Everyday when I get to work, I see this little bird on the fence doing crazy acrobatics trying to catch insects mid-air. I never could ID it properly. It was either too fast or too far. So this weekend, I took my camera and drove to my work place which is about 35 kms from where I stay. It was mid afternoon and the sun was at its zenith. The drive was fairly uneventful with no birds in sight and I was already beginning to curse myself for the ill timed visit. But to my surprise, as soon as I neared my office, I saw this little fellow happily chirping away, flying from one part of the fence to the other. All I had to do was be still for a few minutes and it was right in front of me, posing away to glory.
This is the male common stonechat. Its latin name (Saxicola torquata) literally translates to a collared bird that is a rock dweller.
And here is the lady. Pretty, isn’t she? The bird is called a stonechat because of its call – it sounds like stones or pebbles falling. Here is a link to a recording – listen to the first recording fully. Stonechat call
Or as I’ve been calling it, the Eurasian thick-knee. I shot this a couple of years ago in the open fields around Sultanpur (a popular bird sanctuary near Delhi).
It’s commonly found alone or in pairs and is mighty difficult to spot because of its camouflage. It’s scientific name (Burhinus oedicnemus) roughly translates to a bird with a bull shaped head (or nose) and thick knees.
Ah, the little surprises the coasts hold! I was walking along the beach when I suddenly saw about a dozen little birds scurrying away right from under my feet. They were so well camouflaged, I hardly noticed them until I was almost upon them! I had never seen this particular bird before so I could not readily identify them. I quickly moved away to fetch my camera and crawled back on all fours back to where I had seen them settle down.
And there they were, crouching in the cool sand as if sheltering from the harsh wind and sun. I wonder if thats what they were doing. I managed to get closer (flat on my belly) and and get a few shots. The sun was harsh and directly above me, so some of the shots are, well, not ideal.
The bird is called a Lesser sand plover. It’s scientific name has an interesting story associated to it. Called the Charadrius mongolus, the name literally means a bird found near the water (creeks, rivers, beaches) from Mongolia. But interestingly, the ancient Greeks believed that sighting this bird during night times would cure jaundice.
One of the best “thrills” of bird watching is when you take a first timer along and show them the ropes. And a bee eater always draws the best reaction. It always amuses me to see their reaction when you tell them that these birds solely survive on insects that they catch on the wing or that in some parts of the country, they are more abundant that the common crow.
This little fellow let me get really up close. I was barely five feet away when i took this picture. It tells us how used to humans these birds are. Not entirely sure if thats a good thing though.
I still find it incredibly difficult to ID moths. So, no names for now. I love this picture though. But I just figured it’s not really the right angle if you want to ID them…
Probably one of the most difficult birds to shoot while in flight, the wire tailed swallow is certainly one of the most stunning birds out there and I was lucky to find a whole flock of them!
A wholly remarkable fact about this bird is that it catches all of its food in flight and does not pick up insects that are resting on the ground – very much like the little green bee eater. This also means that the swallow is very swift in flight and manovuers in tight circles making it almost impossible to get a flight shot!
It’s always thrilling to take a walk on a wild trail. One never knows what’s around the corner. I was walking back after an exciting birding session when I saw this guy checking me out! I think he was as nervous as I was and had popped his head out of the burrow to see if I was any threat. Not wanting to make him any more nervous than he already was, I quickly took a few pictures and moved on.
And yes, he is an Indian rat snake.