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Pondicherry is a small city about 100 miles south of Chennai. It was originally a colonial French town and still shows a French influence in certain areas. The road to Pondicherry passes through areas of river, lake, paddyfields and scrubland and proved to be very good for new birds.

Soon after we left Chennai, heading south, Black Drongos became very common, almost all on telegraph wires by the side of the road. Also on wires, very reminiscent of the south of France, were Indian Rollers.

The first stop was at a large lake crossed by a bridge (shown below). I am unable to track down the exact location but any area of water is worth a check. The first birds I saw here were two Red-wattled Lapwings, quickly followed by a Rufous Treepie. Flying or hovering over the water were at least nine Pied Kingfishers.

A stop on the road to Pondicherry

A stop on the road to Pondicherry

As we passed another riverine area, within about 100 metres of the ocean, I added White-bellied Sea Eagle and Black-bellied Tern. The nearby telegraph wires held Spotted Dove, lots of Black Drongos and a couple of White-bellied Drongos.

Carrying on south the best place to check for birds seemed to be the roadside wires. Hoopoe was soon added as was Laughing Dove, and more White-breasted Kingfishers. Some of the tallest palms had Ashy Woodswallows wheeling around them (these birds seemed to prefer tall palms with leaves only at the top and with bare trunks) and the paddyfields held Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets plus numerous Indian Pond Herons and one Cinnamon Bittern. Away from the city Asian Palm Swifts became common.


Typical paddyfields.
The palms in the distance are those
favoured by Ashy Woodswallows

Just before another stop at a riverine habitat I saw two Grey Francolins by the roadside. At the river area I had one Asian Brown Flycatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, one Marsh Sandpiper, a few Yellow-wattled Lapwings, River Tern, four adult and one immature Great Black-headed Gulls and five Pintail Snipe. Also here a flock of 20 Cattle Egrets flew past and one Grey Heron was seen feeding in the shallow water.

Walking around the French colonial part of Pondicherry, which included a look at the Indian Ocean, House Crows were common and I soon found a small party of three Indian Silverbills at the top of a tree, followed by plenty of Black Kites and, about 10 metres overhead, a fabulous Brahminy Kite. Four or five of these birds were seen around Pondicherry but I didn't see them anywhere else. By the shore I added another two White-browed Wagtails and a White-bellied Sea Eagle.

The journey back was mostly in the dark but before the sun set I managed to see more Ashy Woodswallows, three Plum-headed Parakeets and my first House Sparrows!

As before I did a day trip down to Pondicherry and noted everything I saw on the way. The list gradually built up, starting with common stuff such as Rose-ringed Parakeet, Common Myna, House Crow, Large-billed Crow and Black Kite. Then came Indian Roller, White-breasted Kingfisher, Asian Palm Swift, Black Drongo, Indian Pond Heron and various egret species. A White-browed Wagtail was seen soon followed by two Scaly-breasted Munias. My first Laughing Dove of the trip put in an appearance, then came a flock of nine Yellow-wattled Lapwings and a Shikra sitting on the roadside.

Our first stop was slightly disappointing: Grey Plover, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff and Gull-billed Tern – far too European with only Pied Kingfisher to add a sense of the tropical.

Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit

A second stop a bit further on was a bit better. Two Hoopoes just before we stopped was a good start. I then walked around a dry area bordering a tidal area of water. Asian Palm Swifts flew overhead, five Richard's Pipits sat on telegraph wires and jumped in the air singing vigorously. One Brahminy Starling sat on another wire and a Brown-headed Gull flew past. Little and Great Egrets could be seen in the near distance.

As we reached the outskirts of Pondicherry the day's first Little Bee-eaters were seen.

Pondy was almost all business although a short drive did add a lone Brahminy Kite in the same place as last year (coast road by the old wrecked pier).

I have now done the drive down to Pondy four times, two extra to those detailed above. Pretty much the same birds were seen on all journeys. Of note on my last trip (3 November 2004) were a pair of Scaly-breasted Munias at the toll booth, Great Thick-knees by a river and 100+ Great Egrets flying over.

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