Sunday, November 27, 2016

Birding the Tiger's Kingdom Part II: Indian Vulture, Jacobin Cuckoo and Indian Stone-curlew

[Outskirts of RNP. June 2016]

Not all the birds in the Tiger's Kingdom necessitate a journey into the heart of the jungle -- indeed, many can be found within the buffer zone and in the outskirts of Ranthambhore National Park itself. Species such as:

  • Indian Vulture
  • Jacobin Cuckoo
  • Indian Stone-curlew
  • Common Babbler
  • Chestnut-shouldered Petronia
  • Red collared Dove
  • Brown Crake
  • Ashy-crowned sparrow-lark
  • Indian Pond Heron
  • Brahminy Starling
  • Southern Grey Shrike
  • Baya Weaver
  • Indian Paradise Flycatcher
  • Hoopoe
  • Rufous tailed Lark
  • Rufous Treepie 
We start with the Indian Vulture:





This is a Critically Endangered species, and its horrific flirtation with extinction is a well documented example of the law of unintended consequences. Not dissimilar to the DDT-precipitated catastrophe of raptors here in the US in the 70's, the vultures in India are now down to an alarming 5% of their prior numbers due to the veterinary drug diclofenac. Like the "Midas Touch" in reverse, it seems that everything we touch is ecologically cursed.



Jacobin Cuckoo is found in both Africa and India. And, while Southern populations in either location are year-round residents, the East African population of this cuckoo migrates over Arabia and into North-Central India in the summer to breed. This is a a rare example of West-to-East migration as most migrations run South to North.





This handsome bird is also known as the Pied crested Cuckoo and is a vocal songster in the monsoon season.

Our next species is a shorebird --Indian Stone-curlew:



Earlier considered conspecific with Eurasian Thick-knee, this Stone-curlew is now a species in its own right and is endemic to the Subcontinent.

Next,  Common Babbler is a laughingthrush whose nest is often brood parasitized by the Jacobin Cuckoo.



From laughingthrushes, we change gears to sparrows; and, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, while drab, is famously recognized as the "spark bird" for India's foremost ornithologist -- Dr. Salim Ali.



The monsoon unleashes a wave of fecundity and seemingly everywhere, cuckoos and pitta's are singing and even this Red Turtle Dove is carrying nesting material:



This is also known as the Red collared dove and indeed looks like a colorful version of Eurasian collared dove.

Less conspicuous was this Brown Crake -- and like most rails, it is shy and skittish:
 


Next, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark is known for assuming a crouching position in order to blend in with its surroundings:



This lark is almost invisible save for its bold facial markings.


Anoher master of the disappearing act is the Indian Pond Heron which can fool its prey by remaining completely motionless:



Other species included Brahminy Starling:



Southern Grey Shrike:




and Mrs and Mr Baya Weaver:





And, the fantastically flamboyant Indian Paradise Flycatcher -- here seen in the splendid white morph version:




The Hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. It is wonderfully unique -- so unique that no other species is housed in the same family.


This bird feeds on the ground like a shorebird with its large, down-curved bill, nests in tree cavities like a woodpecker, and sports a showy crest like a cockatoo

 
Also seen were two "Rufous" monikered species:

Rufous-tailed Lark:


And, Rufous Treepie:




Like other Jays, these colorful corvids are comfortable around humans, endlessly curious and noisy in equal measure.


Finally, some bonus critters:  
  • Indian Mongoose
  • Jackal 
  • Monitor


Indian Mongoose:


In an intriguing example of convergent evolution, the mongoose occupies the same ecological niche as weasels and stoats.
 
Indian Jackal:



And, Monitor Lizard:




The treasures of wildlife can be found in the lush jungles of the Indian plains; yet, they also eke out an existence wherever human activity affords them a toehold such as in the rural areas of Sawai Madhopur where they await discovery from the intrepid birder.


1 comment:

  1. It was good to read of the coexistence of man and beast after the initial dismal report on the status of the Indian Vulture, Hemant. The Hoopoe indeed has a wide-range of appealing characteristics. A great collection here.

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