15 February 2008
Jahangirnagar University (JU) has always been one of my favourite places for recreation and recuperation. Can’t remember exactly how many times I’ve visited the campus. But its only been a couple of years that I’m carrying a camera with me to record some of the memories there. Had been lucky with friends studying over there, especially Saadi, one of my old buddies. His stay over there gave me the excuse to escape from the busy life of the Capital City. Even after he left the University, he couldn’t resist the temptation to give regular visits over there. And I always looked for the opportunity, though I went there only irregularly, compared to Saadi, of course.
Anyway, this visit to JU campus was a little different as I had a specific objective to follow, shooting birds. On Thursday afternoon, as soon as my previously scheduled visit to Tangail was cancelled, I started to look for partners to accompany me to JU. Unfortunately Saadi was unavailable this time; but I found a new partner in Riad, my wife’s brother. Also acquired the privilege of having a host at the spot; Sakran, my wife’s cousin. My wife had been my travel partner on so many occasions, but she missed this one due to her Masters exam.
Being less than an hour’s journey, JU never put any real pressure on me as far as hassle of travel is concerned. So, without worrying anymore, I woke up in the morning ready to travel. The first news came from Riad, as he fell ill and I was now on my own. I left home by around 9:15AM and took the bus from Asad Gate. The bus left me at the JU gate by around 10:00AM. JU campus is big and has a real flvour of nature to it. Its green surroundings, lotus-filled lakes, quiet paddy fields and chirping of birds take you to a rural setting, which we don’t get within this concrete jungle where we live. There are rickshaws to take you around, but I decided to rely on my feet, as I wanted to feel the nice environment of the campus more than anything else.
Did I forget to mention that there was a Pakhi Mela (Bird Fair) going on at JU? Oh no!! It was a Friday, a holiday. And many people had the time off to take their families for some badly needed recreation. The JU Zoology Department took this opportunity to introduce people the beauties the campus contains, especially during the winter months. Every winter thousands of birds migrate to the campus and make this place full of life. A lot of people do visit the campus during winter. JU Zoology Department calls these times Pakhi Utsob (Bird Festival) to promote the phenomenon. But this time BRAC Bank came up with the sponsoring and the event got some real promotion. It just shows how corporates can make a difference. This reminds me of the sponsoring that HP did during our recent Photography Exhibition to aid victims of Cyclone Sidr. The event’s publicity brought a lot of people there and gave the city dwellers a chance to marvel at the brilliance of nature. This was especially nice for children, who are passing their time carrying heavy bags full of books. These bookworms are unfortunate enough to learn about these birds only on books. But this event brought the opportunity to at least some children to actually see and enjoy what they had been seeing only on pages.
I went straight to the lake that housed most of the birds. There were programs going on at the Zoology Department, but I was more interested to see the birds in action. I reached the lake by around 10:15AM. It was a captivating sight and had to close my jaws to be able to bring out my photography equipment from my bag. I set up my equipment and closed on the birds. These birds, floating on water, made a joyful sound that kept the gathering crowd interested. Although most birds were resting on the lake bed, some were taking an aerial tour before coming back to the lake. But it was when most of the birds left water together with a brilliant flocking sound and deafening chirping noise that took the show. The audience was awed at this fantastic play of these magnificent creation of nature. It was as if they were all going by one single divine voice. What a sight this was!! I soon realised that my big lens was not capturing the real beauty of this event. I missed my wife dearly as she usually does the video during my visits. This is an event that carries more value on a video than still photos. I was entertained by these birds until my real venture got started. Sakran reached there by around 10:30AM. He usually stays at the hostel on the campus, but he just gave a visit to his parents’ at Uttara on Thursday, which is why he reached there after me.
After a while with these birds, we decided to leave the lake for the opposite direction. As far as I know, JU hosts around 31 species of migratory birds every year. Of these 31 species of migratory birds, 28 are local species that come from different parts of the country. Local migratory birds throng the campus from the beels and haors of Sylhet, Nijhum Dwip and Chittagong hill tracts. Usually, about three species of birds reach the campus from Siberia and the Himalayas. A number of species use Bangladesh as a stopover to go on to another country. But what most people don’t know is that 128 species of resident birds live at the lakes and bushes around the lakes of JU, which had proved to be a safe sanctuary for the birds. During my previous visits there, I had the opportunity to some of them. Now I was prepared to find them, as many as we could.
Bubuli (Red-vented Bulbul)
Sat Bhaila (Jungle Babbler)
Holde Pakhi (Black-hooded Oriole)
Black-rumped Flameback Woodpecker (Bangla Kaththokra), Male
We headed for the wooded areas behind the Botanical Garden. The chirping reminded us that we were in the right place. Before we could realise, we found at least 5-6 species that are not commonly seen around populated areas. We noticed Bulbuli (Red Vented Bulbul), Fingey (Black Drongo), Sat Bhaila (Jungle Babbler), Holdi Pakhi (Black-hooded Oriole), Kaththokra (Black-rumped Flameback Woodpecker), Tuntuni (Common Tailorbird) and another two birds that we couldn’t identify. Apart from these birds, Bhat Shalik (Common Myna) and Gobrey Shalik (Pied Starling) were also there in abundance. The Woodpecker was a particular delight to watch as he flew from one tree to another and then jumped along the vertical plane of the tree trunks to show his acrobatic abilities. The Oriole and the Bulbul were also keen on showing their acrobatic skills. Sakran gave me a great help finding the birds. Soon enough Sakran proposed that we could go to another place where the woods are thicker. And off we go. We took a rickshaw and reached a place behind student halls. There were some young plantations that were quite thick, but prospect of finding birds over there seemed pretty low. We looked for opportunities to go to other wooded areas nearby where there may be more opportunities to find birds.
Kalomatha Koshai Pakhi (Long-tailed Shrike)
Tila Ghughu (Spotted Dove)
Indian Pond Heron & Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Cattle Egret & Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Lal Lotika Titi (Red-wattled Lapwing)
Indian Pond Heron
We soon figured out that it was 1:20PM and we had an empty stomach. So, rather than looking for the other wooded areas, we sat for lunch. We took our time to rest and then started yet again for the newer places. It was around 2:15PM. On our way we found a smallish wooded area that was looked pretty much barren. I noticed a small bird jumping from tree to tree over there and decided to capture it in the camera. What a pain this was! This was one agile bird and he simply touched the trees on the outskirts. He was never there on a single tree for more than one and a half moments. I took some snaps, but yet to identify the bird. As soon as we left that barren wood, we found a Kalomatha Koshai Pakhi (Long-tailed Shrike). He was jumping between small trees, quite close to us. I took the opportunity to follow him, as he was not as irritating as the earlier bird we tried to capture. He soon caught an insect and carefully displayed it in front of the camera before really dealing with it. Once we thought we had some good enough shots, we moved once again. This time we noticed a quiet lake in front of us and decided to head for it. We had a notion that as this looked like an isolated place, there may be bigger birds around here. We soon found a nice couple of Tila Ghughu (Spotted Doves) on a barren tree. They were nice enough to pose in front the camera even though we were quite close. The lake shore revealed, along with a lot of Pied Starling, a bright white Bok (Cattle Egret) roaming around. The Egret flew to the opposite bank, so I pointed my camera towards him. I was surprised to see that he was not alone on the other bank. He had a couple of Holud Lotika Titi (Yellow-wattled Lapwing), a Lal Lotika Titi (Red-wattled Lapwing) and an Indian Pond Heron with him. These aquatic birds were basking in the sun together moving ever so slowing. But occasionally they were making that graceful flight.
Fingae (Black Drongo)
All on a sudden we were amazed by the superb entrance of a Machhranga (Pied Kingfisher). He didn’t land. He hovered over the water and looked for prey. After a short while of hovering in different places, he flew away and never came back. We again concentrated at the birds on the other side. We wanted to get a closer look at those birds, so we decided to go to the other bank of the lake. Before we moved on from this bank, we thought we should finish off our business on this bank. There was a small cottage nearby with several trees closely knitted. We decided to go in. There were quite a few birds resting there at least for a while—Bulbuli (Red Vented Bulbul), Fingae (Black Drongo), Sat Bhaila (Jungle Babbler), Gobrey Shalik (Pied Starling), Chorui (House Sparrow), Doel (Magpie Robin), Kalomatha Koshai Pakhi (Lang-tailed Shrike) and another bird, quite close to Magpie Robin, but don’t know for sure what it was.
After finishing our business over here, we reached the other bank of the lake. It was already around 3:30PM. With winter light conditions, we had some one-and-a-half hour’s shooting time left with us. The other bank brought us very close to the Heron and the Lapwing. They few closer to us and gave us the opportunity to shoot them. They also made some noises while flying, giving us some idea about their voice. But there were more birds here. A brilliantly coloured Chhoto Machhranga (Common Kingfisher) flew around us, but eluded our camera. The same thing happened with Tuntuni (Common Tailorbird). There were quite a few Sat Bhaila (Jungle Babbler) that made a lot of noise together. Some Fingae (Black Drongo) were fighting in the air just like dogfight.
While around 4:00PM we decided to move to the same lake area where we started. We wanted to end the day with what we started with. Half and hour’s shooting before the light faded out. That was it. The chirping brought us here and they bade us goodbye in that same vociferous way.
Left the campus with a lot of joyous memories and unfulfilled desire. I would surely want to come back here as there are many other birds that have not yet showed themselves to us.