Bird Watching - 10 Feb 2019

TIME: 6.45 to 8.45 AM
ROUTE: First bridge, old mango grove and Malli Baavi
OBSERVERS: Nirvedh, Nirad, Yash, Pranav, Arjun, Jyothi and Santharam
WEATHER: Pleasant. Cloudy with hazy sun.

55 species seen today. The weather being pleasant, it was a pleasure being outdoors this morning. An unusual bird spotted this morning was the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher. A single bird was noticed behind the Alumni Guest House. We have seen it here only once earlier on the campus. It is, however, a fairly common bird in the Horsley Hills.

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

House Crow
Large-billed Crow
Red-rumped Swallow
Cinereous Tit (Great Tit)
Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
White-browed Bulbul
Greenish Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Ashy Prinia
Tawny-bellied Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler
Indian Robin
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
Pied Bushchat
Common Myna
Jerdon's Leafbird (Jerdon's Chloropsis)
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple Sunbird
Long-billed Sunbird (Loten's Sunbird)
Tree Pipit
Baya Weaver
Scaly-breasted Munia (Spotted Munia)

Grey Francolin
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Spotted Dove
Greater Coucal
Asian Koel
Little Swift (Indian House Swift)
Cattle Egret
Shikra
Spotted Owlet
Eurasian Hoopoe
Indian Grey Hornbill
White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater
Coppersmith Barbet
White-cheeked Barbet (Small Green Barbet)
Black-rumped Flameback
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Common Woodshrike
Common Iora
Small Minivet
Large Cuckooshrike
Black-naped Oriole
Black-hooded Oriole
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Hair-crested Drongo (Spangled Drongo)
Indian Paradise-Flycatcher
Rufous Treepie

RV Matters - 7 Feb 2019

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They have been around in the foyer of the Senior School for years now, occupying the beam close to the tiles. They can be quite unobtrusive and with their mottled plumage, it takes a while to locate them on their secret perch, where they seem to be sleeping most of the day. Yes, I am referring to the Indian Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena) pair. The word “scops” is a Greek word that means small, eared owl.

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Last week, for once, they decided to leave their secret perch and bask in full sunshine. They were seen perched on the leafless branches of the Gliricidia tree in the courtyard. They were quite unmindful of my presence as I clicked these pictures but seemed uncomfortable when some students joined me. It was quite surprising that despite being out in the open, few people noticed them and they seemed to merge with the tree branches.

These birds become active once the sun sets and at dusk, they come down from their perch and stretch their wings. They also perch on the frame of the large hoopoe portrait before flying out to hunt their prey, which is mainly small insects and animals. They have a characteristic call: “WUT?” which they utter at dusk and through the night. They can be noisier during the breeding season which is January-March. I have heard their repeated calls several times during the breeding season. They nest in tree-cavities.

Dr Santharam

Bird Watching - 3 Feb 2019

TIME: 6.45 to 8.45 AM
ROUTE: Biodiversity Park
OBSERVERS: Lalit, Yash, Arjun, Govind and Santharam V
WEATHER: Summy, cool
COMMENTS: 62 species

We had a very focussed session for once since the number of birders were small and were serious this morning. The highlights were the sightings of the Sulphur-bellied warbler, an uncommon migrant, which was seen foraging on a tree-trunk. Also present was a small flock of about 10 Red Avadavats, that included at least a couple of male birds in bright red plumage. The Long-tailed shrikes too very seen today, staking out their territories. A Collared Dove, usually seen only at the Sunrise point and beyond too was seen perched on a tamarind tree-yop, occasionally engaged in display flights.

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

Large-billed Crow
Rufous-tailed Lark
Sulphur-bellied Warbler - Seen actively foraging for insects from a tree-trunk.
Greenish Warbler
Booted Warbler I
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Grey-breasted Prinia
Jungle Prinia
Plain Prinia
Hume's Whitethroat
Yellow-eyed Babbler
Tawny-bellied Babbler
Common Babbler
Large Grey Babbler
Yellow-billed Babbler
Indian Robin
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Verditer Flycatcher
Blue Rock-Thrush
Pied Bushchat
Jerdon's Leafbird (Jerdon's Chloropsis)
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Purple Sunbird
Long-billed Sunbird (Loten's Sunbird)
White-browed Wagtail (Large Pied Wagtail)
Red Avadavat
Indian Silverbill (White-throated Munia)
Scaly-breasted Munia (Spotted Munia)

Grey Francolin
Grey Junglefowl
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Spotted Dove
Laughing Dove (Little Brown Dove)
Greater Coucal
Blue-faced Malkoha
Asian Koel
Common Hawk-Cuckoo
Cattle Egret
Shikra
Spotted Owlet
Eurasian Hoopoe
White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater
Coppersmith Barbet
White-cheeked Barbet (Small Green Barbet)
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Common Woodshrike
Common Iora
Long-tailed Shrike
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Indian Paradise-Flycatcher
Rufous Treepie
House Crow
Indian Bushlark (Red-winged Bushlark)
Red-rumped Swallow
Cinereous Tit (Great Tit)
Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
White-browed Bulbul

RV Matters - 30 Jan 2019

Time to look out for the flowers of the Flame-of-the-forest tree (Butea monosperma). This year, the lone tree on the tennis wall practice area is coming into bloom. The first flowers were out last week when I passed by the tree.

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This is one of the trees that attracts birds with its copious supply of nectar. Sunbirds, orioles, parakeets, chloropsis, mynas and the ubiquitous crows are among those that make a beeline for the tree when in flower

In Rishi Valley, we have noticed the tree also attracts hordes of parakeets that chew up the seed-pods. We had tried several ways of preventing this but the birds have found ways to outwit us!

Dr Santharam

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