Posts Tagged ‘birding’

Outings in the times of COVID

July 10, 2020

How I go on nature/bird outings: I go with just two or three friends, all of whom are (so far) healthy. We wear our masks, and sit one person to an open window.

We choose locations where we are not likely to find any other people.

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Champakadhama Temple at Bannerghatta.

Here’s the rushing stream of the Suvarnamukhi, just upstream of T K Falls:

Here is the cascade at Thotti Kallu Falls:

Don’t do it if you are not comfortable with the idea! However, my visits to the Bannerghatta biosphere (Gulakmale, T K Falls area) have been extremely productive in terms of many kinds of life forms, including birds.

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Lesser Grass Blue

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A Carpenter Bee with its wing stuck on a thorn (I released it gently.)

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My friend Biju with a beautiful tree

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Ancient inscription stones (probably dating back to the 9th century).

Here’s a Sirkeer Malkoha which the three of us (Biju, Prem and I) found foraging on the ground this morning, while exploring the general area. It then hopped on to a small tree, and stayed for a little while, delighting us before it flew off.

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Bannerghatta biosphere, several visits.

Begur Lake, a triumph of rejuvenation! 060620

June 8, 2020

The last couple of occasions I had visited Begur Lake, it was under renovation, and we were a little concerned about how the job would be carried out.

Well, on Saturday the 6th, a few of us

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decided to visit the lake, as Dhanapal has been getting such excellent images from there; and we were very happy that we did; the birds (and other living beings) are back at, and in, the lake.

The onset of the monsoon meant that we walked on to the lake bund. Following Dhanapal’s directions, we walked along the eastern bund instead of the western one near which the Panchalingeswara temple stands. We found several stands of reeds and almost immediately, our attention was riveted by the variety of birds that we found. Coots, Grebes, Egrets (all sizes), Herons (both the common colours of grey and purple) all went about their business of securing breakfast in their different ways, ducking in the water, or wading along the shoreline.

In a while, we could discern even more activity in the reeds. Streaked Weavers were building their nests, carrying long reed-leaves to one stand and expertly weaving them in;

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In this connection, I would like to add two excellent videos Ashwin has made, of Streaked Weavers feeding their young:

and

Pond Herons in fine breeding plumage

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stood stock-still while their sharp eyes scanned the water; and a few Yellow bitterns, which are rather difficult to sight as a rule, were quite clearly visible as, clutching the reeds with both feet, they darted their beaks into the muddy ground for insects, snails or a small fish.

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The typical spider-like movement of these birds, along the reeds instead of over the ground, made them easy to identify, and tell apart from the Pond Herons.

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For many of us, this was a “lifer” (a bird being seen for the first time) and the binoculars and the cameras were very busy indeed!

One surprising fact was that there were far more Brahminy Kites than Black Kites, in a city where the reverse is often true. We enjoyed their soaring, and their swoops into the water to catch fish, the attempts being successful occasionally.

Cormorants, Little, Indian and Great, were in plenty, and flew in and out of the lake, stippling the water as they landed or took off. Overhead, too, they formed skeins as they disappeared into the brightening sky, perhaps bound for other water bodies. Several Darters added their zigzag snake-necks to our bird count.

Several Spot-billed Pelicans were found in the far reaches, while a few swam lazily around nearer to where we stood. We found only a few Spot-billed Ducks, and some Lesser Whistling Ducks, far away. Meanwhile, Ashy and Plain Prinias, and one single Clamorous Reed Warbler, delighted us at the front of our birding stage. Both the Bronze-winged

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and the Pheasant-tailed Jacanas wandered around, the males of the latter in their spectacular “comma-tail” breeeding plumage. For some reason, there were only two Painted Storks, one of which struggled (successfully!) with a very large fish, as we looked on.

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Purple Swamphens

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and Common Moorhens added both colour and black-and-red, and we saw the Pied, White-breasted and the Small Blue Kingfisher. Red-rumped Swallows collected mud for their nests, from the shore.

Indeed, I would say that Begur lake is an ideal spot for bird watching and bird photography. One does not need to walk far; the light of the morning sun falls on the birds; one can watch the behaviour of the birds at leisure, rather than just sighting them and moving on. The first frenzy of the cameras gives way to the calm use of the binoculars!

Nor were birds the only thing that caught our attention, Starting with a gleaming Jewel Bug at the entrance, many handsome six footers welcomed us to the lake. Pentatomid bugs, Net-winged Beetles,

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different kinds of bees and wasps nectaring and gathering pollen

and several spiders which were ready to catch any unwary ones,

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Lynx spider killing a bee which came to nectar in the Dhatura flower.

dragonflies

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Ruddy Marsh Skimmer

and damselflies

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…there was no dearth of six- and eight-legged creatures. Several butterflies woke up

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Lesser Grass Blue

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Mating Mottled Emigrants

and flitted around as the sunlight warmed up; we saw Emigrants, Common and Crimson Roses, some Blues, Tawny Costers…and so the list went.

The lake itself was redolent with the peace of the morning. Scudding grey and white moisture-bearing clouds, across patches of freshly-washed blue skies;

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the reflection of those clouds, along with the old Panchalingeswara temple and the multicoloured buildings of Begur, in the waters of the lake; the fresh monsoon breeze and the gentle monsoon sunshine..it was utterly delightful to be out in the open air, enjoying all of this.

Alas, some trash has also made an appearance at the lake, as has some stagnant areas with stinking algae,

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but with the easing of the lockdown, I hope that the lake will be better maintained.

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Mexican Poppy

We shared our snacks (having removed our masks for a bit, in case you were wondering) and munched contentedly with the ease of undemanding camaraderie, and went homes with our spirits lifted and our memories, and memory cards, filled up!

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I have posted my photos on Flickr

here

and on FB at

here

The eBird list is
here

Looking forward to more outings with all of us having our good health intact,

Deepa.

The Black-winged Kite

May 7, 2020

Black-winged Kite, Srikanth G, 070520

Photo: Srikanth Govindaraju

Black-winged Kite!
Beautiful sight!
Once-in-a-while you greet me.
Small and grey,
Bird of prey
You look happy to meet me!

Ruby-eyed bird,
Who’s sharp of sight,
See-ing you.. Is sheer delight!
Small and grey,Bird of prey,
May you always greet me!

Read more about the Black-winged Kite

here

A tiny Golden Jackpot!

April 29, 2020

Sometimes a small success at home is as satisfying as getting a rare bird far away.

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On our terrace, the Red-whiskered Bulbuls (or as I call them, the Bulbullies) always chase away other birds which come to drink water or bathe , and I have been lying patiently in wait (when I get a little breather from the Endless Dishes in the Sink) in the hopes of getting Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Tailorbirds, a solitary Jungle Myna , and several of these delightful Oriental White-eyes.

Today I managed to click at exactly the right time! Certainly, before the lockdown, I didn’t know that I could find these birds in the middle of Jayanagar 4th T Block.

Blr, 280420.

Birding, now….

April 2, 2020

Gone are the days of birding travel.
The virus has made all my plans unravel.
From planning to see the Myzornis,
My birding world has shrunk to this:
How can I catch the Tailorbird,
Which whips in and out, and is only heard
Upon the terrace that I keep looking at? Why
Should these birds be so wary and shy?
Such a fleeting glimpse of the yellow White-eye…
What makes it so keen to zip and fly?
Why can’t it wait and pose for me
And let me take a photo…or three?
I have forgotten the forests, the deer and leopards
And even the various, colourful birds.
Mountain streams and riverside breeze,
Coastal stickiness and Himalayan freeze.
Life for me is the Barbet in the Bangalore sun.
Sighting a Koel is quite a lot of fun.
It’s the terrace that exerts a recurring pull,
For a sight of the Sunbird or the Bulbul.
Overhead, the v-shaped tails of the Black Kite.
The fluttering Pigeons, blue, grey and white.
I can’t even hear the Crows, of late,
Or see their throats of dull grey slate.
Birding is also memories: I go to my Flickr
And wish my broadband speed was quicker.
I visit, once again, birds all over the world:
Fieldfares, Bluebirds, Toucans, with their feathers unfurled.
I close my laptop and arise from my sofa,
And dream of the day when again I will go far
Looking for my beloved, favourite birds,
Which will then be real, not just photos and words!

grey-headed kingfisher

Grey-headed Kingfisher from Tanzania.

The terrace and the window..

March 30, 2020

Being housebound is not very tough for me, as we have our essential supplies, and are quite used to doing our house chores without maids. But certainly, the time spent indoors has been very rewarding because of the two features of our apartment, that form my subject title.

The builders of this apartment designed the terrace in a rather unusual way; the access is only through one of the bedrooms, so I cannot go out on to it whenever I wish to. However, one window in the living area has a view of the terrace, and I sit at my laptop, facing the many pots placed there.

I always have noticed the Red-whiskered Bulbul pair that flies around, as well as many Purple-rumped Sunbirds. That, I thought, was the sum total of what I would see through the window.

Of course, you all know that the story has turned out differently! One day, both my son in law (I typed sin in law, which is a very interesting relationship!) and I watered the plants, and apart from the shallow plate kept on the floor of the terrace, a couple of pots had an inch or two of water in them.

The two Bulbuls, which had, so far, disdained using the shallow plate, suddenly decided that the muddy water in the pot was ideal for their hamam! First the adults, and then the juvenile, would come and alight at the edge of the pots, and very carefully look, and hop around, the edges. Then, emboldened, they would sit in the water and splash to their hearts’ content, coming out and sitting on a branch of the small Frangipani tree, “shivering” themselves out and preening, with that fashionable “wet-spiky” look.

I started hearing the tiny cheeping sounds of the Sunbirds too; but they were much more wary in approaching the pots, and would often only take a dainty sip or two before flying off. However, as I started watering the plants both morning and evening, I started seeing them having a quick dip, too. They would perch mostly on a small twig just above the water, and pick their moment to dip in.

Then came a bird with its “upticked” tail…yes, a little Tailorbird, which literally zoomed in and out like one of the bazooka lenses that my friends use! After the rapid bath, though, its call was loud and clear.

The Bulbuls, I found, are bullies! They often sit on the edge of the pots, not allowing the other birds to come near at all.That probably accounts for the lightning-fast visits of the Tailorbird and the Sunbirds!

Meanwhile, the squirrels did not come to have a bath, but did come over to take a little drink from the pots. They whisked themselves into gravity- defying poses on the branches of the Frangipani, and would then scurry off.

I must say, there are no House Sparrows, and the Barbets, Koels and Pigeons seem not to want to bathe in the water at all; so I thought to myself that three was the total of birds that were bathing and drinking. However, I corrected myself when an Oriental White-eye delighted me by coming in for a very, very brief visit! Here I sit, now, with my eyes glued to the terrace in the fading light of a warm evening, hoping to see the yellow beauty again.

The household chores call, as do two active young grandchildren who want to play a card game with me; but still I sit on, looking through the window, into the world of the thirsty squirrels and the bathing avians.

I took a quick video of one of the Bulbuls bathing. It was through the glass of the window, and the anti-mosquito wire mesh too, so it’s a little hazy:

Birding at home, 250320

March 25, 2020

It is the first day of the total 21-day lockdown announced by our Prime Minister. I decided to move to my daughter’s home as that makes more logistical sense.

I have watered all the plants in the pots on the terrace, not knowing that my son in law has already done so. This results in a pool of water in some of the pots (though the Coleus plants still look droopy and deprived).

I come inside and sit, typing random stuff on my laptop; the terrace is visible through the grille of the window, which also has an anti-mosquito mesh.

To my delight, one of the pair of Red-whiskered Bulbuls that are resident in the building, decides on a long, luxurious bath in one of the pots! After a few delighted moments, I quickly get my camera, and the following video.

I wasn’t able to get the lady sunbird that was feeding off the Hibiscus earlier; I am glad I’ve had more success this time, though it was through the grille and the net…I can call it the Internet Bulbul!

The bird flies off, and I return to my work, smiling happily to myself.

Documentation photography

March 5, 2020

Once again, let me state that one does not need a top-flight camera or a bazooka lens to make a significant image.

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Spotting this vulture in the air on 1 Mar ’20, from our accommodation at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, I raised my little Canon SX50 and clicked. It is the critically-endangered White-rumped Vulture.

I am sure the photo (cropped) is not of any mention-worthy quality; but to me, it is important documentation of a bird which is being seen more and more rarely.

The Yellow-throated Sparrow, Mudumalai, 290220

March 2, 2020

Those who know their Indian bird lore know that the Chestnut-shouldered Petronia is the bird that inspired Dr Salim Ali to become an ornithologist. It was earlier called the Yellow-throated Sparrow, as the male shows a yellow throat in the breeding season. I caught these two males (you can see the yellow throat patch) at Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, on 29 Feb ’20.

Email to Bngbirds about Mavathur Kere, 170220

February 24, 2020

When the first report of the “phoren birds”…the European Bee-eaters that pass through our area around this time of the year….came in, I didn’t think too much about it. After all, I told myself, I have seen them in the past…glad that someone else can see them now! I fully expected that they would be gone the next day, as usually happens.

But no! This year, the Foreign Bee-eaters seemed to have decide, partially at least, to follow the example of the Spot-billed Pelicans, many of which have practically bought 3BHK apartments and settled down in Bangalore, and can be seen all year round. They (probably expert birders refer to them as EBE, at the risk of sounding as if they are whistling at a pretty girl!) decided to tarry a while. They are not precisely in Bangalore (as in, sitting on top of Vidhan Soudha), but about 40km away. Every day, I got reports reading, “We (this ‘we’ never included ‘me’!) went and they were there”. The birds seemed to fly off at 7.30am or so, meaning that birders would have to reach Mavathur lake area at least half an hour prior to that.I looked at the BMTC bus that I usually use, and put certain “shall I?” thoughts away.

But when my friend Srikanth asked me if I’d like to come along, temptation beckoned. I had gone to Jigani campus of IIMB on Sunday morning; attended to a domestic crisis in the afternoon; conducted the 3rd Sunday walk at Madivala kere in the evening, helped someone’s parent to the hospital at night,and was (am) going to leave for the Chambal Bird Survey on Monday evening. The sensible thing was to sleep well, and forget those birds.

So of course, like Eve (not EBE) and the forbidden fruit…I fell! Being me, I quickly filled up Srikanth’s car with two more passengers (why have 2 people looking at, or for, the birds, when more could do it?), Mamta (from Bhubaneswar) and Padma, we set off in the pre-dawn darkness, with Siva’s tips to guide us.

These tips being very accurate, we arrived at the Google Maps-designated “Your destination has arrived” early enough to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes, beguiled by other birds such as Little Grebes, Coots, and a little blue jewel of a Kingfisher, to the spot where we could see the two electricity pylons. And as we neared them, I did see a few silhouettes beginning to perch on the wires.

The light improved enough to see that they, were, indeed, the European Bee-eaters; these were lifers for all three of my friends. We walked over a rickety wooden bridge, and approached the “bande” or boulders.

The other three managed to climb up; alas, my dinky knee, and the thought of a long journey to Madhya Pradesh awaiting me, kept me back, particularly because of the loose small pebbles and rocks which, I was sure, would roll me down like Jack and Jill! However, I followed a broader path that skirted the boulders, and I could soon see the bee-eaters quite well, if not very close. Since I am far from being a NatGeo photographer, the sight of these colourful beauties, and a few documentation shots, sufficed me.

There were also several kinds of Swallows on the wires; and the beautiful Common Sand Martins I had been told about were there too! I watched for a while, as the birds made their own avian music notations on the wires, as well as chittering away. The Bee-eaters suddenly flew away, at about 7.20am.

Quite content, I looked over the valley, with its check dam and little temple, on the path from which a farmer was bringing his cattle to the fields for the morning’s work. I walked about, seeing several Rufous-tailed Larks, both adult and babies (Larklings? Larkettes?) and many Munias and Silverbills.

By this time, I had armed myself with a stout stick (I’d already fallen once and pulled Mamta down with me too!) and was able to negotiate the Bridge (being a keen birder, I nearly typed “birdge”!) over the River Kwai, well, the wooden slats over the ditch, and came back to the shore of the lake, along with the others.

Here, more unexpected delights awaited us. A Woolly-necked Stork stood, plumb spang in the middle of our path as did a Pond Heron. Clicking contentedly, we also sighted several waterfowl, including a group of Northern Shovellers (I’ve never seen a Southern Shoveller, do they exist?) on the water.

Back to the where the car was parked, a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher in the fields, and a Blue-faced Malkoha doing its usual skulking act in a wood-apple tree, made a fitting finale to a most enjoyable morning.

We stopped to have breakfast at the new outer space restaurant at Ravugodlu (it’s called NASA’s Davangere Benne Dose!) and filled up our inner space, and returned home by 11 am, well satisified with the morning’s outing!

I do hope that many of you will be going over to see these stunningly colourful visitors to our area before they decide to move on. My eBird list from the morning (what a haul!) is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64628920

I have put up my photos on FB at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10157323019538878&type=3

and on Flickr at

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I have included a few videos and photos in my quick-notes blogpost at

Now excuse me, while I go and pack…binoculars? check! Grimmskipp? check!

Cheers, Deepa.