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Showing posts from September, 2012

Peacock

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‘Proud as a Peacock’ is a term that’s commonplace in India, a tribute to the most beautiful bird of the feathered kind. No wonder, it is the pride of our country and rightly earns its place as the National Bird. 
Probably the largest and most colorful Pheasant of the bird family, the peacock is synonymous with its iridescent tail feathers, which are almost 65 percent of its body length. When arched out into a gigantic fan by males of the species during the mating ritual dances to attract females, the magnificent spread is indeed a sight to behold an awesome dance show!
Apparently, like all other females of all other species (including humans), the female chooses her mate based on the latter’s size, colour, number of ‘eyes’ on the plumage and quality of feathers! These birds also fly, albeit for short distances. It takes about three years for a male to grow its complete plumage and the more the number of ‘eyes’ on the tail, the better his chances of winning a suitor.

There are three distin…

Indian Gaur

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Often mistaken for a bison, the Indian Gaur is part of the cow family. The bison is a species found in two places – Europe and the USA. The gaur is amongst the largest and most powerful wild cattle found across the world. Found in abundance across the country, they are very adaptive to the environments and surroundings. An average gaur stands over 180 cm tall and weighs a little under a ton (1000 kg). This gives you a picture of its massive structure. It’s normally found in herds of at least eight to ten and is extremely aggressive – especially when it comes to protecting its young.

The massive size normally makes one believe that no predator gets close to these mammoth bovines, yet these gaurs are easy meat for the tiger, which is known to regularly hunt full-grown adults. As you may have guessed, these huge animals provide a tiger with enough meat for a few days, if not weeks! The gaur plays a very crucial part in maintaining the ecological balance of the forest, especially in keeping …

Pied Bush Chat

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A ‘Passerine’ by ornithological classification, the Pied Bush Chats are small little birds found in abundance around the Southern sub-continent. A Passerine, in ornithological parlance, is a Song Bird, which is basically a Perching species. These birds have the best control of their syrinx muscles among birds, producing a wide range of songs and other vocalizations.

The males are black with white shoulders and vent patches whose extent varies among populations. Females are predominantly brownish while juveniles are speckled.
Another unique feature of Passerines is their feet. The foot of a passerine has three toes directed forward and one toe directed backwards. Their leg muscles are specially adapted to hold on to perches in a vice like grip, and tighten around their perches in an involuntary motion, at the slightest sign of imbalance of the perch. This helps the bird to fall asleep in a perched position – a rarity amongst birds.
Passerines also make use of that backwards facing toe in …

Wooly Necked Stork

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The Intercontinental Gliders

The Woolly-necked Stork is a widespread resident in India. This is a stocky bird with a ‘woolly’ white neck and a blackish cap-like patch on its head. An uncommon bird, it is usually spotted solitary or in pairs. A Migratory bird, it is known to fly out regularly to the African plains for breeding, before returning to the subcontinent.
Although Woolly-necked Storks are associated with water, they rarely wade. Their diet consists of fish, toads, frogs, crabs, snakes, lizards, molluscs, insects and marine invertebrates.
The huge wings of the stork are ideal for soaring and long flights. It is an expert wind surfer, riding hot air thermals that take it high and far during its migration.The wings generate enormous amounts of power during takeoff and the draft around the wings is possibly one of the highest amongst the feathered kind. The fully stretched flapping of the wings during takeoff is a sight to behold, indeed!
The nest of this stork is often high up on tr…

Barking Deer

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The Barking Deer
The ‘Muntjac’, commonly known as the Barking Deer, is possibly among the most ancient deer species that roamed the earth, 15-25 million years ago. Fossil deposits of this amazing animal were found spread across France, Germany and Poland, an indication that it had adapted to extreme cold conditions too. It is also called the Kakad Deer in India. The reason for this name is its alarm call, which seems quite similar to the barking of a dog.
The deer is a subject of Evolution studies because of its chromosome variations – a unique feature of this shy and rare creature.This often solitary animal is rarely spotted in groups.
It’s active at twilight, and although it mostly lives alone, it still keeps in touch with other individuals, leaving a scent on branches, and produced using a special gland on its head.
Muntjacs are shy and cautious by nature and live in heavily wooded areas. They are very difficult to find, let alone photograph. A sub-species, the Leaf Muntjacs, were disc…

Striped Neck Mongoose

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The Stripe-necked Mongoose
The Stripe-necked Mongoose is the biggest mongoose found in Asia. Confined to India and Sri Lanka, it can be sighted in well-wooded habitats, particularly in dry and moist deciduous forests where it prefers streams and rivers.
Stripe-necked Mongooses have short limbs, with long fore-claws and the colour of their fur can be dark brown, gray-yellow, or orange-yellow. The male weighs around 3 kg and the females weigh much less. This large mongoose is identified in the field by its tail which is three fourths of its body length and has a black tip which is pointed upwards. The prominent brownish black stripe running from its ear to shoulder gives it its name.
A litter of the Stripe-necked Mongoose ranges from 2 to 3, and the newborns hunt with their parent until they are independent. This mongoose is frequently sighted during the day at the open sea, and more often than not, is a solitary species. Its diet consists mainly of crabs, birds, small mammals (such as the…

Lapwings

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Whistle Blowers of the Wild The Lapwings, belonging to the Plover family, are found in almost all parts of the world. Lapwings are usually associated with ‘wattles’ – a meaty growth on the throat. Most Lapwings have a distinct wattle, resulting in their name.

There are four distinct Lapwing species found in India – the Red-wattled Lapwing, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing, the River Lapwing and the White-tailed (or Grey-headed) Lapwing. The Red, Grey and Yellow Lapwings are common residents at Kabini, and are found in abundance at many places in Orange County, Kabini (close to the Boat Jetty, beyond the Reading Room, on the fields while you approach Orange County, and so on). The Red-wattled Lapwings are extremely alert, yet ferocious birds, and raise a shrieking alarm call, which echoes through the forest, at the slightest sign of intrusion or trouble. Hence it is often called the Whistle Blower Bird, for its alarm calls warn all other animals of approaching intrusion by predators. As wildli…

River Tern

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Another fierce defender of its colony, found alongside the Pratincoles at Kabini, is the River Tern. River Terns derive their name from the fact that they are often found on freshwater habitats and are rarely seen by the sea. Greenish-grey eggs are characteristic of River Terns. A nesting Tern is often guarded by extremely aggressive mates and has been known to drive out large foraging animals such as foxes.
The most distinctive features of the River Tern are its yellow bill, red legs and forked tail with long flexible streamers.True to the Tern family, the River Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, crustaceans, tadpoles and aquatic insects in rivers, lakes and tanks.
Both these birds are small, aggressive and extremely sensitive. You need to ensure you keep a fair distance from them and make sure long zoom/telelens are used to get close ups (like the ones above). These birds are known to abandon nests and move to newer habitats at the first sign of intrusion. They are found in abundanc…

Prantincole

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Classified as Waders, along with Coursers and Plovers, Pratincoles are part of the Glareolidae family and get their name from two Latin wordsprātum, which means Meadow, and incola, meaning Resident.

Forked tails, short legs and very long, pointed wings are the characteristics of these cute and cuddly birds, which are extremely dexterous flyers. Fast and furious in the air, they are nimble, highly maneuverable and their short beaks assist them in plucking their meal (mostly insects) from the air. Though they also feed on the ground, their short beaks help them feed in the air as well.
These cuddly little birds are often sighted during boat safaris, and are normally found on patches of ground on the receding river, nesting amongst River Terns and Kingfishers. Fiercely defending their territories, they even stand up to humans, venturing very close to the banks. This picture was framed from quite a distance away (500 mm lens with a 2X teleconverter), yet the little bird seemed furious regar…

Wild Boar

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The wild ancestors of domestic pigs, Wild Boars are normally shy and docile creatures of the wild. However, when cornered or provoked (especially with their young ones around), these tough animals can indeed turn out to be deadly. Sounder is the collective noun for Wild Boars, and a sounder usually comprises over 10 animals – mostly young ones.
Interestingly, during a morning Boat Safari, we sighted this wonderful boar beginning its day on one of the receding patches of grass. The low angle gave me a chance to get a full frame and the green patch behind the boar served as a decent backdrop to enhance the size of this majestic animal. A thoroughbred and growing up male (marked by the tusks, though being of smaller than average size), it can astoundingly reach heights of up to four feet and weigh over 300 kilograms!

During an evening Jeep Safari later the same day, we were fortunate enough to spot this huge male resting right on the jeep tracks! As the safari vehicle neared the animal, it…

Dhole or Wild Dog

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The Dhole, Commonly known as the Wild Dog, is a unique one of its kind. Living in packs, fearsome gangs of Dholes can bring down stags larger than themselves, and are known for their torturous killing techniques!
One late evening last year, while returning from a safari, near the Tiger Bund at Kabini, we encountered a pack of Dholes feeding on a Cheetal. Their killing tactics are gruesome. Not built with large jaws to kill with a single bite on the neck or throat like tigers or leopards, these dogs surround their hapless prey and bite chunks of their flesh from the rear, strangely while the animal is still alive!!!.

The family of 12 that we sighted had literally bled the Cheetal to death. Some of them were lazing around, getting ready for the night. The lighting was dim and these were the only decent pictures we could manage, given extremely poor lighting conditions. The bulging belly of this Dhole indicates it has had a full meal and is content! Some Interesting ‘Dhole’ snippets:
The Dho…

Gorukana - a Gem of a cause

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 Gorukana, is a pioneering eco-lodge conceptualized by the legendary Dr.H.Sudharshan, who is a demi god to the Soliga tribal community, the habitants of the Billigiri Ranganathar Hills range. This resort is part of his noble plan of upliftment of the forest dwelling tribes where all benefits go to the development of the tribal people and the conservation of the Wildlife and Nature of BR Hills.

The accommodation is a row of 7 cottages on stilts built on a sloping piece of land peppered by tall trees. The interior is a two deck living space with an innovative upper deck with diwans to relax. The lower deck houses a bedroom with a private veranda opening out into the scenic campus, while a spacious bathroom at the other end completes this innovative high roofed cottage. Heartbreakingly romantic and incredibly chic, the highlight of the eco safari lodge is the Awesome Tree Hut accommodation. On the edge of an artificial lake, this tree house provides a stunning view of the thick wooded en…