Monday, August 31, 2009

Morning with the Sarus

Walking around in the flooded rice paddies during the monsoon can be magical. The Sarus make it more so. Here are two photographs that underline this statement.

The rains ensure that there is plenty of wet, grassy wetlands to forage in. This Sarus was part of a flock of 45 that landed in this wetland and surrounded us for a fantastic few minutes.

Real estate is serious business in the bird world. On a cloudy and otherwise dull morning, a pair of Sarus landed a few feet ahead of us and proceeded to unison call (photo above), gesture threateningly and finally succeeded in chasing away another pair that had landed in their territory.

(Photographs were taken in Etah district on 28 Aug and 29 Aug 2009 respective

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Waterbird foods: Purple Moorhen

Purple Moorhens could not be more appropriately named - their gorgeous colours stand out for miles in any wetland. They like to forage for food in open wetlands with grassy vegetation. Above, you can see individuals that have pulled out grass stalks, are using their legs as a dining table, and eating the soft shoot of the grass. They are experts at pulling out these shoots without breaking the grass ensuring they get most of the soft, juicy shoots.

(Photograph information: These are not from Uttar Pradesh for a change, but from the famed Keo
ladeo National Park at Bharatpur (Rajasthan), which due to the resident pairs of Sarus Cranes still qualify for this blog! Both were taken on 07 Mar 2009. Thanks to Anoop for being a sterling host at KNP!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waterbird foods: Black-necked Stork

Despite their large size and declining population, Black-necked Storks have received relatively little scientific attention. The most prominent study is that carried out by Gopinathan Maheswaran in the managed lakes in Dudwa Tiger Reserve in northern Uttar Pradesh. The storks there were seen to eat fish as their major food.

The unmanaged wet
lands amid agricultural fields in western Uttar Pradesh have the largest known population of this species. Here, observations show that fish is not likely their major food - frogs (and reptiles) are! The photographs above show (from top) newly fledged juveniles have already learnt to catch frogs, snails sometimes figure in the diet of juveniles, and large bull frogs make for a great meal and are literally beaten to death by adults before they are swallowed.

(Photo information: top: 21 Jan 2009, Etawah district; midd
le: 7 Apr 2009, Etawah district; bottom: 12 Apr 2009, Etawah district. I put together all the observations I had made over the years of food items that Black-necked Storks ate, and now have a note in the journal Forktail in case you are really interested.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Waterbird foods: Asian Openbill and Little Heron

Wetlands offer a range of foods to birds, and the monsoon is a fantastic season to observe birds getting their goodies. In this entry, two species are shown doing what they do best.

Asian Openbills are super-specialized in their food habits - they almost exclusively eat the large snails associated with flooded rice paddies. It is believed that this stork species has increased in numbers and spread closely following the increase of rice cultivation in Asia. Above, you can see a stork getting hold of a nice-sized snail, prising open the snail's lid, and pulling out the meaty snail for a doubtlessly yummy early morning snack.

The Little Heron (variously also referred to as the Green Heron and Little Green Heron) is not common in the inland areas of northern India. A neat, compact little heron, this species is an expert fisherbird. Above, a heron catches and hangs on to a fish beside a rice field - good start for a breakfast that will no doubt include many more fishies.

(Photograph information: Asian OpenbillLs: 8 Aug 2009, Mainpuri district; Little Heron: 5 Aug 2009, Bhadohi district.)