Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Purple Swamphen - Porphyrio Porphyrio Poliocephalus

This morning we had several birds chirpping at our garden and neighborhood. Was nice to wake up to their melodies. :-)
Well, the bird of the day is the Purple Swamphen. Have been seeing this bird for a long long time at the Lalbagh lake and other lakes. Alone the bird seems to be fishing or swimming. The wings look lovely when the bird takes short flights.
The Purple Swamphen has red beak and red front shield. The blue-purple body looks stunning when the sunrays fall on the bird. The legs are pale red. The bird has a weird call, and as other birds, can get noisy during mating season. Both sexes are alike.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Barn Owl - Tyto alba

One evening I was walking at our (land) garden, and something flew over my head. I could see white-ish underparts of the bird, and beautiful wings. It was the Barn Owl. This owl sits on several trees - Silver Oak, Coconut, Christmas, Mango, and Peepal - either at our garden or on neighbouring trees.
Well, the plan was to make the bird feel comfortable around us. Every day, we made a habit to walk at the garden for an hour or so; different timings. We spoke softly about our day's events. We let the kittens come with us to the garden. We also would stand still and observe the owls. Owls... Yes; two of them. If they flew and sat on our water tank, or sat on the edge of our garage, or sat on the water pipes or window extensions, we simply stood and observed. No cameras. No drama.
It's been over a month or two. The owls are no more scared of us or our voices or our naughty kittens. The previous evening the owls flew together and sat close to us (one on window extension and other on the water tank), for the first time. It was romantic to hold hands with my husband, and watch those two owls (with heart-shaped faces). And yes, by the time I got my camera, the owls had flown to the Silver Oak tree; one of them sat tight posing for the photo while the other was shy and sat deep inside the tree.

Some times, I wondered if the owl would snatch our little kitten, and then flly away. Nope; I guess the owl knew what a terror the little kitten was! And... We haven't been able to find the owl's nest, if one exists. It's good to keep that a mystery; we humans can damage anything for the sake of curiosity and for the sake of clicking a photo!
Other names of the Barn Owl are Monkey-faced Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Golden Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl, Delicate Owl. - taken from www.owlpages.come.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Ashy Drongo - Dicrurus Leucophaeus

My dear friends, spotting the Ashy Drongo (at Lalbagh) was a total surprise for us. This bird flew from one tall tree top to another, sat for a second or so, and then continued its flight. Standing beneath the trees, lifting the head to the sky, and waiting patiently for the bird to sit was painful especially for the neck and eyes. But the fun part was when the bird actually sat and let us have a glimpse of it.
The Ashy Drongo (adult) has dark grey underparts and slate-grey upperparts with red eyes. The tail is forked. We are so used to associate black/black-grey with crow or asian koel, that we may ignore this bird. When in doubt, just wait for a few seconds, listen to the bird's call; will help you identify the bird.
The guide whom we meet at Coorg had told us about the Drongo's ability to imitate calls of other birds. He also imitated the Drongo's call; such talent! In the book, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals, the author explains about why the Drongo imitates other birds. You can read an explanation (excerpt) on Google Books. What a clever bird!
I hope that the next time you visit Lalbagh (or a wooded area), you will maintain silence, and look for this bird or keenly listen to its call.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Spotted Dove - Spilopelia Chinensis

You must have seen the Spotted Dove a couple of times, if you reside at Bangalore/Indian Subcontinent. These birds have Black-White patches on the side of their neck and White spots on their feathers (as seen in the photo).
These doves prefer to be in pairs or a group, and get noisy during the breeding season. Both the sexes take responsibility of building nest, incubating, and feeding the hatchlings. These birds eat grains, seeds, fruits, and smaller insects. The doves aren't as commonly found as the Common Pigeon. However, if you visit a garden or drive out of town or reside at a quieter place, you can spot these birds.
A pair of spotted doves

Friday, 18 October 2013

List of Birds - Lalbagh, Bangalore

Though we have grown up visiting the Lalbagh garden, only recently we did our first bird-watching tour at this garden. We spotted, identified, and photographed a good number of birds. Not all birds that we spotted could be photographed, for example, the common tailorbirds or flycatchers.
Here is the list of birds that we managed to photograph:
  1. Little Cormorant
  2. Common Egret
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Bronze-winged Jacana
  5. Oriental Magpie Robin
  6. Pied Wagtail
  7. Spotted Owlet (linked on Mar 3, 2014)
  8. Black Kite (linked on Mar 3, 2014)
  9. Eurasian Coot
  10. White-Cheeked Barbet (linked on Mar 3, 2014)
  11. Parakeet (linked on Mar 3, 2014)
  12. Indian Myna
  13. Common Pigeon
  14. Duck
  15. Indian Golden Oriole (updated on Mar 3, 2014)
  16. Yellow Wagtail (updated on Mar 3, 2014)
I'll update this list as and when we spot more birds; will also link the bird name to a detailed blog article after I write one.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax Carbo

Now is the season to spot a lot of birds at Lalbagh garden. The lake attracts and houses a few resident (and migratory) birds. One can easily spot the Great Cormorant at the lake or on the nearby tree, either sitting alone or with a group. Observe the Yellow patch on the bird's throat and its long tail. It seems that the birds have a White patch during breeding season. These birds co-exist with Common Egrets, Indian Pond Heron, Waterhen, and other birds, and humans.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Spot-billed Pelican - Pelecanus Philippensis

 Being a native of Bangalore, we love the morning walks at Lalbagh garden. We have grown seeing the flora and fauna of the garden (; along with how people dirty the place). A friend and I would volunteer to help a lady (, who was also a volunteer,) clean the garbage at the garden. Unless we develop self-discipline, our home/city/country can't be clean.
As always, the spot-billed pelicans have arrived at the Lalbagh lake. These birds are known to nest here (and at other lakes of Bangalore) and at various places across Southern Asia. These birds live in colonies. Was wonderful to watch them glide on the water, sink their beaks inside the water, catch a fish, and then gobble it down their throats. Eat well, my dears; you need strength to lay eggs and hatch. We are all eagerly looking forward for your hatchlings!
We stood admiring those birds, for a long time. The birds looked magical when the Sun's rays fell on them at different angles and intensity. As we stood silent, a wave of people (known as noise pollution) walked the path, and puff, the birds flew away! Come on... Mornings are to celebrate the melodies of Nature; not to infuse noise pollution. Dah, why do such people even wake up?

The gang :)
Two of us

I'm off!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Asian Koel - Eudynamys Scolopaceus

It's amazing to watch birds. The previous evening I was patiently looking out for birds that visit our garden or neighbourhood. I saw parakeets return home. A Black Kite is building her nest at one of the trees; saw her collect twigs. I heard the barbet sing but couldn't spot the bird. Yes, I clicked a few photos (zoomed); ensured not the disturb any birds.
And then, I hear the ko-el... ko-el... ko-el. Oh, I clapped my hands in excitement and in the hope that I could get a couple of photos of this bird! Aren't you curious to know the name of the bird? Well, by now you would have guessed the name. Yes, the bird is the Asian Koel; spotted both male and female pairs. I have seen this bird several times. Seen it singing, coaxing the lady, eating berries, and flying restlessly; however, I haven't been able to capture a photo because the bird sits somewhere in the middle of a tree.
Previous evening, I waited patiently, following the trajectory of the koels. They flew from berry tree to Christmas tree to Silver Oak to Eucalyptus tree to sandalwood tree, and then returned to Eucalyptus tree. The koels are resident birds. The Asian Koels feeds mostly on fruits but can also eat small insects. They are tree birds; don't habitat the ground area. Both sexes do not resemble each other. Their calls are also different. The male bird is black with red eyes. The female bird is brown with white spots.
These birds are brood-parasitic because they lay their eggs in a crow's nest. When the crow or the host bird isn't at its nest, the female koel lays an egg in the host bird's nest, and flies away. It's believed that the koel destroys one of the host bird's eggs to accommodate her egg. The host bird, without a clue about the parasite bird's egg, enables the eggs to hatch.
When young, the koel hatchling's call sounds like that of a crow; thereby, not giving scope for doubt about the hatchling's origin. The koel bird may lay about 6-7 eggs; each egg in a different host bird's nest. All said and done about this bird, one cannot deny that it's song is most melodious. No wonder there are several poems decicated or inspired by this bird. The bird is the state bird of Puducherry!
Personally, I enjoy the call of Asian Koels. Waking up to the melody of Asian Koels, and then retiring (with a cup of hot tea) for the day is my luxury. 
Other interesting reads:
Asian Koel Male
Asian Koel - Female

Red-whiskered Bulbul - Pycnonotus Jocosus

During early mornings, when I am at our kitchen cooking breakfast and lunch, a little bird greets me with beautiful melody. This bird is the red-whiskered bulbul. Sits on the telephone line, and sings. After a few seconds, another bird joins. If a vehicle or pedestrian passes by, the birds take flight. Dah! On some days when I am home in the evenings, I hear the bulbul's song but have not spotted the bird. It's sad that we haven't spotted a bulbul's nest at our garden.

The red-whiskered bulbuls have crimson whiskers and crimson patch under the root of their tails. Both the sexes resemble each other, and share parental duties. One can see bulbuls in pairs or in small groups at favorable environment. These birds are active (and noisy) during the mornings and early evenings. The enjoy flying from one thick shrub or tree to another, and eating berries, fruits, seeds, buds, and smaller insects. At certain parts of the world, the bulbuls are considered to be pests because they seem to damage fruit crops (by eating them or pecking on them).

These birds easily get disturbed by noise. A few months ago, one of the roads at our neighborhood was closed due to some work; all the vehicles were routed through the road in front of our house. Such noise, I tell you! During those days, none of the birds were to be found at our garden. Even our kittens refused to go outside! When noise-levels reduced, some birds have returned; but the bulbuls are yet to come home.

Also read the article, Bulbul, the new sparrow?

When driving out of town, spotted this bulbul pair; one of them is holding a goose-berry in its beak!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Common Tailorbird - Orthotomus Sutorius

We have both land garden and terrace garden. The land garden has, among other trees and plants, ixora plants. These plants are huge, and hosts several birds; one such bird is the common tailorbird (Orthotomus Sutorius). This season we spotted common tailorbird's nest made from stitching leaves of ixora plant's leaves. The nest had three chicks; absolutely adorable!

The tailorbird's song is lovely; one can't miss to recognize it. Our mornings and evenings are filled with those melodies. The birds feed the hatchlings almost throughout the day. If we waved our hand over the nest, the hatchlings would open their mouths, assuming that we were the parents bringing them food. Watching the birds feed their hatchlings was a serene sight. 

After a few days, we saw the birds teaching their chicks to fly. You can read it here: Tea party at our garden. When the birds abandoned the nest, I cut off the ixora plant's branch that hosted the nest; observed the nest.  The leaves were stitched together to form a cup. The inside was made from soft fiber. Oh, beautifully made!

Currently, another pair of tailorbirds have been training their chicks to fly. Interesting to watch them!

1 - tailorbird's chicks; 2 - parent holding an insect
Tailorbird's nest in different angles

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Welcome, and a Hello to Black Kites!

I'm starting a new blog, Our Friends of Nature, to show my gratitude to the animal world (birds included!). I plan to share photos and write-up about these friends that I meet or see or interact with. Some of my stories about my garden friends are already available at Rake and Spade.

Black Kite - Milvus Migrans
At Bangalore (and at other parts of India), one can easily spot a Black Kite. We have several of these birds living on the trees of our neighborhood. One of the kite families occupy a tree next door; branches stretch to our garden. I've seen the kite build nest and nuture the hatchlings.
In the past, when I went to the terrace to photography the kites and the hatchlings, oh, the kites were furious. They took turns to hover around my head, and then made a dash at me. That's when I realized the size and strength of these birds. As long as you aren't a treat to them, they can tolerate you!
I've seen the kites glide own on to our terrace garden, sit on the edge of the waterlily containers, and drink water. That's a beautiful sight! On some other days, I've seen them sit on our Neem tree, holding their hunt. The kites have also taken a piece of bread that I would place for other birds. On days when our little kittens would play, I've seen the kites glide down to check the kittens out. Well, the kittens would run into their hiding spots.
What I've also enjoyed are the times when the kites teach flying to their young ones. We, humans, assume that we are the only superior ones to care and nuture our infants; however, most animals and birds not merely nuture their young ones but also teach them survival techniques and independentness.
Next time you spot this (common) bird, please stop to admire it.

 At dusk, I saw these birds flight.