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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.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter Session of the "Parliament"

The 2010 winter session of Indian parliament was a no show. No new policies or laws were passed, as the opposition parties wanted investigations into the 2G scam by a JPC. Walkouts, protests and disruptions were highlights in the drama of the Indian legislative assembly.
No, this blog hasn't deviated from avian life to humans and their politics. While our elected representatives were not doing their assigned jobs, other parliaments were in session in avian world; that of the owls. A collective of owls, also known as a parliament, is most active during the winters, which is their breeding season. The usually silent predators are more vocal; with mates calling out to each other and young ones demanding food from their parents.
Sourced from North west Ohio Nature
Owl, a nocturnal bird, is often associated with misfortunes, black magic, evil, and conversely with intelligence by humans. Owl is also known as the vehicle of goddess Lakshmi in the Indian mythology. Fear of the dark and unknown, prominent at night, and deep rooted in the human psyche, has perhaps resulted in such conceptions.

Is this the reason why the same term has been coined for a collective of owls and that of politicians? :)

The call of the owl can sound very eerie in the dark, misty winter nights. The first time I heard an owl near my home, it sounded like someone was snoring loudly. Most residents of our housing society were annoyed by the continuous calls, which would start in the evenings and stop just before sunrise. Since no one could see the source of the sound, many theories were put forward to explain these winter happening. Some said it was bats hunting at night. Others proposed that it was probably a kite perched on high rise, protesting its discomfort in the cold weather. Mystery was unravelled one evening when someone standing in the 9th floor balcony saw the owls flying around. 
Blurred photograph of Barn Owl on our AC

The birds residing near our building were the barn owls, which are widespread residents in the Indian subcontinent. They can be found near human habitation and cultivated areas. They are very effective in controlling pests like mice. They also prey upon small birds, rats and insects.

One night a barn owl landed on our bedroom AC, where a pigeon family had made a nest. The owl sought a wholesome meal of freshly laid pigeon eggs. No sound came from the owl, but the pigeons made a lot of noise, which awoke me and my sister. We could see the owl from our balcony, as it waited patiently for the pigeons to leave their nest. Tried to click a photograph, however absence of a stand and darkness came in way of a good picture. Next morning, there was no sign of the pigeon nest abut remains of the owls meal were strewn on the window ledge below.

Spotted Owlet enjoying winter sun

Another type, the Spotted Owlet is resident in my mother's school building. This bird breaks its nocturnal habit during winters. The spotted owlets are heard chattering or seen enjoying the warm winter sunlight. 

Why they choose top of spot lights as a perch is a mystery

Other birds like parrots, crows and babblers never leave them in peace, protesting owls foray into their daytime regime. The owlet pays them very little attention, but relents after sometime, retiring into some gap in wall or a hole in a tree trunk. 

Oh no! Its the papparazzi again !

Searching for an escape route

  One afternoon, when I reached the school to pick up my mother, the owlet was perched on a security spotlight on the school building. The shy bird left as soon as it realised it was the centre of focus of my camera.
Hopefully, these "members of parliament", i.e. the barn owl and the spotted owlet, will reappear soon for more photo sessions.