Monday, March 24, 2008

Warblers and other birds

Some of us don’t need an alarm clock to wake up. Those who are sensitive and know how to listen to birdsong can wake up to their call [Mr. Seetharam’s observation]. The breeding season for the avian life is about to begin now [march to may] and the first call is often that of the Barbet. The loud kkttroooo----Ktrooooo repeated over and over is enough to wake any one up. But most don’t do so is because they are deaf to bird call. If one sees the size of a barbet [about that of a small Mina] one cannot help but marvel at its ability to produce this high pitched sound. The Small Green Barbet has a white patch on the cheek below the eyes and some brownish freckles on the neck. There are many varieties but the ones you see in and around here is the small green one.

Some years ago I witnessed a spectacle of a crow trying to get at the eggs inside a barbet’s nest. The alarmed parents were making frantic calls perched on a nearby tree. They need not have worried as they did, because try as it did, the crow couldn’t reach inside the hole and the cavity where the eggs lay! The nest was dug out of the wood from the centre of a cut branch of a tree. Next year too they chose the same spot and the depth of the cavity was just enough to defeat the crow’s beak!

After the Barbet’s call comes the Koel’s. A melodious to shrieky kuooo---kuooo, over and over with the female responding with a rather ugly quik quik response. The Koel is easy enough to identify as the male is smaller and sleeker version of the jungle crow. The red eye is a giveaway. The female is shy and not as good looking as the male with the body speckled with brown and white. The Koels are on the increase and this I suspect is because of the increase in the Crow population. If you are wondering why, it is because the lazy Koel drops its eggs in the nest of the unsuspecting Crow.

Next to give a wakeup call are the tailor birds. At my home it is around 6.30 am.
I am not an ornithologist and neither am I an expert bird watcher. The former needs knowledge of taxonomy and the latter hours of patient observation. Both of which I lack. Therefore I often make the mistake of naming them incorrectly. This specially is so with small birds like the warblers [Prinias]. This is because they are so frisky and never stay more than a few seconds at any one place. It took me couple of years to determine the pair of warblers who are resident around my house that they are indeed tailor birds, because as Mr. Seetharam pointed out it, it is by their song, a kind of sweet and loud teewity teewity, that I was able to place them. The other common warbler one sees is the Ashy Wren warbler which makes a noise like that made by garden shears cutting a hedge, a chuck, chuck sound. Another common one is the plain Wren warbler seen amongst scrubs and bushes. But the most remarkable one is the Orphean warbler which migrates to India all the way down up to Tamilnadu during winter months and goes back to Afghanistan and Baluchistan! Again makes a chuk chuk sound and during mating season has a melodious loud calling song! Can be identified by its grayish black top and off white lower portion. How this bird which is about the size of a sparrow flies all the way and survives to breed here is beyond my comprehension.

The other common bird that one occasionally sees is the Robin which is a black beauty with a small white patch on the side. The female is a rather pale brownish coloured and commonly seen with the male. If you are fortunate you can see and hear the Bush chat which closely resembles the Robin. This bird has such a melodious song the like of which I have not heard. Like the other members of the Avian world the male is far more beautiful [to the human eye!] than the female.

Next comes the Sunbird. You can see this one, which is half the size of a sparrow, on almost all the flowering trees because it is a nectar feeder [also berries and small fruits] and usually seen in groups. If you have a Singapore cherry tree around your home be on the lookout for these birds during the fruiting season. One must see the bird with binoculars to appreciate the multiplicity of the colours and the beauty. Common one in our neighborhood is the Purple Rumpled one. This bird has crimson, purple, blue, light yellow and green colours. I consider this as the most beautiful of the birds that I have been fortunate to observe!

After 7 am there is no point in trying to listen to the bird song. The cacophony of us humans would have begun by then.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Doc. I stand enlightened.The two other birds which are making their presence in our garden are the Red Whiskered Bulbul and the Spider Hunter. I am sure of the first but the second one, I hope I am right. It has a slightly curved beak, very short stump of a tail, yellow breast and chestnut brown on top.Size smaller than a sparrow. Could it be just another Sunbird, I wonder.

My thoughts said...

Spider hunters resemble the Sunbirds in size and the shape of their beak.These however are not seen in this part of the country, especially in urban envoronment.What you have seen is likely to be a sunbird.

Red whiskered bulbul is seen around a forest fringe or scrub jungle and not around here. What you have seen is called red vented bulbul, once fairly common in our area but now rareely seen. May be some have survived in defence colony because of the wooded envronment.I have seen them four years ago at KGA golf course before the concrete and glass monstrocities swallowed up the wood and scrubland around the golf course.
Again I must stress, you got to see the Sun bird through Binoculars to appreciate the spectacular beauty of the bird.

JP said...

Doc, sadly though, u may have to stop referring to sparrow, when u talk 'bout the relative size of small birds. I've not seen a sparrow in a long time, here in Bangalore! - "what is butter? - It is a dalda like substance!!!".
Your write up was a nice refresher course for me. Keep it up, at least as long as the birds are around!
I should not be sounding so nihilistic. This is a problem with me , u know, a wont. Last month I saw harriers, pale and montego in Hesaraghatta!! Can u believe me? Four years ago I went all the way to Velavadar in Gujrat to photograph them!! After all, all is not lost yet.