Passage to India… Part 3.

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Part 1 and 2 of Passage to India can be viewed HERE and HERE. This is the third part…

“The Ringneck Parakeet, Psittacula krameri, is one of the most widespread parrots in the world (above left). The natural range extends from Africa through India, and escaped pets have established large populations in Singapore and Malaysia, where they are displacing the native Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda. The Indian subspecies, manillensis, is common all throughout the country. Parakeets are very often heard before they are seen.

“Believe it or not, this is a Strawberry Finch, Amandava amandava (above right). This is an immature. The adults moult into different patterns. In their eclipse plumage, both adult males and females are patterned like the bird above, but considerably darker. During the breeding season, adult males are bright red, with tiny white speckles, making them really look like strawberries.

“Two species of Bush Chats were common. This is the Pied Bush Chat, Saxicola caprata (below left).

“And here is the Grey Bush Chat, Saxicola ferreus (above right). Both species of Bush Chats hunt insects in the long grass by the edges of forest clearings.

“This is a male Scarlet Minivet (above left). Is it Pericrocotus flammeus or should it be better known as speciosus?

Flammeus actually means orange in Latin, and there are races of this bird that are orange, though most are some shade of red. Let’s leave the taxonomists to argue over the name, and just enjoy the beauty of this small passerine, which has a very wide range throughout Asia. Among the males, there is considerable local colour variation.

“But the females are not so different in their dressing. Most Scarlet Minivet females look like this one (above right).

“The Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, is another small passerine with a wide distribution in Asia (above left).

“Wagtails are common in fields and along streams, and are usually solitary, though they sometimes move in pairs. There is another closely-related species, the Yellow Wagtail, which is supposed to have a brighter yellow underside. Their name comes from their habit of shaking the tail every now and then as they walk.

“I got up very close to a pair of White-capped Redstarts, Chaimaonis leucocephalus, the male of which is in the above-right photo.

“Well, my guide said that it was a male, though visually, I would be hard put to differentiate it from the bird in the photo below, which he claimed was the female. However, the upper bird was the noticeably active one, flitting and displaying, while the lower bird just perched passively.

“These Old World Flycatchers are birds of the jungle streams, and this pair was encountered on the gabions (rock and wire structures) used to reinforce a river embankment in the Corbett Tiger Sanctuary. They seemed not to be at all shy, and allowed me to get close to observe them.

“[The image above-left is a] White-capped Redstart female.

“The Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach, should be familiar to bird watchers in Singapore (above right).

“There is considerable variation in the colours of the birds throughout their range, which extends from India all the way east to Wallace’s Line. Some taxonomists have tried to split the various variants into different species. The bird in the picture, though somewhat lighter, still looks very much like those that I have seen in the Choa Chu Kang area in Singapore.

“Like a typical shrike, it was solitary and perched on a lookout point, from which it sallied in search of prey.

“The secret to spotting owls is to know where they roost. Spotted Owlets, Athene brama, often sleep communally. There are three in this photograph, one partially obscured by the lower branch (above left). Our guide at the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary knew exactly where to find them. He said that they returned to the same sleeping spot every day.

“The range of this little bird is supposed to extend from India to Vietnam. It is not supposed to be found in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, but I have heard reports of people seeing this species in Singapore.

“The Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, has an almost worldwide distribution (above right). This fish-eating raptor is not uncommon around the many bodies of water that dot the Indian countryside.

“The most common raptors in India were Black Kites, Milvus migrans (above left). They were so common that I did not realise that I had not bothered to deliberately photograph any until I was on my way home. But even though they could often be seen scavenging for rubbish, these were not easy birds to approach. On the ground, they did not allow people to get close. But they could always be seen in the air around markets and rubbish dumps.

“The Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus, is found in Northern India (above right). A small colony of them resided near the village where I was staying just outside the Corbett Tiger Sanctuary. They are supposed to behave like typical vultures, scavenging for carrion.

“Apart from the kites, the raptor that I encountered most often in India was the Changeable Hawk-eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus (above left). This forest eagle, which I have not seen for many, many years in Singapore, could be found on the fringes of most of the woodlands that I visited. In India, I saw birds of the Intermediate Phase, like the one above-left, and also some of the Light Phase (above right).. But I did not see any of the Dark Phase.

Lee Chiu San
21st January 2013

…to be continued.

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