Stoat, Jispa, Himachal Pradesh

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The stoat (Mustela erminea) is a small, specialized predator of alpine and temperate forests.

According to Wikipedia, the stoat does not dig its own burrows, instead using the burrows and nest chambers of the rodents it kills. The skins and underfur of rodent prey are used to line the nest chamber. The nest chamber is sometimes located in seemingly unsuitable places, such as among logs piled against the walls of houses. The stoat also inhabits old and rotting stumps, under … Read More

Large-scaled Forest Lizard, Anamalais

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The Large-scaled Forest Lizard (Calotes grandisquamis) is an agamid lizard endemic to the forests of central and southern Western Ghats of India.

Western Ghats has lost over two-thirds of its original forest cover in the last several decades and only 3,200 square kilometres, or 15% of the intact area, is protected. This loss of habitat is mainly due to conversion of forests for various plantations as well as development. Even though few species struggle to adapt to newly altered environments, … Read More

Macaque fielding at slip, Bandipur!

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The highlight of a rather rainy trip to Bandipur in April 2012 came from a rather unexpected source. With Bandipur’s famed carnivores declining to give us an audience, the little bonnet macaques decided to put on a show for us on our last safari!

We were on our way out post the afternoon safari and right at the exit, in a large open meadow, we stopped to check out some bonnet macaques. Especially since one of them had a little … Read More

Crab-eating Mongoose in Gorumara – Chapramari, West Bengal

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The Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva) is a member of the Herpestidae family which represents the mongooses. Within Indian limits it is found in northern West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and the Northeastern hill states. Though it is found in a variety of habitats, the Crab-eating Mongoose appears to prefer the vicinity of waterbodies. They eat crabs, but will also feed on fish, frogs, molluscs, insects and crayfish.

On 28 July 2013 I sighted and photographed a Crab-eating … Read More

Moon Crab at Devbagh Beach, Karwar

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While walking along the water’s edge one evening during a visit to the Devbagh Beach Resort near Karwar, I was treated to one of the most beautiful creatures that I had ever seen. It was probably a crab though the spines on either side of its body and legs gave it a very non-crab appearance at first sight.

The creature that I was staring at had an almost circular body, which was about 4 cm across. But the flattened appendages … Read More

Bonelli’s Eagle with Common Crane Kill, Little Rann of Kutch

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December 2012: We were on a jeep safari in the Little Rann of Kutch one afternoon, when, far away, we saw a large raptor sitting on what appeared to be a small mound. We approached slowly, and, to our surprise, found a Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) sitting on a large dead bird. It was evident that the kill had taken place just a while earlier; feathers of the victim lay scattered on the ground. We realised that the … Read More

Long-billed Vultures Mating, Ramanagaram

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We were lucky to witness the courtship of Long-billed Vultures (Gyps indicus) in Ramanagaram (Ramadevarabetta) in January this year (2013). The process of both courtship and mating went on for a few minutes and they started the entire process again. We left the critically endangered vultures with their privacy and with a silent prayer that their brood grows!

It will be recalled that in response to a hard fought conservation battle, the government of Karnataka notified Ramadevarabetta as … Read More

Rusty-spotted Cat in Kutch-Gujarat, India

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On the evening of 12th February 2013, I was birding in a rocky area near the Chhari-Dhand bird conservation area in the famed Banni grasslands of Kutch. After seeing an eyeshine near a small bush, I spotted a small cat was sitting on a rock. I took some images of the wild cat. The cat was quite small (compared to the jungle cats common in the area) with a long tail and a white belly.

Experts later identified the cat … Read More

Regurgitation in Birds

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There are several reasons why birds and animals regurgitate. Sometimes, adult animals regurgitate food to feed their not-yet-mobile young ones. Classic examples of this behaviour can be seen in a pack of Wild Dogs (Dholes) and, more commonly, in birds. The crow feeds its young with regurgitated food from its wide-ranging diet, while a pelican would regurgitate fish to feed its chicks.

Some birds also regurgitate undigested matter, like bones, feathers, fur, skull and hair. Birds of prey, as well … Read More

Yellow-bellied Weasel, Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh

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We found this huge rodent lying on the road, dying. We stopped to check what it was. We assumed that a biker who was going ahead had knocked it down, but weren’t sure. As we were discussing this, we saw a tiny animal pop out from a nullah, which was covered by dense vegetation next to the road. It immediately disappeared into the shrubs.

We initially mistook it to be a young Yellow-throated Marten. But then, out it popped again … Read More

Insect Camouflage

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Camouflage (noun) is defined as concealment that obscures the physical appearance. In the natural world, camouflage (verb) is essentially the process by which an organism blends with the elements in its habitat, conceals itself, alters its appearance or for that matter resembles an object in its environment.

Camouflage has, over several millennia, evolved in response to various environmental conditions and survival pressures. According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, camouflage was one of the features that … Read More

Dhole and Indian Wolf, Debrigarh, Odisha

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Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary in Western Odisha must currently be one of the very few PAs in the country where dholes and wolves co-exist! Interestingly, sporadic reports in March 2013 by frontline staff seem to indicate that the lone male wolf, which made its appearance about a month back, has been hanging around near the pack of dholes. In fact, the RFO could see them interacting in close proximity for extended periods of time — feigning charges, scent marking, etc.

The … Read More

Leucistic Malabar Giant Squirrel, Mahableshwar

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Albinism and leucism are two terms to do with the lack of pigmentation in animals, that are often confused with each other. Albinism is the complete absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. Leucism (or leukism) is a form of partial albinism characterized by retention of color in the eyes, bill, and legs but the skin or plumage contains no color pigment.

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that in albinism the eyes … Read More

Sighting of Caspian Plover, Koonthankulam, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

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The Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) is an attractive wader that belongs to the family Charadriidae. The bird is similar in size to the Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, but slimmer and longer-legged. The breeding male (as seen in the photograph) has a chestnut breast bordered with a black band below.

The first sighting of this beautiful vagrant this season was reported by Suresh Elamon and Bal Pandy, the “ birdman” of Koonthankulam on 25th January 2013. To see … Read More

Chinese Pond Heron in Kelambakkam Lake, Chennai

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While birding on the morning of Saturday, 30th March 2013, I saw a Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchu), in full breeding plumage at Kelambakkam Lake, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. A lone bird was observed feeding on a small bund in the backwaters of the lake.

The Chinese Pond Heron looks almost identical to Indian Pond Heron and difficult to identify in non-breeding plumage. The size difference (Chinese is 8cm larger) is difficult to make out in the field. In … Read More