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Hyderabad, India - Shamirpet Lake and Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, November 25 - 27, 2006,
There is good birding around Hyderabad, in particular at the Rollapadu Sanctuary. A number of central India dry-country specialties can be found. Kazmierczak and Singh’s A Birdwatchers’ Guide to India describes these areas well but details of Shamirpet Lake have changed.
Note: References to Kazmierczak and Singh’s Guide are given as KK.
Shamirpet Lake is about 30 kilometers north of Hyderabad, or 24 km north of Secunderabad, on the main road to Banglalore. Therefore it is attractive as a destination close to one of India’s most bustling cities. The directions in KK remain correct, but the left turn off the main road is not easy to find. There is an illustrated sign for the “Deer Park” at the intersection. This turn is a few kilometers north of a large military base and airport. If you see the lake on your left, you have gone too far. After making a U-turn, the turn onto the road to the lake is then the first actual road on your right. KK’s book suggests parking at the Shamirpet Lake Resort, but it is now closed and locked. We found it better to simply drive past the deer park until there are some open rocky fields on the right and the lake is visible, and walk among the rocky fields. We spent about two hours here, and while we did not see the Syke’s (Crested) Lark (mentioned in KK as the prime attraction) we did see several “good” birds such as flocks of 6 Yellow-wattled Lapwings, a pair of Pied Kingfishers, several noisy flocks of Ashy-crowned Finch-larks, and a Blue Rock Thrush. The only negative was the presence of workers “mining” sand from the lake, which flushed waterbirds from the immediate area.
Before going to this location, we did stop just before the site of the former resort and walked to the lake. Apparently at some times of the year it is possible to walk along the lake shore, but when we were there the water was very high and came onto the resort’s property which was bounded by a fence. A guard at the resort did allow us through the resort property, but then we had the same problem at the deer park fence. The area cited by KK as the prime location for Syke’s Lark was underwater, so they may have moved to a different place around the lake or away completely.
The birding area at Shamirpet Lake is not large and can easily be covered in one visit, and it easy to find once the turn-off is located.
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Rollapadu Bird Sanctuary, is a bit difficult to reach but is a worthwhile birding destination, and can be covered in a two-day mini-expedition out of Hyderabad. KK suggests taking a bus from Kurnool, which is 200 kilometers south of Hyderabad, to Nandikotkur and then catching a ride to Rollapadu. I believe that this would be practically impossible without knowing the Hindi language. We opted to hire a driver in Hyderabad and go down to Kurnool directly from Shamirpet lake, a trip of six hours. We stayed overnight in Kurnool and left at 5:30AM to go to Rollapadu, arriving at 7AM. Our driver had to stop several times to make sure we were on the correct road, and there was a tricky right turn in Nandikotkur that we still missed. The drive to and from Rollapadu was the usual Indian adventure, and we saw several overturned trucks and the remains of head-on accidents as evidence of the recklessness of the driving.
Upon arrival, the senior ranger asked if we had permission to enter the park. I had in fact sent a few e-mails to the address given on the Andhra Pradesh Parks web site (see References), but without a reply. I had printed out the web page for the park and fortunately had that to show him. He seemed quite flustered that two foreigners had arrived unannounced at his doorstep. We later guessed that he thought we simply wanted to see the Indian Bustard, and/or that we wanted to stay there. We quickly learned that seeing the bustards was the issue - the bustards were either not in the park, or were in an inaccessible part of the park, or were breeding and he did not want us to disturb them. Once he understood we were also interested in other birds, and that we were leaving by noon, he was extremely friendly and assigned a couple of younger rangers to accompany us around. KK writes that access to the park, as well as staying at the park, is not much more than a formality, but that may only be the case for Indian citizens. If we had not had our driver to interpret, I think we may not have been allowed on the site.
The map in KK is exactly correct. We walked down the road just outside the fence west of the reserve buildings, flushing birds off the dirt track. A few times we took side trips on paths into the adjacent fields. We went as far as the pool marked on KK’s map, about 1.5 km from the main road, and then took a long circle to the north back to the entrance as we tried for larks and bush-quails. Wandering off the established paths is probably not a good idea, as this area has Indian Cobras and the even more poisonous Russell’s Viper, and also birds’ nests can be disturbed. “Good” birds seen at Rollapadu were: several groups of Syke’s (Crested) Larks, alongside the road or on the dirt berms separating the rice fields; a few Rufous-tailed Larks perched on wires; several Indian Coursers that allowed very close approach; a few Yellow-wattled Lapwings; two Pallid Harriers; a flock of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse that came in very low; flocks of Ashy-crowned Finch-Larks, and many Tawny Pipits. We also flushed a group of bush-quail but could not identify if they were Jungle or Rock Bush-quail, both of which occur here. In other words, there was an excellent selection of dry-country Indian specialties. Also, the Blackbuck in the fields were very impressive.
We did not see any Indian Bustards, and did not press the rangers about them because we had previously seen them and this appeared to be a sensitive subject. The rangers mentioned that Lesser Floricans are “sometimes” seen there, but they cannot be seen in the deep grass unless they are doing display flights. We were not able to determine exactly how often “sometimes” may be. Other sources indicate that Lesser Florican is a very infrequent visitor there, but it is featured in the museum and on the painted walls so it must be there “sometime”.
The Nature Center at Rollapadu also has a nice museum and teaching center. It is clear that the workers there are trying their best to educate people about the importance of this area for the Indian Bustards and other special birds. Although there is no charge to enter the reserve, we left a donation for the museum and a tip for the guides. They can certainly use all the help they can get.
List of some key birds seen – this is not a complete list. S=Shamirpet, R=Rollapadu.
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), R
Indian Courser (Coursorius coromandelicus), R
Yellow-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus), S and R
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus), R
Pied Kingfisher (Ceyrle rudis), S
Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius), S
Ashy-crowned Finch-lark (Eremopterix grisea), aka Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, S and R
Rufous-tailed Lark (Ammomanes phoenicurus), R
Sykes’ (Crested) Lark (Galerida deva), aka Tawny Lark, R
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris), R
A Birdwatchers’ Guide to India, Kazmeirczak and Singh, Bird Watchers’ Guides, Prion Ltd. (published 1998), distributed by Natural History Book Service Ltd., 2-3 Willis Road, Totnes, Devon TQ9 5XN, United Kingdom
The bird book we used was Grimmett and Inskipps’ A Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan…, but there are several others as well.
We did not have any web information on Shamirpet birding; most references are for the deer park.
The Andhra Pradesh web site for Rollapadu (we did not receive any replies to e-mails sent to the address given on this web page) is:
Other web pages with connections to Rollapadu information:
These are mostly for tour operators. There are other sites but they all seem to refer back to the same operators.