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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Woodpecker Fest

A jackfruit tree canopy frames my kitchen window. The tree is loaded with jackfruits every summer. Squirrels and many birds visit the ripened fruits to eat their fill from sunrise to sunset.
A shy visitor frequents the fruits this season; eating ripe fruit, as well as flies and maggots that infest it. Waiting for more species to visit this feast.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Vigor's Sunbird

It is rare to find a Sunbird perched peacefully for a photograph. This Vigor's Sunbird was preening it feathers to impress its mates on a late winter afternoon. The bright colours vibrant in the warm winter sun.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Birds in Hampi

Hampi, once capital of Vijaynagar empire, is now a world heritage site. The extent and magnificence of the Vijaynagar empire can be experienced here, while exploring remnants of the city that are spread over few hundred square kilometers. 

The ruins, surrounding paddy fields, banana plantations and rocky surroundings provide diverse ecosystems for our avian friends. Here are some of the common ones which can be found while exploring Hampi & its surroundings.

Rock pigeons in Temple Courtyards

Green bee-eater amongst monument ruins

Cormorant near Pushkarni ( Stepwells)
 Ashy Sparrow Lark in Royal Enclosure

 Scaly Breasted Munia amongst Banana plantations
 Spotted Owlet nesting in City Walls

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Friendship beyond Barriers

God loved the birds and invented trees.  Man loved the birds and invented cages.  ~Jacques Deval

 Our neighbours have two bird cages - one for budgerigars and one for rose ringed parakeet. The cages are placed in their balcony, during morning and evening hours. These birds or rather their feed attracts many visitors, like pigeons, mynas and sparrows. 
In a way, the caged birds enjoy the  company of others from Avian world during their stay in the open. All birds are at their chirpiest behaviour at these times, probably enjoying the refreshing open air and view of the blue sky, which is near yet so far.  
Early November morning brought unusual visitors to this balcony; wild rose ringed parakeets. They were perhaps summoned by the plaintive cries of the caged parakeet, who longed to be free like its wild friends. What followed was a surreptitious interaction between caged and a free bird; they exchanged food and probably news.  
The budgerigars were the perfect conspirators who kept a watch on the human activities inside the house and gave alarm calls to parakeets if anyone approached the balcony door. The wild parakeets would leave at the slightest hint of human presence, to return later when all was clear. 
The caged parakeet would become restless after its friend left, shunning food its jailers offered, pacing its cage frantically. I could watch the ongoings from our balcony, which being at a distance, did not cause any alarms to these birds. These interactions between the wild & caged world continued for few days till the winter chill forced our neighbours to keep the birds inside house for over a month.
The peak winter chill is over and caged birds are back in balcony to enjoy the warm winter sunlight . The caged rose ringed parakeet however is missing in action, and so are its visitors. Perhaps the bird was sent away, or perhaps it died of a broken heart; unable to join its friends in the free world.
Alert for any Human intrusion

Monday, February 13, 2012

Big Bird Day 2012

" Kya aap birthday party ke liye aye hain?", asked a young guard posted at the campus gates, as we asked for directions. Another car joined the queue, with similar query, and the guard was puzzled by the  group gathering for some crazy early morning birthday party. The time was 7 am, on Sunday 5th February morning and a group of 10-15 people had collected at JNU gates for the event.

White Wagtails
"Arre birthday nahin, Big Bird day ke liye aye hain saab", quipped another senior and experienced guard. The occasion was Big Bird Day, an annual event of active bird watching community in the country. At least 10 or more teams start birding at different places around Delhi. Jointly, by the end of the day, the teams try to watch as many species as possible, tabulate the list of each team and arrive at the total number of bird species collectively seen during the day. My sister and me were part of JNU team headed by Dr. SP, a veteran birder.

Indian Silverbill / Munia
Soon a security jeep escorted all visitors to the location where Dr. SP was waiting. After quick introductions interspersed with occasional spotting of a bird species, we headed of to explore the campus and ridge area around JNU. Within few minutes common birds like parakeets, mynas and pigeons were sighted  and ticked away in the official bird count list. A spotted owlet took keen interest in our group, puzzled by early morning human activity in its surroundings.

Yellow wattled lapwing

 To locate more birds, we moved away from human civilization towards ridge forests around JNU campus. By 10 am, the bird count had reached fifty five however many common ridge area birds like larks and pipits had not been seen. I had learned to differentiate between warblers, bushchats and stone chats and learned that all small brown birds are not sparrows.

Black winged Stilt

Breakfast in the campus guest house created opportunity for casual chats and we got to know a bit more about our fellow team-mates. It was a mixed group of amateur and seasoned birders from different professional backgrounds. Few had taken up this as hobby after retirement, the senior most being a 77 year old gentleman. The youngest in the group, aged 7 -12 years were also enthusiastic birders who had memorized the Grimmett guide to Birds of Indian Subcontinent.

Long Billed pipit
Shankar Vihar, was the second location to be visited by our team. It is a huge stretch of wasteland between Mahipalpur and Vasant Kunj, where sewage water from a nearby treatment plant has accumulated. Delhi birders discovered that the spot has been functioning as a wetland for the last few years. Black winged stilts, gadwalls, northern shoveler and lapwings were spotted there in huge numbers. The urban wasteland has been embraced by migratory birds as a winter home.
Brown headed Barbet

Bhatti mines was the third and last birding location for the Big Bird Day. We hoped to find ridge area birds like vultures and eagles. The afternoon half however did not yield expected results, as only a long billed pipit, a long tailed shrike and 4-5 more birds were added to the bird count list. It was sunset by the time we headed home. In Delhi NCR, 155 species of birds had participated in the day long bird birthday celebration. Hoping the next year will see increase in the number of participants.

Common Kestrel hovering midair

Let each day be a "Bird Day" celebration.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Birds around Hamirpur

Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker
Birds from a village near Hamirpur in Himachal, photographed in February following the Big Bird day. Away from the dust and grime of the cities, the birds were brighter, easier to spot and photograph. Fun, feasting and fotography were the highlights of the short visit.
Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker
Stripe Breasted Woodpecker

Great Titmouse
Red Billed Blue Magpie

Bush Warbler

Oriental White eye

Friday, May 27, 2011

Birding Around Mukteshwar - II

Great Titmouse or Great chikadee

Grey Treepie
A well known idiom says that,"Early bird catches the worm", meaning that those who start earlier have a better chance of success. Most members of the Avian world follow this advice religiously. Early morning is the time when birds are most active. This also the time for birders and especially bird photographers to observe and capture the Avian life at its best. 
Hectic schedule, during recent visit to Mukteshwar, pushed birding to backseat. However, my visit to the place would be incomplete without documenting some feathered friends. Hence, one day, just after sunrise, I embarked on walk around our hotel  to greet these local residents.
Titmouse, also known as chickadee, is a non migratory bird found in forested areas of Northern Hemisphere. Many orchard owners depend upon the help of this active little bird, titmouse for a successful fruit crop. When the trees are bare and the chemical control of insects is no longer possible, the birds do their best work. They search every crevice for hibernating insects and for the larvae and eggs from which harmful insects hatch. These sprightly, bold, and inquisitive birds have been described as "feathered question marks."

Grey Treepie, also known as Himalayan treepie, and the Red billed blue magpie are related to crows, jays and magpies. They are widely distributed along the foothills of the Himalayas in South Asia and extending into Southeast Asia. These omnivorous birds eat insects, grain, berries and small reptiles, eggs and nestlings.
Red Billed Blue Magpie

Streaked Laughing Thrush

Streaked laughing thrush is part of the babbler family. Like most babblers it forages for food on ground. The bird in pictures has captured a betel for breakfast.