Sunday, August 30, 2009

White-rumped, Long-billed and Cinereous Vultures

These photographs were taken by Nangal-based Mr Parbhat Bhatti from Rainy Khad, Pathankot, Punjab on 6th January 2008. On the top two photographers, Cinereous Vulture can also be seen. There are a few Longbilled (Indian or Slender-billed) Vultures also in the group.
Hope they survive, unlike from other parts of the country.

White-rumped Vulture sighted in Pubjab

Mr S. S. Bajwa from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, a member of birds-chandigarh has sent wonderful photographs of White-rumped Vultures. These have been posted at birds-chandigarh by Narbir Kahlon. Hope these (according to Mr Bajwa there might be about 200 of them) birds surive. One picture also shows an active nest with a pair perched nearby.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chakrata and Deoban, Uttarakhand - Trip Report

(old trip report, thought - could be of some help)

Trip Report – Chakrata and Deoban, Uttarakhand

Dates: 12 May 07 to 15 May 07

Birders: Dr Sudhir Oswal, Dr Chander Kumar Ballal and Suresh C Sharma

12 May 09 (Saturday):

Left Sonepat at 0615 hrs and drove to Asan Barrage via Yamunanagar-Paona Sahib without stopping at Kalesar.

A whistle stop at Bata River bridge yielded River Lapwings, one Pond Heron with red legs and Red-rumped Swallows.

Asan Barrage. (stopped at Asan and scanned the reservoir from 1215 to 1300 hrs) Full of water, no sign of Pallas’s Fish Eagle about 150 ducks still left, including Pintails, Shovelers, Gadwalls, 3 Red-crested Pochards, Brahminy Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, Garganeys, 3 species of cormorants together, a few Openbill and Painted Storks. Coots and Little Grebes also present.

FRI Dehradun. By 1400 hrs we had arrived at FRI and checked in Room No 178 in the Annexe. Ramana Attrey and Dhananjai Mohan joined us and after having some birding talks and tea, 3 of us birded along the nearby bird trail. Black Eagle was the first bird we saw in flight, Drongo Cuckoo calling from atop a dried branch of a tree, Greater Flameback, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Grey Hornbill, Jungle Myna, White-eyes, Grey-breasted Prinias, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Spangled and Black Drongos, Puff-throated Babbler, Grey-bellied and Common Hawk Cuckoos, Asian Koels, Spotted and Emerald Doves, Blue-throated Flycatchers, White-throated Flycatcher, Egyptian Vultures, Black Kite, Jungle Babbler, Tailorbird, Brown-headed Barbet, Himalayan and Red-vented Bulbuls, Purple Sunbirds.

Bikram Grewal’s House in Dehradun. We reached Bikram’s house by 1700 PM and quickly walked up to the Tons River, good views of Brown Dipper, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Blue Whistling Thrushes and Ashy Bulbul. After devouring Samosas and Gulab Jamuns at Bikram’s house, we reached FRI by 1830 hrs.

FRI at night. One hour birding at night produced Brown Hawk Owl (calling), Spotted Owlets (calling) Indian Cuckoo (calling), and fleeting glimpse of a nightjar near girl’s hostel. Great surprise was the call of ’ka phal pa ko’ of Indian Cuckoo even at 2230 hrs (1030 PM)!!

(13 May 07 - Sunday) FRI in the morning. Woke up early and were on the move by 5 AM. Common Hawk Cuckoo calling, birds started turning up. Later on Dhananjay Mohan also joined us. Rufous Woodpecker in the bamboo plantation with a few ‘ant nests’, Yellow Yellownape, Speckled Piculet, Rufous-chinned Laughing Thrush, Drongo Cuckoo, Puff-throated Babblers, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Crimson sunbird, Red Jungle-fowl, Orange-headed Thrush, Grey-bellied Cuckoo and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.

Left Dehradun at 0745 hrs for Chakrata, 13 May 09.

Chakrata. Reached Kalsi at 0845 hrs and spent sometime at the Edict of Ashoka, because the gate opens at 0930 hrs. Dr Ballal, being a neuro-surgeon attended a Muslim patient nearby – his name Shamsher Ali, whose wives were already crying thinking him dead, luckily he survived.

Indian Cuckoo was calling at Kalsi. Reached Shayya at 1030 where while waiting for the gate to open, some birding around produced Asian Paradise Flycatcher (one white male) and a few Grey-hooded Warblers. One handsome Great Barbet also made an appearance. Striated Prinias were also observed singing their songs between Shayya and Chakrata. 2 Himalayan Griffons were soaring overhead. Upland Pipits were calling in the suitable habitat.

Reached Chakrata and checked into DFO Residence (now FRH) made in 1888. Immediately on our arrived, Bar-tailed Treeceepers, Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Verditer Flycatchers, Russet Sparrows welcomed us. We drove up to Tiger Falls and back. Indian Cuckoos were calling at several places, Blue-throated Barbets, Paradise Flycatchers, Himalayan Griffons eating a dead cattle (cow), Slaty-headed Parakeets, Oriental Turtle Doves, Long-tailed Shrike, Grey Treepie, a large crow (much larger than Large-billed Crow) of the size of a black kite, could be a raven which was soaring like a Black Kite, Black-capped Rock Thrush, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Plumbeous Redstart, Pied Bushchats, Black Bulbuls, Streaked Laughing Thrushes, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers, Rufous Sibia and Black-headed Jays were other birds we saw.

Night stay at the FRH. A largish scorpion under the wash basin.

Day 3 (14 May6 07 Monday)

Devban (Deoban). Morning birding around the FRH produced Spot-winged Tits, Common Rosefinches, Hill Partridges, Black-lored Tit and other usual species already mentioned above.

After having the breakfast and getting the packed lunch, we drove at 0730 hrs for Deoban located at about 3000 meters ht, and reached there after two hours, birding all over the way. Deoban is very rich in bird life, significant birds included:

“Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush, Himalayan Woodpecker, Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Eurasian Blackbird, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-throated Tit, Great Barbet, Eurasian/Oriental/Indian Cuckoos, Eurasian Tree-creeper, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow & Black Grosbeaks (4 – perched too high, could also be collared), Western-crowned Leaf-warbler, Greenish Leaf Warbler, Long-tailed Minivets, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, good view of Large Hawk Cuckoo, Eurasian Eagle Owl (captive and being used by a ‘quack’ roadside doctor in the open market at Chakrata).

Day 4 (15 May 07) : Morning birding began with the musical wake up calls of the Blue Whistling Thrush, then other birds, we could identify these birds by their calls – Hill Partridge, Asian Barred Owlet, Rufous Sibia, Oriental Turtle Dove, Grey-hooded and Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, Wedge-tailed + Pin-tailed Green Pigeons and Oriental Cuckoos). Drove back via Mussorie road.

(Typed on 29 August 09 in a tearing hurry from old notes)

Suresh C Sharma

White-browed Bushchat in Hisar District, Haryana by Dr P.S. Sangwan

On 25th January 2003, Dr Pratap Singh Sangwan reported one White-browed Bushchat from Hisar district of Haryana. A note was published in Indian Birds and the article can be read at

Suresh C Sharma

Morni Hills - on 16 August 09 by Narbir Kahlon

Mr. Prabhat Bhatti and self visited the area beyond Morni on 16th of August 2009. While we were making our way towards Morni just ahead of Madhna village, we came across a group of European Rollers. What made the sighting interesting was the fact that there were 7 birds. Normally one dos not associate this bird with large groups (at least not in this area) as it is a passage migrant in our area and one or two birds are seen in a location. The rollers were enjoying a scrumptious breakfast of beetles and other insects. They were still at it when we returned but by then there were only 4 birds seen and they too were spread over a larger area. The Indian Roller is a bird known to migrate during the day bad weather seemed to have made them more pragmatic and so we were able to get nice photographs on the way back.

While making our way through the pine forest near Jorian we came across a Black francolin calling from the bough of a pine tree it was close and inspite of the poor light Mr. Bhatti was able to get a nice close up of the bird calling. It is always a pleasure to see this bird.

2 Rock Bush-quails (I suspect) walking along the berm of the road also made for a great sighting, as it is a rather uncommon bird. The picture that we got was not too good because of poor light would have loved to click a better picture of them. (The picture is with Mr. Bhatti and a closer look is needed to ensure that it is indeed the rock and not the Jungle bush quail)

Crested buntings were there in plenty Morni seems to be one of their preferred breeding grounds. Scaly breasted munia’s could also be seen ferrying nesting material. And so were the pied bush chats.

While at Saron we heard the Rusty cheeked Scimitar babblers, the Puff throated babblers and saw the black chinned babbler. Talking of babblers we came across a group of Jungle babblers, what made this encounter special was that they were feeding a Pied Cuckoo chick larger than themselves, much as we tried to coax them into giving us a clear picture they stuck to the safety of a thick lantana bush.

Saron was not its usual self, bird numbers were not high, overcast skies casting a dull spell over the avian fauna I suppose. We did see Black Bulbuls a Eurasian cuckoo, the Blue throated flycatcher (Male and female),The fulvous breasted woodpecker was very obliging and took out precious time from his morning grub hunting routine for me to make it’s portrait. A chestnut tailed starling amongst a group of Brahminy mynas and a golden oriole was also seen.

On the walk along the track leading up to Saron there is a thickly forested patch where we got to see the Jungle Owlet. It seems to be a resident as we have been sighting it around the same area regularly. (This Picture was taken on an earlier trip in the same area.)

Amongst the Prinias seen were the Grey breasted, The Striated Prinia and the Jungle Prinia. Of these the Striated has a distinct call which is always useful in making an Id. We were also treated to the vocalizations of the Rufus tree pie and saw the Red billed blue magpies going about their morning chores (always a pleasant sight).

The Raptors seen were the oriental Honey buzzard and the Crested Serpent Eagle.

On the way back we came across two birds in the distance they appeared to be very large crows. There call rang out across the valley a distinct 4 note metallic call which makes me suspect they were Ravens. The sighting was near Madhna, size can be deceptive in the Hills so we decided to try and approach them, but before we could proceed on this long trek they saved us the bother by taking to the air. We also saw a flock of large billed crows riding the thermals in the area. We need to get a better sighting of these birds to confirm the ID so anyone going to this section please keep a look out for these birds.

Altogether a nice day out birding in Morni hills.

List of birds seen:

Common name Scientific Name

1. Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus

2. Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus

3. Rock Bush Quail Perdicula argoondah

4. Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus

5. Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela

6. Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum

7. Fulvous Breasted Woodpecker Dendrocopos macei

8. Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica

9. Common Hoopoe Upupa epops

10. European Roller Coracias garrulous

11. Pied Cuckoo (Juv) Clamator jacobinus

12. Eurasian Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

13. Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris

14. Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri

15. Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala

16. Rock Pigeon Columba livia

17. Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

18. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

19. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis

20. Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis

21. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach

22. Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda

23. Red Billed Blue magpie urocissa erythrorhyncha

24. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

25. Common Raven (Possibly) Corvus Corax Subcorax

26. Golden Oriole Oriolous oriolus

27. White throated Fantail Flycatcher Rhipidura albicollis

28. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus

29. Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bottentottus

30. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus

31. Asian Paradise Flycatcher(Juv) Terpsiphone paradist

32. Verideter Fly catcher Eumyias thalassina

33. Blue Throated flycatcher Cryonis rubeculoides

34. Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis

35. Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata

36. Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata

37. Brown Rock Chat Cercomela Fusca

38. Streaked Laughing Thrush Garrulax lineatus

39. White crested Laughing Thrush(Heard) Garrulax leucolophus

40. Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnus malabaricus

41. Brahminy Myna Sturnus pagodarum

42. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis

43. Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus

44. Jungle Myna Acridotheres Fuscus

45. Great Tit Parus major

46. Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

47. Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus

48. Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer

49. Himalayan Bulbul Pycnonotus lleucogenys

50. Striated Prinia Prinia criniger

51. Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica

52. Grey Breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii

53. Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus

54. Tailor Bird Orthotomus sutorius

55. Western crowned Warbler Phylloscopus occipiltalis

56. Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus

57. Rusty Cheeked Scmittar Babbler(Heard)Pomatorhinus erythrogenys

58. Black-chinned Babbler Stachyris pyrrhops

59. Puff Throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps

60. Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica

61. House Sparrow Passer domesticus

62. Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis

63. Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus

64. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura puntulata

65. Crested Bunting Melophus lathami

Narbir Kahlon


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sarus Cranes of Swan Nadi Wetland

Dear Parbhat,

Swaan Nadi forms the border between Punjab & Himachal.

The Punjab part of this wetland is totally destroyed. The land has been filled in and taken under agriculture & construction. The Himachal area is also under threat now in a big way with a couple of factories coming up. The wetlands are also being drained for agriculture. ( With land prices soaring it is very tempting for the land mafia to fill in the wetlands and sell the land at great profits).

We need to document this destruction & put up a report to Chief Wildlife Warden -Himachal & also follow up with DFO Hamirpur. When you come to Chandigarh next we can work out a action plan.

A word of caution- please maintain a low profile when you go to that area for documentation as the stakes are very high.

Regards- Navjit


I often go to Swan Nadi area for birds photography. The area is 60 kilometre long and situated between,Distt.Una,Himachal Pardesh from ,Distt.Ropar Punjab. This Swan Nadi area is the heaven for water birds . It was very rich habitat of the tallest flying bird in the world Sarus Crane, besides storks and ibises.

Local people say there were 100’s Sarus Crane about 20 year ago. Now the habitat of Sarus is destroyed by local people and H.P Govt. Large part of habitat comes under Swan canalization, remaining is being destroyed for industrialization and reclamation for farming. I saw 18 Sarus Crane in 2004, in2005 14 Sarus, in 2006 there were 11, in 2007only 9 Sarus were seen. And now only 4 pair remain. During the past 5 year, population has not increased .They are staying on small ponds.

We should do joint efforts to save Swan Nadi wetland area and to protect Sarus Crane habitat.

Parbhat Bhatti


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caspian Plover from Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan

Gaurav Bhatnagar has posted three photographs of Caspial Plover, seen at Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan first by Mr Surat Singh Poonia a few days before, and then by Gaurav Bhatnagar and Harkirat Singh Sangha on 25 August 09.

While this is, according to Harkirat Sangha, the first ever record from Rajasthan, it may be mentioned that there are a few sightings of the plover from the country.

Congratulations to Poonia , Gaurav and Sangha.
(all the three photographs by Gaurav Bhatnagar)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Parbhat Bhatti has just posted a few photographs of White-rumped Vultures and Himalayan Griffon at birds-chandigarh google group. In his own words :

"I took these photograph of White-rumped Vultures and Himalayan Griffons from Jammu region, village : Dayal Chak on 12th August 2009. There were 11 White-rummped Vultures and 4 Himalayan Griffons feeding on the caracas. A villager, named Mohamed told me that this was the 'hadda rori' site and dead animals were dumped there by villagers, as such vultures offen landed there to eat the dead animals."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trip Report of Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan (8-9 August 09)

(Photographs and text by Manjula Mathur)

I arrived in Jaipur at 1:00 PM on 8th August. Within an hour, I was on my way to Tal Chhapar, famous sanctuary for Blackbucks and a great place for viewing raptors. I was to reach T.C. on 9th morning, but on the insistence of Shri Surat Singh Poonia, Range Forest Officer, decided to try my luck on 8th evening itself. The exciting report of Delhi birder Koshy ji and the excellent photographs of Anand Arya being the catalysts.

On arrival at TC, found Shri Poonia waiting for me. Without further ado, we proceeded to the sanctuary and immediately encountered a group of Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters who are summer visitors to Northern India. Their dark green plumage, green-blue ear-coverts and rufous throats gave them quite a jaunty look !

Within 100 metres of Shri Poonia’s office, we started seeing the White-Eyed Buzzards which had gathered in large numbers in Tal Chhapar prior to migration. On the ground and on tops of Khejri trees that dot the TC grasslands. In a matter of few minutes, we saw atleast fifty ! All the birds were juveniles, with pale heads, dark streaking on rufous breasts and dark iris. During my stay at Tal Chhapar, I did not see a single adult which was somewhat disappointing. Later we saw a pair of Lagger Falcons, both juvenile. Encouraged by the sighting of the Laggars, we drove past an area of salt mounds and scrubby vegetation where a pair of Isabelline Wheatears and a Southern Gray Shrike were birds of interest. Further on, a lone Desert fox and a family of Indian foxes were notable ‘finds’. As the light was failing, we returned to Base.

Next morning, I left for the sanctuary at 6:30 AM, in the company of Shri Sohan Lal, Forest guide as Shri Poonia had to leave Tal Chappar on some urgent work. A Laggar Falcon juvenile was making a meal of a hapless bird by the roadside. A juvenile Egyptian Vulture flew off near us and a few White-Eyed Buzzards were scattered over the grasslands. We passed the salt mounds and next to a Green Bee-Eater perched on the barbed wire was a bird with a red cocked tail ! I looked at it with binocs as it was quite far. It had a broad white supercilium and a prominent black eye-stripe. When we reached closer, the Bee-Eater remained on the barbed wire but the bird with the red tail disappeared into scrubby bushes. I waited for it to reappear much to Sohanlal’s dismay as he was eager to see Tawny Eagles, Laggar Falcons and here I was waiting for an ‘insignificant’ red-tailed bird to emerge from the bushes ! I told him that the bird could be a Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin but as he had not seen the bird in Tal Chhapar, he was not too impressed ! Finally we moved on, with the resolve to return the same way, hoping for another glimpse of the Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin which I had decided by this time that it was !! Much to Sohanlal’s relief we saw an adult Laggar on top of a tree. Perfect photo-op ! As our car inched closer, the Laggar had different ideas ! Later I did see a Laggar Falcon but alas ! the bird was a juvenile and it was sitting on the ground.

Four Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse sitting pretty on the sandy ground were the birds seen later along with many, many White-Eyed Buzzards. By now the sun was shining furiously from a relentless, blue sky and the Buzzards were busy making quick meals of Spiny Lizards who happened to venture out from their burrows.

It was time to turn back and we returned by way of the salt mounds. The bird with the red cocked tail was again perched on the barbed wire and this time I got a distant shot and lo and behold it turned out to be the Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin. Going through Grimmett, I learnt that the RTSR is passage migrant through North-West India which accounted for its presence in Tal Chhapar in August. Birding Report of Jaisalmer by Gaurav Bhatnagar mentioned sighting of this bird in September. Jugar Tiwari has also sighted the bird in Kutch in September. Pamela Rasmussen writes in the Ripley guide that the RTSR passes through North-West India in autumn and breeds in Pakistan and Afghanistan . The Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin which I saw was alone and had probably just arrived.

Rufous-Tailed Larks, Ashy crowned Sparrow Larks, Crested Larks, a Pipit which I thought was a Richard’s Pipit due to its longer hind claws, Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eaters, Southern Grey Shrikes and Isabelline Wheatears were the other occupants of the by now ‘famous’ barbed wire fence.

I had read about sighting of a Tawny Eagle in Tal Chhapar by Koshyji and I badly wanted to see one. Perseverance pays and near a water-body which had many Woolly-Necked storks was a magnificent adult Tawny in pale cream morph, sitting proudly on top of a tall tree.

After a delicious meal of parathas and curds in Shri Poonia’s house, I decided to try one last time for a photograph of the elusive RTST. It was almost noon and the sun was merciless. The desert landscape was lit up by a white, hot sheen. Poor rainfall this year has turned the grass a dull brown and the Blackbucks were seen sheltering under stunted trees. I crawled though the barbed wire fence (with help from the ever helpful Sohanlal) to reach the scrubby area where I could get brief glimpses of the Robin walking about hawking insects. We did manage to track it down as it gobbled up insects under the shade of a prickly shrub ! Took some photos and beat a hasty retreat into the shelter of the car and the AC !!

The Great Indian Bustards seen recently by Delhi birders were not to be seen. But sighting of the Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin and other great birds of Tal Chhapar made my day ! My sincere thanks to Shri Poonia and Sohanlal.

Images of the birds including Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin are being uploaded separately.


1. Indian Roller

2. Eurasian Collared Dove

3. Red Collared Dove

4. Rosy Starlings

5. Common Mynah

6. Brahminy Starling

7. Common Babbler

8. Spotted Owlet

9. Brown Rock Chat

10. Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark

11. Rufous-tailed Lark

12. Crested Lark

13. Isabelline Wheatear

14. Southern Grey Shrike

15. Coppersmith Barbet

16. Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouse

17. Black Drongo

18. White-throated Kingfisher

19. White eyed Buzzard

20. Laggar Falcon

21. Egyptian Vulture

22. Tawny Eagle

23. Wooly-necked Stork

24. Richard’s Pipit?

25. Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

26. House Swift

27. Cattle Egret

28. Red-wattled Lapwing

29. Indian Pea-Fowl

30. Indian Crow

31. Green Bee-Eater

32. Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater

33. Black Kite

34. Black Ibis

Manjula Mathur

Black drongos' beak-to-beak fight

Dear nature lovers,

I have read and heard of Black Drongos (Dicrurus macrocercus) having a
ferocious temper. Over the past couple of decades I have seen them
chasing off all kind of birds, once even a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur
indus) which is also known for its daring nature.

But in the last two months I have witnessed incidents of them being at
heights of pugnaciousness.

On 2 Aug '09, I sighted a pair guarding a small (apx. 20 feet tall)
dead acacia tree in Sultanpur Jheel National Park near Gurgaon,
Haryana. They were attacking all birds that dared to fly in the
vicinity. But I was taken aback when one of these pecked the crown of
a big peafowl that dared passed below their perch. The peafowl,
though, was unfazed and walked away at the same pace.

The other incident was a real shocker for me as I saw two of these
birds being very serious about their physical fight with each other.

On 25 June 2009, in Ranthambore National Park, on a game ride in a
Gypsy vehicle besides Raj Bagh Talao lake, I observed a pair of these
in a ferocious beak to beak bout. They were right in the middle of the
game road. For nearly 6 minutes we watched these two birds lock their
beaks, roll repeatedly side ways over the path and scream at the top
of their voice. Many safari vehicles had to take a detour off the game
road as these determined fighters refused to budge. This was a very
intense battle, the likes of which I have rarely witnessed in any two
birds of the same species. We had to leave the place as my co-tourists
were non-birders. But looking back at the intensity of this combat, I
some how feel this fight might have ended with one of them being
fatally wounded by the other. Please see the images of this incident

I would like to hear similar observations if any.

Best regards,
Ameen Ahmed
New Delhi/ Tumkur

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yellow-rumped Honeyguide

Kakdagad (~1000m), near Keadrnath, Uttarakhand, India.

YS Negi and I, a month back on 4 Jul 09.

"It's 5 PM, time for the Honeyguide."

"How far is it?"

"Just 300 m away."

Construction of a bridge on the mouth of a narrow river (at best a

small tributary stream now, with scanty rains and all) which merges

with the main river Mandakini, was creating a commotion. However, 100

m on we lost sight of the workers as we walked along the abundant

boulders down below to our left with water flowing by. The rock

beehives were now visible on the other side of the river at the same

level, a steep hillside with a few intact and a few broken bee combs

abandoned by the wild bees.

Negi looked over the valley through his binoculars, "Can't see the

Honeyguide, let's wait for it."

"When were you here last?"

"Three days back; it's sure to come."

"There it is", he whispers in muted excitement, his enthusiasm as

fresh as someone on a lifer. We suddenly see a dark finch like bird

with a clear yellow rump circle the area and fly back towards the

cover of the jungle ahead.

"It will come back, it likes to wait in the nearby trees and then

finally goes to the hive."

An hour passes by and we see no sign of the Honeyguide. Nor of any

other bird, I think of the Cheer Pheasant, but on a local report,

higher elevations of Madmaheshwar may hold them. No sign of Kalij

either, which normally is barely happy far away from the din of

humans. Monal I knew I would find at Tunganath and one hardly expects

a Koklass at lower, shallower and disturbed forest.

"It's getting dark now and I am afraid, we might not get a shot." I

sounded meditative if not altogether dispirited.

"It's because of these noisy Ashy Drongos that our bird is not coming

near. I can also see a Blue Whistling Thrush nest just two meters from

the combs." He finds a reason.

Stealthy Blue Whistling Thrush, not a raptor, yet a slayer of young

birds, not sparing even a large juvenile Long-billed Thrush. Once,

however, on a quiet morning, after a stormy night, I saw it whistle by

the Nainital Lake. It continued for a long time with its sweet and

melodious whistle.

Just then, our Honeyguide flew in and perched right next to the

Drongos on the other side. A casual look would not have revealed the

bird now resting quietly in the dark woods, the likeness of the bird

being much like the stem of its choice. The compact flash cards of the

camera worked overtime to record clicks of the bird, which was nothing

more than a speck.

After a while, the Honeyguide rose and at the same time, by chance, a

pair of quarrelling Ashy Drongos created a commotion which made the

bird divert its flight to a tree just meters away from me. Now I could

see the ruffled bird in breezy surroundings and magnified proximity,

much more clearly. The dark bird in the green umbrella of the trees,

the creepers, the mossy sheaths on the tree trunks; magical moments

held forever.

The bird playing hide-and-seek behind the swaying leaves threw a lot

of challenge to my camera. Shoot as you will and be overwhelmed as

much, but the expectation of a better shot never goes away.

The impassive but alert Honeyguide, secure in the knowledge of

available food, soon flew to a bee nest attached to the mossy reddish

grey rocks and remained hidden from view. After ten minutes or so, it

flew back to the jungle.

It soon was dark and I walked back in an unusually warm evening in the




Devashish Deb

New Delhi