Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birding Highlights from Chandigarh region by Narbir Kahlon

Is it a Paddyfield or Blut-winged Warbler? Photo by Narbir Kahlon from Sukhna, 21 Sep 09.

This is a Variable Wheatear, a winter bird to Chandigarh region. Photo by Narbir Kahlon.
Birding Highlights :

Dr Sudhir Oswal recommended a sizing down of my tremendous girth, so I found the ideal solution i.e. walking on the Sukhna Bund keeping a track of the migrants. While I do walk at a reasonable pace, My eyes are free to wander and I take in the beauties of the lake every morning (Feathered of course ) Every few days I treat myself to a walkabout in the marsh with a camera or a drive down the Saketri road and it seems to be working for me.

On the 21st Sept 2009, Navjit and me indulged in one such trip in the afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to see the Variable wheatear, No confusion this time as it was clearly the Oenanthe picata opistholeuca both males any easy Id of a not so common bird in our area.

We were not so lucky with a warbler in the reeds adjacent to the lotus pond the pictures taken were not too great it could be the Paddy field warbler or the more uncommon Blunt- winged warbler. Call- tchk- tichk. The brow according to Suresh-ji and subsequently me is not contrasting with the Supercillium. I am enclosing the Pics and would be grateful if a positive Id could be made.

The Common stonechat and the Blue throat have also arrived at the Sukhna. The Blue throat is possibly one of the most Photogenic Robins to visit Chandigarh. Plenty of Bee eaters both the green as well as the Blue tailed were out hawking insects.

The lotus pond had its fair share of Pond Herons and Common Moorhens there was one White-breasted Waterhen moving stealthily through the reeds. The shy Purple Heron decided to take wing from its well camouflaged hunting spot and the pied King Fisher was keeping a close eye on its happy hunting ground. On The Main Lake there were two Terns and plenty of confusion on their Id and so after a reference to Bill and other experienced birders all confusion was put to rest with a clear ‘Whiskered Tern’ Id. In the spring migration I had seen them with their bellies dark grey and in autumn they are white on the belly supporting a black beak and red legs closer look at facial markings and you realize why we call it the whiskered tern.

Somebody needs to put the record straight on why the scaly breasted Munias at the lake are still carrying nesting material, do they keep changing the lining (Read linen ) of their nests or are they moving into late nesting?

The drive down to Saketri during which we saw the Wheatears also produced the Yellow-wattled lapwing, The Oriental lark and the Long-billed pipit. This area is being developed as a residential colony and seems to be doomed as a birding destination.

Beyond Saketri the story changes as we move into Chandigarh (Saketri is a Haryana village) The Forest department has taken over the land adjacent to the road. Tree plantation is in full swing and hopefully they will leave some fallow land for the Yellow- wattled lapwings.

There is a turn off at Kaimbwala over a culvert or should I say bridge towards Kansal Forest, the track leads up to a Govt owned tube well. Along this track we came across a couple of European Rollers; by the way where have all the Indian Rollers gone? We only seem to be seeing their European cousins. Chasing some warblers around I happened to photograph what turned out to be the Eurasian Wryneck its distinctive head pattern visible through the acacia branches, the wires were full of Blue tailed bee eaters and the Lantana bushes had a few plain Prinia, Crested Buntings (juv/sub adult) and the Indian Robin .The adjoining trees had the Bayas and two Pied Cuckoo’s still enjoying the Hospitality of this region getting ready for their southward journey to beat the Cold Winter of the North.

It is needless to say that we saw the Brahminy, Bank and Common mynas in reasonable numbers and a sub adult Shikra along the road. With the sun turning red and visibility dropping we decided to call it a day.

The warbler and the Tern Kept banging around my head all night and so next morning I decided to carry my camera along. I found four terns (same species as the day before), a Black headed Gull, A Grey Heron, the White-breasted Kingfisher, Pond Herons and Common Moorhens on the lotus, the Great egret, the Little egret, Purple Heron, plenty of Spot billed ducks and a flight of the Lesser Whistling Duck. It was also great to see the Yellow bittern (a single bird) at the lotus pond, but the highlight of the morning was the Black bittern in flight. It is a large bird and though I had been wanting a photo record of this bird from Chandigarh for the last 1 year it had eluded me. Out in the sky I could not miss it, and got a good Id shot. I also got a close up of the Asian open bill stork with a shell stuck to its upper mandible. Like this last passage the walk was fast and hurried after all I need to follow doc’s advice (Reducing My girth.)

Narbir Kahlon

Russel's Viper mistaken for a python

While watching birds in a forest patch near Chandigarh, Narbir Kahlon (photo by him) and Navjit Singh came across this Russel's Viper. Navjit mistaking it for a python wanted to catch it by hand... but just in time he realised his mistake. Even Narbir was trying to block the escape way of the snake.

Birders must remain alert in the Chandigarh region particularly as the three deadly snakes - Cobra, Krait and Viper are found here.