Horn OK Please ….

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With the ambient temperature at 36 degrees, Cauvery water supplied once in a week and daily power-cuts by Bescom, we are left in no doubt that summer is here. It seems a bit ridiculous that one would choose to spend the whole day outside, roasting slowly in the sun, but the fact is that summer is a good time for birders. The trees are bare, birds are easier to sight and shoot, and summer is breeding season for many species.

One bird that breeds in the summer is the Indian grey hornbill, Ocyceros birostris. The members of the Bucerotidae family sport a prominent casque or a horn on their beaks. The term ‘ buceros’ means cow horn in Greek.

Hornbills are generally monogamous, meaning that they mate for life (unlike humans). They nest in holes or large cavities in trees. The female prepares the nest by lining it with mud and lays it eggs inside. She then seals herself inside, with just her beak poking out.  She remains sealed in until the eggs hatch and the fledglings are old enough to come out. Till then, the faithful male feeds her and the chicks. Hornbills feed on fruits, insects, molluscs and sometimes small birds.

I snapped this hornbill pair setting up home in a dried-up tree at Kokrebellur, about 120 km from Bangalore. Their grey plumage blends in perfectly with the surrounding bark, making them very difficult to spot and photograph.

Let’s hope they have a long and happy married life!

Cheers … Srini.

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A wonderful bird is the pelican …

 

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The Spot-billed pelican is a large, graceful bird. The species gets its name from the spots on its upper bill. There are eight species in the Pelecanus genus, of which the Spot-billed species is found only in the Indian sub-continent.

Pelicans feed almost exclusively on fish and an adult bird can eat as much as 5kg per day. They nest on low hanging trees close to waterbodies. Pelicans have a characteristic fishing style. Usually, two or three of them get together, gradually push fish into a corner and scoop them up in their bills. They store fish in a large pouch under the lower bill, to feed their young. Like all other birds, pelicans do not have teeth, and gulp the fish down whole.

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The bird’s Latin name Pelecanus phillipensis, is derived from the Phillipines, where the Spot-billed pelican was commonly seen once upon a time. Ironically, it is now extinct in that country.

In India too, the Spot-billed pelican is an endangered species, thanks entirely to human greed. Many lakes in Bangalore and Mysore have either been encroached by developers or are heavily polluted. Of the few remaining lakes with fish in them, a lot of illegal fishing goes on. Not many pelicanries are left in India. Madivala Lake in Bangalore once had a thriving pelicanry, but it is now gone. If you’re lucky, you might spot a pelican or two at Madivala lake. If you’re lucky.

Other lakes in Bangalore in which you might spot the odd pelican include Hebbal, Jakkur, Begur and perhaps Gulakmale. All the other waterbodies in and around Bangalore are finished. Bellandur and Varthur lakes are filled with foul, evil-smelling chemical foam, and the rest are filled with sewage, weeds, rubble and human waste.

Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore has a well populated pelicanry with over a hundred nesting birds. Given all the ‘development’ going on in that part of Mysore, I’m not hopeful that it will remain undisturbed for long, but as of now, it’s doing well.

Better visit the place, before it is too late!

Class Aves rocks.

Srini.

The painted storks of Kokrebellur

painted storks-2 cropped compressedIt’s a sight seen nowhere else on Earth.  Storks and humans living together in harmony, each unmindful of the other.

Kokkarebellur is a little village near the town of Maddur, 120 km from Bangalore. Since a thousand years, this place has been the nesting site of the endangered Painted Stork  (Mycteria leucocephalus, family Ciconidae).  Each year, during the first week of Feb, painted storks descend upon the village for their annual nesting program.  And each year, birders like myself visit Kokrebellur to pay our respects to this spectacular member of the Stork family.

It must be seen to be believed.  Beautiful Painted Storks on every tree, clattering their beaks, creating life, celebrating Nature.painted stork-4T

Kokrebellur is also the nesting ground for another endangered species – the Spot-billed pelican. The pelicans too live in harmony with the storks and humans. There are other rare birds in and around Kokrebellur – the Indian grey hornbill, yellow-footed pigeon, chestnut-shouldered petronia, common rosefinch, common hoopoe and many more. Kokrebellur is truly a birder’s delight.

One sincerely hopes a mall doesn’t come up there one fine day.

How to get there: Drive down Bangalore-Mysore highway (SH-17).  After you cross Ramanagaram and Channapatna, about 80 km from Bangalore, you will reach Maddur town.  About 5 km before the main town, you will come across a prominent left turn off the highway, with a large signboard pointing the way to Kokrebellur. From that point, Kokrebellur is about 15 km away. On the way, halt at Tailur tank. This is a good place to sight winter migrants like Northern shovelers and other duck species, and several other migrants like grey wagtails and black-tailed godwits.

Blue-tailed bee-eaters at Tailur tank.
Blue-tailed bee-eaters at Tailur tank.

Tailur tank has a resident population of the rare Blue-tailed bee-eater. See if you can spot them on the trees and electric wires around the tank.

Best time to visit: Third week of February. Enjoy!

Cheers … Srini.   BTW: All photos were shot by me. 

 

 

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