Unbelievable Perch

A Large Tailed Nightjar lands in the concrete jungle!! There are some birds which have adapted themselves to live near human settlements. And there are others which are very reclusive. Birders go great lengths to spot and photograph them. One such rare bird is Large Tailed Nightjar.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical mangrove forest, and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

Nightjars are the masters of camouflage and completely merge into the surroundings. But sometimes exceptions happen!!!My daughter and her husband live in a apartment situated on the 18th floor of Gaur City in Ghaziabad India.

On the morning of 12th October 2022, as they were getting their tot ready for school around 6 AM, they noticed a bird sleeping on the railing of the balcony of one of the rooms. Although they don’t do bird photography but out of curiosity they took its pictures through the glass door with the mobile.

Large Tailed Nightjar

As they don’t know the bird, she sent the picture to me as i am doing birding. I was astonished. It was a Large Tailed Nightjar.

How did a bird which keeps away from the human populations and lives in the dense branches of trees in shrubby areas ended up in the balcony of 18th floor?? May be it was on migration route and it so happened decided to roost for night here. God knows.

Black Necked Stork

Black Necked Stork is a tall bird. It is a water wading bird. It’s scientific name is Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus). It has a long neck.

The bird is found in wetland habitats near rice fields where it forages on many types of prey. The bird is a resident of Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Female : credit Ranjit Singh

The eyes of the female bird are golden whereas that of male are black. Sometimes one can see them playing together in the wetlands.

Flying shot by me

Their population has been severely diminished. IUCN categorises it in the Near Threatened.

Juvenile : photo by Ranjit Singh

I have been lucky to spot this beautiful bird in the Surajpur wetland near Noida and also in the Dhanauri wetlands.

Some Fastest Species

Speed thrills human beings. But for animals it is the necessity. It makes some of them ace hunters and for others speed is a means of escaping the danger. So in their case it’s a means of survival. Men try to emulate the fastest speeds as in car racing which for sport and thrill.

In this post we will discuss about three species and about their speeds.

Tiger Beetles

Tiger beetles are known for their running speed md aggressive behaviour. It consists of many subspecies. Among them Rivacindela hudsoni species are special. They can run at speeds of 9 km per hour. This is equal to about 125 body lengths per second.

Tiger beetle

Peregrine falcon


It’s scientific name is Falco peregrinus. It is also called duck hawk perhaps due to its hunting of the ducks prominently. Except for Antarctica, it is found in almost all places around the world. It is an ace hunter. It soars high above the flocks of birds and after zeroing in on a particular bird it dives at speeds which can reach about 300 km per hour. It makes it not the fastest bird but also the fastest animal on the earth.
falcon: my own picture

Cheetah


Cheetah is famous for being the fastest animal on the earth. It’s strong legs, lean body, enlarged heart and nostrils, strong paws which are partially intractable make it ideal for this job. Its average speed is about 64 km per hour. But can attain speeds upto 98 km per hour and that too in very small span of just 3 seconds from 60 km per hour average. But it can’t sustain the top speeds for long. They can run about just 450 meters at top speeds. It covers this distance in just 13 second making for the prey hard to escape.

Murmuration of House Sparrows

Murmuration of some birds is a strange but fascinating phenomenon. It has been observed with common starlings in Europe and India. In this phenomenon, groups consisting of thousands of birds fly together and are joined by more and more groups from the neighborhood. They fly together going up and down, changing direction suddenly making breathtaking patterns. But even being so close, they hardly collide with one another.


I was lucky to observe this phenomenon by chance but not with starlings which are not in plenty in our area but with House Sparrows.

So It was a double bonus and surprise. I at least have the notion that house Sparrows live in houses in small groups and also the most common belief that the population of house sparrows has declined to dangerously low levels. But I was proved wrong when I spotted them in the fields.

It was dusk time when it all started. I was roaming with my camera in the field located nearby to my home. There are two or three excavated areas in the fields which have become water bodies and Reed grass grows in them in adundance. It was early April and wheat crops have been reaped.

Suddenly, groups began arriving and joining over an area of say about 1 kilometer radius. The group will perform those maneuvers and suddenly once in while land on the electric transmission wires passing that place or plunge into the reeds. The numbers must be thousands. Then suddenly they will again take off and perform those maneuvers in the sky. This went on for till the darkness descended.

This was observed by me on three different evenings.
Lastly, since two day in a row, the Sparrows have left the place suddenly. Baffling me. Why they have left and where they are headed. One apparent change is of course the reaping of the wheat harvest in those fields. But still the explanation is uncertain.

Mottled Wood Owl Pair

Mottled Wood Owl is a rarity in North India. There is a forest near our village peermuchhalla under Punjab Forests Department. It was our routine to visit this place everyday in the morning. It was in February 2020, I first spotted a pair this bird in this forest. Forest has mostly thorny trees of Khair (Senegalia catechu is a deciduous, thorny tree) and is prized for Kattha used in Paan. This tree has very haphazard thorny branches.
I recalled then having missed the bird group earlier on many occasions in deeper woods. After this one bird was spotted in March 2020. Then one fine day, i heard a commotion and frantic calls of drongos, crows and treepies amidst a thick group of trees at the entrance of the park. On close inspection, these birds were hovering over the trunk of a dead tree whose top portion has broken off and a hollow has formed.
As I approached the tree, thinking that there might be some reptile inside, suddenly the bird flew away from the hollow. After that it became clear that they have chosen this hollow open to skies as the nest for breeding. Another reason for choosing this hollow tree might be the big garbage dump in the vicinity of the forest where rodents must be in plenty.

First sighting in Feb 2020


Slowly as the time went by, one could go and spot one from pair always sitting inside the leafy canopy of nearby trees.
By May 20, the two chicks began to be seen looking out of the hollow. As one of the owls was away one was permanently posted nearby.
As it became known to the bird enthusiasts all over, they began visiting with big cameras to take pictures. They became sort of celebrity birds. By June the chicks were out having taken their first hesitating flight to perch near their parents on the nearby tree.

Sitting on a nearby tree


After few days they finally disappeared. After some months the tree unfortunately fell down.
Then again by the end of the year, second wave of covid came and we stopped going out. But in June 2021, I was there at the farther end of the forest to avoid mixing with the people in the main park, thanks again to the ever vigilant crows, drongos as I was passing under a big tree, the bird again flew away. After that, it was with surety I could spot either one of the pair or the pair itself in that tree. This went on at least for entire June 2021. After that they shifted to another place because I spotted one of them again into the deep inside of the forest.


I think they must have visited the tree again but not finding it there must be looking for alternative spot for nest. But I never spotted them again during my sporadic visits.

Long Tailed Minivet

In this blog post, I will be Post some information about the bird called Long Tailed Minivet. I have spotted them and photographed in a forest near my home.

I go for bird photography everyday in the morning. My visits are nearby Forest, river side and other areas under the foothills.

Our area abuts the Shiwalik hills. As it happens, when the winters become too harsh, many birds descend to the adjacent areas to escape the winter and food shortages.

In the forest near my home, many such birds come in the winter. One of these is a beautiful bird called Long Tailed Minivet.

Long Tailed Minivet is a small bird. The males are red and black and females are grey yellow. They are found in South and Southeast Asia. They feed on very small insects living on the leaves of trees. You can judge from their typical short calls their presence. They come in a flock of 5 to 6.

I have observed that there is a single male among the 4 to 5 females. It is very difficult to take their good picture. They don’t stay at any position more than 15 seconds. Secondly they try to stay among the shadows of sense trees.

i waw lucky to take some good pictures which I am posting here. Hope you will like them.

Female
Male

Eurasian Hobby

Eurasian hobby (Falco subbuteo) or just simply hobby, is a small, slim falcon. Many times, its face particularly resembles slightly that of Peregrine Falcon.

This beautiful raptor is an portrait of patience during early morning times. It keeps sitting on a tree branch for long times unless crows or drongos disturb it

As the day progresses slightly, it becomes active. It takes its prey on wings. It hunts large dragonflies, bats, martins and swallows. It continually harasses these while they are roosting and coming out of the roost.

This raptor visits our area in North India in winters although I have spotted it once in a while during summers also.

My guess is that they are not resident birds but passage migrants here coming here from Eurasian regions to ward off the severe winters and after staying here for some time, again move down towards central and western India where winter is less severe in comparison.

I have taken its pics during this time of the year many times in the forest areas near my home.

closeup

Shaheen Falcon: An Extraordinary Bird

Shaheen Falcon is an endemic species of Peregrine Falcon. It resides here permanently except a small distance migration.

I as an wildlife explorer, have keenly observing this royal Bird . There is area consisting of fields, bounded by a river on one side and a forest on the other. There are water bodies in between where many water birds reside.

Although I been lucky to spot it and photographed it quite a number of times, my true observations started when the paddy in the fields ripened prompting hundreds of pigeons to descend on the harvested fields.

Shaheen Falcon are on the lookout for birds like egrets, pigeons and such fowls. When we first saw it, it looked as if a black colored missile is flying through the skies. A pair has come to hunt in this area.

One day I saw it quietly catching a pigeon in the flight. It caught it in the air. It can attain very highs speed in the air and attacks it’s prey with powerful talons.

One day I was surprised by its audacity. It was after a group of red-naped ibises which are at least twice its size but are not predators. It causes them to take flight from a field where they were foraging.

After catching the prey which dies instantly during attack, it flies towards a lofty tree where it chooses a branch where other pestering birds like crows and black kites don’t disturb them.

The bird has been featured in many tales. Its photograph adorns the Pakistani president’s chair.

Here are some pics of this great hunter. All these pics have been shot by me

Shaheen Falcon by me

Grey Bellied Cuckoo

The grey-bellied cuckoo (Cacomantis passerinus) is a cuckoo with widespread occurrence throughout Asia.

It comes here in the Northern India at the time of outset of the summers. It is a small sized cuckoo. During this time of year another cuckoo known as the Jacobin Cuckoo also arrives.

Grey Bellied Cuckoo pic by Ranjit

Unlike Jacobin Cuckoo which migrates here in summers from Africa, Grey Bellied Cuckoo is short distance migrant.

It comes here for breeding. It is a brood parasite. It lays its eggs by replacing the eggs in the nests of babblers who then raise its brood. This strategy is just akin to the Koel using Crows to raise its chicks.

Steppe Eagle: Endangered Bird

Steppe Eagle is also known as Aquila nipalensis in the scientific language is a scavenger. This species breeds in Eastern European Russia from across Kazakhstan into Kyrgyzstan, China and Mongolia. Birds spend winter mainly in south and south-east Asia.

The bird is placed in the Red List by IUCN in the endangered category. There are many reasons attributed to the decline in population to such an extent. Some are like loss of habitat and exposure to radioactive radiations in its basic habitat.

Bird winters in South and South East Asia. It has suffered in Pakistan and India due to the presence of a drug Declofenac in the carrion of the dead animals which these birds feed on. This drug is used extensively in the treatment of cattle in these countries.

Thus these birds suffer both at the original residence as well as their temporary stay in Asia.

I chanced upon a ditch amidst the bushes where the carrion are being dumped. One can observe the eagles flying over the area. Earlier there were mostly Egyptian Vultures but now a group of these Steppe Eagles have landed here.

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