Sunday with a Phalarope, Bhigwan, Maharashtra

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With winter drawing to a close and with it the peak birding season, the weekends are spent in trips to easily accessible birding spots around Mumbai. The last Sunday of March 2016 however brought different tidings – a Red Phalarope had been spotted in Bhigwan, around 250 kms away from Mumbai. A vagrant to beat all rare vagrants!

The Red or Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) is a small wader in the Sandpiper family. It breeds in the Arctic and winters … Read More

New records of Swinhoe’s and Ashy Minivet in Bengaluru, Karnataka

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Swinhoe’s Minivet, aka Brown-rumped Minivet, (Pericrocotus cantonensis), breeds in central, eastern, and south-eastern China, and winters in parts of southern Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam (BirdLife International 2016). The Ashy Minivet (P. divaricatus) breeds in parts of Siberia, China, Korea, and Japan. The species is a winter migrant to South and Southeast Asia (Robson 2008; BirdLife International 2016).

However, very little is known about the status of these two species in India.

This presents details of the first record of a … Read More

Rare Bird: White-tailed Tropicbird, Port Blair, Andamans

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I am writing in reference to the sighting of a rare bird in the Indian subcontinent identified as White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), at South Andaman islands (India). According to records, this bird has been sighted only eight times in last 150 years in India and was last sighted in the Andamans in the 19th century!

On 3rd March 2016 I spotted a white tern-like bird flying over the Bay of Bengal near Ross Island, but could not photograph it. … Read More

Rare Bird: Green Cochoa at Namdapha

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This is one bird high on the list of birders exploring the Oriental region. On our trip to Namdapha in Jan 2015, in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh, we got this rare bird near Ranijheel camp on the 4th day of our trek.

These birds inhabit subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. Though very widely distributed in the Eastern Himalayas and parts of SE Asia, this species is described as rare or rarely seen. As … Read More

First Photographic Record of Long-eared Owl in India

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On 11th March 2012, while looking for the threatened Great Indian Bustards in Naliya grasslands in Kutch, Ramki Sreenivasan and I came across an owl which flew from one low tree to another. The owl was well camouflaged in dense foliage of an Acacia nilotica tree, but permitted a close approach.

The owl was brownish with streaks on its breast and belly. It had extremely long ear tufts, buff brown facial disk, black band down the face between the eye … Read More

White-browed Crake — New Species for the Indian Subcontinent

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‘Maguri-Motapung Beel’- an Important Bird Area (IBA) situated in the district of Tinsukia, Assam is a haven for both resident and migratory bird species. Every year birdwatchers from across the globe come to witness its rich avian diversity.

On 5th February 2016, we went birding at the ‘beel’ with the prime target of photographing the Critically Endangered (CR) Baer’s Pochard, which is a winter visitor to Assam Valley and lower parts of South Assam hills. At 1612hrs (after sighting the … Read More

Black Baza — First Record From Tadoba Tiger Reserve

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Tiger reserves are not just about spotting and photographing tigers, but also a standing testimony to the preservation of larger landscapes and the biodiversity they support. As the saying goes, the jungle is full of surprises and animals or birds can make their appearance when you least expect them. Such was one of our early morning drives on 9th April, 2015 in the Kolsa range of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. We were driving through dense bamboo at Shivanzari when I … Read More

Leopard Cat, Bhitarkanika

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It was a incredible morning at Bhitarkanika and it became more special when I saw a Leopard Cat sitting out in open, basking in the morning sun amidst the mangroves. We were in the boat looking for Bhitarkanika’s famed kingfishers and this sighting was completely unexpected! 

The Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a widespread species. It is the most common small cat after the Jungle Cat from which it can be instantly told by its colouring and longer, leaner appearance. … Read More

Spot-billed Pelican Record for Maharashtra

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A birding group that I was part of sighted the Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) on 13th February 2016 at 6:35 PM during an evening boat ride at Kumbhargaon, Bhigwan, Maharashtra. The sun had just set, when we sighted a single Spot-billed Pelican circling in the sky. The Pelican circled around 4-5 times before it flew along the river and disappeared in to the horizon.

The other people with me were Bhavesh Rathod, Ranjan Pendharkar, Urvi Shah, Kavita Trivedi, Saumitra Newalkar, … Read More

New Location Record for Sri Lanka Frogmouth in Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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On our recent birding trip (Feb 13th 2016, The Great Backyard Bird Count) along the buffer zone of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Sethumadai, we chanced upon a lucky sighting of the rarely seen Sri Lanka Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), a bird that is high on the wish list of many birders and photographers.

Closely related to Nightjars, this nocturnal bird was feeding on the ground and flew across our vehicle and sat perched on a tree root overgrown over … Read More

Demoiselle Crane — First Record from Bengaluru, India

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At the last minute, on Sunday morning, I convinced 20 other birders that instead of going to Valley School, we should bird along the Kaggalipura-Bannerghatta stretch, and then go to check out Hulimangala. And there, at nearly the end of a long birding outing, we saw a migrant which has never before been sighted in the Bangalore area – the Demoiselle Crane. I have since got information that there were at least two individuals on the lake.

Demoiselle cranes undertake … Read More

Why Do Birds Preen?

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Birds have up to 25,000 feathers, and regular preening keeps each feather in top condition. Second only to feeding, preening is a common bird behaviour easily observed.

So, why do they preen? Here are some reasons:

  • Aligning feathers for optimum waterproofing and insulation
  • Aligning feathers into the most aerodynamic shape for easier, more efficient flight;
  • Removing feather parasites and body lice that can destroy feathers or carry disease
  • Removing tough sheaths from newly molted feathers; creating a healthier appearance to
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Sail Tales — Spotting Terrestrial Birds at Sea

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In November 2013, our team from National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) set out on a ship R/V Roger Revelle hosted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for 17 days covering around 6000km in the offshore waters of the Bay of Bengal Sea to document marine mammals. We came across 12 species of marine mammals including blue whales, killer whales and sperm whales. Apart from these we saw turtles, flying fish, butterflies, dragonflies and, unexpectedly, some terrestrial birds. The expedition … Read More

Melanistic Panther, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

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One cannot imagine the adrenalin rush that explodes through your body when you lock eyes with a Black Panther. It has been a long-held dream of mine to sight and photograph one of these gorgeous melanistic cats. We were driving through the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve at the base of the Nilgiris in South India earlier this year, with our eyes peeled in the hope of chancing upon one of the park’s elusive felines — Tiger or Leopard.

Dusk was approaching … Read More

Rare Black-breasted Parrotbill Spotted In Manas

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The Black-breasted Parrotbill (Paradoxornis flavirostris) is one of India’s rarest, enigmatic and least-known birds. Till recently Debeshwari, in the Eastern Zone in Kaziranga, and Dibru-Saikhowa close to Tinsukia in N Assam were the only two places where the bird was found. However it seems that for the last few years the birds seem to have become extremely scare in these areas.

On 17th March 2011, birders Soma Jha and Sushmita Jha sighted this bird in Manas National Park … Read More