On Sunday the 13th a very rare White-tailed Eagle was seen at Muhuri Dam in the south east of Bangladesh. It was only the second confirmed record for Bangladesh after one found by Paul Thompson on a river in Gaibanda back in 1996! When I first heard about it I half thought about twitching* it, but was almost hoping it wouldn’t be seen the next day so I wouldn’t have to decide. The next day several birders search was unsuccessful but then Tuesday the 15th it was seen again! So my friend Zaber and I started messaging back and forth and sometime in the evening we decided to go the following morning on the 6:30 bus if possible.
* for those who don’t know, twitching or chasing a bird is just going to see a rare bird that someone has found. Often, though not nearly always, it means going quite a distance at short notice
I woke a bit after 5 o’clock the next morning, quickly got ready, and headed to the bus station. Soon Zaber joined me, but we got bad news as the earliest tickets we could get were for the 7:15 bus, almost an hour away… We spent the next hour as best we could, including identifying Bangladesh’s first Collared Pratincole from a Facebook post 🙂 Finally the bus arrived at 7:30 and we were off. Throughout the four hour bus ride we waited impatiently for news of the eagle from birders that were already there, but it was all negative until maybe thirty minutes before we got to Feni, when we heard they had seen it! We got a CNG as soon as we were off the bus and headed towards Muhuri Dam. About fifteen minutes of the way there we got a text saying the eagle had fallen out of the tree as the birders watched it, and by the time we finally got to Muhuri the birders had had to pick up the bird and were slowly bringing it back by boat to the landing spot (where we were).
We had a few fun birds in the trees by the bank while we waited: both Yellow-browed and Greenish Warblers, Purple-rumped Sunbirds, and Taiga Flycatcher. A Grey-headed Fish Eagle soared high overhead along with some Black Kites and a flock of Asian Openbills.
An odd looking warbler provided some interest, but it proved to just be a Blyth’s Reed Warbler, the most common species in Bangladesh.
And a Dusky Warbler
Finally after we had waited about an hour we saw Sultan Ahmed coming with the eagle
They quickly handed it over to a man from the Forest Department and sent it on its way to a hospital as it was not doing well.
Sadly, after a few minutes we heard that the eagle had died! It vomited then just died. It seems like it probably ingested poison and that caused this incredible bird’s demise 😦
In the next few days a dead Common Shelduck was also found; again poison is the suspected cause of death.
After hanging out with the 10 or so birders for a bit, Zaber and I headed out on a boat for some birding even though our main target had died 😦
Nazmul Hasan Abir, Sultan Ahmed, and Abu Sayed Mohammad Sarwar joined us.
It was quite fun to be out on the water with birders again and the birding was great! Quite a few Whiskered Terns were flying around and one or two Greater Spotted Eagles were flying around quire high.
An Asian Openbill flew right over.
And I was finally able to get photos of Gadwall after seeing them but not having a camera in February.
A Pheasant-tailed Jacana gave a fun photo opportunity:
The Whiskered Terns were very active: diving and flying through with the wind, and I was able to get a nice shot in the golden light.
Then as we were watching a perched Grey-headed Fish Eagle someone noticed an Eastern Marsh Harrier, a lifer!
A few Siberian Stonechats were fun to photograph. I hadn’t seen them in this sort of wet habitat before, although it isn’t too unusual for them.
Indian pond herons were everywhere
I had several fun birds fly over but I couldn’t manage photos for several of them including Ferruginous Duck and a Pied Avocet. I was slightly frustrated, but then a huge flock of over 50 Pied Avocets came through and I was able to get some fun shots.
It was now nearing dusk and we slowly started back. Zaber saw a Baillon’s Crake, but none of the rest of us could get on it.
The ducks really started coming in now, with nice numbers of Gadwall, a few Ferruginous Ducks out on the water, and lots of whistling ducks in the hyacinth.
Eurasian Coots were plentiful and would trundle across the water in a desperate attempt to get airborne as we headed through the flock to get to the landing. Anything with a long takeoff is fun to photograph and the coots were no exception:
And one last gift were ok photos of a cool Oriental Darter, my first photos from Bangladesh.
We ended up with 60+ species including 1 lifer for me, so not bad!
eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S77554506
After an amazing meal of fresh BBQed fish from the ocean and parota courtesy of Nexus vai we got on the bus to head back to Dhaka.
As I reflected on this strange day, I realized that, yes, it was disappointing to miss seeing the eagle truly in the wild, and it was even more sad to see such an amazing animal die. But despite that sadness it had been a great day with birding friends and I realized how cool it is to be part of this birding community!
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe for more. As always, feel free to comment!