Vetal Tekdi, Pune's last green bastion, stands as the city's highest point, reaching an elevation of 800 metres. The area boasts diverse ecosystems, encompassing dry deciduous forests, wetlands, and grasslands that showcase rich biodiversity. Besides, a wide range of bird species can be spotted here, and with the onset of winter, migratory birds from as far as Europe grace the area, making it an ideal time for birding expeditions. On Monday, under the guidance of Ranjeet Rane, a passionate birding enthusiast and member of Vetal Tekdi Bachav Kruti Samiti (VTBKS), this author embarked on an exciting birding trail.
In the crisp morning air, a diverse group of about 10 individuals, ranging from senior citizens to college students, joined Rane's birding trail. Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Rane elaborated on the genesis of the trail. "The idea took shape during the monsoon this year. Initially, our focus wasn't solely on birds. We used to have botany experts accompany us. However, we now concentrate solely on avian species, preferring smaller groups to ensure a clear message and an enriching experience for the participants."
Aapla Maruti Mandir on Vetal Tekdi | Ranjeet Rane
Reflecting on his initiation into birdwatching, Rane shared, "Birdwatching has been a lifelong passion, nurtured since my childhood. I owe much of my early learning to experts like Kiran Purandare. Despite a brief hiatus due to academic and vocational commitments, I rediscovered my interest during the pandemic. From my balcony in Kothrud, I spotted around 48-50 bird species. That's when I expanded my horizons to the tekdi, transitioning from a mere observer to documenting my sightings across different seasons. As I gained a deeper understanding of the tekdi's avifauna, the idea of these trails emerged."
Vetal Tekdi Quarry | Gaurav Kadam
'Tekdi Protection: Urgent Political Priority'
Discussing the Vetal Tekdi Bachav Kruti Samiti (VTBKS), an apolitical coalition representing various citizen groups, Rane delved into their advocacy efforts. "Our recent protest in April against the construction of the Balbharti Paud-Phata Road highlighted our core demand – declaring the tekdi as a no-construction and no-development zone. With elections approaching, our aim is to make this an urgent political concern to safeguard the tekdi from haphazard urbanisation."
Sunrise on Vetal Tekdi | Gaurav Kadam
Joining the cause after the April rally, Rane emphasised the need to amplify the group's activities. "We've witnessed nature's warnings—urban flooding, soaring temperatures like the 50-degree Celsius recorded in Kalyani Nagar last year, and water scarcity. These are glaring signals we're choosing to ignore in our pursuit of urban growth."
He criticised the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) approach, citing their opaque stance despite claims of transparency. "Our volunteers repeatedly resorted to RTIs and open forums to expose the unnecessary road construction. Key cities worldwide nurture parks like Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York with concerted effort. Yet, we've been blessed with the tekdi naturally. Why destroy it?"
Dry deciduous forests on Vetal Tekdi | Gaurav Kadam
White-throated kingfisher, Eurasian Wryneck and more
On the birding trail, Rane, equipped with a bridge camera, pointed the participants to a diverse array of birds that might have gone unnoticed without keen observation. From the White-throated Kingfisher and Eurasian Wryneck to the Brown Crake and Grey-headed Bunting, a plethora of bird species were spotted. Using his camera, he not only showed these birds up close but also provided detailed explanations about each species—whether they were migratory, their rarity, specific species traits, etc. The participants were thrilled to witness these birds for the first time.
Check out the pictures below:
Grey-Headed Bunting | Ranjeet Rane
Black Drongo | Ranjeet Rane
Brown Crake | Ranjeet Rane
Eurasian Wryneck | Ranjeet Rane
Shikra | Ranjeet Rane
Indian Spot-Billed Duck | Ranjeet Rane
White-Throated Kingfisher | Ranjeet Rane
Little Egret | Ranjeet Rane
Red-Wattled Lapwing | Ranjeet Rane
Plum-Headed Parakeet | Ranjeet Rane
Purple Heron | Ranjeet Rane
I frequent the tekdi but never truly understood the biodiversity until now. Preserving this space is crucial. We can't allow construction here - Srirang Karandikar
Sensitising people about the tekdi's biodiversity is crucial. They need to understand what's at stake - Vidula Kulkarni
Despite coming here for years, I only saw crows and pigeons. There's so much diversity. More awareness is needed to save it - Soham Johrapur
Exploring the tekdi was incredible. I want to bring my daughter here. I want her to marvel at these birds as I did - Vaibhav Gate