Monday, 9 July 2012

One year of bird-watching

Got slowly started with this hobby last year (mid-May 2011) and have now completed one year of bird-watching, which has been an enriching and fulfilling experience. I am still quite an amateur and though I feel happy to have spotted and learned about a hundred odd birds, I know it is a mere 8-10% of the total species found in India.

In this interesting journey, I have been through n number of my current favorite birds. In my trip to Goa last year, I was bowled over by the blue color in birds. I loved looking at common kingfisher and white throated kingfisher, before my heart got taken over by stork-billed kingfisher. Not only did I find the bird great in looks, I found its call very interesting. This was the first bird which got me interested in hearing birds.

In my Ranthambore trip, I fell in love with the Golden Oriole (Check here ). What endearing looks - a golden yellow and black bird with a pink beak  And that is how a male golden oriole looks like. This is when, I learned my lesson on sexual dimorphism - which is the term used to define the differences in looks/behavior between the males and females. Of course we all know about the beautiful peacocks and the drab dull peahens but I did not know that this kind of difference is quite prevalent in birds. Amusing, but it is a given fact that amongst birds, the males actually have better and striking looks while females are much duller in comparison. Though at times I like to disagree with this fact. I actually find the female house sparrow cuter than the male house sparrow. I also find the female asian koel better looking than the male.

It took me quite a while to change my loyalty from golden oriole to another blue bird, which has similarities in it colors with the blue throated kingfisher. This was the the gorgeous Indian roller (Check here). It is a good looking bird which looks even more amazingly beautiful in flight. This was when I learned about looking at birds in flight, I was fascinated to see new colors becoming visible as the wings open out. The next time I looked at myna sitting in my balcony, I knew there was more to the brown bird, there was a 'white' color, which starts showing nicely when myna takes the flight. Later on, I learned about a terrific example of a bird appearing so different in flight in comparison to what it looks when it is sitting otherwise. I am talking about the Indian Pond Heron - which looks like a pure white bird in flight, wait for it to land and it looks like a different bird has landed.

Indian Pond Heron

My knowledge of birds leaped when I visited Bharatpur in November. I found the painted storks very attractive - especially the pink color on the body looked sweet. This is where I saw bird colonies. There were trees after trees filled with painted storks. And the storks look lovely in flight. It was interesting to see the storks coming with fish in their beaks to feed their young and the baby storks (who look quite big for babies if you compare them with babies of sparrows or pigeons) getting excited and competing with their siblings for the feed. In such large colonies, I wondered if the parents ever got confused who their baby was. I mean they all look so identical, at least to us :-). While the painted storks are very beautiful, a special place in my heart was (and still is) reserved for the sarus cranes (Check here). Various things are very striking about sarus cranes - their call, their looks and above all their sheer size. Technically we do know that birds vary in size from as small as a humming bird to as tall as an ostrich but since we do not find ostriches roaming around here, I earlier had a habit of considering birds as the small creatures of God. No longer!

Painted Storks

A couple of months ago, one day I  looked out of my window to see an amazingly beautiful bird. I could not believe - it was pure white and looked like a divine beauty. A white pigeon?I thought. But it looked very special - its feet had feathers and its tail was different and it was shaking its tail. After clicking a few snaps, I browsed the internet to figure out it was an Indian fantail pigeon (female). A fantail pigeon is a breed of a fancy pigeon. It was an amazing feeling of peace, just looking at this bird. For days, I kept wondering where did this fancy bird come from.

Divine beauty

Bird-watching and learning is a continuous experience. With this hobby, the world around me has started looking so different. Monsoon has arrived and is a great respite from heat. And I also now know that is a breeding season for most of the birds. Yesterday I saw two very cute red wattled lapwing babies. I didn't have a camera or a binoculars with me at that time. At such times, my eyes click the imprints for my mind and soul to savor for a long long time.

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