Category Archives: Birds

Irresistible Palm Dates

Palm date trees are laden with golden fruits. The ripen not at once but successively so that fruit is available for longer periods. These sugary treats are a great attraction for birds like crows, Asian Koels and Grey Hornbills. The fruits bunches are surrounded by big thorny fronds. So smaller birds can easily approach them.

But even peafowls find them irresistible. I was surprised to find two peahens which had climbed the tree despite their very large sizes and were plucking and eating the fruits. Here is the video.

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Three Cuckoo Visitors !!!

Introduction:

Come summers, many birds arrive in India for nesting. Some come from as far as Africa. They come here just before the onset of monsoons and for this reason are connected to the arrival of rains. Three types of cuckoos are generally seen in our area. All these are brood parasites which means like Koel they lay their eggs in the nest of other bird who thinking that these are their own eggs hatch them and raise the brood. These cuckoos choose the nests of Babblers for this work. Now we will talk of three cuckoos.

Jacobin Cuckoo:

Also known as Pied Cuckoo, Pied Crested Cuckoo, it comes from Africa here. Here it is called Harbinger of the rains. In Indian mythology it is called Chatak or the seeker of ambrosia drops. Also called Barsati Papiha. Religious scriptures mention this bird.

Jacobin Cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Grey Bellied Cuckoo

Another small cuckoo. It can be seen here these days. Most of the times it sits on the electric wires which cross over scrubby shrubs. It was earlier also called Indian Plaintive Cuckoo but now not more so. It is smaller than Pied Cuckoo. It is also called Chhota Papiha in India.

Grey bellied cuckoo: Pic Ranjit

Common Hawk Cuckoo

This cuckoo partially resembles sparrowhawks and thus is called Hawk Cuckoo. In english another common name is Brain Fever Bird. In India it is also called Papiha. Many small birds get scared in its presence. It remains sitting at a place for long durations. It seems to be a permanent resident here.

Common hawk cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Baya Weaver: Making the Nest

This bird is extraordinary. I was awed by their intelligence. Every year they came here to make nests. Last year the acacia trees in vacant plots in our area were uprooted due to heavy rains and construction activity. I thought this year they will not come here because there seems to be no trees for hanging the nests.

What is the Criteria for selection of a site?

  1. Suitable tree which is not easily approachable by predators and humans.
  2. Food and Water Availability
  3. Nesting Material.

Yet some 10-15 days ago, I noticed these birds in bullrushes collecting the nesting material. I was very much surprised where they are making the nests. And see they selected the Palm trees in a society for three reasons: One they cut the nesting material from palm fronds and second that nearby on the sides of the road, people come with grain seeds for ants and sparrows. So food will be nearby.

baya weaver male : ranjit singh

Black Breasted Weaver: Master Craftsman

All birds make nests to raise their chicks. The nests range from simple twigs heaped together to most elaborate. Weaver birds excel as craftsman in making intricate nests.

The area they choose for nesting is carefully chosen. There should be thorny tree like acacia or lofty trees like palms. Idea is to deter predators like snakes, shikra etc from destroying the nest for eggs. Then there should be plenty of food available near by. So they choose the areas near agricultural land. Then there should be nesting material available like bulrush grass in bogs.

While baya weavers make the nests on trees their cousins Black Breasted Weavers also known as Bengal Weaver or Black Throated Weaver (Ploceus benghalensis) make their nests inside thick bulrush grasses. Their nests are not easily seen on cursory look. It is so intricately hidden.

Only male birds do the nest making. They make hundreds of trips to bring the grass blades which they cleave from the grass stalks. Females are invited to inspect the partially completed nest, if a female okays the nest she would move with male for starting the family.

In our area there are plenty of weavers birds. We located one such nest in the making. From a distance without disturbing the bird made a video which I am sharing with my friends on wordpress.

Weaver Making Nest: Owner Ranjit Singh

Leipziger Lerche or Songbird Pastry

While doing a crossword, I came across this word Leipziger. It is in Germany. Lerche actually means Lark in German language. The hint was the famed Pie which used actual Lark as one of the ingredients. It was a very popular delicacy. 

I was shocked that humans didn’t leave alone even the smaller birds for using them in their food. Man in his initial days was a hunter and hunted in groups the big game. Slowly he discovered that many plants- like grasses contain the seeds like precursors of wheat are edible. This diverted them from hunting towards farming but eating the animal flesh is a part of the food.

From the bird lists of Germany, three types of Larks are found there. These are Crested Lark, skylarks and one another variety but the most abundant is Crested Lark. The name Lark is given to this family of birds because they sing in very sweet voice. Here I am producing a picture of Crested Lark found in our area.

crested lark

The tradition of consuming Larks dates back to Middle Ages. Although it was consumed in France, Italy and Germany, but Leipzig was the foremost. References say that the Larks in this region were most perfect and succulent and needed no butter for cooking. Cookbooks say that these were cooked in many ways like pan fried with diced apples, ginger, peppers and sugar or simmered in beef stock with raisins and beer.

Craze for these innocent birds was such that over 404,000 larks!!! were sold in the year 1720 alone within Leipzig, with over 1 million more being caught in the surrounding area and sent to other German cities and towns or even as far as Spain and Russia

Practice went on till 1876, when the king Albert of Saxony made it illegal to hunt the birds as these were helpful to the farmers because these birds feed on the insects which harm the crops. 

The pastry is still made under this name but without the Larks. Instead other ingredients are used. 

Indian Pitta: Most Colourful Bird

Indian Pitta is a small bird. It is the most colourful bird. There are nine different colours on it. Due to this fact, it is called Navranga (meaning nine coloured). It is a very shy bird and often keeps to the ground under the bushes. Most of the times, it is spotted by its calls.

Pitta comes to North India under Himalayan foothills for breeding. The bird migrates to south India or western India during winters. Initially it was named “Ponnunky Pitta“. In fact the name is derived from Telugu language in which it means a “small bird “.

Based on vivid colours, the bird has many different names like “Naorang” in Hindi, “Shumcha” in Bengali, Hariyo in Gujarati. It is also called 6 O’clock bird as it is most active at this time in the morning. In Tamil it is known as “Kaachul“, in Telugu “Polanki pitta, Ponnangi pitta“.

Our area falls in the foothills of Himalayas. Lots of these birds can be heard in the summer mornings. I also was lucky to spot and photograph this bird.

Front pose. Pic by Ranjit
back side view. Pic by Ranjit

Giloye or Tinospora cordifolia: A wonderful Herbal Vine!!

Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Giloy vine : source wiki

If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.

These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.

Parakeets enjoying the berries

It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.

This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.

Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own

Purple Sunbirds: Wonderful Creation of Nature

From the time of the year when winter starts fading away here in the North India, plenty of plants and trees begin blossoming scattering the landscape with vivid colours. The pollens and nectars attract bees and birds alike. Everyone is in win win situation. Plants and trees lure the bees and birds with nutrition of pollen and nectar and in the process they utilize this process for cross pollination which is essential for robust seeds.

During these days, one bird which attracts your attention is Purple Sunbird. Males are in there full glory as they are in their breeding plumage. They are hovering over the flowers in search of collecting the nectar which is their major diet these days although they also catch insects to make up for their protein requirements.

They are very tiny in size and very active. They almost never sit still. Taking their pictures is an task which demands patience. Here are some pictures by me.

Happy to See So Many of them….

They are called Nature’s scavengers. They eat putrid flesh and thus prevent many diseases. But the carcasses they used to clean had done them in since a few years back. The cattles were given declofenac , a medicine for fever and even if a fraction was retained in the flesh of animal, its flesh was like a poison for the vultures. So their number began dwindling, so much so that they became endangered species.

In India, i remember of my childhood village days, there was a place outside every village where dead cattle were thrown. Vultures would descend on it and eat the flesh. They made peculiar sounds. They are so big that even dogs wont dare go near. Only crows are allowed the liberty.

All this is gone now. But a few days back, i happen to spot vultures outside a village where a carcass was thrown by some villager. After so many years saw and heard the voices.

There were Himalayan Griffon and Cinereous vultures…

Please enjoy the video with sound enabled.

Mottled Wood Owl

It is a species of large owls found in india. They are very rare in our area in Punjab. I was lucky to spot this beautiful owl in a forest near my village.

As such, it chooses its roost so cleverly that it completely camouflage itself. Only sometimes it is noticed by crows , treepies and babblers who make a hell of noise near it and force it to fly away. Only during one such cacophony I spotted it. After many unsuccessful efforts finally I was able to photograph it.