Indian Pitta

It inhabits scrub jungle, deciduous and dense evergreen forest.

Nilgiri Flycatcher

An endemic resident in the Western Ghats of southern India.

Brown-winged Kingfisher

These kingfisher species excavate their nests in a river mud bank.


Tales from the Land of Mowgli


Feeds mostly on small birds, capturing them in mid-air in rapid pursuit.

Malabar Trogon

A resident of dense tropical forests.

Malabar Pied Hornbill

This species is omnivorous, taking fruit, fish and small mammals.

Crimson-backed Sunbird

Diet of sunbirds is based mostly on nectar

Golden-breasted Fulvetta

They prefer dense undergrowth, usually dominated by bamboo forest.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Birding in Desert National Park (DNP)

THE Thar desert, though being one of the smaller deserts in the world, encompasses the Desert National Park, which is the second largest national park in INDIA.

Desert National Park, commonly referred as DNP, to most nature lovers, is unique and perhaps the only habitat of its type in the Indian subcontinent. The region falls in the extreme hot and arid area of very low rainfall zone of the country.

Passage migrants (birds) start arriving here from the early days in september. Some stay back and some move on to return via the same route by february. Amazingly, they do this year after year.

DNP, presently is the most important site for the survival of the globally threatened (critically endangered) Great Indian Bustard (GIB). DNP is located about 45 kms from the Golden City Jaisalmer, in the North-west state of Rajasthan, India.

The Great Indian Bustard, popularly known as 'Godawan', is Rajasthan's state bird. The state government had started "Project Godawan" to save it from getting extinct at Sudasari region in Desert National Park.

With just a few left in the wild, we (myself, Yash and Seema) set out our journey to see them in the wee hours of 24th Dec 2017. Being approximately 1100 kms from the city of Mumbai, planned our journey through Mount Abu. 

DNP in general is barren, sandy areas dominated this western part of Jaisalmer district, while gravelly and rocky areas were seen scattered throughout the other areas, with a few isolated ridges.

Our safaris were divided into two, the first that would start by 6am and end by 11am and the second by 3pm through till 6pm. Being winters, the sun sets earlier. The morning and nights are cool, while the afternoons are hot!

Musa Khan, had been in touch with me for almost an year and used to keep us posted on the various sightings in the region regularly. He knew the region and trails quite well.

His first priority obviously was sighting the GIB. No sooner as we stared our safari, we were greeted by a desert cat at the start of the sanctuary.

The moment the cat saw us, rushed into the enclosure. Surely, it felt safer there and soon disappeared.
Desert cat - Image by Yash Kothiala
We continued to drive around the enclosure, that had been made to protect the core area from the local villager's cattle grazing into the grasslands. It is said, the GIB lays only one egg every season and is prone to getting damaged by the cattle that encroach into their territory. This treat is over the above the natural predators of the region the fox, the mongoose and obviously the birds of prey to name a few!

The grass was dry and reasonable high, hence after some distance, we had to stop our vehicle and scan the area. While, we were scanning saw three GIB's fly into another enclosure far away. 

We continued our search and sighted another lot of three GIB's. They were moving away from us, obviously they seemed cautious.
Great Indian Bustard - Image by Yash Kothiala
Great Indian Bustard - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Having, sighted the GIB, started to drive into other areas. To us all routes seemed the same, there were tracks of other vehicles too. We did see some isolated dwellings of villagers, who manage to survive in these harsh terrains.

Later, we sighted a committee of vultures.
Indian Vulture - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Griffon Vulture - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Though there was no carcass around, the vultures were just roosting and basking.

Evening we visited the desert region, which had these huge undulated layers of sand, which felt like silk.

Cinereous Vulture - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Desert Fox - Image by Aseem Kothiala
The desert fox was commonly sighted, in all we could see 4-5 different individuals. Chinkara, the most elegant ungulate is found in large numbers. Slight sound and one can see them run, hop and jump.

The Eastern Imperial Eagle was roosting on the shrub tree and soon took to flight. 

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Image by Aseem Kothiala
As the sunset sighted a couple of Egyptian vultures came and roosted. 

The Grey francolin, Variable, Desert and Isabelline Wheatear were very commonly seen.
Grey francolin - Image by Aseem Kothiala
We sighted the Short-toed snake Eagle too, it was soaring high.
Short-toed snake eagle - Image by Aseem Kothiala
We did see many specimen of the Laggar Falcon's, Common Kestrel's, Long-legged Buzzard's and Cream-coloured Courser's.
Cream-colored Courser - Image by Aseem Kothiala
The next day we drove towards another important bird area, Ramgarh. En route we sighted the trumpeter finches, who were busy foraging and drinking water.

Trumpeter finch - Image by Yash Kothiala
Trumpeter finch - Image by Aseem Kothiala
A loner Red-Tailed Wheatear was seen too. In the far away fields, saw two small flocks (4-5) of common cranes.

We later stopped the famous Netsi Talab, where we saw common waders of the region, apart from Water Pipit. 
Water pipit - Image by Aseem Kothiala
As we were returning, saw the merlin roosting on a stone along the water body.
Merlin - Image by Yash Kothiala
Musa Khan, then parked the vehicle a little away and asked us to wait near the talav (water body). Only, minutes later, we realised why, a large flock of chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse started to fly in. They would settle for a few seconds, drink water and fly off!
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse - Image by Aseem Kothiala

Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Seemed like poetry in motion, it was a sight, we will remember for the rest of our lives.

The second session was along another region (Nabh Dungar) around Sudasari, Desert National Park, where we could see the Desert lark, Striolated bunting's, Asian desert warbler apart from some ruins (cemeteries of the silk route) from the 13th century.
Desert lark - Image by Aseem Kothiala
By the end of day two, we had seen all the key species we had targeted!

Hence, on the last day after taking the morning safari spent the late afternoon on sand dunes, tucked away from the maddening Sam dunes.

Bimaculated Lark's would fly in large flocks mostly more active during the mornings. 
Bimaculated lark - Image by Aseem Kothiala
The Black-crowned sparrow lark and crested lark were seen foraging on the ground. The most common were the Greater short-toed lark's. All these usually fly low and did take short flights.


Mount Abu, Rajasthan for the famous Green Avadavat. (25th Dec 2017)
Green Avadavat  - Image by Aseem Kothiala
and Jamnagar in Gujarat while returning from DNP towards Mumbai, as we heard about sightings of the Little crake, a migrant from Europe.
Little Crake    Porzana parva - Image by Yash Kothiala

In all we had seven lifers from DNP (26th Dec 2017~28th Dec 2017) apart from the Little crake. (30th Dec 2017)

Thanking Musa Khan for being our nature guide and host for DNP. Pradeep Kumar in Mount Abu. Special thanks to Mayuresh Khatavkar who insisted we visit Jamnagar. Kunal Joshi who ensured we reached the site and Ashwin Trivedi ji who sighted the Little Crake and was kind enough to even share the details with us.

Happy Birding and wishing all the readers a Happy New Year 2018!

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Birding in Goa (Western Ghats)

GOA the state in western India is famous and well- known for its beaches and birds. The forests of Goa form the part of Western Ghats.

As most of the Goan forest, we wanted to visit were in Southern region of the state of Goa, planned our stay in Nature's Nest Goa. The resort was tucked along the dense forest, which was just about 5kms from Mollem and adjacent to the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary.

The cottage we were allotted was cozy and spacious. It had this old styled red-oxide flooring; mud-lined walls and a bamboo ceiling. A veranda that reminded me of my home-town.

By late evening, we met our host Pankaj Lad, who gave us a very warm welcome. Within minutes we felt very homely. He briefed us on our itinerary starting from the morning of 30th November to 2nd December 2017.

(30th November 2017)

Our day started early and we headed to the smallest of all the wildlife sanctuaries in Goa, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary.

We sighted the White-rumped Munia, Barn swallow, Crested Treeswift's, Ashy Wood swallow and Malabar Pied Hornbill.

Vigors's Sunbird Aethopyga vigorsii - by Yash Kothiala
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus - by Aseem Kothiala
Driving deeper inside the sanctuary, we sighted the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Wooly necked stork, White throated Kingfisher to name a few.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca - by Aseem Kothiala

We returned to the resort which was about 10kms for Lunch. Delicious Goan meals was served to lure our taste buds. Their cook, Deepak even explained the preparation of each dish to us.

Our second session was a drive towards Tambdi Surla, where we were greeted by a pair of Malabar Trogon.
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus - by Aseem Kothiala
Later we took a diversion towards a village that had some fruiting trees. Sighted birds like the  Brown-headed barbet, Malabar barbet, Green Bee-eater, Vernal Hanging parrot, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Heart-spotted Woodpecker.

Malabar Barbet Psilopogon malabaricus - by Aseem Kothiala
While, We walked along small trails through the jungles which was continuously buzzing with various bird calls, heard the Oriental Scops Owl calling out loudly. However, we could not locate him. A pair of Greater Flameback's were seen busy foraging.

Once the sunset, we headed back to the resort and soon left for our night trail. After trekking on the platuea for about 15-20 mins could hear the calls of the nightjar. Pankaj was locating the bird even without a torch, though we were having a tough time. By the end of the trail we had sighted the Indian Nightjar and Jerdon's Nightjar.

Jerdon's Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis - by Aseem Kothiala
Indian jungle Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus - by Aseem Kothiala

(1st December 2017)

Early morning we waiting within the resort for sometime to do some bird-watching. The area near the entrance was buzzing with Vernal Hanging Parrot's, Sunbird's.

Indian Yellow Tit Parus aplonotus - by Yash Kothiala

The day was very windy, we learnt later it was the effect of Oki cyclone. Most of the birds may have flowen to safer perches and were not seen. The rich habitat and plenty of crisscrossed water streams along the trek path behind the Tambdi surla temple led to beautiful forests. However, there was too much breeze and no birds. Twigs were falling off the trees, to be safer, we headed back on the road and took the trail.

As we were returning, calls of a  large mixed hunting party that comprised of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Yellow-browed Bulbul and few others were heard and seen. The Black-headed Oriole was seen often.

Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile - by Aseem Kothiala
While, we walking into the trails again, sighted the Dark-fronted Babbler, Puff-throated babbler and a pair of Srilankan Frogmouth. The male indeed looked like a dried leaf.
Sri Lankan Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger - by Yash Kothiala
Today we could see a pair of Indian Grey Hornbill they had perched too high on the fruiting tree.

The state bird of Goa, Flame-throated Bulbul, was commonly spotted at the Nature's Nest property along with the Yellow-browed Bulbul.
Flame-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus gularis - by Aseem Kothiala
Yellow-browed Bulbul Acritillas indica  - by Aseem Kothiala
Post lunch on our afternoon session we visited the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, which holds the title of being the largest wildlife preserve within the state of Goa.

After going through the formalities at the check post, we were happy to sight the Forest Wagtail, who soon disappeared into the thickets. The area was noisy thanks to the Racket-tailed Drongo. We could hear the drumming and the calls of the White-bellied Woodpecker.

After driving through the forest for about 6-7 kms, decided to drive back. Due to the weather being windy and gloomy, it had turned dark soon.

(2nd December 2017)

Carambolim Lake, one of the most famous lake and an important bird area in Goa. This manmade lake at one time played host to a number of species of birds, both resident and migratory. In fact we saw only the most common birds in this area, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Purple Moorhen, Red-rumped Swallow, Little Egret, Bronze-winged Jacana and Cormorants.

However, our area of interest was the fields opposite to the lake, as a lone Asian Dowitcher was been seen for almost a week plus. Pankaj kept scanning the area but in vain. We realized we had missed it.

There was a mixed flock of Black-tailed Godwits, Glossy Ibis, Gull-billed terns, Streak-throated Swallow and Wire-tailed Swallow. Marsh Harrier (female) was seeing flushing the common waders and Godwits. We did sight the lesser-adjutant stork, Brahminy Kite and Osprey in flight over these fields.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus  - by Aseem Kothiala
By noon, Pankaj drove us to Kitchen 304, a small and intimate restaurant set amid the coconut trees and lush paddy fields. Here we had some really authentic goan dishes. The chef ensured we had a good time and had dished out an outstanding vegetarian stroganoff.

The afternoon session was the famous boat ride over Zuari river. Typically, the Peregrine falcon was spotted under the bridge.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus - by Aseem Kothiala
The boatman Frankie was indeed an experienced birder and also had a good sense of the requirements of a photographer. He would just get close enough and ensured the bird was not scared away.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - by Aseem Kothiala
A juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle was roosting on the tree in the mangroves.
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster - by Yash Kothiala
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster - by Aseem Kothiala
Being low tide, the birds had perched along the shore line. We waited for sometime and watched them preen and enjoy the breeze. They were in no mood to soar.
 Osprey Pandion haliaetus  - by Aseem Kothiala
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus - by Aseem Kothiala

Striated Heron Butorides striata  - by Aseem Kothiala
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - by Aseem Kothiala
 Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata - by Yash Kothiala
Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris - by Aseem Kothiala

Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis - by Aseem Kothiala
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis - by Aseem Kothiala

The best time to visit the place for bird-watching is from October to mid March. January would be awesome for bird photography.

We signed off with a count of about 140 birds, off which four were lifers to us. Thanking Yash Kothiala for accompanying and contributing his images, Pankaj Lad for his expertise and Seema Kothiala for her company.

Happy Birding!

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Sr. No Description Status Location
1 Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica Carambolim Lake
2 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Carambolim Lake
GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae
3 Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus Nature's Nest
4 Grey Junglefowl Gallus sonneratii Endemic  Mahavir W.L.S
5 Red Spurfowl Galloperdix spadicea Endemic  Bondla W.L.S
6 Rock Dove Columba livia Commonly seen
7 Spotted-necked Dove Streptopelia chinensis Commonly seen
8 Pompadour Green Pigeon Treron pompadora Bondla W.L.S
9 Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica Nature's Nest
10 Sri Lankan Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger Mahavir W.L.S
11 Jerdon's Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis Mahavir W.L.S
12 Indian jungle Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus Mahavir W.L.S
13 Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata Bondla W.L.S
14 Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris Mahavir W.L.S
15 Common Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx varius Mahavir W.L.S
16 White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus Zuari
17 Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio Carambolim Lake
18 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Carambolim Lake
19 Common Coot Fulica atra Carambolim Lake
20 Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus Vulnerable Carambolim Lake / Zuari
21 Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans Carambolim Lake 
22 Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus Bondla W.L.S
23 Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Zuari
24 Striated Heron Butorides striata Zuari
25 Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii Commonly Seen
26 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Commonly Seen
27 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Carambolim Lake
28 Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Carambolim Lake
29 Little Egret Egretta garzetta Carambolim Lake
30 Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis Zuari
PELECANIFORMES: Threskiornithidae
31 Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus Near-threatened Carambolim Lake
32 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Carambolim Lake
PELECANIFORMES: Phalacrocoracidae
33 Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis Carambolim Lake
34 Little cormorant Microcarbo niger Carambolim Lake
35 Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster Near-threatened Zuari
CHARADRIIFORMES: Recurvirostridae
36 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Carambolim Lake
37 Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus Carambolim Lake
38 Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Near-threatened Zuari
39 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Near-threatened Carambolim Lake
40 Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Carambolim Lake
41 Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus Zuari
42 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Zuari
43 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Zuari
44 Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Zuari
45 Common Redshank Tringa totanus Zuari
46 Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica Carambolim Lake / Zuari
47 Osprey Pandion haliaetus Zuari
48 Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela Bondla W.L.S
49 Black Eagle Ictinaetus malaiensis Bondla W.L.S
50 Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Carambolim Lake
51 Shikra Accipiter badius Bondla W.L.S
52 White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster Zuari
53 Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus Carambolim Lake / Zuari
54 Black Kite Milvus migrans Commonly Seen
55 Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum Bondla W.L.S
56 Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus Mahavir W.L.S
57 Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus Near-threatened Mahavir W.L.S
58 Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus Endemic  Mahavir W.L.S
59 Brown-capped Pygmy woodpecker Dendrocopos nanus   Bondla W.L.S
60 Heart-spotted Woodpecker Hemicircus canente Mahavir W.L.S
61 Black-rumped Woodpecker Dinopium benghalense Bondla W.L.S
62 Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus Mahavir W.L.S
63 Greater Flame-backed Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes lucidus Mahavir W.L.S
PICIFORMES: Ramphastidae
64 Brown-headed Barbet Psilopogon zeylanicus Mahavir W.L.S
65 Malabar Barbet Psilopogon malabaricus Endemic  Mahavir W.L.S
66 Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis Mahavir W.L.S
67 Chestnut-headed bee eater Merops leschenaulti Mahavir W.L.S
68 Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus Carambolim Lake
69 Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca Bondla W.L.S
70 Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Zuari
71 Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Carambolim Lake
72 Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis Zuari
73 White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis Bondla W.L.S / Zuari
74 Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata Zuari
75 Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris Zuari
76 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Zuari
77 Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis Mahavir W.L.S
PASSERIFORMES: Campephagidae
78 Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus Mahavir W.L.S
79 Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus Bondla W.L.S
80 Indian Golden Oriole Oriolus kundoo Bondla W.L.S
81 Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis Bondla W.L.S
82 Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus Bondla W.L.S
83 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus Bondla W.L.S
84 Common Iora Aegithina tiphia Bondla W.L.S
85 Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus Bondla W.L.S
86 Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus Bondla W.L.S
87 White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens Bondla W.L.S
88 Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus Mahavir W.L.S
89 Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus Bondla W.L.S
90 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus Mahavir W.L.S
91 Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile Mahavir W.L.S
92 Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor Mahavir W.L.S
PASSERIFORMES: Nectariniidae
93 Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra Mahavir W.L.S
94 Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica Mahavir W.L.S
95 Crimson-backed Sunbird Leptocoma minima Endemic  Nature's Nest
96 Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus Nature's Nest
97 Loten's Sunbird Cinnyris lotenius Nature's Nest
98 Vigors's Sunbird Aethopyga vigorsii Endemic  Nature's Nest
99 Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella Mahavir W.L.S
100 Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons Nature's Nest
101 White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata Bondla W.L.S
102 Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus Mahavir W.L.S
103 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Carambolim Lake
104 Indian Yellow Tit Parus aplonotus Nature's Nest
105 Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius Bondla W.L.S
PASSERIFORMES: Acrocephalidae
106 Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus Carambolim Lake
107 Streak-throated Swallow Petrochelidon fluvicola Carambolim Lake
108 Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica Bondla W.L.S
109 Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii Carambolim Lake
110 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Bondla W.L.S
111 Flame-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus gularis Nature's Nest
112 Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus Nature's Nest
113 Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer Nature's Nest
114 White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus Mahavir W.L.S
115 Yellow-browed Bulbul Acritillas indica Nature's Nest
116 Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps Mahavir W.L.S
117 Puff-throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps Mahavir W.L.S
PASSERIFORMES: Leiothrichidae
118 Jungle Babbler Turdoides striata Mahavir W.L.S
119 Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis Mahavir W.L.S
120 Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicatus Mahavir W.L.S
121 White-rumped Shama Kittacincla malabarica Nature's Nest
122 Malabar Whistling Thrush Myophonus horsfieldii Endemic  Nature's Nest
123 Eastern Stonechat Saxicola maurus Carambolim Lake
124 Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina Nature's Nest

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