My Nature Travelogues from India

Birds of Jamnagar

Birds of Jamnagar
  • Owl-Mountain Scops-1
  • Shrike-Isabelline-2
  • Stork--Greater-Adjutant-9
  • Barwing---S.Throated-5
  • Woodpecker-Yellow-crowned-1
  • Cottonia peduncularis-6
  • Bushchat - Stolickza's-1
  • Frogmouth-Ceylon-1
  • Pipit---Nilgiri-4
  • Shortwing-White-bellied-1

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Mountain Scops Owl – The Ventriloquist

Owl-Mountain Scops-1

MOUNTAIN SCOPS OWL

Though quite widely distributed in the entire Trans-Himalayan range, it is more often heard than seen. Truly a ventriloquist, this Owl is one tough guy to spot. It is really difficult to pin-point the origin of the calls, so much so that this species has hardly been seen by many birders. We happened to spot this individual very close (approx. about 15 feet) and watched it for a long time, fortunately it stayed at the spot for a long time, constantly calling.

Even though quite close, the call seemed to be emanating from far off. There was another individual which was responding to the calls.

This image is taken in Torchlight.

Status in the Region: Common
Place: Dhanaulti, Uttarakhand
Site Habitat: Woodland with predominantly tall Fir, Deodar and Maple trees….
Date: 3rd May, 2016
Equipment: Nikon Coolpix p900 with 83x optical zoom

 

Isabelline Shrike ….and the Origin of the word “Isabelline”

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Isabelline Shrike

Shrike’s are habitat specific, like this one (Lanius isbellinus) which prefers arid scrubland & Grassland, it has been split now from the Red-tailed Shrike and shows different colouration on head and tail.

I often dwell deep to find the bird name etymology and in that quest have hit upon some interesting ones, though not as interesting as the origin of this word – Isabelline.

Isabelline, also known as Isabella, is a pale grey-yellow, pale fawn, pale cream-brown, sandy or parchment colour, often used to describe plumage in birds like Isabelline Shrike, Wheatear etc.

The word clearly comes from the personal name Isabella. There’s a folk tale (However, there are other theories as well) — mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary only to deny its truth — that says the origin was Isabella, Archduchess of Austria, daughter of Philip II of Spain. He laid siege to Ostend in 1601 and in a moment of dedicated fervour Isabella vowed not to change her intimate undergarments until the city was taken. Unfortunately for her (and for those around her) the siege lasted another three years, leading to this off-colour word for over-worn underwear🙂

Place: Tal Chappar Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan

Habitat: Grassland, interspersed with Scrubland

Date: 3.3.2013

Camera: Canon 40D

Lens:100-400mm

(Source of info: Internet)

Greater adjutant – The Fading Scavenger

Stork--Greater-Adjutant-3

The Greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) stork is a huge bird with a wingspan of about 8 feet and is mainly a scavenger, but also an opportunistic feeder. The English name is derived from their firm “military” gait when walking on the ground (In military parlance, an adjutant is a senior captain who stands at attention in front of his superiors)….. In the breeding season, the pouch and neck become bright orange. The pendant-like inflatable pouch on its neck connects to the air passages and is not connected to the digestive tract. The exact function is unknown, but it is not involved in food storage as was sometimes believed. The bright orange-red you see in this image is not the (head) “cap”, but the protrusion near its shoulders (see the link for more images).

Once abundant in most parts of India and South-east India, this species is struggling for its survival with just about 1000 individuals left in the world. There are only 3 breeding sites worldwide including Assam, Bhagalpur (Bihar) and in Cambodia. The Indian population is threatened by reduced access to carcasses and comparatively better sanitation…… In the 19th century, they were particularly common in the city of Calcutta during the summer and rainy season, where they were known as “Calcutta Adjutants”. Known locally as hargila (derived from the Sanskrit word-hadda-gilla-for “bone-swallower“). Infact, the old emblem of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation included two adjutant storks facing each other. They were considered to be efficient scavengers and an act was passed to protect them. Anyone who killed the bird had to pay a fine of fifty rupees. At that time, they were valued as scavengers – which benefitted the City’s sanitation – and their image was incorporated in the logo of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Most of the Greater Adjutant population in Assam are now confined in and around the Guwahatti dumping ground, where they compete with human garbage lifters.

(Info Source: Internet)

Place: Guwahati Dumping Ground, Assam

Date: 8.3.2014

Camera: Canon 40D

Lens: Canon 100-400mm

 

Streak-throated Barwing

Barwing---S.Throated-5

 

The Streaked-throated Barwing (Actinodura waldeni) is named after Viscount Walden (1824-1878), a Scottish Soldier and ornithologist who served in India.

 

The Barwings are enigmatic birds from the Babbler family and prefer to move in groups. They are named so because of the barrings on their wings. Found in the eastern Himalayas, these are highly active birds and seldom sit quite making it difficult to photograph them. However @ Mayodia Pass (@2800m) in Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh,  they gave us a wonderful photo opportunities, thanks to the army camp and the soldiers, who lead us to where these (and other species) visit to feed on the kitchen waste J

 

Common Name : Streak-throated Barwing

Status in the Region: Common
Place: Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh
Site Habitat: Dense forest along slopes @ 2700m
Date: 23rd Mar, 2014
Equipment: Canon 40 D with Canon 100-400 mm IS lens

 

 

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker ….. And the Maratha Turban!!

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Yellow-crowned Woodpecker …..And the Maratha Turban!!

The Marattha Woodpecker (Now called as Yellow-crowned Woodpecker – Dendrocopos mahrattensis) is called so not just because it was first described from this region (Part of current day South Maharashtra and Central India), but also probably because the red crown of the male resembles the Red “turban” of the Maratha warriors.

The scientific names like these are very interesting and are sometimes more apt than the ever changing English common names. They are even sometimes easy to remember too, yet unfortunately in India majority of the birding community avoids the reference of scientific names unlike the botany or herpetofauna or other communities. Forget about scientific names, most do not even have the courtesy to provide the basic details like date and locations and if they do, it is very casual in the form of abbreviations or something which may not be understood by all. Portraying our images of natural wonders to the world should be done with the same efforts, enthusiasm and commitment like when we take the images🙂

 
The Rich cultural diversity of India also reflects strongly in the scientific names of birds when early taxonomists and ornithologists named them. So several birds are named (scientific or common names) after the places or regions (States, provinces, cities, Rivers, mountains, Plateaus)…. some are named after the Hindu Gods, some are named after the scientists/ornithologists and some are named even after the vernacular references.

 
For e.g. Kashmir Nuthatch (Sitta Cashmirensis), Andaman Drongo (Dicrurus andamanensis), Indian Eagle Owl (Bubo bengalensis), Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis), Slaty-headed Parakeet (Psittacula himalayana) , Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense), Malabar Lark (Galerida malabarica), White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis), Chestnut-vented Nuthatch (Sitta nagaensis), Black-throated Prinia (Prinia a khasiana) after Khasi hills, White Wagtail (Motacilla a dukhunensis) after Deccan plateau, Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae) after the hill station of Dalhousie, Tawny Eagle (Aquila r vindihiana) after Vindhya mountains ….. some sub-species names are even more interesting🙂

 
A regular habit of using scientific name is always a good birding practice, helps to remember scientific names permanently and scientifically valuable….

Bird Id: Yellow-crowned Woodpecker (Dendrocopos mahrattensis)

Place: Near Taal Chappar Sanctuary, Churu District, Rajasthan

Date: 18.2.13

Camera: Canon 40D and Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS

Bee Orchid…. a Perfect Decoy !!

Cottonia peduncularis-2

Bee Orchid…. a Perfect Decoy !!

Some of the Natures creations are so amazing that you are not just stunned by their make-up, but are also inspired….. The Bee Orchid (Cottonia peduncularis) is one such marvellous piece of art created by Nature.

Orchids in general are fascinating variety of plants and one of the most secretive in their lifestyle, breeding biology and character with over 25ooo species found all over the world. Few flower families can rival the beauty of these incredibly remarkable ones. Some of them are found right within the forests of Mumbai.

The Bee Orchid (Cottonia peduncularis) is so unique that it is placed under its very own (monotypic) genus Cottonia and is the only species within the genus. It is an epiphytic orchid (growing on trees for support) that usually grows on the upper branches. The flowers are clustered at the tip of the branched spike during Mar-Jun. This thin spike can be almost 2 feet in length.

What is really fascinating about this Orchid is, that the “Lip” of the flower resembles a bee with antennae, furry texture, head & thorax, and wing like markings ….making it resemble almost exactly like a Bee. The thin spikes containing these flowers sways in the air creating an impression of a flying female bee…. so perfect is this disguise and the ploy that a real male bee is enticed towards this “decoy” female and tries to mate with it …. the ensuing struggle releases the sticky orchid “pollinia” and gets embedded on the head of the male bee, when the male visits another such flower, the pollinia is transferred and thus helps to pollinate the flowers…. The Bee Orchids certainly live up to their name and is truly a master of “mimicry”. Another species of bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) found in Europe even goes to the extent of emitting enticing chemical signals that mimic female bees.

These lesser known flora are so enthralling and omnipresent in our forest, yet neglected and less studied.

This Orchid is endemic to Peninsular India and Srilanka and is generally encountered in semi evergreen and deciduous forests.

Place: Mumbai

Date: 12.5.2013
Camera: Canon 40D, Lens: Tamron 90 mm Macro

Stoliczka’s Bushchat – The “Pot-bellied” Mystery Bird !!

Bushchat - Stolickza's-1

Stoliczka’s Bushchat – The “Pot-bellied” Mystery Bird !!

Birds have been studied extensively in India and elsewhere and with the spurt in digital photography, awareness and information technology new insights are revealed about birds every day. Some not so easily seen birds are showcased to a much larger audience and deeper studies are conducted.

Yet, there are few birds which still lead a mysterious life…. their lifestyle still un-explored and their status yet unknown. One such bird seems to be the strange Stoliczka’s Bushchat – Saxicola macrorhynchus (Also called as White-browed Bushchat) whose behaviour, routine and status is still unclear. This species is known to occur in Dry (arid) thorny scrubland in pockets of NW India and presumably in Pakistan and is vulnerable with declining population. It is indeed surprising to know that very little is known about the breeding habits of this bird. Presumably no one has yet recorded either its nest or its courtship ritual. It differs from other bushchats by its longer and pointed (almost triangular beak) that probably helps it to dig out insects (have seen this act on several occasions) as also its long legs that helps it to pursue prey on ground just like a pipit. Infact it spends so much time on ground pursuing insects that a first timer would easily confuse this as a Pipit….. The species name macrorhynchus is derived from Greek (makros=large, rhunkhos=bill)
But what’s even more intriguing is its “Puff & Roll” behaviour that has baffled bird experts. While feeding, the bird suddenly puffs up its belly (like in this image) and shakes side-ways, relaxes and resumes its activity. It does this periodically (we have seen the “puffing” part also while it is perched)…… No one knows for sure what this means and there are several hypothesis to this. Some experts say that it is a courtship ritual, while others feel it could be a threat display, yet others feel this could be a tactic to flush out insects. The later explanation seems more in-line with the chat family behaviour. Whatever, it is, there is a need to study and probe this interesting and unique behaviour….. However, it is always very amusing to witness this “Puff & Roll” antic of this adorable bird🙂

Thanks to Mr.Surat Singh Poonia Ji (DFO-Tal Chappar WLS) who has been studying this bird in Tal Chappar and for helping us to see this one. I am sure, with his un-tiring efforts, he would definitely be able to unravel the mystery behind this behaviour shortly.

 

Place: Outskirts of Tal Chappar WLS, Rajasthan

Date: 4.3.13

Camera: Canon 40D

Lens: Canon 100-400 mm IS

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