First record of Finsch’s Wheatear for India, Desert National Park, Rajasthan

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A Finsch’s Wheatear (Oenanthe finschii), observed and photographed between 20th and 26th December 2018 near Sudasri, Desert National Park by a team of birders including Mukul Balkrishna Wasnik, Surat Singh Poonia, Manoj Sharma, C. Abhinav, Atul Jain, Sudhir Garg and Antar Singh was the first record of the species from the country. The bird had a slim black bill; white coloration of the crown continuing onto the mantle, upper back, lower back and base of the tail; black throat … Read More

Tiger Stalks and Hunts Down Wild Dog in Nagarahole

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We witnessed an astonishing natural history moment while on a ride inside Nagarahole Tiger Reserve on the 20th of September, 2017. 

Just as the rain stopped in the morning in the Kabini area of the park, our safari jeep came upon a tiger facing off with a large pack of dholes. The crouching tiger seemed ready to pounce, when a bike-borne forest department staffer came riding between them, inadvertently chasing both away. The tiger disappeared into a bush, so we … Read More

Crested Hawk-eagle with Loris Kill, Anaimalais, Tamil Nadu

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On November 15th 2015, my brother and I were driving back from Valparai in Tamil Nadu after a productive wildlife trip in the Anaimalais. On slowing down near one of the hairpin bends, we spotted a Crested Hawk-eagle with a Slender Loris in its talons. We spent about 15 to 20 minutes observing and photographing the scene, as the eagle dismembered the loris and fed on it, not at all bothered by our presence. The slender loris (Loris tardigradus) is … Read More

Kashmir Grey Langur, Dachigam National Park, Jammu & Kashmir

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On a recent trip to Dachigam National Park, I encountered a large troupe of these langurs (~50) crossing the main road. I was intrigued with the morphology of the monkey and was keen to understand more. This note is a summary of some of the research studies on the animal.

Kashmir (or Dark-eyed Himalayan) Grey Langur (Semnopithecus ajax) is a species of leaf-eating monkey formerly considered as a subspecies of S. entellus. However, recent studies have confirmed its status … Read More

Sighting of a Super Pod of Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphins off Chennai Coast

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On 6th August 2016, while on a pelagic birdwatching trip off the coast of Chennai, we stumbled upon a huge pod of dolphins approximately about 22 kms from the coast. Initially we thought it could be a group of different species as we saw a lot of movement, and breaching dolphins jumping high up in the air at a distance. They kept moving fast with one or the other individual breaching every now and then. There were calves and adults, … Read More

Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins off Mumbai Coast

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To be able to observe dolphins from one’s balcony or from shore is a possibility for most of us in Mumbai. There must have been a time when Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) roamed this coastal stretch in large numbers. Today they are scattered in small pockets, one of which is the bay off Raj Bhavan, Malabar Hill.

Other locations in Bombay, where these dolphins are seen is Worli, off Chowpatty in South Mumbai, Marine Drive, Sassoon Docks, and … Read More

The Hornbills of Malabar Hill, Mumbai

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It’s been over a year since the Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris) decided to make their presence conspicuous in the Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai, just as the peacocks of ‘Doongerwadi’ and the Raj Bhavan have made theirs for some time now.

These ‘urban hornbills’, as my friend and ace birder Shashank Dalvi calls them, are seen mostly at dawn and dusk flying around from tree to tree as they are mostly arboreal in nature.

The male has a … Read More

Whale and Dolphin Surprises in Goa

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A group of us ventured out to sea off the coast of Goa on a fishing trawler for a full-day survey of pelagic birds. These birds spend most of their lives out at sea, living a solitary life, and visit certain islands only during breeding season. We started our explorations in Goan waters in 2017, but our last two trips, on 14th and 21st October, 2018 were exciting and memorable for a completely different reason.

We usually start off by … Read More

A Fishing Cat Kitten in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

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Sundarbans in West Bengal has become popular for increased tiger sightings. However, the sighting of lesser cats, like the Leopard Cat and the Fishing Cat, still remains rare due to their nocturnal habits. In fact, the latter is one of the least seen mammals in Indian Sundarbans.

I had a fleeting glimpse of an individual in Feb 2017 basking in the early morning sun during a foggy winter morning. In Feb 2019, a few of us got to see a … Read More

Particolored Flying Squirrel in Assam

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Around 10:30 p.m near Badsaitila Reserve Forest, Dosdewa Khasi Village, Assam, I heard an animal moving on a tree. I was later able to identify it from the photo I took, to be the Particoloured Flying Squirrel (Hylopetes alboniger).

This is a species that is found in most of the South East Asian countries. It forages at night and uses tree hollows for nesting, as well as for roosting during the day. Sometimes, it has been seen being active … Read More

Parakeets Attacking Monitor Lizard, Bharatpur

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I photographed this sequence of a pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) attacking a Monitor Lizard (Varanus bengalensis) in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan.

Parakeets use cavities in tree trunks to nest, and the parents diligently protect the eggs from predators, including snakes. Monitor lizards are egg thieves, and this one’s attempt to steal the parakeet’s eggs resulted in an aggressive attack by the parent birds. 

Monitor lizards are tropical reptiles that belong to the family Varanidae. Due to rampant … Read More

Hispid Hare, Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh

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This image of the globally endangered Hispid Hare (Caprolagus hispidus) may have some conservation significance considering that this is one of the first wild images taken from northern India.

The hispid hare is a lagomorph in the Leporidae family (hares and rabbits). It is identified by its distinctively short ears and, unlike other members of the Leporidae family, short and stout hind legs barely exceeding the length of the forelegs. The animal is rarely seen due to its extremely shy … Read More

Flying Squirrels of Arunachal Pradesh

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There are about 46 species of Flying Squirrels found in the world and they are grouped under one tribe, i.e. the Petauristini tribe. Asia has the distinction of being home to most of the species. Flying Squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide from one tree to the other. They basically use their patagium, a membrane stretching from the wrist (forelegs) to the ankle (hind legs), to glide. Once airborne, these squirrels use their arms, legs, and tail to effectively navigate … Read More

Jackals and porcupine, Bharatpur

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On 15th October 2016 at about noon in Bharatpur National Park in Rajasthan, three jackals were seen by us around a fresh carcass of a porcupine right on the edge of water. They fled, and, try as we could, they did not approach the carcass in our presence. The carcass had injury marks on the neck and foot and a small opening at the rear.

Later, at 5.40 the same evening we found the jackals tugging away and feeding on … Read More

“Ganesha” Spider — a Unique New Spider that Masquerades as a Leaf!

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An oft-used survival strategy in nature is to mimic something you’re not, either to ambush unsuspecting prey or to convince predators that you’re not tasty!

On a warm summer night in April 2015, we headed out on a night trail in the evergreen forests of Agumbe, Karnataka. We were quite happy to see a few snakes, scorpions and frogs. We were still on the trail when I noticed something unusual. Initially I dismissed it as a fallen dried leaf. But … Read More

Swamp Francolin, Kaziranga

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I thought of sharing an image I made of Swamp Francolins from the western zone of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam. The image was made in the afternoon safari during late December 2015. I was excited about spotting a rare species like this — we actually saw a family of six but I managed to capture only three in this frame.

As the name implies, this is a bird of swamps and damp areas, but it is … Read More

Red-breasted Merganser, Gajoldoba, West Bengal: A New Record for India

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The Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) is a polytypic species (ie has several variant forms) with a distribution range covering North America, Europe, Greenland and Asia. Through this note, we would like to establish the presence of the Red-breasted Merganser in the northern part of West Bengal, by presenting photographic evidence.

On the morning of 18th December 2016, we were coming down along the river Teesta towards Gajoldoba (teesta barrage) in North Bengal. At that time I saw a bird through … Read More

Rare Cinereous Vulture Sighted in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve

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I observed three Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) in the Kabini backwaters area of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve in December 2016. They were feeding on a kill alongside Long-billed Vultures and Red-headed (King) vultures.

This is just the fourth sighting of the species in South India though it is not an uncommon bird in North and Northwest India as well as the Himalayas. Just a few weeks ago an individual was seen flying over Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, in February … Read More

Asian Koel Chicks in House Crow’s Nest, Chennai

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I saw this sight of House Crows (Corvus splendens) feeding koel chicks in their nest opposite our home in Mylapore, Chennai, on the 5th of August, 2018. I waited until the next morning to be able to make an image right from the terrace (with no disturbance to the birds).

I heard the chicks calling whenever the foster parents came, and found that there were four nestlings, two slightly older (bigger) than the other two. I soon realised that all … Read More

Short-nosed Fruit Bat and its Tents

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Short-nosed Fruit Bats (Cynopterus sphinx) make their own roosts in the form of hanging tents. These tents are usually made in palm trees, either within the fruiting pods or dry leaves, by removing the center portion of pods/leaves. This small colony made their tent within a Fishtail Palm (Caryota urens). These palms are best suited for these bats and make a great case to encourage planting them in urban parks and gardens.

These were photographed in a park near … Read More

Rusty spotted cat family in Tadoba, Maharashtra

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I had the good fortune of this sighting in the summer of 2017 at Tadoba Tiger reserve. On a morning safari, while driving from a waterhole in anticipation of a tiger, we encountered some movement in the bushes. As we turned off our engine, we saw a small cat appear out of the bush. Initially we thought it to be a jungle cat kitten, but later realized we had just spotted one of the most elusive members of the cat … Read More

Rare Bird Alert — Grey-tailed Tattler in Pulicat Lake

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Grey-tailed Tattlers (Tringa brevipes) breed in Siberia and use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for migration. They are more commonly seen in the north of Australia, where they winter in good numbers.

Late September and early October are productive periods for shorebird lovers. This is the onset of winter migration and surprises are usually encountered. Pulicat lake covering the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is one such place in South India where there is always a possibility of seeing … Read More

Rare Bird Sighted in Pulicat lake, Tamil Nadu Coast

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Birders and nature lovers were in for a treat this season.

A rare pelagic bird was sighted near the Pulicat coast in the last week of April, 2018. This is the first time the bird was sighted near Chennai. There are only two previous records from Tamil Nadu.

Lesser Noddy (Anous tenuirostris) is a bird that is closely related to terns. Pelagic birds spend most of the time in the sea and visit the shores only when they breed.

Pulicat … Read More

Indian Grey Mongoose with Indian Eagle Owl Kill, Maharashtra

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This photograph was taken in February 2015 at Hiraj-Solapur, Maharashtra, where Indian Eagle Owls are regularly seen near a canal.

I was surprised to see an Indian Eagle Owl in the clutches of an Indian Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii). When I came across the scene, the kill was pretty fresh and there were feathers lying around. I saw the mongoose dragging the kill from one end of the road to the other and then to a nearby mound.… Read More

A Rare Sighting of the Indian Wolf at Tadoba, Maharashtra

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For several years now the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has been in the limelight for its tigers. Tourists visit the park in hordes to fulfil their dream of seeing a wild tiger. However, this forest has much more to offer.

During a visit to TATR on 21st November 2016, I was very surprised to spot an Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). It was early in the morning and light was low but I managed a few images.

Apparently … Read More