Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Birding in India’s Savannah - Nannaj!

Having missed an opportunity already in Rajasthan to witness the elusive and endangered Great Indian Bustard, we didn’t miss this opportunity to hop on to the trip to Nannaj-WLS @ Maharashtra in the quest of Great Indian Bustard- His Majesty! Had a great company of enthusiastic birders along with us and field experience of Mr. Bharat Cheda whose commitment for nature, conservation is just great! Below is the brief account along with photo feature of the trip. Comments and Critique welcome as always!

Day1 Field Visit

The visit started bit late as there was delay in our arrivals. During the field visits we were strictly instructed not to venture beyond a point as GIB’s are very sensitive to human movements. We kept our fingers crossed hoping that we will definitely cross our paths soon. Afternoon till late evening was an eventful birding in the Grassland and by the evening we decided to head back to base hoping that we might spot a GIB on our way!

This collared dove was sitting pretty

Spotted a aunch of Indian Coursers on our way. Like the V Shape on the neck. Didn't spot any during the rest of the days

Large Grey Babbler

Green Sand Piper

The First Encounter with the king

It was almost late evening and Bharath asked the driver to stop the vehicle and just climbed up on the vehicle and Oh la…. He had spotted His Majesty grazing around at quite a distance. All were up on their toes! All of us got down glued to our Binocs and Cameras. The ones with sharp eyes got a glimpse of his Majesty first and people like me followed the suit later:-).

The GIB was grazing and his wobby bag was quite visible from the distance. He gave a glimpse for a while and got disappeared. It was getting dark and we decided to head back. On our way back we bumped on to Hares and Night Jars which were sitting pretty on the ground.

Indian Nightjar

We were hoping that tomorrow will be a better day and we will definitely catch His Majesty in full avataar.

Day2 Field Visit
Day2 started on a good note with visiting the Hipperga lake nearby. The wet land was full of activity during the morning and we had a great time in spotting many of the water birds.

This Woolly necked Stork displayed its beauty for us from close proximity...

Ashy Prinia

Great Thick Knee

Black Winged Stilt

This crow was munching its breakfast

Baya Weaver - Female??

Common Coot

Post the lake visit and the breakfast we were again into the scrub jungles of Nannaj. Nannaj has lots to offer, from insects, moths to butterflies(another post on butterflies will follow) and birds. We saw two huge frogs resting near a pond quietly. We were amazed by the size of these frogs. As we continued the trail this Juvenile white eyed buzzard flew close to the vehicle and gave good glimpse.

Close call with Eurasian Eagle Owl
As we were taking a look at Bay backed Shrike, the team called us from a distance and there was a surprise there. This Eurasian Eagle owl was sitting pretty under a shrub.
As we watched, she (probably) just walked along from the edge of the tree and took the position right under the tree. So far I have never seen a WALKING OWL, I must say it was rather funny to see a giant owl walking across. Spent a good few minutes in observing her and as she started hooting we just left the place.

And the Second encounter!
Sun was dropping off on the horizon and so were we, almost tired on the day two with extensive birding from morning. Bharat got us to a spot where he felt we had some chances of sighting GIB’s. He scanned the horizon with bincos and hmm…. No luck!! We decided to head the other way. Just then something flew across the horizon and there was His Majesty again….. basking in the glory of the evening sunlight he took a flight across the horizon. Seeing his Majesty in flight was worth the pain taken from the morning.

PS: Next day we figured out that, some enthusiastic birder/photographer ventured too close to the GIB and the disturbed GIB flew off. A sincere request to photographer friends, please follow the basic discipline and when we are in their territory let’s not venture too close for taking photographs. Well this topic needs separate write up and I wish people are sensible enough to follow the basic ground rules.

Day 3 Field Visit
With two days of exhaustive birding, third day we headed straight to Nannaj WLS and decided to spend the time at a place where we can spot Great Indian Bustards. Sitting at a place watching the nature is really interesting, you will witness lot of drama unfold in front of you. A Male black buck chased away the other males or Juveniles in order to prove Supremacy, Again a male buck suddenly sprung into action and sprinted across some distance, a dog chased away herd of bucks and there were butterflies all around capturing the nectar from the flowers.

Small waterbody nearby attracted lot Munias and Silverbills

Time till noon just flew off and still there were no signs of his Majesty! But these larks gave a wonderful breeding display, by flying high up, singing and then diving, literally!
Larks Display

Yellow Wattled Lapwing

The Final Encounter
Post lunch we were back again at the same place and this time we were really really lucky. His Majesty had arrived there already and was conducting his Durbaar for the evening. He was at his best here! He preened, pruned and grazed along as we watched quietly. We were fortunate to see some of the display acts too of the Male bustard. Couple of hours passed by and we made our way for the crowd that came in to watch them.

Later we were told that there was another Juvenile Male Bustard nearby and we walked back to the spot again. Couldn’t spot the Juvenile Bustard, but his Majesty was still happily around. It was getting dark and we drove back keeping beautiful memories in mind.

And finally, here is the bird list of the outing.
1.Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark
2.Black-shouldered Kite
3.Rufous-fronted Prinia
4.Yellow wattled Lapwing
5.Indian Bushlark
6.Grey Francolin
7.Eurasian Collared-dove
8.Laughing Dove
9.Red Collared-dove
10.Sykes's Lark
11.Scaly-breasted Munia
12.Black-headed Munia
13.Indian Silverbill
14.Red-vented Bulbul
15.White-eyed Buzzard
16.Jungle Babbler
17.Yellow-billed Babbler
18.Indian Courser
19.Large Grey Babbler
20.Jungle Bush-quail
21.Red-wattled Lapwing
22.Bay-backed Shrike
23.Indian Robin
24.Green Sandpiper
25.Wood Sandpiper
26.House Crow
27.House Sparrow
28.White-throated Kingfisher
29.Indian Peafowl
30.Little Cormorant
31.Common Myna
32.Baya Weaver
33.Greater Coucal
34.Great Indian Bustard
35.Indian Nightjar
36.Black Kite
37.Rock Pigeon
38.Black Drongo
39.Ashy Prinia
40.Plain Prinia
41.Asian Koel
42.Black Ibis
43.Purple-rumped Sunbird
44.Purple Sunbird
45.Common Kingfisher
46.Pied Kingfisher
47.Common Coot
48.Black-winged Stilt
49.River Tern
50.Green Bee-eater
51.Indian Pond Heron
52.Cattle Egret
53.Grey Heron
54.Purple Heron
55.Red Avadavat
56.Wooly-necked Stork
57.Intermediate Egret
58.Little Egret
59.Purple Moorhen
60.Glossy Ibis
61.Eurasian Spoonbill
62.Painted Stork
63.Spot-billed Duck
64.Brahminy Kite
65.Great Thick-knee
66.Rufous-tailed Lark
67.Brahminy Starling
68.Paddy-field Pipit
69.Little Grebe
70.Bonelli's Eagle
72.Rose-ringed Parakeet
73.Eurasian Eagle-owl
74.Jungle Crow
75.Barn Swallow
76.Red rumped Swallow
77.Yellow-legged Buttonquail
78.Barred Buttonquail
79.Small Minivet
80.Southern Grey Shrike
81.Common Hawk Cuckoo (heard)
82.White-breasted Waterhen
83.Leaf Warbler ?
84.Great Cormorant
85.Great tit
(Other members of the group also spotted)
86.Whiskered Tern
87.Indian Roller
88.Grey Hornbill

Photographs & Narration By: Deepak and Sumana

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nesting of Purple-rumped Sunbirds

There was this guest-for-a-few-days pair of Purple rumped Sunbirds at home, where it tried making its home, but then didn't fully succeed for some reason obscure to us. But however long it was around, we had been happy to host it and saw to it that we didn't much disturb, as far as possible. Here's some observation i had noted everyday.

Day 1: 5th July 2011, Tuesday

As we were leaving to office in the morning, this female Purple rumped Sunbird swiftly flew past us into the portico and perched itself on a branch of hibiscus plant. It sat there for a few more seconds and I was running late to office, but felt that it had something in its beak

Day 2:

Wow! There this sunbird was again on the same branch and now there was a lump of straw and dried leaves hanging down from the branch! It was clearly a nest in making!!

The location of nest chosen by this couple was a little strange, at least for us - it was on a walkway, where we have to walk up and down every morning and evening. And it was below the lintel (sajja) of a window, which we hardly open, but if we did, it would disturb the nest for sure. And while walking, if we just raised our hand, we’d be able to touch it, it was that low! We ruled out suggestions that we need to move up the branch and place it over the window lintel to keep it safe. I’m sure the birds are intelligent enough to choose a safe place and don’t need our assistance. Man’s intervention almost always will be more disastrous than constructive!

We observed it for a few minutes and sure it was... the female was getting raw-materials for the nest and building it up quite rapidly. The male was perched on a nearby electric wire. I was elated to see a nest coming up so close to me...

Evenings it’d generally be dark by the time I got back home and couldn’t see much of bird activity even if I reached at 6-30 or so.

Day 3:

The nest had now taken a good shape - it had a nice little opening facing the other side; it was big enough for the little lady to get inside and sit comfortably. Still she kept on getting more material, and continued making the nest stronger. Sometimes she’d get some dried leaves or straw and dump it inside and fly back soon and at other times she’d get inside, do some building, make a lot of arrangement with the stuff and then got out. At times she’d get inside and we could see that the whole branch would be shaking, as she was probably securing the nest tight!

She would not mind us walking right below her nest or watching from behind some branches from about 6-7 feet!! But if there was some activity right below, she’d wait.

Day 4:

I guess the nest was now strong enough but needed some bedding now!! Coz the lady sunbird got some soft fur like materials today. It was like some thin threads, feathers or some cottony stuff and placed them inside. I remember reading about Karthik placing some cotton nearby, and I too wanted to see if I could help her! Placed some cotton in small pieces on other branches of the same plant and waited in a corner. After some rounds, she did notice the cotton, for she went closer to it, but then she rejected it :(

She did that a couple of times, but didn’t pick up my offering, and preferred to rather get her own good material!

All this while the male just sat there watching about, but didn’t lend her a hand, err a beak?! The max he did was to escort her to the nest sometimes when there were people around.

Day 5:

We got up before the birds as we were leaving for a trekking trip.

While the Ashy Prinia was the first one to call out in the morning at 5-45am, these sun birds didn’t arrive near the nest till about an hour after that. They did continue the same behavior as the previous day; we too couldn’t spent much time observing. But the nest now had a canopy like structure just outside the opening!

Day 6:

No observation

Day 7:

They were closer to the nest, as if to keep a watch, but didn’t see them getting into it. The male was also now quite closer to the nest, as if to occasionally inspect his partner's work!

In the evening, however, I saw the female sitting inside the nest with its head peeping out slightly, much before the nightfall and it stayed there like that without much activity. Neither was the male seen around.

Day 8:

It wasn’t there the next morning, when we saw. And after some time they came, and the female got in for sometime and then went out. She wasn’t staying in continuously, but was there again at night. Made me doubt if she had laid egg or not yet. (Later I read somewhere that the female spends a couple of nights in the nest before laying eggs; so she might not have laid eggs yet)

Day 9:

The female was now sitting inside more often, even in the morning, apparently she had now laid eggs. And she didn’t seem to like our presence near, so we just left the place all to herself!

Day 10:

Same as yesterday; she didn’t mind us if we were looking at her, but didn’t like it when we went with a camera. So we just didn’t bother her too much.

We viewed her from inside the window through the glass, and she seemed to be incubating now, since she was in and out of the nest throughout the day.

Day 10-15:

The female continued to be incubating and the male would occasionally hang around. But never shared any work with his mate! She was now more relaxed even if people moved about closer to the nest. She spent every night in the nest itself. One strange observation was that as soon as she got into the nest after a meal break or so, she would enter and before settling down on the eggs, she'd shake the nest hard, similar to the nest building times when i thought she was strengthening the hang from the branch. and after a few seconds of this, she'd settle down calmly, peeping out of the little hole!

Day 16 - Black Wednesday - 20 July 2011

The End - Check here and here if you can bear to read a sad ending

Yeah... the nest had vanished one evening, very unfortunately. It is about 2 weeks and i have still not come to terms with it fully. I guess they'd have learnt a valuable lesson not to trust Humans so blindly :(

How i wish humans also learnt some small lessons of being considerate to fellow creatures.....

How i wished to present a beautiful end to this story, but it was not in my control. After much debating with myself, I made up my mind to at least share here whatever little was noted.