‘I am a weary heart surrounded by life's frothy ocean. To me she gave a moment's peace-Banalata Sen from Natore’. (trns. Clinton Seely, A Poet Apart: A Literary Biography of the Bengali Poet Jibanananda Das, 1990)

The City’s lake, a short respite for restless, also respites the passage migrants including resident birds-Rabindra Sarovar Lake attracts birds and birdwatchers alike.

birds of urban park


Named after Tagore, this 192 acres artificial lake always bustles with myriad activities. More than 10,000 footfalls in a day-morning to evening, metropolitans brace the beauty of Lake. It has got something for everybody. The beautiful tree-lined paved path surrounding the lakes, the cool placid water body, fresh air, chirping birds-all solace the ‘…..weary heart surrounded by life's frothy ocean. To me she gave a moment's peace-Banalata Sen from Natore’. (trns. Clinton Seely, A Poet Apart: A Literary Biography of the Bengali Poet Jibanananda Das, 1990: “আমি ক্লান্ত প্রাণ এক, চারিদিকে জীবনের সমুদ্র সফেন, আমারে দুদণ্ড শান্তি দিয়েছিলো নাটোরের বনলতা সেন।“) And in late morning, bird watchers crowd to find new species of birds. As many as 115 species of birds are found in adjoining shrubs and trees of Rabindra Saravor Lake.

Trees growing in islands of Lake bloom Cormorants.....

In early 1920s, this artificial lake erstwhile Dhakuria Lake, of south Kolkata was developed and in 1958, it was renamed into Rabindra Saravor Lake. Presently KIT (Kolkata Improvement Trust) is up-keeping its 73 acres water body and recreational complexes. Lion Safari Park, named as Lions club maintains it, a small enclosure within Rabindra Saravor Lake is main birding hotspot. Inside into the tall trees, many of more than 100 years old, shrubs, bamboo groves-myriad species of birds find safe abode. Here is my tribute to dozens of birds visited this little oasis braving the urban cacophony and metropolitan oddities, completely alien to their natural habitats. Here presents the enigmatic beauty- grace with kaleidoscopic colours of winged wanderers of the Lake.

Fig-eater of Siberia: Taiga Flycatcher ♂ (Ficedula albicilla) Muscicapidae (f 4, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 1250)

This Taiga Flycatcher is winter migrant into the Lake.  Natural habitat of Taiga Flycatcher is taiga forest spanning from eastern Russia to Siberia and Mongolia. It winters in South and South-east Asia. During November to early March, it is frequently found in shrubs and bushes of the Lake. The Taiga Flycatcher is partly crepuscular, frequently drops wings and flicks tail while calls. It catches insects in aerial forays. It is sexually dimorphic.

The Queen: Indian Paradise Flycatcher ♀ (Terpsiphone paradisi) Monarchidae (f 5.6, 1/250, 700mm, ISO 1250)

The Indian Paradise flycatcher is native to the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Myanmar. Sexually dimorphic and adult male has two long tail-streamers. In terms of plumage colouration, male seems to be polymorphic varies from rufous to white and intermediate. Indian Paradise flycatcher is local migrant in Lake and usually found from February to May.

Dancing Blue: Blue throated Blue Flycatcher ♂ (Cyornis rubeculoides rubeculoides) Muscicapidae (f 6.3, 1/500, 700mm, ISO 3200)

The Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher lives in much denser dry broadleaf evergreen and mixed deciduous forest than other species of flycatchers. Usually found all through Himalayas and plains of Western Ghats. The Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher is altitudinal passage migrant and returns successively in this Lake. This flycatcher is sexually dimorphic and sallies after insects but does not use regular perch.

Verditer Flycatcher ♀ (Eumyias thalassinus) Muscicapidae (f 5.6, 1/250, 700mm, ISO 1250)

The Verditer Flycatcher is altitudinal winter migrant to the Lake. It is usually found from the Himalayas through Southeast Asia. Its name derives due to its distinctive shade of copper-sulphate blue. The Verditer Flycatcher is sexually dimorphic and usually forage above the canopy level and perches on exposed tree top branches.

Brown Breasted Flycatcher (Muscicapa muttui) Muscicapidae (f 5.6, 1/640, 700mm, ISO 1000)

The Brown breasted Flycatcher is also known as Layard's flycatcher. Though breeds in north eastern India, Central and Southern China and northern Burma and Thailand, and migrates to southern India and Sri Lanka. The Brown breasted Flycatcher is altitudinal winter migrant, even found till early April in shrubs and bushes of the Lake. It hawks insects in typical manner of other brown flycatchers. Mostly territorial in winter and is seen in same spot successively.

Asian brown flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica) Muscicapidae (f 5.6, 1/640, 700mm, ISO 100)

Asian brown flycatcher breeds in Japan, eastern Siberia and the Himalayas and winters in tropical southern Asia. Its’ dark bill is relatively large and broad-based. The adult has grey-brown upperparts, which become greyer as the plumage ages, and whitish under parts with brown-tinged flanks. Young birds have scaly brown upperparts, head and breast.

Bored with flycatchers....slaty backed flycatchers, ultramarine flycatcher and black naped monarch are still in list but readers might be thinking Lion's Safari Park would be full of flies to keep flycatchers active and pulsating! No, Rabindra Sarabar is blissed with varieties of other passage migrants and residents.

Eyebrowed thrush (Turdus obscurus) Turdus (f 4, 1/640, 500mm, ISO 1600)

The Eyebrowed thrush is passage migrant, breeds in dense coniferous forest and taiga eastwards from Siberia and winters in Southeast Asia. It is very rare and found for very short spell during November at Lake. The Eyebrowed thrush is omnivorous, forages for insects, earthworms and berries. The name derives due to its’ black eye-line, bordered white above and below. Sexes are fairly alike.

The Star of Sarovar: Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura) Pittidae (f 5.6, 1/125, 700mm, ISO 1250)

The Indian Pitta is local migrant, usually found during April- May. Its’ beautiful plumage colour beguiles the cover pages of many books. This stubby-tailed shy bird is mostly seen on the floor of forests or under dense undergrowth, foraging on insects in leaf litter. Sexually alike but Harper (The Aviculture Magazine. Vol I, Nov.1902-Oct.03) theorized that the width of black bands which runs top of the head distinguishes sexes.

The morning munch: Thick-billed Green Pigeon ♂ (Treron curvirostra) Columbidae (f 4, 1/320, 500mm, ISO 1600) 

The Thick-billed Green Pigeon is altitudinal migrant, and very sparingly found among the yellow-footed green pigeons at Lake. Though it is resident in eastern Himalayas but probably has short-distance dispersal in response to fruit availability. The Thick-billed Green Pigeon is frugivorous, especially fond of syconia of figs. Sexually dimorphic.

Rufous woodpeckers  ♀ (Micropternus brachyurus) (f 5.6, 1/160, 700mm, ISO 800)

Among the resident birds, Rufous woodpeckers appear to be very attractive. It forages in pairs on ant nests on trees, fallen logs, dung heaps, ant, and termite hills. They have been noted to feed on ants. They are well known for building its nest within the nest of Crematogaster ants. It helps them to save from predators and at the same time helps the young to thrive on ants larvae.

The wise owl: Brown Hawk Owl (Ninox scutulata) Strigidae (f 4, 1/320, 500mm, ISO 1600) 

The Brown hawk-owl, also known as the brown boobook, is a resident breeder at Lake. Due to its’ long tail and lack of a distinct facial disk, it looks like hawk. It has very large yellow eyes. This nocturnal bird feeds on large insects, frogs, lizards, small birds and mice and roosts during daytime under canopy cover of tree. Sexes are similar.

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) (f 5.6, 1/400, 700mm, ISO 400)

Love in air-on my regular visit to Lion Safari Park tucked at Dakhuria Lake, while returning found this drama-the male first preened the tail of female and then beak-locked for a while. Is this way parakeet greets? Or a part of courtship display as February is looming large.

Essentials: Late Sept.-Nov. and Feb.- April is best time to visit for passage/ winter migrants. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (23.5 km; 1 hour away) is nearest airport. All Budge Budge bound local trains from Sealdah Rail station stop at Lake Gardens Rail station (8 km; 15 min), which is about 500m away from the Lake. Nearest Metro station is Rabindra Sarabar which is about 1.5 km from Lake. Plenty public buses are available and stop at Golpark, which is about 5 min. walk from the Lake. Lion Safari Park opens at 5.30 AM-9.30 AM and 4.00PM – Sunset. No entry fees.

Dipankar Mandal

Bird watcher and photographer

An avid birdwatcher and photographer by passion.