Monday, December 14, 2015

Sanctuary in the City: Trivandrum

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Sanctuary in the city!

I was in Trivandrum in November 2015, visiting family. I had been to Kochi the previous week, enjoying the beautiful flora and fauna at Parambikulam and Munnar. Since there weren’t too many sanctuaries around Trivandrum, birding was not on the cards during my stay there, just family time indoors.

Parambikulam Sunset

Munnar: Chinnakanal Waterfalls
The weather in Trivandrum was unpredictable, raining heavily in the early mornings and hot & sunny for the remainder of the day. The weather was another reason, I preferred to stay indoors.

The first morning in Trivandrum was a lazy one. I woke up late and had a heavy breakfast. As I was chatting with my Aunt, I heard the calls of a bird. The calls aroused my curiosity and I went to the door to check. It was an Oriental Magpie Robin (OMR). It sat on the road near the gate. Even though the Oriental Magpie Robin is a commonly sighted bird, I could not resist the temptation to photograph it, one more time. I rushed back, into the house, to get my camera.

When I returned, the OMR was no longer near the gate. I managed to sight it on a mango tree in the opposite compound. I clicked a few photographs before it flew out of sight behind some leaves. Then, from the corner of the eye, I noticed some movement, on a branch higher up on the tree. When the bird finally came into view, I was stunned, shocked, amazed… etc. all at once.

Let the birding begin: Oriental Magpie Robin
It was a male Asian Paradise Flycatcher (white morph)!!! This bird, especially the male, is very shy and elusive. I had managed to photograph this bird for the first time in Parambikulam, the previous week, after 2 years of missed opportunities. And now, to sight it in Trivandrum, from the comfort of the home, was beyond belief.

Elusive Beauty: Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male)
I gathered my wits and started photographing the beautiful bird with the long tail feathers and streamers. The bird remained in sight for several minutes until it finally disappeared.

The Asian Paradise Flycatcher sighting got me thinking that,
1. Today could be my lucky day and  
2.  If I was patient and watchful, I could actually be birding from home

I plonked myself firmly on a chair next to the first-floor window and started to keep watch. Very soon a Black Kite appeared and perched itself on a coconut tree nearby. It spent a considerable amount of time surveying the surrounding area, presumably for food.

Flight check: Black Kite

Take-off: Black Kite
Straight ahead, a few metres away, stood a Papaya tree. The tree bore a few ripe papayas and several unripe ones. The ripe papayas could potentially attract birds towards it. Therefore I kept a close watch on it. And I was duly rewarded for my close watch.

An Asian Koel (female) perched itself on the tree and started feeding itself on the papaya. The bird was partially hidden by the leaves. But the white and buff spots, on the brown bird, was distinctive and helped in the identification. After the Koel left, a White-cheeked Barbet appeared and started to have it’s fill of the ripe papaya. After the Barbet, came the turn of the Lesser Flameback Woodpecker. Soon, the Woodpecker was joined by a Rufous Treepie as they jointly worked on the papaya. After a short while, the birds left and the papaya tree was deserted.

Asian Koel (female)
Papaya flavours: White-cheeked Barbet
Lesser Flameback Woodpecker and Rufous Treepie
I turned my attention to a coconut tree nearby. On the topmost leaf were perched four Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. This was my first ever sighting of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. The Bee-eaters were very active as they hunted for food.

Bees, Butterflies and Dragonflies on the menu: Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
A unique characteristic of bee-eater behavior is that, while hunting, they return to the exact spot from where they take off. This behavior makes the task of photographing these birds, in flight, just a bit easier. One needs to focus on the spot from where they take-off and start clicking when they return back to the exact same spot.

Synchronized gazing: Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
I observed the fascinating behavior of the richly coloured birds for a very long time. The birds were very successful in their hunting and returned with butterflies, dragonflies and bees. Capturing their in-flight photographs was a thrilling challenge and kept me busy the entire afternoon.

Rich Colours and Spread wings: Blue-tailed Bee-eaters

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
Late afternoon, I climbed onto the terrace in the hope of spotting more birds. I could do no wrong that day!! First up, came a Common Myna, followed by a Purple-rumped Sunbird and finally a Common Tailorbird. The Sunbird and Tailorbird were very active as they hopped around and photographing them was a herculean task.

Common Myna
Purple-rumped Sunbird

Common Tailorbird
Soon, I returned to the first-floor window and saw a new visitor on the papaya tree. It was a fruit bat a.k.a. flying fox (because of their resemblance to foxes). The bat hung upside down and feasted on the papaya. Unlike the birds, which took small bites out of the papaya, the bat took out big chunks of the fruit. The bat stayed for an hour and completely finished off the fruit.

Fruit Bat
Lip-smacking yummy: Fruit Bat
The light was fading fast and I called it a day. It had been an unexpected but thrilling day, without doubt. The Asian Paradise Flycatcher sighting had been the highlight of the day.

The next day morning, I woke up much earlier and took my spot by the window. The bird sightings started with the Black Kite and Lesser Flameback Woodpecker. They were much closer than the previous day. This was followed by the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and then a Red-whiskered Bulbul.

Black Kite
Lesser Flameback Woodpecker
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
The bird sightings were not as frequent as the previous day. Therefore, in the afternoon, I climbed onto the terrace, which turned out to be a good move. All the action that day appeared to be happening in the high skies. Hovering around were black kites, occasionally chased by crows and sometimes chasing away the crows themselves. There were a couple of black kites having a go at each other.

Air wars: Black Kites
The Chase and Retreat: Black Kite vs House Crow
Higher up, I could sight a couple of raptors as they soared in the skies. The raptors were too high, as a result of which I could not identify them easily. My best guess is that, one was a Brahminy Kite and the other was a Common Buzzard.

Closer to the ground, perched on a tree-top was a Loten’s Sunbird. It was a fair distance away but the long curved beak was unmistakable. Thereafter, a Southern Coucal and a Black Drongo appeared and disappeared just as fast. Though I was able to photograph the Southern Coucal, the Black Drongo flew away before I could get a photograph.

Loten's Sunbird
Southern Coucal
In the late evening, the bird sightings increased slightly. A Black-headed Golden Oriole and a couple of Cormorants flew past. They were out of sight before I could click any photographs. A few Rock Pigeons perched themselves on a roof nearby, in order to quench their thirst. On another roof was a trio of Common Mynas as they chattered away excitedly.

Rock Pigeons
House Crow
Common Myna
The sun was setting fast and I returned to my spot by the window. The last bird sighting was a White-throated Kingfisher. Coincidentally, it was perched on the same mango tree from where the bird sightings had all started, the previous day. An apt location for the final bird sighting.

White-throated Kingfisher
The past two days had been a most thrilling experience. To sight so many birds when least expected, that too in a city, from the comfort of a home, was an unbelievable bonus. It felt like being in a sanctuary in the middle of a city!.

1 comment:

  1. Super... nice part is its all captured from your home itself. We might have seen all of these birds, but never recognise them because of our(exclude Tobin) ignorance.��


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