The Eight Eyed Jumper

Another one from the garden.Macro93


Black Bulbul

I couldn’t make sense of the Latin name of this bird – Hypsipetes leucocephalus. Hypsepetes translates as “highest” or “the highest god” and “leucocephalus” translates to “white headed”. You see what I mean? The Latin name of the Black Bulbul is “the white headed god”. Strange. May be the “white headed” bit comes because it was probably not the first sub-species to be recorded. And the “high” because they are seen largely in higher mountainous regions? Again, I’m no expert. So will leave it at that.

black bulbul.JPG

This is one of my favourite pictures though. Not because of the picture itself, but because of the circumstances I shot it in. This was the first time I took my son out for some serious birding (he was a little over two years old then). We went to Sattal in  Uttaranchal and were on a rowing boat when we saw this Bulbul feeding on some berries (the Black Bulbul is especially fond of feeding on berries). I had to precariously balance on the boat with my legs on either side to get a clear shot. I love how we can see the berries stuffed in the Bulbul’s mouth. Was a great day.
An early edition of the Avicultural magazine (for 1902 – 1903) gives an interesting account of the bird. Apparently, the bird was popularly known as the “Goat bird” since its call closely resembled the “bleat of a kid”. This got me curious. A Google search quickly gave me a reason for the strange name. One of the recordings (can be found here – closely resembles the sound made by a kid (a young goat).  The author also goes to mention that the Black Bulbul is also capable of mimicry. This, I didn’t know.

Asian Fairy Bluebird

The Latin name of this bird put a smile on my face. I don’t think it can be any more sexier. I think the author of the name thought long and hard and proclaimed, “let her henceforth be known as Irena puella, the peaceful one!” Imagine this with all the drama one associates with such things.

asian fairy bluebird.JPG
On a serious note though, this beautiful bird is named after Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace. And puella is Latin for a girl. So the name roughly means the peaceful girl or the girl who likes peace. I don’t think this is a coincidence. The bird is known to seek out the densest and the most humid part of the forest for breeding, parts where there is little interference by humans, parts where there is peace!
I got this picture in the dense forests surrounding Kuduremukha, in Karnataka. This was my first sighting of the bird. But I sure hope its not the last – I’m told it has a beautiful song.

Black Francolin

The Latin name of this bird is Francolinus francolinus (meaning little hen).

Black francolin.JPG

The first bird I saw of this type was the Black Francolin. I had read up all about the bird before I went out for the shoot. I understood all about how it was a game bird hunted by famous people and how many (still) consider this a delicacy. These were just interesting bits of information and meant nothing more till I actually saw the bird for the first time.
The first thing one realises is how fast these birds really are. It was impossible to get a decent shot while on foot. They would just take off on foot the minute they realised I was onto them. My guide then told me that the only way to shoot Francolins was from a car. Though I was against the idea at first, I eventually relented. The result is the picture(s) you see.

Black francolin 1.JPG

And then it hit me. If the only way to get close to this bird is through a car, how on earth did people hunt these agile birds before the advent of modern technology (read motor vehicles)? I did some digging around. The answer surprised me. According to one of the older sources, people used Elephants to hunt these birds. I can only imagine an Elephant running behind these birds, kicking up big clouds of dust! Must have been a dizzy ride for the hunter. Later, I also learnt from the locals here that these birds were hunted by people on foot as well. Apparently, it involves careful placement of nets, noise and strategic positioning of people.
Popular books on game birds describe the bird’s meat as well flavoured and gamey. Jerdon even mentions that the meat tastes better if stored for a few days and eaten cold!
About the call of the francolin, Oates mentions something interesting in his book.  “…it has been imitated in Hindustani by the pious “Subhan, teri kudrat” (Omnipotent, thy power), and by the vulgar “lahsan, piaj, adrak ” (garlic, onion, ginger), but “juk-julc, tee-tee-tur” or the English imitation ” be quick, pay your debts”. Funny how we look for meaning in everything around us.

Black Ibis

A fairly common bird, I have seen this across the length of India during my  travels. And every time I see this bird, I cant help but feel bad for it. I really cannot say why though. May be its because we decided to name it Pseudibis papillosa which literally translates to “a false ibis  with an abundance of pimples”. Not the nicest of names.

Black Ibis.JPG

There is one more reason why I feel sad for this bird. Though I have seen them in small groups, they never come across as the social type. They just seem to wander about minding their own business without making much noise. But then, one fine evening, when I was on the banks of the river Kaveri with my family, I heard this very loud, shrill and not-a-very-pleasant call coming from a tall tree nearby. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a Black Ibis! Truth be told, the Black Ibis, has no song!
Reading the older books on natural history, it is immediately clear that these birds were also not very high on the list of game birds of India. Most of the descriptions mention that the meat of the Black Ibis was only occasionally good. No distinction there either. My heart goes out for this one!