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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baya's Blobitecture



Green Blobitecture
Blobitecture or blob-ism is a term for an architectural movement in which buildings have organic, amoeba shaped bulging forms. Blobitecture structures are usually buildings such as theaters, museums, or tourist attractions; constructed using glass and steel. Come the monsoon season, and one can find the inspiration for these blob-ism structures, suspended from tall palms or thorny acacia trees. They are the pendulum shaped nests of the baya weaver; built using green resources like palm fronds, paddy leaves or rough grasses.
During my stay in Moira village of Goa, I saw many baya nests precariously suspended from coconut palm trees. The freshly woven green nests would gradually turn brown with age, swinging gently in the monsoon winds. The bright yellow birds made countless trips from nearby rice fields to coconut tree tops, while making their masterpiece. Following is what I found out about the architect amongst birds; the baya weaver.




Baya weavers are seed eating birds; found near grasslands, plantations or marshy areas in the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. They are related to the common household sparrow; so much so that the juveniles and females of the species even look like the sparrows. Baya are social birds that breed in groups. Often 15-20 nests can be found together in a typical baya colony. Another Baya relative, the African sparrow weaver builds multi-storied apartment nests, in which 100 to 200 pairs have separate flask-shaped nesting chambers entered by tubes at the bottom.

Inspection time
The nest is built by the male baya weaver between months of June- July. The structure of the nest is cylindrical, with a central nesting chamber and a long vertical tube that leads to the side entrance of the chamber. Such form of the nest prevents intrusion by predators like snakes or raptors. A male bird is known to make up to 500 trips to complete a nest. The birds use their strong beaks to strip and collect the strands from leaves and grasses, and to weave and knot them, while building their nests.
   The nests are partially built before the males begin to display to passing females by flapping their wings and calling while hanging from their nests. The female baya inspects the nest and signals its acceptance to the male. Once a male and a female are paired, the two complete the nest by adding the entrance tunnel. Baya females give “feminine” finishing touches to interiors by adding blobs of mud, which provides stability to the nest in windy conditions.

Adding finishing touches to the Nest
The nest building process can take up to 24-25 days. The baya family resides in this nest for a period of 35-40 days.  Next breeding season means construction of new nests. Abandoned baya nest are later utilized by mice or munias also known as the Indian Silverbill.





Saturday, February 12, 2011

Accipiters in our neighbourhood

Accipiter family bird
It was 9 a.m.; the time to leave for work. I was packing my lunch, while my sister read newspaper in the dining area. She looked up while turning a page and happened to see a big bird, about a foot tall, perched in the balcony across the room. 

This was an opportunity that could not be missed.



Juvenile Shikra
Eurasian Sparrowhawk

My sister grabbed her Olympus SLR and quietly crept into the adjacent balcony. My sister and me took turns to take pictures and admire the magnificent bird. The hawk like bird, stayed on the spot for few minutes, fanning its wings and tail feathers, in the warm winter sun. A soon as it saw us, the bird spread its wings and flew away.









I had seen a similar bird, on the boundary wall of our housing society a few years back. In the last 10-15 days, we sisters have looked into a number of books and surfed through various birding websites to identify what we had seen and to to confirm, whether the two sitings were of the same bird. Uploading the pictures taken on both occasions in this post.

Tail feather fan

Three members of the Accipiter family, closely fit the description of the birds we had seen. These are the besra, the shikra and the Eurasian sparrowhawk. There is very little difference between the three birds; the coloring is brighter in besra and sparrow hawk than in shikra. The marking on the body are also different denser in one, paler in another and . Link to websites which give a good description of the Accipiter birds is given here. 





Bird poses some more


After much debate, it was concurred that the bird on the balcony was a juvenile shikra and the one seen earlier on the boundary wall was an Eurasian sparrowhawk. However, if anyone can provide definite identification, after examining the bird pictures, they are requested to enlighten me on the subject.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peacock Dance



The Peacock should have been the first entry in Feathered Friends, being the national bird.  Hopefully the number of pictures and the time spent on this chapter should appease this divine bird :p

Peafowl family in Moira, Goa

During my stay at beautiful Moira village in Goa, in the month of July, I had an opportunity to see this beautiful bird dancing. The peahens scavenged vegetable patch of  the neighbors for food, while the peacock merrily put up its show. Being monsoon season, peacock's plumage  was in its full splendor.  Brilliant blue green and gold colored  feathers were mesmerizing. The call of the dancing bird could be heard all over the village for hours after mid day. The peacock is more flamboyant than the peahens in its harem. A typical peafowl family has one male and 3-4 females.



It is said that the peacock "has angel's feathers, a devil's voice, and the walk of a thief." It is the vahan of Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and learning.  Peacock is also the vehicle for Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvati. Legends from Greek mythology, give explanations for the extravagant display feathers of the  peacock.  
Adult Peacock
A story describes how the peacock acquired the many eyes in his ornamental train. The goddess Hera had a beautiful priestess named Io. Io was greatly admired by Zeus. To protect her from Hera’s jealousy Zeus transformed Io into a heifer. Hera tricked Zeus into giving the heifer to her as a gift and set her faithful servant Argus to watch over her. Argus had numerous eyes all over his body, making him a natural choice for the assignment. Zeus sent the god Hermes to free Io from Hera’s watchman. Hermes charmed Argus to sleep until all of his eyes were closed and then killed him. To honor her faithful watchman, Hera took Argus’ eyes and placed them on the tail of the peacock.  


As I saw the bird dance, I recalled this beautiful marathi poem.

 ढगांशी वारा झुंजला रे
काळा काळा कापूस पिंजला रे
आता तुझी पाळी, वीज देते टाळी
फुलव पिसारा नाच, नाच रे मोरा ... 


झरझर धार झरली रे 
झाडांची भिजली इरली रे 
पावसात न्हाऊ, काहीतरी गाऊ 
करुन पुकारा नाच, नाच रे मोरा ...

Three types of peafowls are found in world; Indian, Green and Congo. Green peafowl is found in southeast Asia which I have photographed in Sentosa island, Singapore. Hoping to get a chance to photograph the Congo variety in African region.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Saarika - The Garrulous Myana

The balcony of our fifth floor residence is a happening spot for birds.We have variety of visitors landing in our balcony to drink or bathe in a shallow earthen water bowl. The cool shade of the flower pots is a summer time siesta spot. Bulbul, pigeon, crows, sparrows, squirrel, sun birds and mynas are the regular ones. Have spotted a besra/ shikra,/ sparrowhawk couple of times, sunning itself on the balcony railing. (will have pictures in later post)
 

Myana is one of the most entertaining visitors. It practices it vocal chords, emitting different types of sounds ranging from sweet cooing to harsh crowing. It sometimes fluffs it plumage and dances a crazy circular dance. One can often see 4-5 mynas perched on different levels of the building have a loud argument.

Myanas have devised another use for the bowl. Twigs, leaves and grass are soaked in water; softened sufficiently to be woven into a nest. Raw material for nest building are also sourced by these intelligent scavengers from flower pots and cloths line in the balcony.

After the eggs hatched, young ones were spreading their wings; and the balcony became a training ground. Captured pictures of the myanah family during one of their practise sessions.