Sunday, February 28, 2010

Penang birding

I'm happy to be in Penang, Malaysia, again, but once again finding the birding here to be quite a challenge. First of all, the weather at this time is very hot and humid, so that even a short, leisurely walk soon has one completely soaked with perspiration. Mosquitoes are a nuisance, but not terrible. But the dense vegetation of the forest is probably the biggest challenge, and most of the birds I hear are never seen. I think they have learned to use the foliage very successfully to cover their rapid flight to a perch in a hidden place. Then they sing continuously until I get too close, and suddenly I hear the song coming from a new location.

But some birds, fortunately, are not secretive, so I've managed to see some very interesting ones out in the open, such as the Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters (above) and the Black-naped Oriole.

The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (below) is not flashy, but has a loud song, and those remarkable "rackets" on the ends of the long bare central ribs of two tail feathers. In the photo below they can be seen as slightly blurred objects near the bottom of the photo. They are eye-catching in their almost constant flicking motions.

The butterflies are another eye-catching beauty of Penang, and are quite a challenge to photograph. This pair did stop on some wet sand to give me a chancd for a few shots.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Another wagtail

On my last day in India (yesterday) I saw a species of wagtail I had not known existed. On the lawn of the International School of Bangalore was this very handsome White-browed Wagtail. By its voice I knew it was a wagtail before I saw it, and then its actions and manner of foraging in the grass also were very characteristic of the family.

There was also a species of crow in this area some distance from the city -- the Large-billed Crow. I did not see any of them in the city where the House Crow is so common.

The area I visited is about 20 miles from central Bangalore, and there are numerous small ponds and marshy areas here. Among the few waterbirds I saw, there were some Eurasian Coots. Cattle Egrets were watching for insects close to cattle in pastures along the road, just like they do on several other continents around the world. This small group was perched in a tree on a school campus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some Delhi birds

From my hotel room window I saw my first Yellow-footed Green Pigeons perched in the upper branches of trees below me. Later in the hotel garden I saw more of them and became familiar with their call. In the evening hundreds of Rose-ringed Parakeets flew in to roost overnight in the trees.

The most constantly visible bird in both Nepal and India has been the Black Kite. A pair has a nest in one of the hotel garden trees in New Delhi, and there have usually been several within view from wherever I've happened to be in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. They seem to be primarily scavengers, but when the fly close to the side of the hotel the pigeons all leave their ledges in a flurry.

A short video of a small group of circling Black Kites in New Delhi

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birds I found in Kathmandu

Oriental Magpie Robin

I'm on the road again, this time starting out in Kathmandu, Nepal. My birding was restricted (by the tight work schedule) to only a few brief intervals in the hotel garden, but as usual, where there is even a bit of natural habitat, one is likely to find a few birds. The pair of Magpie Robins brought not only their lively, bold activity into the garden, but their beautiful song was a very welcome note at the beginning and ending of the day.

White Wagtail

A pair of wagtails appeared on the lawn for about 10 minutes during breakfast one morning. But the most abundant birds in Kathmandu appeared to me to be the House Crows and the Rock Pigeons. They were literally "everywhere" all the time, and especially in and around and on the many ancient temples, which are also abundant in the city.

House Crow

Rock Pigeon in the temple of Kumari

But the most famous bird of Kathmandu is probably the peacock carved in wood as part of a window screen facing the street on the front of the temple where the current incarnation of Kumari lives -- in the form of a five-year-old little girl. She did not seem to be very happy when she was brought to another open window to appear to the people (mostly tourists like us) watching from the street below.