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Newsletter of the Birdwatchers’ Society of Andhra Pradesh New Series Volume 9 Number 9 September 2012

FIELD OUTING: Sunday, 23rd September 2012, 6.00AM: Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park. Planned and started as a sanctuary for the endangered Black Buck, the park now houses considerable numbers of Cheetal. As for birding, there should be several small woodland birds, some ground birds like Partridges and Stone Curlew and, perhaps, even a Nightjar. Short-toed Snake Eagles have nested in this park earlier. This will be a half-day trip. For further details and to co-ordinate, please contact Mr. Shafaat Ulla (98492-29552) or Mrs. Shanti Mani (93910-08302).

INDOOR MEETING: VULTURES ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION? Thursday, 6th September 2012, 6.00PM: Goethe-zentrum Hyderabad, 20 Journalist’s Colony, Road No. 3, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad – 500 034. (For directions, please contact 94905-09251 or 040-65526443) Vultures in the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia have declined catastrophically during the last decade, and current populations are estimated to be less than 2 % of the original. The main reason for this decline appears to be the use of the veterinary drug, Diclofenac, which is used to treat cattle. Andhra Pradesh had six species of vultures but this number has reduced to a few species and a few individuals. Dr. G. Umapathy, a senior scientist in the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, will talk to us about the current status and distribution of vultures in Andhra Pradesh, in situ and ex situ conservation and management issues. He has more than 20 years experience in the field of wildlife research and conservation of endangered species. His research interests are conservation and management of small populations in fragmented landscape, conservation breeding using assisted reproductive techniques and wildlife endocrinology.

INDOOR MEETING: TALK ON BIO-DIVERSITY Thursday, 20th September 2012, 6.00PM: Goethe-zentrum Hyderabad, 20 Journalist’s Colony, Road No. 3, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad – 500 034. (For directions, please contact 94905-09251 or 040-65526443) This talk by Mr. S. Ashok Kumar touches upon the broad contours of bio-diversity in our state and country; bio-resources; salient features of the Biological Diversity Act; Patent Laws; bio-piracy cases in India and other countries and success stories in benefit sharing. Mr. Ashok Kumar is a life member of BSAP. An expert on butterflies as well, he is the Vice-President of the AP Butterfly Conservation Society. He is a member of the AP State Wildlife Advisory Board and a member of the Advisory Council of WWF – AP Chapter.

Trip Report – Ananthagiri Hills Reserve Forest – 16th August 2012 Jayati Mitra Ananthagiri Hills is not a new place for me as a birder. The very idea of revisiting this forest delighted me as I reminisced over the recent visit during spring. We started a little late and the weather was cloudy throughout the journey. For company I had Mr. Kevin who had become a

member more than twenty years back and was joining the BSAP field trip after a long gap. It was interesting to hear from him that Sanjeevaiah Park was a beautiful birding spot in those days when the present Necklace Road had not yet been constructed.


We spotted Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) in their breeding plumage on treetops on both sides of the road. The surrounding vegetation was lush green and the graceful Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) were running around. The sight of the once very common but now dwindling species, House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) generated some hope in us for their survival in the future.

As we moved along the bird songs grew louder and more melodious. A Shikra (Accipiter badius) was seen flying in the sky. The call of the Common Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius) became distinct as we walked towards it. The direction of the call, however, seemed to change every now and then till at last we gave up, disappointed.

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Photo: Vijay Menon) Coppersmith Barbet (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)

A group of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) with bright red beaks were flying from tree to tree. By now we were deep in the forest where a group of Jungle Babblers (Turdoides striatus) with grey-brown plumage greeted us. They were hopping and foraging on the ground. As we looked up we spotted a bird which was unmistakably a White-bellied Drongo (Dicrurus caerulescens). It had white under parts and a grayishblack back, with a slightly forked tail.

As we reached the venue all our birder friends welcomed us. We immediately sighted a Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) on a tree near the car park. As we went down the slope, the music of chirping birds filled the air. Two Indian Grey Hornbills (Ocyceros birostris) flew across towards a banyan tree laden with ripe figs. I learnt an interesting fact that the female of this species moults in the nest while raising its chicks and the feathers grow again along with the growing chicks so that they can fly away together. The harsh call of the Rufous Treepies (Dendrocitta vagabunda) drew our attention and one was spotted with its long, black-tipped tail visible amidst the thick foliage.

White-bellied Drongo (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)

Indian Grey Hornbill (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)


The forest was dense with good undergrowth. We noticed some photographers hiding behind bushes with infinite patience. The reason for their patient vigilance was soon obvious. Far beyond the trees, a nest of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus), made out of dry brown leaves, was visible near the ground and everyone was waiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of the bird feeding its chicks. We, at last, saw the bird and identified it by the white ring surrounding its eye, the blackish bill and olive green body stooping forward in a typical manner. Plumheaded Parakeets (Psittacula cyanocephala) were seen flying and they perched on top of a tree, chattering. Their rosy heads with a yellow beak, contrasting against the green plumage was a lovely sight.

came into our view. We moved forward following the Black-rumped Flameback (Dinopium benghalense) climbing swiftly up and down the trunk, often disappearing out of our sight and again reappearing. I could not help admiring the special features of a woodpecker. Out of the four toes Nature has given them, two toes point forward and the other two backwards, to enable them to grip, a trait similar to that of the barbets. It was consistently drumming on the bark, probably looking for a mate or for food. It is also known to have a very long sticky tongue to enable it to trap insects hidden deep inside the tree trunk.

As we stood there quietly for some time I could hear a whistling tune. It sounded like a flute being played and in no time we saw the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) sitting on a bare branch. It sang for quite some time oblivious of our presence. A flock of Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) were flying low as we spotted the brown body and black-and-white spotted breast. As we scanned the trees a bright yellow colour attracted my attention. I glimpsed the black-crowned body, striped with black and yellow - the Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) - hidden among the leaves. After a while we slowly moved along, the music still lingering in my mind.

Red-vented Bulbul (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)

After a while we decided to return. Some other birds we saw were the Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos), Asian Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi), Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis), Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius), Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica), Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica), White-browed Bulbul (Pycnonotus luteolus) and Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis).

Black-rumped Flameback (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)

We then reached a place surrounded by tall teak trees. As we scanned the foliage, we saw White-browed Fantails (Rhipidura aureola) flying from one tree to another, opening and shutting their tails rhythmically. A Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) was digging a hole in an old, bare twig by moving its head in circles while rubbing its beak continuously into the hole to increase its size. Its dedication and patience really inspired me. Suddenly a golden back and crimson head

Common Myna (Photo: Vijay Menon)


On our way back we took the road towards Sadashivpet by mistake and came across a water body very close to it. The dull weather had not permitted spotting of raptors, but now we were in luck! We saw a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) as it flew down and rested on an overhead wire. A Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) was resting on the island while the Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) dived in and out of the water. Quite a few Common Coots (Fulica atra) were swimming, their white bills showing up in contrast with the black plumage. The Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio) were also present.

At this point I could not help comparing this trip with the previous one. The cloudy weather made sightings more difficult and as a result our total bird count was really less. I really missed the acrobatics of the Paradiseflycatcher and the colourful bee-eaters but the atmosphere was vibrating with bird songs. I was also told that earlier, nightjars could be seen during daytime also but now it was difficult to spot them even at night! Are they disappearing from this forest? I reached home hoping to be back again and see something different and more exciting next time.

Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar

Red-rumped Swallow (Photo: Dr Samuel Sukumar)


Bird Humour

(From Times of India, 20-06-2012)


Bird of the Month Text and photos: Umesh Mani

Brown Fish Owl (Bubo zeylonensis)

Brown Fish Owl (Ananthagiri, 06-06-2009) streaks and fine brown barring. The white throat is often noticeably puffed out, and the facial disk is indistinct. The Brown Fish Owl has yellow irises, dark bill and dull yellow feet. The sexes are similar, except for size.

Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae Genus: Bubo Species: B. zeylonensis Size: 55 cm

Behaviour: Resident through the year in most parts of its range, the Brown Fish Owl mostly inhabits well-wooded lowlands, including open woodland, dense forest and plantations, though in the Himalayan foothills it can range upwards to around 1500m above sea level. It usually remains fairly close to larger water bodies like rivers or lakes. It is a nocturnal bird, but can be seen during the day when it is roosting; this may, at times, be aided by observing the mobbing behaviour of small birds. Being a large predatory bird, more than 1-2 individuals are rarely seen together. While listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, it does face the threat of habitat destruction. Its diet consists mainly of frogs, fishes and aquatic crustaceans; when hungry, it may also eat carrion. The calls of the Brown Fish Owl include a loud hu-hu-hu-hu, a soft hup-hup-hup-hup, and a deep tu-hoo-hoo. One call can be heard here.

Description: The Brown Fish Owl is part of the family known as ‘typical owls’, Strigidae. Most living owls today belong to this family. There are four sub-species of fish owls: the Sri Lankan Brown Fish Owl B. z. zeylonensis, found in Sri Lanka; the Common Brown Fish Owl B. z. leschenault, found in the Indian sub-continent and across to Myanmar and Thailand; the Western Brown Fish Owl B. z. semenowi, found from Western Asia / the Middle East to Pakistan; and the Eastern Brown Fish Owl B. z. orientalis, found in north-eastern Myanmar, Vietnam and south-eastern China (though the latter’s distinction from B. z. leschenault is debated). These four fish owls were previously separated into the genus Ketupa, but nowadays are often lumped with the horned and eagleowls for convenience. The Brown Fish Owl is distributed across the warm, humid tropical and sub-tropical parts of continental Asia, as well as some offshore islands. It is a large owl with prominent ‘ear’ tufts. A full-grown bird will reach around 55 cm, and weigh 2.0-2.5kg. There may be some differences between sub-species, and the males are smaller than the females. Smaller birds can weigh as little as 1.1kg – in other words, there can be considerable difference in size and weight. The Brown Fish Owl has reddish upperparts, heavily streaked with black or dark brown. The underparts are buff-to-white, and have dark

Nesting: The Brown Fish Owl breeds between November and March, laying a clutch of 1-2 eggs. For the nest, it may use rock crevices and other such niches, or, quite often, old stick nests of other birds. The incubation period is around 38 days, and the young would normally fledge in around 7 weeks. Local name: It is known as ‘macchera ullu’ in Hindi and Punjabi, ‘chepala gudla guba’ in Telugu, ‘machhimaar ghuvad’ in Gujarati and ‘matsyoluk’ in Sanskrit.


BIRDING CROSSWORD #9 Umesh Mani The answers to the clues given below are bird names or other birding-related terms. Let’s see how many you can find! (Solutions in next month’s Pitta) 1



4 5 6




ACROSS 2 4 6 8 9


No pirate will have this bird! (8) This bird comes across as rakish (6) Beer the German head gave (5) Mental exercise on the back! (6) Hot-headed peasant stays on the ground? (8)

DOWN 1 3 5 7


Festive decoration or streamer (7) Feels bad being topless! (6) Airborne carrier (6) This bird will bite NTR! (7)

Solutions to Crossword #8 (Pitta, August 2012) ACROSS: 2 – WOODSWALLOW, 7 – SERIN, 8 – HEN, 10 – TREECREEPER DOWN: 1 – OWLS, 3 - ORIOLE, 4 - SARUS, 5 – DARTER, 6 – MINIVET, 9 - TESIA For Private Circulation Only Editor: Shanti Mani Email: For information, write to: Birdwatchers’ Society of Andhra Pradesh, PO Box 45, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad – 500034. E-group: Website: Society membership (in Rs.): Admission: 100; Annual: 400 per annum; Student: 200 per annum; Life: 3000. (Add Rs 75 for outstation cheques.)



Monthly bulletin of Birdwatchers Society of Andhra Pradesh

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