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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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Furry Friend

The most eagerly awaited day of a working week is Friday. This holds true for our office too. This is also the day, when we take a break from the computer and desk job routine, for an hour of yoga. Deviating from the Avian theme, by featuring a health conscious mammal, who visits balcony at home.

This furry friend, a squirrel,  is seen practicing yoga asanas here. Revealed here, is the secret behind strength and agility, that enables our furry friend to scale vertical walls and catwalk on tightropes.  Watch closely.

Ready - Steady- Go

Stretching to warm up those muscles
Can you touch your nose......with your toes
Try this... Paschimottanasana
Exercising with instruments

Relaxing after strenuous workout session
Whew ... those asanas were something... Hope you enjoyed this break.. Will return to our Feathered friends now.. watch out for future breaks.. keep fit

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Birding in National Parks - Part 1 Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

Lake at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

The year 2011 started on a good birding note. The second Sunday of the year, saw us heading towards Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary in Harayana. Our family planned to visit the bird sanctuary to see the migratory bird that nested there during winter season. While researching the routes to reach Sultanpur, we were surprised to find out that it was about 35 kilometers from our home by road. Traveling through Najafgarh and other villages on Delhi Rawta border was estimated to take us around an hour to reach the place.

Black Winged Stilt

Sunday, 9th January dawned as a cold, foggy and rainy day. Chances of viewing birds, migratory or resident, seemed too bleak. However, our heart was set on visiting the place and we drove off towards Harayana, after breakfast. Weather gods were benevolent after the early morning drizzle; soon the sky cleared up and though it was not a sunny day, the rain had stopped.  
Cattle egrets

The outing looked promising in spite of the late start. However, the modern day traffic gods played truant as usual. Delhi traffic showed its true colours after 5-6 kilometers from home. Our car had to crawl  for an hour, through dense traffic, which started from main Najafgarh road up to Khaira village crossing. Thankfully, traffic and noisy human habitats ended beyond this point. We enjoyed rest of the drive through fields and fruit orchards along the Delhi- Harayana border.

Teals, Lapwings, Moorhens

Common coot

On the way we found street side vendors selling fresh guavas and bought 4-5 kilos of the delicious green fruit. We reached Sultanpur around lunch time, and after a quick snacking on guavas and sandwiches, entered the bird sanctuary to explore. Watch towers along the lake gave an excellent view of the lake and its surrounding. Lots of migratory birds were flying around the water body.

Great egret
Grey heron
Storks, herons, moorhens, teals and ducks were enjoying the cosy afternoon sun. Painted stork families were nesting and were noisiest of all. Peacock, kingfishers, parrots were some of the more common birds that we saw at Sultanpur. The Sultanpur lake had been replenished by the abundant rains last year, hence many species of  birds were visible this year.  We stayed for short while, pledging to return later for lengthier exploratory visit.

Pond Heron
Quotes displayed near Sultanpur national Park Gates

Everyone wants to understand painting. Why is there no attempt to understand the song of the birds?.
(Quote by - Pablo Picasso)
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
(Chinese proverb)

Painted Stork in Flight

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Birding around Mukteshwar

Mukteshwar is a quite hill township in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. The small town is perhaps better known for the man-eating tigress that terrorized people in the neighboring villages in late 1920s and was killed by Jim Corbett in 1929. No tiger has visited Mukteshwar in recent years, however leopards are seen occasionally  around IVRI forest reserve near the town. Jackals, mountain goats and various species of birds can be spotted around fruit orchards and forests of the area.
Black and Orange flycatcher
Mukteshwar is now a popular tourist destination in summer, known for the panoramic views of the Nandadevi and Trishul mountain range of the Himalayas. This part of Uttarakhand is also famous for fruit orchards of plums, apricots, apples, peaches and sweet lime. Known as the "fruit basket", Mukteshwar orchards send supplies all over India. Frequent visits to Mukteshwar for work in the last 1-2 years, have given me a chance  to photograph the beautiful species of birds of the Himalayan ecosystem. Sharing pictures of a few of them that I could capture this spring season.
Barn Swallow - It makes a new mud nest in the project site office every year.
Balck Throated Tit - A tiny bird, hunts for insects in bark of apple and plum trees on site.

Could be a Blue whistling thrush or a Eurasian blackbird. Can be seen checking steel reinforcements here :)
Grey caped pygmy woodpecker

Grey headed Canary Flycatcher

Verditer Flycatcher can be spotted easily in these parts

Black Lored Tit looks more like a stylish bulbul but can be easily distinguished by black streak across lores

Hoping to capture images of other birds when I visit Mukteshwar next. More feathered friends coming soon.   :D

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Red heads" In Ibis Family

There are quite a few quotes regarding Red-heads; expressing fear, awe, adulation and disconcert. Most societies admit that "Red heads" are different and complicated.  
"All throughout history, from Reuben to Robbins, redheads have been recognized as a rare breed. Blondes may have more fun, brunettes may be brainier, but when it comes down to raw energy, creativity, and personality ... you just can't beat a redhead ..............!" quotes The Redhead Unlimited.
Black Ibis feeding in Mustard fields
Those who have seen the Red Naped ibis, would completely agree that these ibis with their back brown feathers and red caped head are different. The red naped ibis also known as black ibis is common to plains of Indian subcontinent and South east Asia. Does the red colour on its head affect the behavior of the black ibis? How is the Black ibis different from others of Ibis family?

Admiring view from high perch

The black ibis is not an aquatic bird. While most ibises are waders, found near water bodies, the black ibis is a land lubber. It can be found near cultivated fields, waste water bodies, garbage dumping stations and even semi arid desert areas. The Black ibis is an omnivore that eats insects, worms besides plant matter. It is called the "farmer's friend" as it feeds on insects that infest the cultivated crops.
The aquatic ibises build their nests near water bodies in shrubs or on ground; nesting along with other waders like herons, egrets, and storks. However, the Red Naped Ibis nests in tall trees like eucalyptus and neem. It often takes over the abandoned nests of crows, kites or other birds of prey. Building a new nest is rare for the black ibis; renovation of the old nest is a priority for these breeding birds.

Nest in a tall Eucalyptus tree
I found a flock of black ibises, feeding on insects in a mustard field. A group of six birds moved quietly through the standing crop where the only hint of their presence were the red capes bobbing in & out from green plants. Their red capes looked like wooly skull caps, worn to protect their head from cold winter wind. It was difficult to follow the black ibises, as the birds flew out from the fields when they detected a human presence. Hopefully, this red head will not be camera shy the next time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Colourful Birds

We celebrate Holi, a festival of colours, today. Adding a dash of colour to this blog by posting some of the most colourful birds I have seen and photographed. Happy Holi !!
Black caped Lory
Scarlet Macaw

Rainbow Lorikeet

Purple Swamphen
Scarlet macaw and Blue-Gold macaws

Friday, March 11, 2011

The pigeon story: A first hand account

This is the story of a pair pigeons who made home a corner of the balcony at my place. I never thought the eggs will ever hatch if they escaped the evil eyes of crows around, but they were meant to survive. All was well till an unfortunate incident united us with the pigeon family in their agony...

I had thought the eggs will fall prey to one of the crows around. Pleasantly, one fine morning, I discovered the poor helpless chicks out in open. I really felt bad for them. Dunno why the mother pigeon could not find a safer place....

Things in a larger perspective. That pot in the upper rack in the corner is the home to the chicks. Thats where the eggs were laid. I know you are amazed too. The mother pigeon would fly to neighborhood every time we went to balcony. She trusted us completely or was just helpless...

Chicks are growing....

Still growing, day by day....

Could finally catch them with mom.

My bai had already started complaining about the mess they were creating everyday :)

Soon they will outgrow the pot. Probably they have already. Look at the mess around...

Closer. That makes them attentive...

Here they are in their teens. When we are not looking the whole balcony is their playground and now they have their personal pots to sit. Huddled together for the click...

The youth, cant tell them from parents in one glance.

Venturing unknown territories..

They are no more afraid of us. Well, cant say that, they can hardly fly.

Tragedy struck!!! The chicks were attacked by an eagle ;( One fell victim to it, the other literally knocked on the door to let it in the house.

Here we see the mother pigeon. She could not find the chicks at the usual place. She sensed something wrong happened in the balcony, wont dare coming there. Just waiting somewhere near by.

Waiting for the chicks to appear...

The remains of the fight put up...

The refugee. He spent the whole night there.

We tried to feed it, but it wont budge.

Morning came, so came the parents looking for the kids. At least they found one. We were so relieved. They kept returning next two days, still hopeful, but ALAS!!

The story ends with this reunion. Hope they have a short memory and remain happy ever after, but not so short a memory to make a similar nest. They learnt it the bitter way, if they have.