycatcher
  16. Ticklle’s Blue Flycatcher
  17. Ultra-marine Flycatcher
  18. Fan-tailed Flycatcher
  19. Red-throated Flycatcher
  20. Cattle Egret
  21. Green bee eater
  22. Little Bee eater
  23. Tailor bird
  24. Black-winged Kite
  25. Marsh Harrier
  26. Eurasian Black bird
  27. Magpie Robin
  28. Grey Babbler
  29. Crested Bunting
  30. Indian Robin
  31. Golden fronted Leaf Bird
  32. Red-rumped Swallow
  33. Dove
  34. Oriental White-eye
  35. Orange Headed Thrush
  36. Common Iora
  37. Small Minivet
  38. Jungle Babbler
  39. Jungle Mynah
  40. Tree Pipit
  41. Yellow Sparrow

And the list is never ending… Along with these birds there are different types of lizards like Garden Colates, etc.

This time I used my binocular more than my camera. Bird watching being the first love, I clicked very few snaps and did more of watching. It is intense pleasure to see these birds. 😀

After spending good amount of time in the valley, we decided to take its leave. We went to same hotel and had breakfast before returning.

This was a pre-monsoon visit and I am desperately looking forward for my monsoon visit to Sinhagad valley. Undoubtedly ‘Sinhagad Valley’ is birder’s paradise!!! 🙂

For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/sinhagadvalley/

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“Parting is such sweet sorrow” says William Shakespeare.

Meadow CreekFinally the last day arrived. I got up early in the morning. Baggage was all set to go since last night and had nothing much to do. I got ready and walked down the hotel. I decided to give a try to capture swallows and Blue Jay (if possible). There were light showers and it was a lovely morning. Moreover it was my last morning in Dallas and this thought made it more special. I went to Meadow Creek. This is just 2 mins walk from my hotel place. As the name suggests, there is a flowing creek. I went and sat quietly on the grass. There were few Barn swallows. Slight rains played hide and seek with sunlight. Swallows are hard to capture as they don’t rest in one place for long. I clicked few snaps but was not satisfied with them. At last, I just prayed God that I just wish to get some nice shots of them in next 10 mins or else I will leave.

Barn SwallowThe wait was on…and suddenly this cute colorful swallow rested on the iron rod. I captured it through my lenses. It was so damn cute! I thanked god and left the creek. It was already 9:00 am and I had to check out at 10. I went to breakfast room and got an apple for me. I was about to enter my hotel building and a noisy bird caught my attention again. I knew it was none other than Blue Jay. I kept my apple literally on the ground and went to the tree. I could see it but branches in between made it impossible for me to click its snap. Even then I clicked one to keep as record shot. This bird is supposed to be very intelligent among the birds. It stared at me for while through the branches and became silent. After a while it immediately flew away as if it just came to bade me good-bye!

Funny thing, I came back to pick my apple and guess what – Mocking bird was already enjoying my apple. I waited as I watched it. I left the apple for it and came back to my room.

Aritra came to pick us up from hotel and we went to his apartment. We cooked lunch together and enjoyed it. I came to balcony for a while to see some birds. Last but not the least was Purple finch and Red-winged black bird. Red-winged black bird came to the roof of apartment and disappeared in few moments. I clicked some record shots. The day before that day on similar lines, Northern Cardinal pair gave me a generous visit near my office. I spotted a cardinal pair and just enjoyed their beauty.

Many thanks to all these birds, God and nature for letting me enjoy all the birding moments.

I felt bit sad while leaving Dallas. I made some good friends here and parting from any place or good people is always painful. I really enjoyed my stay in the US. Thanks to all the people like Arita and Sandeep who made my stay memorable.

Texas trip was good work and great fun and I enjoyed both equally. As they say “Don’t mess with Texas”, I preferred not to. 😛

Note: It rained in the last 2 days and this time I could enjoy the rains there to some extent. There was very light fragrance of soil compared to India but ‘something is better than nothing’. It was moreover like “Badla mausam, badle najare aur badala hai najariya!” 😀

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I have been to Kavdi (also called as “Kavdipat“) for couple of times.  Each trip is a treat in itself.

We started for Kavdi at 6:30 AM. After crossing ‘Loni Kalbhor’ toll plaza, we traveled for 2 mins more and took left turn. We found Bush chat (Female) and clicked few snaps on the way. We could also spot a Honey Buzzard along with Bulbuls, Shrikes, Drongos, etc.

To reach Kavdi:

  1. Start from Swargate and take Solapur highway.
  2. Cross Hadapsar, Manjri etc. Travel straight till you reach “Loni Kalbhor” Toll plaza. Get return receipt of  Rs. 22.50/-
  3. After crossing this Toll plaza, drive 2 mins more to see “Kavdipat” sign board on left hand side. Take left turn to go to Kavdi.
  4. After distance of 10 mins drive, we reach bund and river at Kavdi.
  5. You can park your vehicle at temple near by.
  6. Total distance is approx 20 Kms.

Best season to visit: November to January.
Must carry: Binocular and a camera. 🙂

Kavdi BundFlocks and flocks of migratory as well as local birds make their way to Kavdi. Winter mornings are very pleasant. If you reach there at time of sunrise then you could get some awesome sunrise shots.

We climbed the bund and fun began. First there were Wire-tailed Swallows. I approached them closer and closer and they were all set a wonderful photo session.

Other birds found were –  White-throated Kingfisher, Small blue Kingfisher, Teals, Brahminy Ducks, Ducks, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Grey Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Black Ibis, Spotbill Duck, Cormorant, Darter, Common Sandpiper, Large Egret, Spotted Ducks.

Blue ThroatA special mention about a bird called “Blue Throat” which flies all the way down from Europe and then north Asia to this place. I saw it for first time. Thanks to Vishal for showing this to me.

If  you are lucky enough, you can also get to see – Pied Kingfisher, Peafowls, Purple Heron, Egrets, Stonechat, Scaly-breasted Munia, Red Munia, Painted Storks. 😉

On the way back, we waited at “Joshi Wadewale” and took a “Wada-paav” break. I returned home with memories of all these wonderful flying beauties.

Kavdi is truly bird watcher’s Paradise!!! 😀

For more pictures – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157603886961076/detail/
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For last few consecutive years, I wish I could go to Bhigwan and see Flamingos. Even last year, I missed a chance to accompany my friend. Finally last Saturday got that golden opportunity.

Pink beauties!We planned to start very early morning and fascination of seeing flamingos made me wake up at 3:40 AM. I packed my sack and we started at 4:30.

P.S – I didn’t (read couldn’t) stay awaken late night or get up early in the morning for my studies but picnics, outings, Photo shoots, and camps are exceptions. I can’t sleep at night thinking about the place and become restless waiting to get up. 🙂

We enjoyed a ‘LONG’ drive to reach Bhigwan. It was 6:45 and we badly needed a tea break. We went to Hotel Sagar. It was neat clean and breakfast was good. We enjoyed Upma and Idlis with hot sips of tea.

To reach Bhigwan:

  1. Take Pune-Solapur highway.
  2. Drive approx. 100 Kms to reach Bhigwan village.
  3. Take left turn to go to ‘Diksal’ village.
  4. Drive more 8-9 Kms to reach Water bodies.
  5. After reaching Diksal, take right to go to an old bridge.
  6. Total distance is approx. 110 Kms.

Fishermen at BhigwanWe saw a flock of Asian Openbills and we took our first halt here. Another new bird called “Rosy Pastor” (also called “Rosy Starling”) caught our attention. Then there was a pair of Pied Kingfishers, Sea gulls, Teals, Bulbuls. We clicked few snaps and proceeded further. We came at extremely narrow but beautiful road. This road covered by water on both the sides, was earlier a railway bridge and now converted into road. Heavy vehicles are not allowed on it. We have to take care that we don’t wait while crossing this stretch. We found Marsh Harrier sitting on the tree here. We crossed the bridge and parked our car. It was pleasant morning and sun rays made water to sparkle. Fishermen were all geared up with their boats for fishing. We enjoyed watching and clicking River terns, Pond herons and sea gulls in action.

Take off...We waited there for while for boat to come. My friend, who had been to Bhigwan many times has befriended a boatman called “Gangaram”. Gangaram knows exact location of flamingos but he was busy fishing in mid water. We took up another boat and reached him. His own ship was full of fresh fishes that he caught. He jumped in our boat and we started heading in search of flamingos. After 30-35 mins of rowing, we could trace few flocks of flamingoes. It was amazing, just 5 of us, water all around and then there were marvelous flamingos. I was seeing them for first time in natural habitat. I took out my binoculars and kept watching them till we were considerably near to click them. We took our cameras and captured as many shots as we can. My friends with Canon 100-400mm lens were literally ‘shooting’ and their camera sounded like machine gun – “khat-khat-khat-khat!!!”. We found 3 flocks and approached each one in descending order. We turned to second after third flew away. For first time I caught birds in take-off and flight and that too flamingos. My happiness knew no bounds. Research says that flamingos get their pink color due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene obtained from their food supply.

We also found Cormorants, Brahminy ducks, terns, teals, Great (White) Egrets in water. We came back with immense satisfaction.

My friends continued shooting few more River terns and I was keen to walk on that narrow road covered by water on both the sides. I found Tree Pipit, Common Sandpiper, Drongos, Small Green Bee Eaters, While-throated Kingfisher, Prinia. The herd of sheep blocked the road for some time. Skilled shepherds guided crossing vehicles instead of controlling their herd. It was fun watching a typical rural life.

We came back at Bhigwan and had some snacks before returning back to Pune.

Pink beautiful Flamingos are still lingering on my mind… It was like a dream come true! 😀

Note: For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157609126814258/detail/

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Mor” means peacock and “Chincholi” means dense tamarind trees in Marathi.

Morachi chincholi is a small village which is around 85-90 kms from Pune on Pune- Ahmednagar highway. This information does not catch your attention unless and until you read next lines. Yes, this village is now a peacock sanctuary which shelters more than thousands of peacocks.

Peacock in Morachi ChincholiI and my friend were very desperate to visit this place. We started early in the morning as it is the best time to see peacocks. We came to ‘Malthan phata’ and had to turn left to reach Morachi Chincholi. We took a small tea break there. We packed some wadaa-paavs with us. The road was not-so-good and not-so-bad condition; covered with green fields on both sides. We got to see many birds like Brahminy Myna, sunbirds, cattle egrets, Jungle Mynas, Jungle Babblers, etc.

As we entered the village, we could clearly hear peacocks mewing. We parked our car at road side and went walking to near by fields. We saw few beautiful peacocks in the fields. It was just ultimate – peacocks in their natural habitat. We met two young school-going local boys. They agreed to show us more peacocks. We followed them through the fields. We did find few peafowl. We tried to click but in vain as they ran very fast. More we went nearer, faster they ran.

We were able to trace few peacocks on tamarind trees. After all the intense efforts, I got one snap of peacock as I desired. See image above.

These villagers are protective and conservative about the peacocks. Peacocks too are very familiar with them. We saw a woman fetching water from the well and she was accompanied with a flock of peahens. There are sources of food and water kept in tubs for the peacocks in the fields. It seems some NGO from Pune works for this cause.

We decided to return back and were thankful to our young friends who spent their time with us. We offered them some money for buying chocolates but they denied accepting it. Then we forcefully offered them those wadaa-paavs which we got and they accepted.

While returning back, a village woman asked us for lift till Shirur phata. Her name was “Babbai”. She was very talkative and happy that we came to see birds all the way from Pune. Yeh, Pune is far off city for them. As we exchanged our cell number with her, she invited us to visit Morachi Chincholi again and promised us that she will then cook jhunaka-bhakri for us. Believe me, she called us for next consecutive Sunday mornings to ask whether we have any plans to visit on that weekend. If at all, I visit this place again, I am morally bound to meet this simple village woman called “Babbai”.

We came back in the afternoon with wonderful memories of this Indian beauty. Yes, what we get in Asia is typical “Indian blue peacock”. Peacocks are found in many different colors across the world e.g. White, Brown, Green, Pied, etc. but none of them look as graceful as our “Indian blue peacock”.

How to reach –
Route 1:

  1. Take Pune-Ahmednagar highway and travel till Shikrapur village approx. Distance is 30-35 Kms.
  2. Travel few meters and ask for Malthan phata.
  3. Take left from this Malthan phata and travel straight for some kilometers.
  4. Ask local people for Morachi Chincholi.
  5. You need to take another left turn which comes straight to Morachi Chincholi.  Village ‘Ganegaon’ falls in the mid which is 7-8 Kms.
  6. Travel ahead from Ganegaon to reach Morachi Chincholi. Approx. distance from Ganegaon is 9-10 Kms.

Route 2:

  1. Take Pune-Ahmednagar highway and travel till Shikrapur village.
  2. After Shikrapur, travel more 200 mts and take left turn for ‘Kanhur Mesai’ village.
  3. Kanhur Mesai village is approx 17 Kms from here.
  4. From Kanhur Mesai, Morachi Chincholi is approx 2.5-3 Kms.
  5. Total drive is approx 25-30 Kms.

Route 3:

  1. Take Pune-Nasik highway and travel till ‘Rajgurunagar’. Distance is 40-45 Kms.
  2. After Rajgurunagar, take right turn to ‘Pabal’ village.
  3. In Pabal, from Jain temple travel straight to reach Morachi Chincholi.
  4. Morachi Chincholi is approx 20-25 Kms.
  5. Total drive is approx 60-65 Kms.

Best time to visit: Early morning or evening in the months of June to September (basically Monsoon season)

What you get to see: Lots of peacocks in their natural habitat along with other birds like Brahminy Myna, Jungle Babblers, etc.

Note: You have to carry our food and water. No facility in the village (unless you know someone like Babbai 😉 … )

Other updates: A trust called ‘Jaymalhar trust’ can provide accommodation for night halt for Rs.500/- per day and also dinner/lunch for Rs.50/-. They have developed a cement platform for feeding peacocks. The peacocks daily visits the platform before sunrise and after sunset.
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