RV Matters - 23 Jan 2019

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Spotting a Paradise Flycatcher in Rishi Valley between the months of November and March is not a tough task. There are certain spots on campus where you could see the lovely male birds showing off their trim white and black plumage with a long  pair of streamers trailing behind them as they dart around after their prey. Some males occur with a variant plumage* – upper parts being rufous (the colour of the female) instead of white but with long tail feathers.

This year, I was fortunate in having two male birds haunting the tiny patch of greenery we have below our flight of steps and on the Tamarind tree in front of our house. One of them is the male in rufous morph but with white wings (primaries). He initially appeared in our neighbourhood in the mornings and late afternoons, perched on low branches, unmindful of the presence of people passing by or those sitting under the tree. Around noon he was replaced by an gorgeous white male with a pair of tail streamers, easily over 18 inches in length. He seemed a little more shy than his rufous counterpart. He would streak past like a comet when disturbed. Soon he took over the territory in the evenings too. Often he would be seen catching insects on the wing, flying low over the ground, much to the discomfiture of the resident White-browed wagtails that foraged on the ground. The Wagtails would then chase away the flycatcher which would retreat to another part of the tree.

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I have never seen the two males together. The male in the rufous morph moves over to the backyard of the Green House in the evenings. But I have once seen a female when the white male was around and he apparently had no objections to her presence in his territory.

*Earlier it was presumed that the males with rufous colouration were juvenile males. But now it is established that males in rufous plumage too are capable of breeding and so are accepted as a colour morph.

Dr Santharam

RV Matters - 16 Jan 2019

Some of the loyal, dedicated birders from Rishi Valley School were taken on a birding trip to Nelapattu and Pulicat Bird Sanctuaries on 6-7 January.

We spent nearly two hours at the Nelapattu Pelicanry on 6th morning and had opportunities to watch the nesting colony of waterbirds comprising mainly Spotbilled Pelicans, Openbill storks, Black-necked Ibis, Spoonbills, a few cormorants, darters, egrets and night herons, besides several species of ducks including Lesser Whistling Teal, Garganey, Shovellers, Pintail and Spotbilled Ducks (which were not breeding) in the tank. In the fields adjoining the tank, there were Zitting Cisticolas, Indian Roller and a Marsh Harrier.

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That afternoon and the next morning, we made forays into the Pulicat lake, along the SHAR road, stopping by at the Kudiri Tank, a freshwater tank with reeds. We were greeted by flocks of flamingos (over 7000 birds, stretching towards the horizon and seen as a pink line), several smaller shorebirds numbering over 2000 that included stints, plovers and sandpipers, Painted Storks, more Pelicans, a flock of over 1400 pintail ducks, several egrets and herons. Our total bird tally exceeded 90 species in the two days and some of the kids got to see several “lifers” on this trip.

Dr Santharam

Bird Watching - 13 Jan 2019

TIME: 6.40 to 8.40 AM
ROUTE: Sunrise Point and the valley beyond

Cool, sunny and clear.

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

House Crow
Large-billed Crow
Rufous-tailed Lark
Indian Bushlark (Red-winged Bushlark)
Red-rumped Swallow
Cinereous Tit (Great Tit)
Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Yellow-throated Bulbul - Heard calls twice before seeing one bird
White-browed Bulbul
Greenish Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Grey-breasted Prinia
Jungle Prinia
Plain Prinia
Hume's Whitethroat
Eastern Orphean Warbler - Had a brief but clear view in a dense thicket
Yellow-eyed Babbler
Tawny-bellied Babbler
Common Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Indian Robin
Pied Bushchat
Common Myna
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple Sunbird
Long-billed Sunbird (Loten's Sunbird)
White-browed Wagtail (Large Pied Wagtail)
Indian Silverbill (White-throated Munia)
Scaly-breasted Munia (Spotted Munia)

Grey Francolin
Grey Junglefowl
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Spotted Dove
Laughing Dove (Little Brown Dove)
Greater Coucal
Sirkeer Malkoha
Asian Koel
Cattle Egret
Oriental Honey-buzzard (Crested Honey Buzzard)
White-eyed Buzzard
Shikra
Green Bee-eater
Coppersmith Barbet
White-cheeked Barbet (Small Green Barbet) - Calls heard
Black-rumped Flameback (Lesser Goldenbacked Woodpecker)
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Common Woodshrike
Common Iora
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Indian Paradise-Flycatcher

RV Matters - 9 Jan 2019

The temperatures suddenly plummeted overnight to 10° c on the New Year morning. Many people believe in staying up late on the new year eve to usher the New Year and waking up late. But I always begin the New Year by being out in nature, preferably all by myself. This year too, I was out by sunrise at the “Biodiversity Park” and was greeted by some beautiful sights and an addition to our campus bird-list – the Eastern Orphean Warbler, a rare winter visitor to southern India.

 This landscape with its tall grass and scattered bushes and occasional trees adds so much to the diversity of the campus and it would be a pity if we convert this into a woodland by artificially planting trees. We need trees but we also need other kinds of habitats if we are to maintain the biological diversity in our campus.

Dr Santharam

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Bird Watching - 23 Dec 2018

TIME: 6.40 to 8.30 AM
ROUTE: BBT - Mango Orchard – Vegetable Garden

A Blackhooded oriole that has been in the campus for the last few weeks turned up at a Peepul tree near Radhikaji’s House. In general, we have been seeing fewer orioles so far this season..

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

Verditer Flycatcher
Magpie-robin
White-browed Wagtail
Brown Shrike
Whitebrowed Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
Black-hooded Oriole
Blacknaped Oriole
Scaly-breasted Munia
Yellow-billed Babbler
Common Tailorbird
Blyth’s Reed Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Loten’s sunbird
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Common Myna
Redrumped Swallow
Tree Pipit

Grey Francolin
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Pond Heron
Cattle Egret
Spotted Dove
Roseringed Parakeet
White-throated Kingfisher
Coppersmith Barbet
White-cheeked Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
Indian Roller
Hoopoe
Green Bee-eater
Greater Coucal
Asian Koel
Ashy Drongo
Longbilled Crow
House Crow
Common Iora
Small Minivet
Cinerous Tit
Paradise Flycatcher

Bird Watching - 16 Dec 2018

TIME: 6.40 to 8.35 AM
ROUTE: Asthachal Sheet Rock

Students today discovered that even remaining stationary at one place, one could encounter a wide range of bird species. This was also possible because today there were fewer participants. The highlights of the day were Haircrested Drongo pair and the Verditer Flycatchers that gave good views.

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

Purple-rumped Sunbird
Yellow-billed Babbler
Common Iora
Indian Pitta
Little (house) Swift
Magpie-robin
Red-vented Bulbul
Redwhiskered Bulbul
Whitebrowed Bulbul
Laughing Dove
Longbilled Crow
House Crow
Scaly-breasted Munia
Coppersmith Barbet
Oriental White-eye
Common Myna
Roseringed Parakeet

Grey Junglefowl
Lesser Flameback
White-throated Kingfisher
Cattle Egret
Grey Francolin
Hoopoe
Green Bee-eater
Ashy Drongo
Golden Oriole
Black-naped Oriole
Haircrested Drongo
Verditer Flycatcher
Paradise Flycatcher
Treepie
Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike
Blyth’s Reed Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Common Tailorbird

RV Matters - 30 Dec 2018

Tickell’s Leaf Warbler

Tickell’s Leaf Warbler

Verditer Flycatcher

Verditer Flycatcher

This winter it is raining Verditer Flycatchers in Rishi Valley (although we also wish there were good rains!). We see them everywhere in the campus on trees in wooded areas as well as semi-open areas. This tiny bird is a winter visitor from Himalaya and though a regular visitor to our campus, has been occuring in small numbers. Another rare winter visitor to RV that breeds in Himalaya which I was lucky to photograph is the Tickell’s Leaf Warbler. With its bright yellow supercilium and underparts, this bird is more easily identified amongst the whole lot of LBJs (“Little Brown Jobs”) which are the bane of all normal birdwatchers! This bird obliged me with great views from a close range and remained stationary for over five minutes. Among the migrants that are rarer this year on campus are the Bluethroated Flycatcher and the Black-naped Oriole. We do have a pair of Blackhooded Orioles on campus, though it is not, strictly speaking, a winter visitor.

Dr Santharam

Bird Watching - 9 Dec 2018

TIME: 6.30 to 8.30 AM
ROUTE: DH to Malli Bavi
PARTICIPANTS: Meghana, Pragnya, Yash, Nirad, Govind, Yash senior, Lalith, Daipayan, Arjun, Nirved, Daksh, Damini, Siddhanth, Keko, Mangala

Gathering on the cold wintry mornings for bird watching does warm one’s cockles. The big banyan tree sadly is a mere spectre now . Yet, it continues to serve as a perch. This Sunday it showed the great hornbills, nearly 4 of them against the sky. There were other birds too like the hoopoe making a pretty picture against the sky, just like a picture post card.

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

26. Red rumped swallow
27. Small green bee eater
28. Purple rumped sunbird
29. Iora
30. Tree pipit
31. Black drongo
32. Ashy drongo
33. Grey tit
34. Loten’s sunbird
35. Laughing dove
36. Verditer flycatcher
37. Purple sunbird
38. Tickell’s flowerpecker
39. Golden backed woodpecker
40. Little brown dove
41. Red vented bulbul
42. White cheeked barbet
43. Blythe’s reed warbler
44. White eye
45. Indian robin
46. Pied bush chat
47. Black headed cuckoo shrike
48. Tree pie
49. Paradise flycatcher

1. Roseringed parakeet
2. Loten’s sunbird.
3. Grey Jungle fowl.
4. Magpie robin
5. Cattle Egret
6. Greenish Warbler
7. Tailor bird
8. Shikra
9. Grey Partridge
10. Whitebrowed bulbul
11. Grey wagtail
12. Small minivet
13. Tiaga flycatcher
14. Hoopoe
15. Spotted dove
16. Grey hornbill
17. Ashy prinia
18. Blue-tailed beeeater
19. Koel
20. Common mynah
21. White-breasted kingfisher
22. Whiteheaded (Yellowbilled)babbler
23. Spotted owlet
24. Coucal
25. Blue rock pigeon

Bird Watching - 2 Dec 2018

TIME: 6.30 to 8.30 AM
ROUTE: DH to Biodiversity Park

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

18. Koel
19. Red whiskered bulbul
20. Redvented bulbul
21. Small green bee-eater
22. Purple sunbird
23. Iora
24. Purple rumped sunbird
25. Painted spurfowl
26. Small green barbet
27. Indian robin
28. Black shouldered kite
29. Tickell’s flower-pecker
30. White throat
31. Common babbler
32. Yellow-eyed babbler
33. Red-rumped swallow
34. Large cuckoo shrike

1. Paradise flycatcher
2. White-browed bulbul
3. Coppersmith
4. Hoopoe
5. Jungle crow
6. Partridge
7. Ashy Drongo
8. Rose ringed parakeet
9. Tailor bird
10. Green leafy warbler
11. Spotted owlet
12. Coucal
13. Red spurfowl
14. Blythe’s reed warbler
15. Blue throated flycatcher
16. Laughing dove
17. Spotted dove