Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trandansen @ Hornborgasjön (Courting Cranes at Lake Hornborga)

Spring can be appreciated only if one is in a cold place. And if someone from a tropical country is in a Scandinavian country, spring does mean a lot! After months of chilling cold, darkness, plain black-and-white everywhere around, spring brings with it a lot of hope... of light, of warmth, of colors. It also marks the season when life returns back in nature.
This is when the birds that migrated down south, half a year ago return to their breeding land. In central Sweden, the onset of spring is marked by the return of cranes in thousands, which stop by at a lake named Hornborga. Swedish believe that it is these cranes that bring spring and have high regard for these birds. Often the first batch of cranes is eagerly awaited.
Year after year they return to the same place, breed their offsprings and fly up north. Of course while returning back they make a stopover at the same place but they don't breed then. Spring season as such makes this place lovely and vibrant. Usually the cranes are in thousands there during the spring. The exact date they come here, is not really predictable, but when they do come it is a spectacular sight to watch. On a good spring day, the numbers can go up to 15000 along with other birds.
Dancing is the typical courtship behaviour of cranes where male tries to impress the female by jumping around, circling around and doing all sorts of acrobatics. Normally, all cranes don't dance during the same time but when they do I guess it is quite magnificent to watch. The cranes usually camp around for a few days here, lucky ones choose their partner, a few breed in the lake but a majority fly up north for breeding.
Here are some more pictures from the visit. Do enjoy.

Eurasian Cranes among Whooper Swans
European Lapwing

Mute Swan

Blsck headed Gull
Eurasian Cranes in evening sunlight

Info about the Place.

Hornborgasjön is one of the most important bird lakes in Europe which attracts large number of birds especially Eurasian Cranes during their yearly migration from north to south and back. Lake Hornborga is known for large congregations of Eurasian Cranes during spring and especially known for their courtship dance (Trandansen)
The local administration has set up the nature centre (naturum) and bird watching towers/places for nature lovers. Hides are also available on request. The administration also feeds the birds, the feed is typically put during the evening when the birds fly out of the lake to the fields and return back. The administration also keeps a count of birds and publish. The cranes are counted at dusk when they fly into the lake to sleep. Counting is done manually using binoculars. Albeit the counting is done manually, the efforts are made to keep it as accurate as possible.
More details on this website in Swedish


Friday, February 8, 2013

Common Birds of Sweden- Eurasian Magpie

Gothenburg is a city on the west coast of Sweden, with a an oceanic climate. During the summer, daylight extends 17 hours, but lasts only around 7 hours in late December. 

It is rather a green city, with many parks and nature reserves ranging in size from tens of metres to hundreds of hectares. Apart from these, the entire city has a decent green cover, with various trees and plants everywhere. One can find patches of thick woods right outside apartment buildings; roads are almost always lined with trees, good sized lawns in front of all apartments/villas. And most of these trees are fruiting trees. In short i can say there might not be a house which does not have a view of some trees and some green patch. 
A path through the woods right outside an apartment complex 
Also people here are bird-friendly. They do make it a point to have some nests, bird feeders and so on in their little gardens or even in their balconies. 

Owing to these, bird life is quite good here, with many species living in the urban gardens. One can always do some bird watching right from their windows or balconies, irrespective of the weather! In fact it is easier this way and more fruitful! It is amazing to see many birds that winter here in spite of the cold climate. 

Coming up here is a new series with posts about the common birds found here. Here's the first one.

Eurasian Magpie

One of the most common birds one sees in the city are Eurasian Magpies [Pica Pica]. I can say they are common mynas of Europe! They are seen everywhere - in balconies of houses, on lawns, in urban gardens, beside busy roads, in thick woods, and so on. They are highly adaptable and social. They feed on insects, other small birds, eggs, scraps, etc. They are also fond of processed food fed by humans, especially bread! 
The black, white and the iridescent shades 
It is a beautiful bird with with pure white and black colors with a metallic green and violet sheen on the wing feathers. The wings have white inner webs, conspicuous when the wing is open. The graduated tail is black, shot with bronze-green and other iridescent colors.  
A couple, foraging together
The Magpies are supposedly the most intelligent of birds. They have apparently the only bird to demonstrate mirror self recognition, hide food and remember food location, divide food equally among its chicks and so on. From my personal observation of these, I have seen that they visit places where they can possibly find food at the same time everyday. My neighbor here feeds them with scraps of bread occasionally and they wait outside the balcony everyday at around the same time!

The nest - a couple is making the nest ready during the end of winter when the tree is still barren
They do not avoid humans unless they are threatened. Magpies are monogamous and stick with their partners throughout the year - even while foraging. Nests are rather huge and built on tall trees. They breed in the spring and saw that they reuse nests, by redoing the inner lining. Both male and female participate in redoing the nest. 

A juvenile outside the bushes beside a walking trail
It is amazing the way these birds are adapted to the cold and snowy winters here. While many bird species migrate south during winter, these are a pretty common sight even in winters.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Point Calimere - A kingdom of birds by the sea!

Visiting bird migration sites has always been a fascination for us, a single place with tens of thousands of birds at a time! These are places where flocks after flocks of birds of different species arrive and/or depart, most of them migrating from quite far off places.

Brahminy Starling
Eurasian Spoonbills - In flight

When this trip to Point Calimere was planned by BNHS for a group of us, [Ohh.. this was over a year ago, and we're posting it now...] we were more than delighted! Especially because it was that time of the year where migrants from as far off as the North Pole flew down here to spend the winter. Albeit we were a tad too late – by a couple of weeks to be precise, as the North east monsoon had fairly set in, our spirits were high enough to enjoy the rain as equally as the birds.

Cattle Egret - Juvenile 

About Pt Calimere
Located in a place where the Palk Strait meets the Bay of Bengal, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, Point Calimere is a place for a large variety of migratory birds. In October these water birds arrive from Rann of Kutch, Eastern Siberia, Northern Russia, Central Asia and parts of Europe for their feeding season and start returning to those breeding places in January. This site has recorded the second largest congregation of migratory water birds in India, with a peak population in excess of 100,000, representing over a hundred species.

Mudflats and a view of sunset

Common Kingfisher - Commonly found here
The bird sanctuary, the salt pans, mud flats, grasslands and the roads within the village itself provide ample opportunity for birding.
Brahminy Kite
This being a quiet, small village has limited options for stay, commutation and food. There is the office of BNHS station director and BHNS dormitories along with TN state government guest houses.
Since we drove down to the place, it was easier for us to get around the places for birding, apart from the group birding sessions we had.
Pacific Golder Plover
Long Billed Plover
This is a very important lace for the wintering waders with so many species and such large numbers that id'ing them was a big challenge - especially because of their dull winter plumage... These are some of them...

Little Ringed Plover

Wood Sandpiper
Long Billed Plover (Left) - Broad billed Sandpiper (Right)
Lesser Sand Plover
Kentish Plover
Black winged Stilts
With the rains on and off, the places around were magically transformed within hours. So was the bird congregation, with flocks of different species seen at the same place at different times. During the 5 day stay we had there, and almost 2 or 3 sessions a day, it was fascinating to see different views of the landscapes and different numbers and species of birds at a given place each time!

Painted Stork

Flock of Egrets
One of the mornings, the sanctuary was flooded with water, with the roads covered by more than a foot of water. It was also flooded by flocks and flocks of birds – hundreds of egrets, thousands of waders, tens of painted storks and many more, making it a treat to the eyes and ears. However by late afternoon, the same place was almost dry and the birds had also drastically reduced.
Gull Billed Tern
So was the case with the mud flats where we saw huge numbers of gulls, terns and flamingos one evening and a couple of days later, there was almost none!
Greater Flamingos
Black Tailed Godwits
These Black-tailed Godwits which were in huge numbers once were almost not seen at all later…
Among the various waders, this Little Stint was the most fascinating! With a size smaller than a House Sparrow, it undertakes great migration breeding in the Arctic and wintering in South Asia and Africa!

Little Stint
Along with the water birds, there was a lot of scope with land birds as well, in the woods nearby. The limelight however was this rare, alluring land bird which was playing hide and seek with us most of the time, showing off its chestnut colors for a brief moment and disappearing the next. Finally it decided to pose for us for long enough for us to appreciate its beauty – The Chestnut Winged Cuckoo!!
Chestnut Winged Cuckoo

The other cuckoos seen were Indian Plaintive cuckoo, Lesser cuckoo and Common Hawk Cuckoo.
Indian Plaintive Cuckoo
Black headed cuckoo-shrike female
Not a common hawk cuckoo as we thought earlier, after comments from Hemant and observing again a) beak b) eyes c) the wing pattern we have corrected it.

And the Blue faced Malkohas had never before been this co-operative, waiting patiently for us, for minutes at times at close quarters.

Blue faced Malkoha
Asian Paradise Flycatcher - Juvenile

We had also been to Udayamarthanda puram another wetland nearby where we saw huge flocks of ibises, herons, storks, egrets, pelicans and other birds. All were returning home at sunset, in numbers reaching thousands.

Apart from birding, we were also taught a few lessons in bird ringing, something that BNHS station folks are doing, studying about the migration pattern of the birds. Personally, we didn’t like the idea of bringing the birds to the Field Station for the sake of ringing. Felt it would rather be better to ring the birds close to the place where they are captured and release them immediately, like how it is done in Europe.  But nevertheless, it was something to learn about the ways and means of scientific study of bird migration.
Red necked Phalarope
Bar tailed Godwit
Below is the bird list and Do enjoy the pics, this trip report is due for almost an year and we are glad that we eventually made it.

Bird list
  • Tern, Caspian
  • Tern, Gull-billed
  • Gull, Brown-headed
  • Gull, Heuglin’s
  • Curlew, Eurasian
  • Darter
  • Egret, Cattle
  • Egret, Intermediate
  • Egret, Large
  • Egret, Little
  • Heron, Black-crowned Night
  • Heron, Grey
  • Heron, Indian Pond
  • Heron, Purple
  • Bittern, Cinnamon
  • Flamingo, Greater
  • Ibis, Black-headed
  • Ibis, Glossy
  • Pelican, Spot-billed
  • Spoonbill, Eurasian
  • Stilt, Black-winged
  • Stork, Painted
  • Lapwing, Red-wattled
  • Coot, Common
  • Cormorant, Little
  • Shag, Indian
  • Shoveller, Northern
  • Moorhen, Common
  • Grebe, Little
  • Swamphen, Purple
  • Duck, Spot-billed
  • Waterhen, White-breasted
  • Sandpiper, Broadbilled
  • Sandpiper, Common
  • Sandpiper, Curlew
  • Sandpiper, Wood
  • Greenshank, Common
  • Redshank, Common
  • Plover, Greater Sand
  • Plover, Grey
  • Plover, Kentish
  • Plover, Lesser-sand
  • Plover, Little Ringed
  • Plover, Pacific Golden
  • Stint, Little
  • Stint, Temminck’s
  • Phalarope, Red-necked
  • Godwit, Bar-tailed
  • Godwit, Black-tailed
  • Falcon, Peregrine
  • Harrier, Western Marsh
  • Kite, Black
  • Kite, Black-shouldered
  • Kite, Brahminy
  • Francolin, Grey
  • Babbler, Jungle
  • Babbler, White-headed
  • Barbet, White cheeked
  • Bee-eater, Blue-tailed
  • Bee-eater, Green
  • Bulbul, Red-vented
  • Bulbul, White-browed
  • Malkoha, Blue-faced
  • Cuckoo-shrike, Black-headed
  • Cuckoo, Chestnut-winged
  • Cuckoo, Common Hawk
  • Cuckoo, Indian Plaintive
  • Cuckoo, Lesser
  • Cuckoo, Pied Crested
  • Koel, Asian
  • Dove, Eurasian Collared
  • Dove, Laughing
  • Dove, Spotted
  • Drongo, Black
  • Flycatcher, Asian Paradise
  • Hoopoe, Common
  • Kingfisher, Common
  • Kingfisher, Pied
  • Kingfisher, White-throated
  • Owlet, Spotted
  • Pigeon, Blue-rock
  • Pigeon, Orange-breased Green
  • Bushlark, Indian
  • Pipit, Paddyfield
  • Pipit, Richard’s
  • Prinia, Ashy
  • Robin, Indian
  • Robin, Oriental Magpie
  • Roller, Indian
  • Shrike, Brown
  • Shrike, Long-tailed
  • Skylark, Oriental
  • Sparrow, House
  • Sunbird, Loten’s
  • Sunbird, Purple
  • Sunbird, Purple-rumped
  • Swallow, Common
  • Swift, Asian Palm
  • Treepie, Rufous
  • Wagtail, Large Pied
  • Warbler, Blyth’s Reed
  • Woodswallow, Ashy
  • Parakeet, Rose-ringed
  • Peafowl, Indian
  • Starling, Brahminy
  • Mynah, Common
  • Coucal, Greater
  • Crow, House
  • Crow, Large-billed
 And some sighted mammals

Black Buck
Spotted Deer
Wild Boar
and Finally Our Car - left Stranded

Wishing you all a great 2013 and happy and sane birding during the year. Comments and Corrections welcome as always.