Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kya Dekha Kyaa Dekha

Did you see something? Have you spotted anything? Saw ??...Anything at all... ???
This seems to be the common refrain of one and all. When you go on a safari in any national park during peak holiday season.

It's ridiculously funny and one might laugh it off but i was getting irked. The questioning and all the boisterous accusations. Felt like standing up and shouting, '' You want to SEE then head for the ZOO !''.
My irritation at all that noise we folks were making in that forest reserve area. As if the sounds of the jeep or canters was not enough that we humans have to barge into other territories and act like it was our own living room. Soon irritation gave way to some introspection followed by enough compassion for all the 30 jeeps that are allowed in a day to take the safari ride in the oldest National Park of India. It dawned upon me...
My own selfish intention. Was it any different...
Just like all i too had paid to spot a Tiger/ Elephant/ Leopard in the wild. Now the question put forward by family and friends is a common one too. Did i get my moneys worth !?
If i limit myself then the answer would be a quick no but the fact of the matter is that my interests have a wider gamut which includes everything i have not seen before or perhaps have seen before but had neither the inclination nor the time to enjoy. That's why i proclaim today, Bang! for the buck!!.

i have to admit though that i don't possess the skill or the knowledge about all that was new for me therefore i am also borrowing from the internet. Pictures, descriptions... .

i have to share this visit to the Corbett National Park mainly because it is all fresh in my mind and any further delay might erase some if not all. The deliberations of mundane affairs and my own failing memory which eventually is a consequence of advancing forward in age might blur not only the names but also the amazing images. In a manner of speaking this sharing is something like seeing once, discussing twice and then writing thrice which shall cement my memory well enough enabling me to remember it as vividly as i had seen of what i have just seen.

Therefore i shall start from The Where. First while waiting in the town office and after being allotted our jeep when the formalities got over while i was surveying the trees in the campus of the Forest Office i saw something large perched upon a tree. Hoping to admire the cuteness of a baby monkey and sitting comfortably on my jeep i got ready with my equipment. Was it the baby then...
No! it was a big bird with what looked like almost the size of it's body big bill...
A forest guard who respected my intentions came near and helped me identify the bird without even asking. Gave me enough info for me to remember and watch out for them in the skies. He spoke in my mother tongue of which i translate in English. My new knowledge on my first find.
Grey Pelican a migratory visitor which is a fish eater and has an elastic bag under the length of it's lower bill.
Now re-enforced with my own search on the bird for pictures and descriptions i would love to share more.
"The lower mandible of the bird has a large pouch like layer of skin attached to it, from the throat. 
They catch fish by dipping their bill below the water and suddenly expanding the throat pouch pulling the water with the fish inside. 
Then they drain the pouch above the surface before they can swallow the catch. 
This bird lives across southern Asian countries and Due to ongoing habitat loss and human disturbance, the Spot-billed Pelican's numbers have declined."
He was so right that forest guard because i eventually saw quite a few of them in the skies sensing and enjoying the joy of discovery. Happiness at the thought that i know the visitor by its name. The Grey Pelican or the Spot- billed Pelican.

Then as we enter the forest reserve area...
Crossing the Ramaganga Dam also known as the Kalagarh Dam i saw at once Egrets and little Cormorants. Photography is not permitted at the dam so all i could do was take a long distance shot with my poor photography skills but was happy with the result. It sufficed as my own binoculars enabled me to see them close enough and as clear as a brilliant picture could be.
                  White Egrets, Black Little Cormorants and this that i had never seen before.
Ruddy Shelduck aka Brahminy Duck which is one of the migratory birds that visit India. i had the additional advantage of having a nature guide accompany me, his name being Mr Mehta or else i wouldn't care to see that they were different from the common ducks that i have known erstwhile. He prodded me to observe a pair closely and see if i can spot the differences.
 " The overall color of Ruddy Shelduck is orange blended with brown and chestnut. When seen from a distance, the sexes appear similar, but closer observation reveals that the males have a black ring at the bottom of the neck and and the female often has a white face patch. They have white wing coverts, metallic green speculum and black primaries and tail. The bill and feet are black. The immature are similar to the adults, but are paler and have gray markings on the wings. Body length is 60-70 cm, wingspan 1,1-1,35 m and the maximum weight is 1,4 kg."
                             The call of this rare and beautiful duck is a "loud wild honking".

Then as we entered the forest reserve and my greedy for newer trees eyes were sweeping all they could especially the ones that did not look green but rather rust/ red/ yellow/crimson i saw some trailing white something as quick as lightening flash across the trees. i donned my Nikon Monarch Binoculars hoping to see perhaps a Langur and then what i saw, i have no words to describe how i felt. i found something so stylish and overwhelmingly attractive. i wonder if all those designer gowns that celebrities at a fashion pageant or Oscar ceremonies wear with a long trail has been inspired by this in nature. Yeah sure those like a dream bridal gowns too...
Paradise Flycatcher. The male with a long and white trailing tail.
"This Small,black headed rufous or white bird with extremely long central tail feather. Black crested head, broad bluish bill and blue rimmed eyes. Rufous phase is all rufous with white under parts.White phase is all white,flecked black with black wings.
Female and juvenile are as rufous phase but with short tail and crest.
Inhabits shady areas in woodland, gardens and plantations, often near water. Feeds by Fly-Catching at all levels. Nests high in tree fork."
As we crossed the dried up streams of the river inside the forest i looked around for the familiar call teet-teet-teet-teee rhyming with did-you-do-it. i have heard it in the city too sometimes. We know it as a Titaharee call . i had been apprised of the name in my childhood but never actually seen the bird. Now i had someone sitting next to me to show the structure of that form through which the call emanated. He patiently and kindly helped me locate the Titaharee.
Red Wattled Lapwing aka Titeeri in Hindi is the first among all the birds to raise alarm calls in the forest he said, that's why in order to spot a tiger or leopard one must keep his ears alert for such signals. Generally the Lapwing calls are heard in the wee hours of the night. It is because they generally feed at night. Now i have to watch out during full moon nights. For Mr Mehta imparted another bit of news. That during full moon nights the calls will be heard quite frequently as due to some strange reasons the Lapwing is quite active on full moon nights.
"Red-wattled Lapwings are large waders, about 35 cm long. The wings and back are light brown with a purple sheen, but head and chest and front part of neck are black. Prominently white patch runs between these two colours, from belly and tail, flanking the neck to the sides of crown. Short tail is tipped black. A red fleshy wattle in front of each eye, black-tipped red bill, and the long legs are yellow. In flight, prominent white wing bars formed by the white on the secondary coverts."

Although we were by now getting more vigilant and had spotted peacocks and peahens it was when our nature guide pointed towards the Jungle Fowl that we were quite surprised to see the brilliant colors of that which is called Jungalee meaning wild. Appearance wise there seemed to be nothing wild about it. Rather it looked quite groomed resembling in it's plumage the city bred.
The Red Jungle Fowl aka Junglee Murga is also now facing the threat of extinction due to genetic pollution reoccurring at the edge of villages bordering forests where domesticated chickens are commonly bred.

We continued further into the forest and while the driver of the open roof jeep Mr Chandan Singh tried his level best to make us spot elephants if not tigers it was he who pointed towards a fresh pug mark which he said looked like that of a leopard. Mr Mehta confirmed the finding.
This was near a tiny pool of water a wet patch of a dried up stream. Oh ! schuks ! we had just missed... Probably the Leopard had come to drink water and after quenching it's thirst had proceeded towards the deeper recesses of the forest. But with hopes held high we were now peering on to the tree branches hoping to spot one resting there. In doing this we were rewarded with one that elicited a gasp nonetheless from both of us, my husband and me. It was on this Semul tree. Bereft of much green foliage or a single crimson blossom but laden with lots of big bee-hives. Mr Mehta assumed that the bee hives may be more than twenty at least. We tried to count as the jeep moved on. We were able to spot 20 but there were more...

Although for good reasons it is advised that we should keep to the vehicles and must not step out of the  jeep, Chandan Singh stopped the vehicle at what looked like a clearing. He pointed towards a tree cottage. We read the board which said that it was a Watch Tower. Painted green for camouflage it looked very snug hidden in the foliage of the huge banyan tree.
 We took turns to do what is to be done from a watch tower but the thought that a leopard can also accompany me from behind or perhaps a python can try to kiss me from that thick foliage felt quite thrilling too. 

So from the watch tower i surveyed the area peering through my equipment lingering on any foliage which showed the slightest movement. The good equipment led me to one tiny head which glittered like gold in the sun.

The Green Bee Eater. There were plenty of them hanging around as Mr Mehta apprised us with. An entire colony of green bee eaters. We could distinctly hear the nasal trill of the birds. Tree-tree-tree-tree. He then pointed towards the holes in the ground which are made by these birds. Probably as a finding food process or perhaps breeding. i wonder why i did not ask that. Maybe i was just too pre-occupied figuring out all the colors that the slim looking bird had.
"Like other bee-eaters, this species is a richly coloured, slender bird. It is about 9 inches (16–18 cm) long with about 2 inches made up by the elongated central tail-feathers. The sexes are not visually distinguishable. The entire plumage is bright green and tinged with blue especially on the chin and throat. The crown and upper back are tinged with golden rufous. The flight feathers are rufous washed with green and tipped with blackish. A fine black line runs in front of and behind the eye. The iris is crimson and the bill is black while the legs are dark grey." 

During that safari as we went along the Jhirna range we spotted about six Blue Jays aka Neelkanth at regular intervals. Neelkanth meaning blue throat perched on dry bare branches. Also saw them perching singly on electric wires by the roadside when we were returning to the town.
The Indian Roller aka Neelkanth or Blue Jay
The call of the Neelkanth/ Indian Roller is a harsh crow-like chack sound. It also makes a variety of other sounds, including metallic boink sounds. All that when it is quite vociferous during the mating/breeding season. Associated with God Shiva and named after Him the bird is considered to be very auspicious especially if it can be sighted during the last day of Navaratri, called Dusherra. Very strangely it just disappears on that day. Mr Mehta told about his frustration on not finding a single one on Dusherra. Determined he appeared too when he announced his never say die. For spotting a Neelkanth on that particular day.
It being the state bird of my own Bihar i know of all these beliefs associated with the bird which in it's color apparently looks strikingly similar to the kingfisher had it not been for the bill. The breast of this beauty is brownish whereas the crown and vent are blue. i thought it should have a blue throat too for it to be called Neelkanth but it is not and therefore i wonder about the link up with Shiva .
"The primaries are deep purplish blue with a band of pale blue. The tail is sky blue with a terminal band of Prussian blue and the central feathers are dull green. The neck and throat are purplish lilac with white shaft streaks. The bare patch around the eye is ochre in colour. The three forward toes are united at the base. Rollers have a long and compressed bill with a curved upper edge and a hooked tip. The nostril is long and exposed and there are long rictal bristles at the base of the bill."

While all of us including our driver Mr Chandan Singh exchanged notes about Neelkanth, Mr Mehta got a bit carried away forgetting for sometime his purpose for the day. Happens to all of us and i don't blame him for that. It was then the roles got reversed. i interrupted his animated talk and pointed towards something that looked small and attractive.  i was all pumped up with enthusiasm and curiosity to know more and see more.
There were many small brown birds that looked alike and i was told they were Bushchats. This one was very attractive and just too cute.
Pied Bushchat
"The male is black except for a white rump, wing patch and lower belly. The iris is dark brown, the bill and legs black. The female is drab brown and slightly streaked. Juveniles have a scaly appearance on the underside but dark above like the females." The whistling call is somewhat like that of an Indian Robin aka Kalchuri and has been transcribed as we are tea for two with tea at a higher note.

i think i might have seen a rufous Treepie or it could be Eurasian Jay but i can't be sure for it was just too quick for my binoculars and me but these along with many trees and shrubs proved really worthwhile for a debutante birdwatcher and a maniac for trees and shrubs and bushes. That i got to see two different herds of elephants, a pair of Jackals, Spotted Deer along with a Stag and last but not the very least a Muntjac aka Barking Deer was just incidental.

Thus the enthusiastic happy call... my own call... Kya Dekha Kyaa Dekha meaning what i saw...all that i saw...



  1. Very nice pics, but inke alawa, Kya dekha??? lol


    Himanshu Nagpal | Being Traveler

    Being Traveler

  2. @Himanshu Nagpal...LOL...Cheers!!

  3. What a treat this post was filled with lovely species and words. I enjoy identifying birds from their calls. The Flycatcher looks so beautiful. How many such wonders are there for us to see and no matter how much we have seen, there remains so much to be seen and heard.

    I'm glad that you got to experience the beauty of the non-human world in that reserve.

    Joy always,

  4. @ Susan hey girl so gud to see u here on my post. Thank u for taking time out for me.
    Will keep expecting to seeing more of u.
    Love and sure joy always to u too :)

  5. nice
    yadi aap apana Email bhej de to til sankranti ke bare men kuchh aur jakariyan bhej du.

  6. @ Gajadhar Dwivedi...thank you so much and yes i shall be sending u the email address. Kindly do check ur inbox for my message. :)

  7. That tree house or machaan is an ideal place to observe the birds. But I think one may have to spend the whole day up there to get some real good spotting for clicking (have become a follower)

  8. @Haddock thank u...thank u. Yeah i guess the machaan is an ideal place. And sure one has to have patience...and for clicking some skill such as urs. :)