Thursday, 14 April 2011

Birds From My Window

When I first quit my job, it seemed rather lonely at home.  I began missing the coffee breaks and the inane status update meetings. The forced loneliness made me look for excitement in places that I had never looked before. Just outside my bedroom window, there was an entire community that I had ignored -- a community of mostly colourful and gregarious birds. Today, I find it hard to believe that I had closed my eyes to all of them for so many years. This post is dedicated to my new-found feathered friends.

I spotted this little hawk, the first time on the coconut palm across my bedroom window. It can easily be mistaken for the brainfever bird, but check out its powerful talons and beak  with a pair of binoculars and you will be left with no doubts. It is the Shikra, hunter par excellence. The shikra is the strong silent type. Seldom will you find it fluttering and fidgeting like most birds. Very often, I find it perched majestically on a tree top, scanning the ground from above.  And occasionally, when a cheeky crow tries to get close and even brushes past, it remains unruffled, often choosing to ignore the transgressor. Though roughly the size of a pigeon, it’s demeanor is that of an eagle. Long live the Shikra!
The Keen-eyed Shikra
The crows alerted me to this one. When I rushed to the balcony on hearing a cacophony by the crows, I saw a flash of gold in the air. Further investigation revealed the beautiful Lesser Golden-Backed Woodpecker. It has such splendid colours -- a golden back and a flaming orange-red crest. Whenever the crows are aroused, I always look out. There is usually some avian drama that I cannot afford to miss. On this occasion, the black birds didn’t approve of the intrusion by the woodpecker. I never saw it again.
Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker on a Coconut Stump
Who can miss hearing the noisy calls of a Koel at dawn and dusk. I've heard them umpteen times. Appearance-wise, they resemble crows, or so I thought. In truth, only the male koel is black and can be confused with the crow. The elusive female is very different -- much lighter, brownish and heavily spotted. But both have light coloured beaks and attractive ruby-red eyes.
Ruby- eyed Male Koel
The Koel's Wings Spread Out
Its Hard to Spot the Female Koel
The first time I spotted this bird, I thought I had discovered a new species! It seemed such an exotic bird with its warm colours, rather long tail and distinct musical call. It’s actually a rather common bird and a member of the crow family. This is the Rufous Treepie. I’ve even spotted a Grey Treepie, a little further away from home.
The Crow’s Cousin – Rofous Treepie

Another Treepie
The White-breasted Kingfisher can be often observed near water bodies and in fields. Most of us can spot a kingfisher or two on our day-time train journeys. But I am now beginning to find these glamorous birds sitting at home, from my balcony. Dressed in blue, the kingfisher  is  one of the most eye catching birds in the neighbourhood. There are two of them posing, in the picture below.
A Pair of Kingfishers
This picture is of two Pigeon Nestlings (Squabs) and an egg, taken at my cousin’s home. Here the little hairless ones look like ugly ducklings. But I am sure they've grown up to be fine birds.
Pigeon Nestlings
Grown-up pigeons are shameless exhibitionists; they love to coo and court in public, mindless of everything around them. There are many pigeons that socialize on the terrace opposite my balcony. The drama they indulge in can inspire a successful TV soap. The male, all puffed up, will literally run towards a female, occasionally bowing to her. In typical filmi style, initially, the female will ignore the male and walk away. Eventually though, she is bowled over by the male’s persistence. And as part of the happy ending, the two become a couple, billing and cooing to each other. Ranjit Lal's “When Banshee Kissed Bimbo and Other Stories”  has a delightful story about pigeons that I would recommend to readers both young and old.
All of us know what an intelligent bird the Crow is. But not everyone knows how affectionate it can be. When my son was about a year old, there was a house crow that would visit him in the balcony every day. It would call out to my son in a special tender voice. Not wishing to encourage the bird, I never offered it any food. Yet, the ritual continued for many months. Then, during the nesting season, our crow’s parental instincts grew even stronger and it would make more than a dozen daily visits. My son got a little tired of this constant show of corvid affection and gradually stopped responding to it. Eventually, both bird and baby moved on and the meetings completely ceased. However, I’ve been left with a permanent soft corner for them.
My Son's Crow
The Magpie Robin, Babbler, Egret, Drongo, Pied Crested Cuckoo, Red Vented Bulbul, Owl, Tailorbird, Swift, Pond Heron, Mynah and Parakeet are the other birds that have made it to my sightings list. Given that my apartment is near a main road and surrounded by concrete, I think it’s an impressive one. Nonetheless, I am always on the lookout for any newcomers.

Note: Apologize for the image quality of some of the pictures. With my basic point-and-shoot camera, focusing on distant birds is hard.

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