As air breathers, sea snakes (Hydrophiinae) have to rise to the surface regularly, making them vulnerable to air-borne predators like this white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster). Although most sea snakes have potent neurotoxic venom, they have small fangs, and are generally reluctant to bite. While it is not known if the eagle is immune to the snake’s venom, it is likely that the tough scales on its feet and the thick feathers on its legs offer it a measure … Read More
In search of the Pale-capped Pigeon, Odisha
The Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), a large dark purplish-maroon bird with a contrasting pale crown, has a wide but fragmented range in South and South-East Asia from Odisha (Orissa), Assam and north-east India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam to south China (where it has not been recorded for many years). Generally a primary or secondary evergreen forest dwelling frugivore of plains and foothills, it has been recorded as high as 1,600m and in habitats such as mangrove forest in Thailand and … Read More
Eurasian Otter Found in Chilika Lake, Odisha
The Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) is a Near Threatened otter species. While there is much research globally, little is known of its distribution in India, making a recent record from Chilika lake in Odisha significant.
We, at The Fishing Cat Project, stumbled upon this otter while searching for another wetland carnivore in Chilika – the Fishing Cat. Locals told us about the presence of ‘Uddho’ or otters in Chilika, but even they were not aware of the fact that two … Read More
A Whiskered Tern Entangled in Plastic, Mangalajodi, Odisha
Effects of plastic in, with its innate non-biodegradability, has become a cliche, yet things have not changed much. Here is an image of a whiskered tern dangerously entangled with a plastic carry bag. I photographed this in Mangalajodi, Chilika lake, Odisha on 24th January, 2014.
Plastic in our wilderness is a conservation threat in several ways. Last year Conservation India ran a campaign against plastics in response to a Public Notice issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the … Read More
Elephants in Chandaka — Banished From Their Homes
With inputs from Aditya Panda.
(This article was first published in The Pioneer dated Aug 29, 2012 under the title ‘Banished from their homes’).
In 1967, a wild tigress from the Chandaka forest on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar walked into the Nandankanan Zoo nearby, lured by the calls of a male tiger in one of the moated exhibits, and jumped in to join him, surely unaware that there was no way out. The tigress –– later named ‘Kanan’ –– lived … Read More
Leopard Cat, Bhitarkanika
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
Blackbuck – Feral Dog Conflict, Vetnai
The romanticism of Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild’ evaporates fast when one considers the feral dog scourge in the country. I have witnessed several occasions where feral dogs are are still being pampered despite creating serious social and ecological problems. Man’s best friend is not wildlife’s best friend.
We witnessed a feral dog chase a Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) in Vetnai or Bhetnai sanctuary (in Ganjam district of Odisha) in July 2015. Luckily for the buck, my guide and … Read More
Indian Skimmer Nesting in Odisha
It is one of the least studied species in the subcontinent with inadequate observations on its breeding behaviour and biology. Birdlife International and IUCN have declared it as “Vulnerable” (see Birdlife factsheet on the species) based on its fast depleting numbers which is assumed to be between 6000-7000 individuals only. Its known nesting site so far is the Chambal sanctuary where conservation strategies have been adopted. The Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) however needs much more attention than what it has … Read More
Irrawaddy Dolphin, Chilika Lake
This rare photograph captures an Irrawaddy dolphin calf as it leaps out of the water. Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are quite shy, and all that can be seen of them most of the time is a dorsal fin or a tail fluke. They are believed to give birth to a single calf every two to three years, after a gestation of 14 months. A newborn is said to be 1 m long, weighing about 10 kg. As per … Read More
Black Kite Scavenging on Greater flamingo at Chilika Lake, Odisha.
Chilika Lake in Odisha is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in India. It was a dying lake in the 80s, but has been brought back to life thanks to scientific restoration. It is now a haven for an incredible range of biodiversity. The complex ecosystem of Chilika supports the livelihoods of more than two hundred thousand people in Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha.
When I was photographing at Nalaban bird sanctuary in Chilika Lake during the … Read More
Pale-capped Pigeon, Bhubaneswar
The Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea) is a locally resident species in India that largely inhabits forest habitats, chiefly, primary or secondary evergreen forests, and bamboo and agricultural fields in close proximity to forests, its range extending from lowlands to 1600 msl. It had a wide distribution in the past but is now reported as uncommon and rare throughout much of its range (read detailed species account). It is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and Birdlife International.
Recent sightings … Read More
White-bellied Sea Eagle on a Fish Trap in Lake Chilika, Odisha
Fish trapped in nets catch the attention of a White-bellied Sea Eagle in Lake Chilika, Odisha. Sea Eagles and other birds often perch near fish traps in the hopes of finding easy prey. Unfortunately, they risk entanglement in the nets themselves should they take the risk of diving into the traps. Lake Chilika is an extremely productive ecosystem, and fishing, though largely traditional, has become very intensive. So much so, that virtually no part of the lake is free from … Read More
Bird Ringing, Chilika
We owe our knowledge of bird migration to years of painstaking work by scientists. Since 2001, ornithologists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have collaborated with the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and the Odisha Forest Department to study the birdlife of Chilika. Between 2001 and 2005, 6161 birds of 63 species were fitted with specially numbered rings. A large proportion of the ringed birds were recaptured during subsequent seasons, proving that birds return to the same areas every year … Read More
Elephant Conflict, Odisha
Human-elephant conflict is turning increasingly acute across elephant range in India. Relentless diversion of elephant habitats, loss of forest corridors that offer safe passage to migrating elephants, activities such as mining, construction of canals, railway tracks and highways that fragment forests, and even the ill-designed plantation of unpalatable trees in natural forests are together creating a deadly situation where direct, extremely volatile face offs between people and elephants have become a matter of routine. The loss of human life and … Read More
Arribada and the Winds of Change
“The wind has shifted; it’s coming from the south now,” was the February 28 message from Muralidharan M., a researcher working on olive ridley sea turtles in the state of Orissa. His tentative conclusion: “the arribada could begin.” Rooted in Spanish, adopted by all, arribada means arrival— or in this case, arrival of olive ridley sea turtles from the ocean, en masse. Sure enough, thousands of sea turtles surfaced from the Bay of Bengal waters that same evening. The congregation … Read More