Tag Archives: Panchkula

Blue Bearded Bee Eaters

I am going to narrate an incident. I am in search of spotting the birds. The day is foggy and very cold breeze is blowing: not favourable conditions for Photography. There is a square of bushes with two three acacia trees in between.

Suddenly, I spotted this bird sitting on an electric wire overhead. I was surprised to find it there. I try to click a picture but it is very shy and flies to a tree. I try to invade through bushes to reach near it but couldn’t locate it. But while coming out of the bushes, I just stumbled upon a beehive on an acacia tree whose branches have been chopped off by some villager. It was just on the tree trunk abutting the bushes from almost all sides.

But I could hear the sounds being made by not one but three birds in the bush adjacent to the beehive.

I tried to position myself behind a bush and waited. Lo and behold, two of them slowly sneaked near the beehive and began plucking the bees for eating.

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Birds of Similar Flock

Some birds like to live in groups with one another. This may be due to the similar food habits of some different birds. Other reasons may be similar nesting patterns. I have observed that in the river beds which is full of brownish sand and assorted sized pebbles birds like Paddy Field Pipits, Crested Larks and Ashy Crowned Sparrow Larks cohabit. One more reason seems to be that their colours match the sand of the bed creating a perfect camouflage.

One day we found together Ashy crowned Sparrow Larks , crested Larks and pipits forage together in the Ghaggar river bed perhaps they are terrestrial birds. I could take a photo of Juvenile Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark ( in Front) and Paddyfield Pipit in the back in the Ghaggar River passing near Panchkula city of Haryana in India.

Pink Grasshopper

There is a river near my home. It is a seasonal River and has a large dry bed which is full of pebbles and sand. Many birds which lay their eggs in the nest made on the soil. I generally go for a walk and to take pictures there. Today while I was walking along the pebbles, I noticed a pink coloured pebble.

Something else Was there. It was a pink Grasshopper which is very rare. Usually the Grasshoppers are green coloured to match with the grass background for camouflage which gives them safety against predators.

But this one was of Pink Colour. It was also trying to use camouflage by sitting in the pebbles especially pink ones. It is an unusual and little-understood genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene similar to that which affects albino animals. This mutation results in one of two things happening or even a combination of the two; a reduce or even absence of the normal pigment and/or the excessive production of other pigments, in this case red which results in pink morphs. Such a morph is exposed to predators and rarely achieve the adulthood.

Savanna nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis)

Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis) is an Bird which is found in South East India. While on a spotting mission in our area, I was moving about in Ghaggar River in Panchkula. It was in the June month, scorching heat and dry. Bed of the river is almost dry- full of sand and pebbles.

I was just descending a raised bank through the pebbles when three of them flew just from my feet. They are master of camouflage. You will not be able to spot them sitting in the scrub and pebbles until you are looking elsewhere and it suddenly flies from before your feet. But it does not fly very high and sits at other nearby place.

It is a rarity in my area and I hope I was the first to spot them.kkk

I returned to the area many days after that to check whether they are staying here and found them there.

Photo by Ranjit Singh
Photo: Ranjit Singh

Black Breasted Weaver

Weaver Birds visit our area when summers are at peak. They stay here, make beautiful nests using the grass stalks and mate and raise the chicks for new generation. Most common are Baya Weavers which make nests on the acacia, palm trees which are difficult for predators to approach.

Birds choose the places to nest in the area where food and water is available and safe from disturbances.

But there is another variety called Black Breasted Weaver. It is master strategist in the choice of the area fulfilling all three criteria. They make different kind of nests and use the long grasses to hang the nests. I accidentally discovered the nest while stopping on the scooter near a roundabout near Ghaggar river bridge in Panchkula Haryana of India.

On the side of road are trenches and crests and a water pool, I saw the nest last year. This year also I saw these nest almost in the same spot. Area is very difficult to approach. I somehow approached at not so favourable distant but still very far for better pictures of this small beautiful bird. It makes nest if the tall reed grass and so much camouflaged that you cannot see it clearly. Only once or twice it sat on the top of dry grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little or Small Pratincoles: Beauty in small packets 

There is a river near Panchkula city of Haryana. It is called Ghaggar. Once a mighty river, now it has become a mere shadow of its past. A thin stream of water flows through the large bed made of sand, pebbles and small amounts of clay. Bushes and different grasses like bulrushes grow in its bed.

Here in the beds near running water one can spot these little cute birds only if you look very carefully on the ground because there colour camouflage them in the sand. They keep standing at a given spot for long time. They become quite fearless and allow you to approach quite nearer.

It is called Small pratincole, little pratincole, or small Indian pratincole (Glareola lactea), is a small wader in the pratincole family, Glareolidae. The birds arrived here about three months ago. They have laid the eggs and raised the new generation They lay eggs in the gravel and sand.

Here are some pictures I have taken

Standing still

Chick with mom

Feeding


Squatting

Oriental White Eye 

It is a very small sized bird. It is immediately noticed by its greenish yellow colour plumage with its whitish breast. But most prominent feature is the white rim around its eyes. The bird is widespread in Asia. Both sexes are alike in appearance.

It is very timid and restless bird. It mostly resides in the thick branches where it hides itself. It eats insects which are deposited on the leaves. It also eat the nectar of some flowers.

It is either hiding in the shade of branches or is so restless that it takes great patience to take good photographs. Only when it comes in open  momentarily for few seconds is the your chance to take good pics.

There is a bush in the herbal park in Panchkula, which has its leaves covered with insects larvae and deposits. These birds gorge themselves on these insects and it was here, I could manage to take some good pictures.


Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

I first spotted this bird perched on a electric transmission wire. The area underneath was all shrubs. It was in the hot monsoon season. The bird has a very strange plumage pattern of brown and cream stripes.

It’s name is Eurasian Wryneck and here it comes on migration. It belongs to the woodpecker family although it’s beak is not as large and dagger like as the other woodpeckers. It subsists on ants and insects which are found in the dead wood.

It can rotate it’s neck by almost 180 degrees. When it senses danger, it makes a hissing sound. The word Jinx has its origins in the bird.

After that, I spotted it few times. The latest encounter being in the month of December although it has become very cold here. I took some beautiful pictures of this bird.

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Land Stories 

Land used to be like one’s mother in India as more than 70% people were connected to land. Before the introduction of modern agricultural equipment like tractors, bullocks were used virtually for agricultural jobs like tilling the land, pulling the cart which the farmer used for bringing the produce and fodder home for cattle. Agriculture was completely manual and commerce was not in force. Farmer produced only enough for his family needs. Agriculture was dependent on the surface water available through rivers and rains.

Now the story is different. Even small farmers own the tractors which is economically not viable for small pieces of land. But it is a rat race. Many of them take the loans which become difficult to repay. A tractor can do many days work in a few hours. Need for manual labor arises only during the sowing of the crops. Bullocks have been faced out and are facing the same fate as the girls faced: they have become unwelcome.

Land is so much precious to the owner that hawks are on the outlook to grab any piece of it by hook or crook. Wars had been fought over the land. Most prominent example is the epic story of Mahabharata in which cause of the biggest battle between cousins was about the possession of land and women.

But as the cities are expanding at a furious rate, the value of the land is increasing. What the land can do to its owners will be illustrated by three scenarios.

Scenario No.1

State of Haryana was carved out from Punjab. It is a fact that people of Haryana were neglected by Punjab and so the state was separated from Punjab. But city of Chandigarh, which was the capital of Punjab was not given to any one of these states but made a union territory. It was also made the capital of both the states. The reality now is that the capital of both these sites is located nor in the centre but in one corner of the states.

As Chandigarh could not be expanded more, both Haryana and Punjab decided to construct the extensions of it on their own sides. Haryana thus acquired the agricultural land adjacent to Chandigarh. There were many villages in the area with farmers having small land holdings. All were given a meagre compensation. Overnight they become lost what they were dependent on. Being conversant with agriculture only, they faced difficulty to carry on their lives. They migrated here and there and on their lands mushrooms the concrete buildings with their owners being outsiders who could afford to buy them.

Scenario No.2

This one is a really interesting and shows how in same country but at different time points, the fortunes can turn for some. District of Mohali in Punjab was carved in such a way that it’s one side touched Panchkula district of Haryana. So some villages which though were very near to Panchkula became part of Punjab and their lands were not acquired by government.

These villages are situated near the ghaggar river and land is very poor for manual farming. The reason is that where the land is situated, the river flowed once and thus has left huge amounts of pebbles and sand covered with alluvial. Thus it is full of pebbles and bullocks were unable to till it.  Additionally there were uneven land surfaces which again posed challenges for farming.

Thus the land owners eked out a pathetic life. They lived hand to mouth. But somehow, barring a few they didn’t part off with their land which in any case no other farmer will buy due to poor quality.

But the demon of city expansion and opening of information technology parks and some pharmaceutical companies resulted in the large influx of people from interiors of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,and so on resulted in the construction frenzy. There was no scope for expansion of Panchkula. So these adjoining areas became the focal points of building activity. Overnight, the land which was useless became the gold mine for the owners. They sold portions for a windfall. The farmers who have not seen money were dazed and it took them days to come back to reality from dream.

They constructed palaces for living. They became educated suddenly. As the money came, so we’re associations with powerful people like politicians. Some of them even began to grab the unoccupied or reserved lands. With a part of money bought tractors and modern equipment for remainder of land and procured cheaper land in the nearby districts. The elderly still can be identified to have done back breaking work but new generation is all like managers and leaders.

Scenario No.3

This story is similar to previous one but with small difference. It is from Sanand district in Gujarat. As the Tata nano car factory relocated here, the villagers nearby had windfall. Their used to be working as labors, peon and other lower rung jobs in the future Factories and manufacturing units for monthly wages like rupees 6000 to 15000 as their land was not fertile or due to lack of resources was not providing them with enough. Suddenly the arrival of entrepreneurs they became millionaires overnight by selling their land. After the initial excitement, Many of them have decided to carry on with those peanut wages jobs to keep themselves busy. More than hundreds of millionaires are working as helping hands in the factories there. The interest on their fixed deposits is enough for their requirements.

Thus as the Mark Twain once advised someone who came to him for investing the money to “invest in the land because they don’t make it anymore”, land can catapult your future.

Black Drongo

Although the onslaught of building activity is devouring the agricultural lands everywhere,Fortunately there is still greenery around the place I live. There are wild shrubs, fields where crops like wheat, rice, maize and cattle fodder grows and the woods in the reserved areas.

There are a number of birds which live here. One of them is black Drongo, jet black bird. It is an expert insect catcher. It is very aggressive towards crows and other marauders like eagles and falcons. Many other gentle birds try to be close to this bird for protection. Here are some pictures. These pictures have been taken by me while on walks and sitting in the balcony of my home from where the open land is visible.