27 August 2016

Black-winged Stilt: Pavilla Kallan (Tamil)



First identified the Black-winged Stilt last season on the Samudram Eri here in Tiruvannamalai and was able to take several photos of the Stilt wading in the waters, but as my camera is not fit for purpose, am illustrating the below narrative of this bird with photographs taken from the web. 


Black-winged Stilt Juvenile


The Black-winged Stilt in India is both local and migratory. Here at Tiruvannamalai I have only spotted it during the wet season, but in South India its more of a permanent fixture at cooler places such as Karnataka. 


Juvenile in Flight

The Black-winged Stilt’s name in Tamil is Pavilla Kallan and has the scientific name of Himantopus Himantopus. Himantopus comes from Greek meaning “strap foot” or “thong foot”. The long, distinctive legs of the black-winged stilt account for nearly 60 percent of its height. 


Black Winged Stilt Grooming

This bird is about 10 inches long and is a large black and white wader with long orange-red legs and a straight black bill. It has black on the back of the neck, a white collar and a red iris. Both sexes are similar, and the plumage does not change during the year. 

Black-winged Stilts give a repeated high-pitched barking call. Immature Stilts lack black on the back of the neck and have grey-brown wings and their back is speckled with white. They have a smudged grey crown, which extends down the back of the neck as the birds get older. The lifespan of the Black-winged Stilt is about 20 years. 


Stilt with Fish

This bird pairs or flocks in social groups at marshes, jheels, village tanks, salt pans and tidal mudflats. Its stilt legs enable it to wade into comparatively deep water where it probes in the squelchy bottom mud for worms, mollusces and aquatic insects etc. When probing for food its head and neck are submerged at a steep angle with the back part of its body sticking out. 


Stilt Bathing

Black-winged Stilts, like many shorebirds, don't swim while feeding. They feed by pecking at food items while wading in the water. 


Adult Stilt in Flight

However it is in fact a very good swimmer but weak in the air. When flying it flaps its wings with its neck extended and its long red legs trailing beyond the tail. 


Flock of Stilts in Flight

Black Winged Stilt Coming in to Land

The Black-winged Stilt is a social species, and is usually found in small groups. The call it makes is a squeaky, piping chek-chek-chek. 


Immature (l) and (r) Adult Stilts

Couple going through Courtship

Pair of Stilts at Nest

The nesting season of the Black-Winged Stilt is principally April to August. It generally nests in small colonies, within which, mated pairs strongly defend their individual territories. 


Eggs in Nest

It makes its nest in a depression on the ground on the edge of a jheel or marsh, or on a raised platform of pebbles in shallow water, lined with vegetable scum or flags of reeds. 


Chick already emerged from egg


It often breeds in large colonies and lays around 3 to 4 eggs, light drab in colour, densely blotched with black, which closely resemble the eggs of Red Wattled Lapwing. 

Female at Nest with Chicks Around Her


Both sexes incubate the eggs and look after the young. The incubation period of the eggs is around 25 days.


Stilt Chick feeding in Mud


The below is a very beautiful video of the song of the Black-Winged Stilt.





06 August 2016

Variety of Migratory Waterbirds at Keelnathur Lake


It was reported this week in Nationally syndicated newspapers that a huge flock of Pelicans have been spotted at Keelnathur Lake, an irrigation tank, situated along the Tindivanam Road approximately 30 kms from Tiruvannamalai. Naturists claim that this is the first time Pelicans have been spotted so near Tiruvannamalai and that too in huge numbers. 


Pelicans and Painted Storks, Keelnathur Lake nr. Tiruvannamalai

The Pelican (Koohai Kada) is categorised into four species, with the one spotted at Keelnathur Lake being the Spot Billed Pelican.


Spot Billed Pelican

As well as Pelicans, also a large number of Painted Storks (Manjal Mooku Narai) and Purple Swamphens (Neela Thazhai Kozhi) are also at the Lake. Naturists have stated that “Spotting so many birds including such rare varieties signify the lake’s potential as a bird sanctuary.” 

The lake’s uncontaminated water, good fish population, marshy nature, the presence of bushes and vines and grass cultivation in nearby fields make it a haven for the birds. 


Painted Storks

Other Bird followers state, “We are surprised to spot the Pelican in such huge numbers near Tiruvannamalai. I have never spotted them anywhere near this hilly region. They might be in the lake for a long time. Now only we spotted them and realised the importance of Keelnathur Lake as a marshy wetland, a rare phenomenon in Tiruvannamalai. Even people living nearby don’t seem to be hunting or disturbing them. That’s why they thrive here. The place need to be preserved as such.” 


Purple Swamphen

Heavy rains are expected in the upcoming monsoon season, which bodes well for a large and varied migratory bird population this Winter at our own Samudra Eri at Tiruvannamalai.


21 May 2016

Parakeets and India's Birdman


To view an earlier posting on Arunachala Birds on the Rose Ringed Parakeet please visit this link here and for additional details and information about this bird visit this link here





Below is an abridged extract from the excellent 1915 “Garden and Aviary Birds of India” by Frank Finn which includes some more unusual details and varieties of this bird. 


Selection of photos showing the Parakeet eating

Female drinking flower nectar


The Typical Parrots 

“The Typical Parrots form the largest family, such species as the well-known Grey Parrot of India, the Amazons and Macaws of America, and all our Indian Parrots, belonging to it. The small long-tailed kinds are called Parakeets or Parroquets. The Parrots of this family are hardly ever crested, nor do they have a brush tongue. 

The Common Indian or Rose-Ringed Parakeet (Palaeornis Torquatus) is about sixteen inches long, about ten of which belong to the tail; in colour it is green with a red bill and white eyes. The male has a black throat, the black running a little way on each side to join a rose-pink collar which extends around the back of the neck. 


Male eating

Male eating perched in tree

Young birds of both sexes are like the hen at first, having no collar, but their eyes are black so that they can easily be distinguished from old ones. 

Varieties of this Parakeet are not at all uncommon; many birds are found splashed with yellow, and now and then a pure yellow one turns up; which, if a male, retains the red collar. Both sexes of the yellow variety have a red bill, but their feet are flesh-coloured, instead of grey like those of the green birds. Their eyes are often pink; if this is not the case, they are liable to moult out into the ordinary green plumage. A pale yellow-green variety is also found, but seems to be very rare. 


Female eating grain in fields


This species is found nearly all over India and Sri Lanka, east to Pegu but it usually avoids the hills. It is much the commonest of Indian Parrots, and is far too familiar as a garden-bird, doing a great deal of damage to fruit. It even comes into towns. 

It breeds from January to May, using holes in buildings as well as those in trees."


Male and female in courtship eating

Below is a beautiful and inspirational video of Sekhar, a camera mechanic from Chennai who doesn't have pets of his own, but loves thousands of birds, just the same. Sekhar, popularly know as the 'Birdman' in the Royapettah area, feeds thousands of parrots everyday and has been doing so for a decade. 

Sekhar started out with putting rice and grains with water on his parapet wall for sparrows and squirrels. One day, around the time the Tsunami devastated the subcontinent, two parrots came to Sekhar's house in search for food. 

Ten years later, around three thousand parrots now knock at his door for food and it is open for them, everyday without fail. Sekhar says that he might miss his meal, but his parrots never have to return with an empty stomach. 

"It's all love," Sekhar says in the video. Spreading love and kindness keeps him happy and that's his message to everyone. 

Watch Sekhar's inspiring story below. 





Towards the end of the above video Sekhar is feeding a large Parakeet which is known as the Rock Parrot or Alexandrine Parakeet (Paloeornis Nepalensis). 

“This is a larger bird than the ordinary Ring-neck, and has, in both sexes and at all ages, a large dark red patch on the wing, which distinguishes it at once. It varies a good deal according to where it inhabits, but the different varieties can hardly be ranked as species, though this is commonly done. Classing all these large Ring-necked Parakeets together, the Alexandrine may be said to be found almost all over India, Sri Lanka and Burma and also extends to the Andamans, where it is very large and bright coloured.” 
[Frank Finn – abridged]


Contact Information for Sekhar

On the You Tube page of this video in the comments section the following contact information of Sekhar (of the above video) is listed. 

Sekhar Camera House, 
No. 242, Second Floor, Pycroft’s Road 
Royapettah, Chennai 

Contact Mobile Sekhar’s son: +919444464967



Two Photographs Showing the Parakeet in Flight

Male Parakeet in flight

Male Parakeet stretching its wings whilst in flight


25 March 2016

Rosy Starling


A report (repeated below) appeared in a National newspaper this week about the sighting of Rosy Starlings in the Tiruvannamalai area. 

“A flock of rosy starlings, a bird resembling a mynah but which has a distinct colour pattern, has been spotted in Tiruvannamalai. It is being claimed that it is the first time the bird is spotted here. Painter and bird watcher Kumar alias Sivakumar spotted the bird in Samudram Eri during his regular bird watching a few days ago. “The birds with light pink pattern in its body came in large numbers like a cloud. They landed in the lake area. This is the first time I am observing them here,” he said. 


Rosy Starlings on the Samudram Eri

V. Arun, a bio diversity activist and expert, associated with Forest Way, an organisation that has been taking up successful afforestation project in the Tiruvannamalai hills, said that he has spotted rosy starlings in Mumbai and other northern part of the nation. 

“They are migratory birds not frequently seen in South India. I have never seen them in Tiruvannamalai and never heard someone else spotting the bird here. Kumar’s spotting the bird is the first time probably,” he said. 

“Ecology in Tiruvannamalai hill and surrounding areas is improving and we spot two-three new species every year here”. When asked how the bird was seen even after the winter is over, he said some migratory birds were seen for a few days in a spot while taking upward journey and they would be seen again for a few days in the same spot during their return journey. Kumar might have seen them on their return journey, he said.” 

Below is information about the Rosy Starling, a new arrival to us at Tiruvannamalai. 


Rosy Starling 


Sturnus Roseus. Summer Plummage: Adult Male (Centre), Female (Below), Juvenile (Behind)

The Rosy Starling (Pastor Roseus) is a Passerine Bird in the Starling family and is also known as the Rose-Coloured Starling or Rose-Coloured Pastor. In Tamil this bird is known as Cholam Kuruvi. It is the size of a Mynah bird. Rose pink colour with glistening black head, neck and upper breast, wings and tail, and pale orange legs and bill. Males in the breeding season have a long, recumbent, pointed crest on the crown and nape which sometimes is more fluffed and prominent. 


Duller and Browner Adults


Females have a short crest and are duller overall, especially without the sharp separation between pink and black. Young birds and adults in winter plumage (non breeding) are duller and browner


Young Chick by Anura Chandak


Rosy Starling Eating Grain

 
Its keeps near cultivation, particularly Jowari (Sorghum) and ripening grain crops. 


Starling at Indian Coral Tree

This bird is attracted to flowering trees and nectar of Simal Flowers (Salmalia). It likes Banyan and Peepul figs, Lantana, Peeloo (Salvadora) and other berries. The Rosy Starling cross pollinates these types of trees. Its diet is chiefly fruits, berries, flower-nectar, cereal grains and insects. 

Males have a chattering, warbling song of harsh as well as pleasant notes uttered chiefly when satiated and resting in a shady tree during the mid-day heat. As well as its mixture of squeaks and rattles it also exhibits much wing trembling. 


Rosy Starling Group on Tree by Mayank


The Rosy Starling is a colonial breeder, and like other Starlings, is highly gregarious, forming large winter flocks. It breeds in Eastern Europe and Western and Central Asia on stony hillsides in May and June. The breeding grounds overlaps that of migratory locust and grasshoppers thus providing the staple food of this bird and its young from the time the latter hatch. In years when Grasshoppers and other insects are abundant, it will erupt well beyond its core range.


Rosy Starling Eating Insect by S. Gulavani


It destroys locusts and grasshoppers on a large scale. 


Distinct Colouration

Rosy Starling by Anshul





Group of Rosy Starlings

Swarm of Starlings by Ashok Mashru


The Rosy Starling is one of the earliest winter visitors. It begins arriving July-August and departs mid-April. It is often in small clouds of up to 500 birds or more. The bird can be found in winter throughout India. Its abundant in N.W. India and the Deccan and diminishes in number going southwards. 

The magnificent Peacock in Flight



Photo by Daniel Stoychev



In both my Arunachala Birds and Arunachala Grace blogs I have written about and posted many excellent photographs of the Peacock, which is a very common bird in these parts. Not only is it an inhabitant of many ashrams, homes and farms, it is also lives wild in large numbers throughout the Arunachala countryside. 

The below photographs were not taken at Arunachala, and instead they are a selection of photographs from the Web of the Peacock in Flight. Where known I have accredited the photographer. 



Photo by Two Summers
Photo by Zhayynn James
Unknown photographer
Unknown Photographer
Photo by Sachin Kumar
Photo by Captain Supachat
Photo by Chandrashekar Badami

27 March 2015

Indian Blue Robin


In my previous posting of the White Rumped Shama I mentioned that a recent article appeared in Tamil papers about the sighting of two bird species not normally seen in these parts. The earlier posting was about the White Rumped Shama, this posting is about the second bird, the Indian Blue Robin. 


Female Adult Indian Blue Robin


The migratory Indian Blue Robin generally chooses for its winter habitat dense and dark forest with undergrowth and leaf litter thus indicating, as the report points out, the improved quality of the forest around Arunachala. 

 --- oOo ---


The Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia Brunnea) is a small bird found in South Asia. The bird is also known in the Indian subcontinent by its older name of Indian Blue Chat (Erithacus brunneus). 

The Indian Blue Robin is similar in size to the sparrow. Formerly considered а Thrush, іt іs nоw considered оne оf the Old World Flycatchers іn the family Muscicapidae. 


Male Adult Indian Blue Robing scavenging for food


Although this bird is no longer is no longer categorised as a Thrush, it shares a large number of Thrush characteristics. Below is a fascinating excerpt from “Garden and Aviary Bird of India”, by Frank Finn (1915). 

“Thrushes form a very large family of birds, for in addition to the fairly large species to which the term Thrush is usually applied, the small Robins, Chats and Redstars are included in it. All these birds have a strong family resemblance, but their general appearance is hard to describe. They have a neat well-proportioned form, with wings, tail and legs, all of moderate length as a rule and their bills are small and slight. 

Observation shows that Thrushes are usually surly and solitary and they never take hold of things with their foot, but only use their bill in breaking up a large insect. They are mainly insect-eaters, but the larger species also devour a considerable amount of fruit. They are good fliers, many of them being migratory and fairly active on the ground, where the smaller kinds hop, while the large ones alternatively hop and run. “ 



Male Indian Blue Robin


The Indian Blue Robin іs migratory, breeding іn the forests along the Himalayas оf Nepal, India аnd Myanmar and wintering in the hill forests of the Western Ghats оf India аnd іn Sri Lanka. 

The adult male is a stunning bird, with blue upperparts, and underparts which are mainly bright orange with white on the lower belly and undertail. There is a long white supercilium and a black eye mask which flares out behind the eye. The female is much drabber, with brown upperparts and buff underparts, and white on the throat and belly. Young birds resemble the female, but the brown plumage looks scaly. 

Its winter habitat in the South is usually dense and dark forest with undergrowth and leaf litter. It is terrestrial, forest haunting and unobtrusive. It skulks in undergrowth and hops on the ground, frequently flicking and fanning its tail. It Keeps singly in heavy undergrowth. The Indian Blue Robin diet consists mainly of insects. 

It sings and calls in its winter grounds. The song consists of sudden and sharp series of whistles ending in a rapid series of notes. They also utter a sharp and low clicking alarm note. 


Male Indian Blue Robin


Its nest consists of a large cup of vegetation placed on the ground between the roots of large fir tree or in depression. The nest is lined with roots, hair and down. The usual clutch is four light blue eggs. Incubation is by female by feeding is by both sexes. The cuckoo Cuculus canorus has been recorded in old literature as a brood parasite of the species.


To hear the Blue Robin calling please check out this link here


The below video (no audio) is of the Indian Blue Robin scavenging on the ground for food.