It all started when I overheard my friend Niaz speaking with Shafiq at the Bird Club. “See you on Friday morning!” My ears perked up. Where were they going? Niaz said they were going to Keraniganj. An Indian Spotted Eagle had been seen there. I said I would very much like to join.
And so early one Friday morning in summer 2017 we started out from Gulshan. After picking up Shafiq, we crossed the Postogola Bridge over the Buriganga. Turning left after about two kilometres we followed a narrow road through a few villages before stopping in front of a large Dighi.
The eagle appeared as soon as we alighted from our car as if it was waiting for us. It scrutinized us from the distance while flying circles around a sprawling jackfruit tree growing on an island in the Dighi before flying off into the distance.
It was the first time I had seen this bird, called Guti Eegol in Bangla. It was reddish brown with white spots on its wing. Its head and face were dumpier than kites, and a distinctive yellow band lined its beak.
Over the next few weeks I observed and learned more about the eagle. With its mate it had built a nest of sticks high in a Deodar tree in the middle of yet another pond, reachable only by boat. The couple was raising a youngster there. Every morning the parents left the nest and returned one, two, or even three hours later, carrying food for their baby.
On that first day, a parent brought the chick of another bird in its mouth for its baby. Another day, I saw a frog. Still another time it was a lizard.
The juvenile eagle practiced flying, initially making short hops to nearby large trees where it would set down on the canopy, rock back and forth with wings outstretched to balance itself and finally settle down. Sometimes it flew with the parents. Sometimes it walked on the ground looking for food, but always in hard to reach places.
The area, called Arakul, had many other birds as well, including various kites, kingfishers, jacanas, shrikes and woodpeckers. The eagles lived above most of them, but crows and kites often tormented the youngster when it left home, buzzing or pecking at it. Once a crow chased it in flight and I could see fear on its face as it kept turning its head looking behind.
Then I went abroad for two weeks. When I returned the eagles were gone. Since then, they have been seen only sporadically in Arakul. I haven’t returned there. Nor have I seen other Indian Spotted Eagles.
Last week, however, I saw a bird high up on a tree in a tea garden in Habiganj. Even from far away, I recognized it immediately as an Indian Spotted Eagle. Approaching it surreptitiously, I was able to take some pictures as it sat on the canopy of a large shade tree. I crouched among the tea bushes and waited for it to make a move. After some time, its body became taught and I thought it might fly. It flipped its wings up vertically and swooped down from the canopy, stabilizing itself into horizontal flight in a second or two. Then it was gone.
I felt the same thrill one feels finding a long-lost friend. The eagle made my day.
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