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, April 15, 2018

Birding in Bhitarkanika National Park

MANGROVES are often neglected, though they are highly productive and important prolific ecosystems on the boundary between land and sea. Only a few realise that Mangroves are a home to a array of species of fish, migratory birds and crocodiles.

Mangroves are the first line of defense for coastal communities. They not only stabilize shorelines by slowing down the process of erosion but also provide and act as natural barriers avoiding flooding during storms and hurricanes.

One such mangrove is located along the river delta (estuarial region) of Brahmani and Baitarani in the the north-eastern place of Kendrapara district of Odisha (Orissa), popularly called Bhitarkanika National Park. The core area here was declared as a national park somewhere in the month of September in the year 1998.

The region is known to many bird watchers as the best place in India to see the Mangrove Pitta. April is the mating season and that is when the birds scout out to find their mates. 

The morning began when Bijay Kumar Das our guide, met us and took us on three different trails. Each trail had at least one pair and were busy foraging together. The area is very dense and had stems of trees spread all over. Many places had different types of roots. The knee roots was the most common having numerous lenticels. The month was very humid and  walking between the gaps was indeed a very different experience. Many times the feet would sink into the moist, clay coloured wetland bed.
Mangrove pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) -Image by Aseem Kothiala
The earth's largest living crocodile is the salt water crocodile, also known as the estuarine crocodile. They are seen here and some have even sighted and recorded the ones measuring 23 feet in length. Usually seen basking in the open. New borns were more bolder than the adults, who are excellent swimmers would just sink into the backwater.
Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) - Image by Aseem Kothiala
Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
The second half of our day was spent travelling on a boat that kept moving through the twist and turns of the flowing water. During low tide the water resides and the waders were seen coming very close to the edge of the water to feed. 
White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Slaty-breasted rail (Gallirallus striatus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis fulva) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Different types of Kingfishers are seen here, especially the endangered Brown-winged Kingfisher. The kingfishers are very active during the low tide, feeding on fish and crabs. There were instances when we even saw the mangrove pitta. Being very shy it would get back into the mangroves.
Brown-winged kingfisher (Pelargopsis amauroptera) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Black-capped kingfisher (Halcyon pileata) Image by Aseem Kothiala
The boat does keep rocking when it stops and vibrates when its in slow motion, so one needs to anticipate and click in order to compose them well. 
Collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris humii) Image by Aseem Kothiala
The commoners can be seen on almost every twig, just waiting to dive in and get their catch.
Oriental darter or Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster) Image by Aseem Kothiala
The region of the various kingfishers seemed very demarcated, as there was a large number of Pied Kingfishers seen only at the end of mangrove forest.
Pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) Image by Aseem Kothiala
This is where we turned back to return to the camp. The next day we spent some time in the campus of Bhitarkanika Nature Camps, Dangmal. We were lucky to sight the Eyebrowed Thrush hopping and feeding on the ground. They are rare migrants to the region, usually breeding in Siberia.

Eyebrowed thrush (Turdus obscurus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Eyebrowed thrush (Turdus obscurus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
The common birds of the region like the Spotted owlet, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rufous woodpecker are seen in the early hours of the day. They can be seen virtually posing on all types of perches.
Spotted owlet (Athene brama) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Rufous woodpecker, (Micropternus brachyurus) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Little egret (Egretta garzetta) Image by Aseem Kothiala
Common greenshank (Tringa nebularia) Image by Aseem Kothiala
One must plan and spend at least three to four days here. This will ensure one gets to see and take photographs of birds that other wise are difficult to find. We also heard its a place where one can see the Fishing cat, by traveling about 5 hours by boat on a different route. Thanks to Shyam Ghate for this information, whom we met there during our stay.

Thanking Subhadeep Ghosh, Samir Ovalekar who planned this beautiful trip in the month of April 2018

Happy Birding!

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