Whimsical winged wonders
A birder’s life is never dull, following the wings and whimsy of the feathered friends leads to interesting experiences and anecdotes to share.
The arid and semi-arid habitat of Western India is often referred to as ‘Raptor-land’ of India. It was a cold winter morning, we were searching for raptors in some deserted grassland approximately 30 kilometers on the outskirts of Bikaner city in Rajasthan. We saw a Black-winged kite glide by our vehicle. My co-birders and I were in no hurry to follow any activities of the said common bird. Unexpectedly the Black-winged launched a vertical attack on ground from sky and we thought perhaps it may have caught some prey. Since watching the bird with its breakfast was something we did not want to miss, we rushed to follow. We drove our vehicle along sharp turns, avoiding any disturbance and watched the Kite with a poor Desert Jird strongly caught beneath its sharp talons. The Black Winged Kite gave us nearly ten minutes of footage time to watch it tearing head of the poor rodent from its body, then trying to gulp the head by tossing it several times, finally flying away with kill. What a treat to watch and photograph.
Unlike raptors, warblers are tiny skulkers and are extremely difficult to photograph. While on a bird photography trip to Greater Rann Of Kutch in Gujarat, we were on a quest to photograph the Asian Desert Warbler – only Desert Warbler migrating to India. With a size of mere 12 cm, it mainly forages on ground and prefers mostly thorn bushes of deserts or halophytic shrubs of Gujarat salt pans. After failing to get a clear image of this skulker in Jaisalmer, we toiled hard in Gujarat for more than two hours. We went from one bush to another trying hard to get a clear image of the Asian Desert Warbler either on ground or in its habitat of halophytic shrubs. Finally our hard work paid off as we could get a distinct image of an Asian Desert Warbler in its habitat and we could overlook our disappointment of the earlier Rajasthan Trip.
In the Western Ghats of South India, the habitat is mostly evergreen forests with thick canopies of undergrowth in contrary to the sparse vegetation of arid Western India. There are hundreds of endemic birds in Western Ghats and one among them is the White Bellied Blue Flycatcher, a shy and alert passerine which prefers mainly shades of thick under-growths. On a recent birding trip to Thattekad Sanctuary in Kerala, we witnessed various speedy flycatchers and were lucky to get a quick glimpse of the very beautiful White Bellied Blue Flycatcher on a singular open perch to manage only a few decent images.