Kaikondrahalli Lake, a small urban lake in Bengaluru, is more special to me than Bharatpur, Corbett, Thattekad, or any other exotic birding hot-spot. The reason? This is where I’ve learnt a lot about birds, their behaviour and their ecosystem. A word that comes to my mind when I think of this lake is ‘plenty’ – though the birds found here are commonly sighted at many places, the number of species found here, considering the size of the lake, is bountiful.
Barely 2 kilometres in circumference, Kaikondrahalli Lake is a bio-diverse ecosystem spread over 48 acres near Kaikondrahalli, off Sarjapur Main Road. The lake works are funded by BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike), managed by MAPSAS Trust, and supported by the surrounding communities. Once a dump-yard, this lake is now the darling of the neighbourhood; the lake’s rejuvenation has been taken up by BBMP. The lake’s boundary is defined by the compound walls of residential properties on one side and Sarjapur Road on the other. There are a few large apartment complexes adjacent to this lake.
The lake is shaped like a spoon, with the shallow end attracting reptiles, insects, amphibians, and birds; the other end of the lake is deeper. The lake is surrounded by a variety of tall and short trees, and its entrance has a huge ficus tree which attracts many birds. There is a small island in the middle of the water-body, and a wooded area at one corner of the lake bank. The stone paths in the middle of the lake are not open to visitors, but used during the lake’s maintenance. Though there are parks, play areas, and jogging and cycling tracks, there remains a significant avian population, irrespective of more people visiting day by day. The lake is fantastic all year round, with each season hosting different birds and insects, and showcasing Bengaluru’s bountiful urban biodiversity.
During peak monsoons, in perennially cloudy July, the lake fills up fast. Pond Herons perch on branches low enough to touch the water, and wait in to ambush fish and frogs. Egrets occupy the lowlands and small islands in the water. Coots swim close to the lake’s shore, where there are aquatic plants and reeds. White-throated Kingfishers are on high alert, catching anything that moves. Cormorants and Darters dive in and out of water. Skittering Frogs float on the water surface and croak incessantly. Spot-billed Ducks laze on the stone paths in the lake, necks tucked into their plumage. From afar, a Southern Coucal calls out, even as a Black Drongo flies in to the thicket.
In August, the lake is bursting at full capacity. Spot-billed Pelicans usually arrive by mid-august, and at least 5 to 6 of them can be spotted on the wider trees close to the wooded areas of the shore. They dominate the lake for the next 3 to 4 months. Painted Storks and Asian Openbills also arrive at the lake along with the pelicans.
From the end of August, well into September, insect life is aplenty. A variety of spiders – especially orb weavers like the Signature Spider and Long-jawed Spider – are found throughout the metal fence around the lake. The two huge fig trees in the lake premises – one at the entrance and one at the rear – are home to large numbers of frugivorous birds like the Asian Koel, White-cheeked Barbet, and Rose-ringed Parakeet. Common Myna and Jungle Myna are also found on these trees, chattering noisily. Dragonflies occupy the air in the wooded area; sometimes, Purple Herons target them, dancing like snakes in the grassland.
In October, the perimeter of the lake is a radiant green, with all the plants, shrubs and trees full of fresh leaves. Scaly-breasted Munias are found in Babool trees, foraging and chasing each other. The bank of the lake has many Neem, Arjuna and Eucalyptus trees in which raptors like Brahminy Kites and Black Kites are found perched. They circle around periodically, inspecting the area, and return to these trees. Birds like the Great Cormorant and Little Cormorant use dry or dead Arjuna and Eucalyptus trees for perching, roosting and nesting.
November heralds the arrival of winter, bringing with it the lake’s winter migrants. An adult Greater Spotted Eagle visits this lake every winter, and prefers to stay on the island in the middle. Sometimes, it is found crossing Sarjapur Road and soaring at a great height. A female Eurasian Marsh Harrier is also found in the neighbouring grassland. This grassland is usually slushy and filled with water until the end of September. The harrier flies low, trying to hunt aquatic birds. The Purple Swamphen doesn’t like the harrier’s presence and periodically raises its shiny, white tail, on alert; it also does this to threaten its competitors. Blyth’s Reed Warblers are also found at Kaikondrahalli Lake for the entire winter season. Butterflies like the Common Mormon, Common Lime, Tailed Jay, Blue Tiger, and Plain Tiger can be seen on winter mornings.
By January, the lake is visited by the most interesting winter migrant – the Rosy Starling. The starlings arrive in hundreds and settle down on the dry Arjuna and Eucalyptus trees every evening. They are noisy and move between trees, flying all together at once; the patterns they make during this murmuration are spectacular! People visit this lake from far and wide, just to see the Rosy Starlings’ show. Along with Rosy Starlings, Brahminy Starlings are also found, but in small numbers. At dusk, Black-crowned Night Herons fly out from their secret roosting spots; they settle down on the stone path along the lakeside and wait for their prey. A flock of almost 50 to 60 Garganey ducks arrives at the lake in winter, and can be sighted flying in unison in the evenings. Common Sandpipers can also be found on the lake bank during winters. Very rarely, the lake is graced by Northern Pintails.
March brings spring to Bengaluru. Trees including the Pink Trumpet are in full bloom mid-February onwards. Nectar-feeding birds like Purple-rumped Sunbirds are found around these flowering trees during the day. Pale-billed Flowerpeckers are found on Acacia and Singapore Cherry trees, pecking on the fruits, which are too oversized for them.
In summers, birds like the Ashy Prinia, Common Tailorbird, and Pied Bush Chat are found in bushes and in garden areas with potted plants. Common Moorhens take over a small water pool on the neighbouring land. Purple Sunbirds are found in shrubs, which are also covered with Social Spider webs. Green Bee-eaters dominate the air with their acrobatics, catching wasps and dragonflies; they then settle down on a perch, beat their prey, and feed on them. Spotted Doves are commonly found around the lake. The Shikra commands a place in the lake, close to the Eucalyptus trees, and always guards its territory; very rarely, it is found on an open perch with one leg tucked in for regulating its body temperature.
By June, the monsoon arrives once again, rejuvenating the lake. Snakes like Rat Snakes and Checkered Keelbacks are commonly seen during this time. Common Indian Toads are found jumping on the pathways. Asian Koels are frequently spotted, and if you are lucky, you can catch the Common Hawk Cuckoo in a rare appearance at the lake.
Life has continued at Kaikondrahalli Lake, amidst the disturbances caused by construction work all around it. Construction is a major threat to the lake – it stops the water inflow, which could kill the lake; construction pollutes the lake; the high-powered sodium lamps used at night disturb the birds’ roosting schedule and quality. A lake is as essential as roads, shopping malls and flyovers, to any city. Lakes help meet the water requirements of a city, besides regulating climatic conditions. It is imperative that we understand the importance of lakes and contribute in all possible ways to safeguard the lakes of any city.
Each year, many birds visit the park around Kaikondrahalli Lake, in spite of the burgeoning human population of the region. Though there is a team to maintain the park, the pollution from the neighbouring properties does impact this lake; pollution renders the water unsuitable for the fish, reptiles, and birds that are dependent on them. I hope Bengaluru’s citizens become aware of the incredible biodiversity that is amidst them, and strive to protect it; I would certainly like to see Kaikondrahalli Lake preserved and maintained for generations to come!