Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Common Tree Frog




"Are you in a mood for photography?' is what Aarina asked me.
"Yes" I excitedly replied.
She then directed me to a place in our backyard where she had spotted a frog. It was a lovely, 'Common Tree Frog' and was quietly perched on a flower pot. I armed my camera and slowly inched towards the frog, clicking as I approached it. Perhaps when I reached the frogs zone of comfort, it leaped- an explosive massive leap that had me startled. It was such an effective method of escaping from an enemy- so surprising, that catching a frog can be difficult business whether you are a hungry bird, reptile or a camera wielding human.

Not all, but most tree frogs are arboreal. Their toe pads and a claw shaped toe help them climb a variety of surfaces.

Many amphibians, including this cute little frog have a neat row of teeth on their jaws, but these are used for defence or as a way of gripping their prey. They do nothing to break the prey in easily swallow-able chunks. No amphibians can chew and this is the reason why, when they seize one end of a worm, methodically rake the length of it with their forefeet to remove any bits of sticks or earth that might be stuck to it. The tongue helps the process of swallowing by producing a lot of mucus and so do their eyes! Yes, eyes are required to swallow their food. All frogs and toads blink when they swallow. Their eye-sockets have not bony floor, so when they blink, the eye balls are drawn into the skull and make a bulge in the roof of the mouth, which squeezes the lump of food back to the throat.
Pretty nifty trick that one.

Monday, July 4, 2016

White-browed Bulbul


We have three species of Bulbuls residing in our garden. The red-vented Bulbul, the Red whiskered Bulbul and the shy and rarely seen, but always heard White-browed Bulbul (Pycnonotus luteolus) that is featured today.
Despite the relentless shower that we are experiencing, a few birds do not miss their daily bath routine. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to socialize or it’s just habit. They come in completely soaked wet, take bath in the birdbath and dry themselves under a nearby tree. It is also a time when they drink water. Which reminds me of the various ways in which I have seen some of these birds drink water.
Birds like Woodpeckers and sparrows, fill their beaks with water and tilt their heads back to let it run down their throats. Pigeons and Doves drink fast with pumping action and birds like the swallow, which spend a large time flying, drink water by skimming the water surface.
Seabirds of the ‘tube-nose’ group- such as giant petrels, albatrosses and fulmars which rarely touch land- have a long tubular nostril and the top of their bills. Excess salt from ingested sea water is transferred from the blood to the large nasal glands at the bill base; these excrete a concentrated salt solution, giving the birds, perpetual running nose!!


We have three species of Bulbuls residing in our garden. The red-vented Bulbul, the Red whiskered Bulbul and the shy and rarely seen, but always heard White-browed Bulbul (Pycnonotus luteolus) that is featured today.
Despite the relentless shower that we are experiencing, a few birds do not miss their daily bath routine. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to socialize or it’s just habit. They come in completely soaked wet, take bath in the birdbath and dry themselves under a nearby tree. It is also a time when they drink water. Which reminds me of the various ways in which I have seen some of these birds drink water.
Birds like Woodpeckers and sparrows, fill their beaks with water and tilt their heads back to let it run down their throats. Pigeons and Doves drink fast with pumping action and birds like the swallow, which spend a large time flying, drink water by skimming the water surface.
Seabirds of the ‘tube-nose’ group- such as giant petrels, albatrosses and fulmars which rarely touch land- have a long tubular nostril and the top of their bills. Excess salt from ingested sea water is transferred from the blood to the large nasal glands at the bill base; these excrete a concentrated salt solution, giving the birds, perpetual running nose!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Orange-Headed Thrush



A pair of Orange-Headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina cyanotus) have been foraging in our garden for months now. I could hear their calls, occasionally see them zip past, but never did get a chance to photograph them. All that changed yesterday- Rain, which has been relentlessly pouring for the last five days stopped for a few hours and we had a few hours of sunshine. During these few hours, many birds arrived at our bird bath for a dip! In this group, were these Thrushes and I was comfortably seated to watch them enjoy a dip. Well I still do wonder, why would birds take a bath when it has been raining for the last few days and has soaked them wet anyway! These birds I tell you.



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Common Bronzeback Tree Snake


Some one recently asked me if I had stopped posting on this blog (How could I!) and it is then that I realised that I had not posted here for quite sometime. So, as I was contemplating what to do about this blog post drought, the answer came slithering into our garden.
Aarina (wife) is sharp at locating snakes- she may miss a vulture, but I don't think a snake can escape her eyes. She loves snakes and has spent quite some time with a few of them. Today was one such day, when she pointed out this beautiful Bronzeback Tree Snake ( Dendrelaphis tristis), loitering (seemingly aimlessly) in our garden. Fast slender movements, interspersed with a graceful dance that reminded me of some disco moves of the 80's.
A non-venomous snake this bronzeback lives in trees and bushes. The snake feeds on frogs, lizards and baby birds and we spotted it quite effortlessly climb a vertical wall and then a tree.
The snake has a Latin name of 'tristis' which in Latin means  "sad" or "foul smelling"- I wonder why? The snake had cute (Bambi like?) eyes and  white underside. If you closely look at the eyes, you can spot a indistinct black streak too. The snake seemed quite unruffled by our presence and we had a pleasurable time watching his rare appearance.

video

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jerdon's Leafbird


Since we started this little bird bath two years ago, there has been a gradual increase in the number and type of birds that visit it all through the day. Since the last few weeks we noticed a pair of Jerdon's leafbirds ( Chloropsis jerdoni ) regularly arriving for a bath every evening. Poor light in the secluded area meant that photographs came out blurred. Yesterday however, I did some pruning of the nearby trees and today there was light.
I was also delighted to have both the male and the female bird in the same frame and in the above photograph the bird with the black throat patch is the male and the one with a light blue patch is the female.


Jerdon's leafbird is named in honour of Thomas Caverhill Jerdon a British physician, who while working in India from 1836 to 1870 studied the flora and fauna of the region where he was posted and eventually covered a large portion of India.

Jerdon's studies covered not just birds but also  plants, ants, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Several species of plants including an entire genus (Jerdonia, ex. Indian Violet), three species of lizards, three species of snakes and a whopping thirteen species of birds are named after him. Well if that was not enough, Impatiens jerdoniae is named after his wife Flora Jerdon.


In the two years that we have maintained a bird bath, I have made the following observations about the birds choice for a bath.
Our initial bird baths were not successful because they were too deep. After trying various household items, saucers  seemed to be the item of choice.
Birds prefers shallow sided vessels, from where they can drink without slipping into the water.
A rough surface like a stone, will help the bird to grip and small birds always prefer saucers with stones and larger ones like crows and cuckoo's saucers without stones.
Ensure the saucer is on a sturdy, slightly raised surface and will not tip over. The stone serves this additional purpose.
We change water twice a day, since the heavy rush of birds during summers empties the shallow saucers in 3 to 4 hours. Birds visit soon after feeding, so morning and evenings are rush hours.
A simple bird bath is all that you need to always have birds around you- Why cage birds and steal their freedom away.   

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Common Greenshank


Hidden somewhere in my hardisk was this photograph I clicked in January this year at Neura wetlands in Goa. It is when I posted the Redshank yesterday, did I remember about the Greenshank.

The Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) is very similar to the slightly smaller Marsh sandpiper and especially if the Marsh sandpiper is well fed then identification can go haywire. There are slight variations in colours and patterns that experienced birders readily use, but I prefer to watch the bird beak. the Greenshank has a slightly upward curving beak, while the Marsh sandpiper has a straight beak.

The bird breeds in sub-arctic region (anywhere from Scotland, northern Europe to North Russia) and visits in Indian subcontinent during winters.

If you love reading, and especially about nature, then there is a wonderful book that I can recommend, that I personally enjoyed. It is titled  'Greenshanks' by Desmond Nethersole-Thompson, Maimie . They spent days and years watching, observing and studying Greenshanks and this book is a wonderful compilation of those observation.