Monday, August 31, 2009

Blue-throated Barbet (Megalaima asiatica)

If there is any one bird which is consistently noisy and has an amazing stamina for making full throated calls then this is it. It is not a very large bird but its woody call can be heard for miles during the mating season and even afterwards.The barbet usually picks the top of a tall tree so that its throaty wooden calls resonate through out the area.

It flits about noiselessly from tree to tree and its dark green back makes it almost impossible to spot amongst the trees. However a front view reveals the true magnificence of the bird's colour. It has a blue throat with a  crimson crown and forehead and crimson spots on the either side of the base of its bill. It usually pecks out a hole in a dead tree trunk for its nest.

Whenever I saw this flashy bird I assumed it to be a kingfisher. Now that I have observed it for around  four-five months I can identify it by its looping flight quite similar to that of a woodpecker. Even its movement from branch to branch is quite distinctive. It was quite a holy grail for me during the early days because of its attractive looks and I was thrilled when I finally photographed one; that too by chance.

I was in my cousin's place in Moran and busy photographing some Asian Pied Starlings when I saw this flash of blue and green land land on a banana tree. A bunch of almost ripe bananas had been ripped open by a variety of birds and the barbet was taking his turn.

It is a difficult bird to photograph as it is well hidden by its camouflage but fruiting trees are a irresistible lure for this bird and it often exposes itself when fruits are around.  A very beautiful bird and definitely one of my favorites.

Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)

These are one of the quieter denizens of our Garden. I noticed one pair nesting in a hollow of a huge tree and every morning scraps of their evening meal comprising of lizards, toads, frogs etc would lying at the base. Our dog would go there immediately in the morning to pick up these scraps and it would all end in me chasing her to make her let go of them.

Often their hooting would shock us out of our reverie in the early winter dusk. It was only later that I realised that we had atleast 5-6 pairs nesting in and around our bungalow. During the nesting period one of the parents would be in the nest and the other would sit patiently in a nearby tree. Come rain or sunshine one of the pair would be at vigil. It was a god sent opportunity for me to photograph them at very close range as they were very still for long periods of time. The only other birds that seem to bother them were the Rufous Treepies and the Indian Rollers. The owls would be very agitated whenever these birds approached their nesting site and a furious battle of screeching and hooting would ensue followed by the intruders taking flight.

While they are considered inauspicious in many places I was glad to have them as they kept the rodent population in check. 

As I write this, the nesting period is long over. The nest in the tree hollow has been occupied by a pair of grey headed starlings. I am sure the other nests would also be having new occupants by now.

Just a couple weeks back I was pleasantly surprised to see groups of juvenile spotted owlets flitting around our trees. It seems that the next generation is here and hopefully the nests will again be successfully occupied the coming year.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

When we first moved to Dibrugarh some years ago one of the first things that we noticed was that we played host to a number of bird species in our Garden. Some of the birds were of the more common variety sparrow, myna et al, but hosting a flock of parrots was quite a new experience. For the birding buffs, I am referring to the Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittaculla krameri). The male is marked by the black and pink ring around his neck.

Around twenty meters from the base of one of the dominant trees there are 3-4 hollows which have been made by different species of birds. These hollows are like an apartment complex and as the season progresses at least four to five species of birds take their turns to nest in these holes. The parrots are permanent occupants of at least one hollow and the earliest occupants of the others with a pair of roosting owls to give them company.

Noisy birds by nature the parrots are in their full elements when fighting for their mating and residency rights and are not above trying to push the owls out. The owls maintain their dignity most of the time but once in a while a flashing beak or talon shows the parrots who’s boss.

There is a quiet period when the parents are busy rearing the young but the noise starts again when the adolescents begin flying around in flocks and raiding fruiting trees. Their colour camouflages them perfectly amongst the green leaves and only the slightest movement of their pink beaks give them away. Having said that they are a photographers delight as once resting they are quite bold and slow. They always give you that opportunity to get into a position where a reasonable photo is possible.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Started

The first step is, as they say, the most difficult. So I will just skip it and go for a little explanation and flashback.
What exactly is photobirding? Frankly this term just popped into my head when I asked myself as to what I was upto. I am neither a photographer nor a birder. I just managed purchase a digital camera with a good zoom and happen to live in an area where birds are abundant. The whole thing started with me idly using the birds as target practice for my new camera when suddenly it occurred to me that I could atleast record the different birds in and around my house.
The fact that I lived on a Tea Estate which provided an encouraging environment for birds and other animals also helped my cause.
I started taking my camera with me on my morning walk around the tea sections and clicking at the many feathered creatures that call it home and shelter. The number of species are not important but suffice to say that it was far more than I expected and all clicked within a radius of 2-3 km from my house.
Here I must add a word for my companion on these lonely morning treks, my friend and pet Dalmatian, Lyka. Those of us who are fortunate enough to own a Dalmatian would vouch for the beauty, grace, intelligence, speed, stamina and gentleness of this breed but even the most ardent fan would not recommend them as companions on a birding trip. Playful and naughty to the point of distraction, she has resulted in me losing possibly many good bird photos but once or twice when I have gone without her I have missed her companionship. As I am neither a photographer nor a birder a couple lost opportunities do not bother me too much.
I try to ensure that the photographs and bird sightings remain a sideshow to what is essentially a morning walk with my dog.

So much for the explanation and the flashback. I still haven't taken the first step. Will get into the birds in the next post. Cheerio