AM I A CHIFFCHAFF?

Small birds are very difficult to identify especially for amateurs like me. I spotted this tiny visitor looking directly at the camera as we were rushing to see the Demoiselle Cranes at Kichan Village near Jodhpur.

straight at the camera
Who am I?

I have spent most of Sunday attempting to identify this sweet little bird seen in Kichan ,home  to the famous Demoiselle Cranes.( do read my blogs titled Winter Guests and A Feast) .

Finally I honed onto  Warblers or ChiffChaffs , but I maybe wrong.

I eliminated the Common ChiffChaff which seems to have a distinctive white underside.

Most of the warblers have a clear white line  extending from the beak  upto the eyes (supercillium)  . But all the pictures of this mysterious but well proportioned bird rule them out too.

The side profile shows a uniform rust colour all over.

perfect profile.jpg
The little bird was very cooperative

I pitched for the Mountain ChiffChaff ( Scientific Name Phylloscopus sindianus)  which is a migrant to the warmer regions of Rajasthan in the winters from Kashmir in the Himalayas.

To add to my confusion birds change their plumage in winter and when breeding as well.

The Juveniles and Adults look different too.  I need to go back to school on this one.

wren like
All brown or rust with no markings whatsoever

Wrens are eliminated as they usually hold their tails up and are relatively fewer in India.

This sweet  camera friendly visitor or resident has me stumped. Please do help me identify this feathered friend.

After many hours scouring numerous references all I am certain of is this bird  belongs to the Order of the Common House Sparrows Passiformes.

I have observed that smaller birds are very active and keep chirping and rarely stay still, however our friend above in contrast was extremely Quiet and hardly moved despite the click click of the DSLR camera.

Thanks to a fellow blogger,Badri,  the mystery has been solved.

The little bird is  THE BROWN ROCK CHAT ( English) ,  Shama (Hindi) ,Cercomela Fusca ( Scientific Name).

It is endemic or native to the Indian Subcontinent and migrates to the Himalayas during the summers.

The Little One is not a Chiff Chaff but a Chat.

THE FEAST

The villagers of Kichan, Rajasthan and in particular Sewa Ram lay out an incredible feast  daily for their Winter Guests. ( do check my previous blog).

The guest are no other than thousands of  delicate and dainty Demoiselle Cranes or Khurja.

An enclosed area in the village  is marked as the FEEDING HOME FOR BIRDS. Sewa Ram lays out multiple rows of Jowar ( Pearl Millet) daily  for his guests.

The picture below was taken from Sewa Ram’s terrace  and shows the Dining Area and the meticulously laid out Feast ( the fawn coloured Jowar seeds).

You can see the skies turn grey in the background as waves of Demoiselle Cranes approach the Feeding centre ( Dining Area ).

bird feeding centre
The Feast for the Demoiselle Cranes

In an incredible and amazing show of  disciple and Social Order , the Cranes assemble OUTSIDE this enclosure in thousands.

The cranes arrive in waves in thousands and settle in a vast area between the Dining Area and the hillocks behind.( see the picture below)

NOT ONE crane steps into the feeding area or flies into this area demarcated for their Feast every morning.

birds remain outside the feeding area
Thousands assemble OUTSIDE the Dining Room

A couple of Inspectors or Leaders descend into the Dining Area after a careful aerial survey.

Only one of them checks the Jowar Seeds to ensure it meets Health  standards whereas the rest scan the area for possible intruders/predators.

the inspectors
The Inspectors secure the area

After an inspection the feast is declared Open and the first wave of Demoiselle Cranes flies into the Dining Area.

They divide themselves into two clear distinct groups, one group lines up and eats whereas the Spotters or Body guards keep a careful watch all around.

the systematic line up
Plunging into the Feast as another set keeps a watch

It takes one flock of cranes close to 15 minutes to have a good tuck in.

Extremely particular  they prefer the fawn coloured Jowar over the greenish Bajra ( another millet).

They then leave in the same order they had arrived and are quickly  replaced by another flock which was waiting outside the Dining Area.

ready to fly after 15 minutes

Signalling the time to leave has come

It was indeed amazing to note the that the Cranes arrived punctually around 0900 hours and all left by 1130 daily.

Sewa Ram and his family  have meticulously maintained records from 1983 when his father made the enclosure or Bird Feeding Centre to keep cattle and dogs away.

The only variation observed was on the days it was cloudy. As it had rained a day before I reached the Cranes chose to skip the Feast till the Sun emerged from the clouds at 1200 hrs.

It was amazing to note the direction they took to  arrive at the  Feeding Centre and when they left were perfectly synchronized.

a few feet above ground level
Superb alignments in flights

I could spend days observing  this MIRACLE OF NATURE unfold before my eyes.

I have one but regret that I did not spend more time observing their  disciplined behavior.

Farewell my feathered friends.

 

WINTER GUESTS

The dainty and elegant Demoiselle cranes are beautiful cranes which are native to Central Eurasia.

These  graceful cranes are extremely gentle and known as Khurja in Rajasthan due to the loud and distinctive  sounds they make.

vast group in flight
Flying over Mountains at Kichan

Demoiselle Cranes ( English), Khurja ( Rajasthani Hindi) or Anthropoides virgo ( Scientific name) are the Winter Guests of the village of Kichan.

Why  they choose to make this inconspicuous but beautiful village in North Western India their home from August till March every year is still a mystery. ( do read http:www.traelwithmukul.wordpress.com to discover this charming village)

They travel in thousands in flocks of hundreds crossing the highest mountains on the planet undertaking the longest and most arduous of migrations.

Behold this amazing natural spectacle as they bask in the sun on the shores of a village pond at Kichan, Rajasthan.

At this time of the year their homes in Mongolia are swept by cold winds and snow blizzards.

in hundreds
Our Winter Guests

The typical V-formations of Cranes helps them conserve energy and ensures a higher rate of survival as they undertake the strenuous MIGRATION across ASIA.

V formations
V formations

Graceful in flight, the tell tale sign of cranes of neck and feet extended is captured in the picture below.

The majestic beauty of Nature is well and truly represented by these Winter Guests.

take off
Take off

The Demoiselle Cranes exhibit an enchanting social order of which of  I will write about in the blogs to follow.

Am overwhelmed and in awe of these gorgeous beauties which  choose an area of a few square miles in the arid and dry desert of the Rajasthan. India to be their homes every Winter.

During the month of January the Winter Guests ( the Demoiselle Cranes) would outnumber their hosts ( the villagers of Kichan) in the ratio of 4:1.

 

CARELESS WHISPERS

Green Bee Eater . Merops orientalis

These chestnut headed bee eaters were busy whispering amongst themselves . See how the male has cocked his head so as to pay more  attention to the lady.

The tree has shed all its leaves  in this  dry deciduous forest .

what honey
                                                                            what honey

A  Safari Jeep and the driver are captured in the frame  repeatedly showing how close they were to these birds.

But the birds pay scant attention to them  and are busy whispering amongst themeselve on this relatively low perch.

the leafless tree
                                                         the leafless tree

The green bee eaters feed primarily on insects as you could probably guess from their name.

closer look
                                                             closer look

They have a tell-tale flight patterns and a unique way of spreading their wings like little fans.

It is hard to tell the male from the female in this species as their plummage is virtually identical .

However when perched together the larger male is clearly discernible.

out on a limb
                                                out on a limb

OGLING IN THE FOREST

Whenever I see the THICK KNEE am reminded of the fairy tale RED RIDING HOOD and her remarks “what big eyes you have grandmother”. ( authors are permitted to spice up the story by giving the originals  a little twist  )

A  nocturnal  bird it prefers to hang around bushes , shrubs and trees during the day.

Thick Knee, Indian Stone Curlew, Burhinus indicus ( scientific) 

This one was spotted Ogling at the lake under a TREE.

framed
                                                                                         framed

A combination of large goggle eyes and the above mentioned habit of hanging around gives the appearance of this bird OGLING.

A resident bird to the dry deciduous forests of India it can be spotted even in the stunted forests of Delhi. I did see one in Asola Forest Reserve in New Delhi.

The little knot around the knee give it another uncomplimentary name, THICK KNEE.

goggle eyes
                                                             Goggle eyes

Sleeping or preening itself , Goggle eyes also has a large characteristic beak.

It is also called Indian Stone Curlew because of the characteristic wailing sound associated with Curlews.

Almost all pictures in  books and sources on the net show the plumage as brown or shades thereof.

However the pictures I have taken near a lake in Rajasthan show up the THICK KNEE more greyish or STONE coloured.

Asleep
                                                                            Asleep

The THICK knee or Stone Curlew  finds a place in many stories,  poems and even a movie.

Similar birds can be Spotted in Europe ( Eurasian Stone Curlew) and Africa as well.

BLOOD RED RUBIES

Black-Shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) hides amidst a thorny bush near Sajjangarh, Udaipur.

Will leave you and the Kite by yourselves and say nothing.

 Waiting to Ambush
Waiting to Ambush
????????????????????????????????????
All Attention
We come in the crosshair
It hones onto us.
We are dismissed
Looks away. We are dismissed

I was very fortunate to capture these images.

REFLECTING HERONS

Panchtantra   are ancient Indian fables which have animals and birds  as the main characters and goes back to the 3rd Century BC.

You can see these fables inscribed in stone on ancient monuments or painted by artists over the centuries.

From these fables are derived morals or principles to be followed in life.

One such fable is based on The Heron and the Crab. The cornerstone of the story was Greed.

While reflecting on these ancient fables and the lessons they narrate

I  have carefully put together three pictures in this post  of the main character THE HERON.

Little Green / Little Heron/ Mangrove Heron  or Butorides striatus.

Extremely intelligent it is a skilled angler and lays a bait  of small twigs etc to lure in fish.

Have seen this beautiful Heron  only once, though marked   Least Concern by IUCN .

Green heron
Green heron

Purple Heron or Ardea purpurea. Anjun in Hindi .

The largest of the Herons selected it is seen across the country. It’s slender neck and distinctive colouration make it easy to identify.

Am sure you can identify it now in the featured picture though the light was against me.

They are solitary or territorial feeders and prefer water hyacinth beds .

Purple Heron
Purple Heron

Birds in Indian languages have interesting names and reveal intriguing characteristics and myths.

In Hindi the Indian Pond Heron is called Andha  Bagula. Andha means blind.

Indian Pond Heron/ Paddy birds  or Ardeola grayii.

You will see this Heron even in Urban areas around water bodies.

In flight it transforms itself into a beauty as it spreads its  white wings.

Pond Heron
                                                             Indian Pond Heron

Do observe the similarity in the eyes of the three Herons as they reflect on themselves.

Please revert with names and fables on these gorgeous birds photographed across the country.

Most of my articles are teasers with clues and links, please check on Wikipedia/ Google or even better try to spot them in your neighbourhood.

A GOOD OMEN

The Greater Coucal or Crow Pheasant ( Centropus sinensis ) is a fairly large  bird you see across the Indian Subcontinent.

If you follow the calls of birds you will be able to spot them as well. The Crow Pheasant has  a distinctive booming call.

It has extremely interesting names in the  vernacular  languages. With the names are interwoven myths and folklore.

Called Bharadwaj in Marathi , this member of the Cuckoo family,  is supposed to herald good fortunate. Thus considered a GOOD OMEN.

For me personally  flora and fauna is a   GOOD OMEN.

Is it a Crow?
                                                             Is it a Crow?

Am telling these myths for fun and joy. Please, for heaven’s sake do not take them seriously.

There is another myth about the Coucal ( being a doctor of sorts),  it cures all ailments

The Kid chooses the blossoms of a tree
                                        The Kid chooses the blossoms of a tree

Called Kamadi kukkar in Punjabi, it is linked to the Chicken ( Kukkar in Punjabi) .

The Coucal is also believed to cure all ailments related to the Lungs including asthama.

Juvenile Coucal
                                                           Juvenile Coucal

The pictures above were taken in the gorgeous ANANTA SPA & RESORTS in magical  Udaipur.

THE HOODED BANDIT

This very communicative Rufous Treepie was photographed deep in the Tiger Forests of Northern India.

The  Crow and the Rufous Treepie  (Dendrocitta vagabunda) belong to the same family Corvidae. Sounds a bit like  Mafia , what with  Family etc

This highly intelligent bird looks like a hooded bandit and speaks several languages ( has numerous calls) .

Perched in the trees the hooded bandit  keenly  looks out for all who cross its land.

Silhoutte
                                                                      Silhoutte

As the light improves I realize why it is called Rufous ( due to the tanned colour) .

Do note the trees have shed all their leaves.

Now see my clothes
                                                               Now see my clothes

This bold Treepie perches itself on the Safari Jeep and insists on having a look in our bags.

It is indeed a hooded bandit.

Show me the pictures
                                                                  Show me the goodies

Clinging onto the rubber trims of the windows it calls, no demands , for FOOD.

This is actually a result of  undesirable actions by tourists who visit the National Tiger Parks. Please refrain from feeding these birds.

Take a close up
                                                               Take a close up

The Rufous Treepie is native to the Indian Subcontinent and even visits my home in New Delhi.

However this hooded bandit was exceptional and have yet to meet one as TALKATIVE and DEMANDING.

YOGA THE EMU WAY

We were astonished as in the midst of Sarus Crane country we located an Emu

(  Dromaius novaehollandiae) in India. Indeed it had traveled a long way from its home in Australia.

What had me bewildered was this was no zoo, this  was rural India at its best ; villages, wetlands and farms all around.

This bird though had loads of attitude and a mind of its own.

Watch the swagger as it displays its ‘long’ and ‘lovely’ legs

catwalk
                                                                  catwalk

It settles into a pool of water created by  the Borewell  in the foreground.

Does it not look strange as it seems to hover above the ground with its legs folded forwards.( a reverse Vajra Asana)

????????????????????????????????????
                                                         Emu with the Bore well

If looks could kill, this EMU  sure had me down and out.

i dare you
I dare you

On asking my ever knowledgeable wife I was informed that the  Emu is now bred for its Eggs and Meat in , hold your breath , Noida (  a satellite city  of New Delhi) , India .

She had even been to a restaurant in Delhi where the chefs held live cooking classes using EMU meat. I prefer seeing  it chill out in it’s private swimming pool,  hope you do too.

As I shake my head in wonder I must discard some modesty and mention this is my 100th Post.

Still have not learnt how to place them in a row, maybe a fellow blogger will help me.

followed-blog-50-2x

followed-blog-200-2xlikeable-blog-1000-2x

liked the idea
liked the idea
nominations along the way
nominations along the way