RV Matters - 30 Sep 2018

For once, I was alone this morning as I went birding outside the campus to the Sunrise Point and the valley beyond. A thin veil of mist covered the hills and the morning sunlight filtered in, lighting up the rocks. The landscape looked lush and green after the recent spell of rains, contrasting with a clear blue sky. The green grass was soft and moist with the dew. Every bush and tree was alive with activity of birds.

I was hoping to catch up with the recently-arrived migrants. I have only been seeing Greenish Warblers and Grey Wagtails regularly on campus for the past few weeks. I was not at all disappointed. Up on the rocks, above me, there was a pair of Blue Rock Thrush. Usually these birds which migrate from Himalayan region, are seen singly. Perhaps they have just arrived and are yet to stake out their individual territories. From some shrubs, I could hear the familiar “churr”s of the Hume’s Whitethroat, another migrant from Central Asia and the Western Himalaya. Later in the morning, I spotted half-a-dozen of these warblers, foraging and calling energetically. A Brown Shrike put on a brief appearance before diving back into cover. A Paradise Flycatcher, a local migrant, called from some distance but I could not spot it.

Migrants apart, I had excellent views of the rare Marshall’s Iora. A pair of these birds were noticed foraging in low bushes. The white on their tail feathers was quite striking as was their truncated whistling notes. A male Common Iora landed on the top branches of the bush even as I was observing the Marshall’s pair. I could make out the relatively larger size of the Common Iora and its uniform black tail feathers. I could witness no aggression among the two species as they continued to forage on the bush for the next two or three minutes before moving to an adjacent shrub. Though I heard them on three occasions this morning, I could not spot the Yellow-throated Bulbuls as they moved in the higher reaches of the hills.

A Vine snake attracted the attention of the smaller passerines and I could see the snake beat a hasty retreat as it was mobbed by several purple and purple-rumped sunbirds, Pale-billed and Thickbilled Flowerpeckers, Redvented Bulbuls, Common Iora and a Three-striped palm Squirrel.

Dr Santharam