Sunday, June 01, 2008

Indian Pitta in Karnala WLS

What an incredible birding it was this weekend (1.6.2008) …….Karnala Bird Sanctuary reverberated with the natures symphony lead by our target bird, the Indian Pitta several of which were accompanied by White-Rumped Shamas and myriad of other resident species. However, an unusual highlight was that of singing Grey Headed Canary Flycatchers (probably c2)…..

The Enthusiasm to attend any MBC bird walk was evident as almost 18 people joined for the early morning birding even at a very short notice……it was also nice to see a couple of friends (Mr.Ajey Kelkar & Mr.Makarand Karkare) joining us all the way from Pune. A testimony on how popular the MBC walks are and this trip was no exception.

About 10 persons had already arrived in Karnala, a small bird sanctuary on the Mumbai-Goa highway and were seeing the Pompadour Green Pigeons, Grey breasted prinia, Crimson-backed Sunbirds, White-Rumped Shamas and some other birds when we joined at about 7.00 am. The open space near the newly built nature interpretation centre, just as you enter the gate is always very productive and I often spend considerable time here to see the birds showing up one by one…..and as expected, it was here that the drama unfolded.

Amongst the many species that were actively feeding on the trees, included the Golden fronted Chloropsis, Brown headed Barbets, Crimson and Purple Rumped Sunbirds,

White-Rumped Shamas, Thick-billed flowerpeckers, Common Iora, Small & Orange Minivets, Bronze drongos etc. The hot summer ensured that the birds were up early and were in a feeding frenzy……Just when I thought about the absence of any signs of Indian Pitta, I heard his distant but unmistakable 2 note whistle ”Wheet-whiyou”…..a very loud call for a bird of Myna size…..I challenged him with a similar call…..the Pitta responded to the challenge and started coming closer and closer and closer……finally he came and sat very near to us on a tree of medium height….our calling continued and he was in no mood to quit, he was out there to prove that he is healthy and furious……As I moved forward calling…..he followed :-)

The Indian Pittas or "Navrang" as it is often called in Marathi / Hindi, because of its rainbow colours, are passage migrants to our region during mid may to mid June, with sporadic breeding records from Mumbai region and regular breeding records from South Maharashtra (Sindhudurg, Chiplun, Ratnagiri etc)…… they, then proceed towards Central and North India to nest. It is far easier to locate them on passage during summer when they are very vocal….and equally difficult to get noticed (and hence few records) when they are returning back to South during October, as they are silent by then…..they probably stop on passage for few days to rest, feed and then continue their journey.

While this was happening a male White rumped Shama that had a nest nearby was getting annoyed and he too joined in the chorus…….The quality of Shama call is rivaled by none, and it was not surprising why our great old man considered this bird as our best songster……it was an amazing experience to see this wonderful songster, singing full throttle, so close to us ….. nearby, more Indian Pittas were calling now (atleast 3) ……. and the forest was now full of bird calls….all (people and birds) were so excited; it was evident on their faces ;) ….the female Shama was seen carrying nest material in a tree hole with the male keeping a vigil for any alarm………..the heat was killing us, so we decided to move towards Hariyal trail.

The Hariyal trail (Hariyal = Marathi Name for Green Pigeon, the state bird of Maharashtra) added few more birds to the list, including Brown cheeked Fulvettas, Racket tailed Drongos, Chestnut shouldered Petronias, Baya weaver (all females feeding on a tree), Black napped Monarch, Bulbuls, Tailor bird etc…..further ahead near the stream we heard calls of Changeable hawk eagle and Crested Serpent eagles.

The Shady cemented parapet close to the forest rest houses, provided us the much needed rest…..This is traditionally a good place to see Shama, and not only did we see more Shamas, but also witnessed an amazing experience of how even Shamas, mimic calls of other birds to perfection (calls of drongos, Serpent eagles were executed to perfection) infact it even tried to mimic me when I was trying to imitate Brown cheeked Fulvetta, its call had a human whistle like quality…….some Puff-throated Babblers were also seen rummaging in the undergrowth …… an Indian Pitta landed on a branch close to us…..I thought, lets see if it responds to the imitation……I gave a ”Wheet-whiyou” and…..ttthhhherrre he responds with a puffed breast ”Wheet-whiyou”…..Wow ;)…..The Pittas are usually encountered rummaging on ground for worms and grubs, but when singing, they prefer high branch, from where they puff their breast, face the gods and deliver this 2 note whistle…..

While all this orchestra of sorts was going on, we heard yet another bird singing not very far… was a very familiar and unmistakable song of Grey headed Canary flycatcher. Now this was something unusual, because this species is supposed to have gone to breed in the Himalayas long back. We even checked, whether a drongo or Shama were mimicking (a strong possibility), but the calls / song were consistent and repeated continuously for a long period….”te… te…tu..twiet” . There were infact 2 birds calling, though we did not see, I was sure of its presence. These might be the late migrants still moving from far south (probably Srilanka) to their northern breeding grounds.

All of us had already started walking back by 9.30 am, amazed and satisfied, carrying back a memorable mornings experience provided by the birds with their melodious symphony …. The call of Indian Pitta still rings in my ear.

Though we did not see the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher or any Cuckoos, we hope that the coming monsoon will bring a new leash of life, hope and Joy…..

Till then……”Wheet-whiyou”


Adesh Shivkar


Anonymous said...

Nice...I visited KBS this monsoon but with the heavy rain, we didn't spot any creatures. I would love to go there again before it gets too hot.

workhard said...

Hi, those pictures came out really nice.

Haiku poetry

depalan, saju said...

brilliant pictures that one. Congrats!