Every birder has a wish list or a “must-see in a lifetime” list.
Crested bunting is one bird which has caught my fancy and remained high on my list. This beautiful bird has it’s famous abode at Sinhgad Fort, which is around 30 kms from Pune. It is imperative that you go to Sinhgad on a weekday, as it is a very scenic destination and hence is crowded during the weekends.

Call of the Crested Bunting Male

I don’t get good sleep whenever I know I will be birding the next morning.
I’m simply too excited. With the plans in place and all gears packed, I left my place at 5 30 AM. As we sped past a sleeping Pune city, Khadakvasla dam with it’s breathtaking and scenic beauty, beckoned us. As we drove through the meandering path along this huge water body, I just couldn’t help but fill myself with breaths of pure and pristine air. Soon we could see the azure hills in front of us with the tops capped with soaring clouds. As Pune had received a fair bit of monsoon rains, the entire surrounding was densely carpeted with green.

The drive up the Sinhgad ghat is simply an enchanting one and it is worth visiting this place for the ecstatic drive itself. As we climbed up, musical chirping and tweeting of birds gradually replaced the silence of the dawn. We could hear the Red-vented Bulbuls and Sunbirds calling, which created a mesmerizing ambiance. The winding roads and the panoramic beauty was simply breathtaking and nature’s wondrous gifts were in abundant display. As we ascended higher, we could listen the mellifluous call of the Malabar Whistling Thrush.

We parked our vehicle in the parking lot on the top of Sinhgad and started climbing the steps of the fort. Immediately after fifty steps or so, my heart skipped a beat, when I heard a call, which I desperately wanted to hear that day. It sure was the signature species of Sinhgad, the Crested Bunting (Melophus lathami). As the copper and black beauty whizzed past, I simply couldn’t control my exhilaration.

Crested Bunting male

When I could sight it for the first time, I was enthralled by it’s sheer beauty and elegance. The next few hours passed by as though they were fleeting seconds. I spent them in the lovely company of the charismatic male and the gorgeous female Crested Buntings. Call of the male Crested Bunting is very soothing and melodious. Due to a lot of human activity on the hills, these birds are very bold. Sometime they came so close to me that I had to resist the temptation to hold and cuddle them.

Crested Bunting Female

This ethereal experience provoked a profound thought in me. Often one feels spellbound by the way these amazing jewels are sculpted by nature. Normally the birds are wary of human presence and fly away if we try to approach them. Here these birds were oblivious of the surrounding and were roaming around with gay abandon. It resulted in a very unique and golden opportunity to observe their wonderful plumage from a very close quarters. I left the place contented to see these feathered beauties accept human presence and wished for a peaceful co-existence.

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