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Monday, June 30, 2008

White-Cheeked Barbet

It has been a long time since I blogged last about the spotted deer. "Common animals" is now the refrain from many of my friends who have been to Bannerghatta and back. They're not even impressed by the sight of gaur, sambar and Nilgai. Now it's only the tigers and the lions. Even the bear safari draws only as much as a "ho hum" from many of them.
Bangalore city abounds in birdlife. Months ago, my wife and son spotted a grey tit gracing the tabebuia tree in front of my house. Shikras often visit on short notice leaving us seething since to leave the spot and go for the camera might result in our missing out on some interesting behaviour. For instance, just the other day, I was throwing on my clothes preparatory to leaving for work and a screaming squirrel dived from the staircase to the window adjoining it. The screams attracted my attention and I walked quickly but quietly in the direction of the window only to see a shikra on the staircase watching the squirrel. I was spell bound. The spell was, however, broken by Duke who trotted up to investigate the noise in his domain. In a second, the shikra took off and the squirrel, scolded a few times more and took off for parts unknown. Missed photo opportunity? Perhaps, but then I saw how close a Shikra would get to human habitation in search of its prey.
Most weekends, I pack my camera in my car wherever I'm going. It can be to a friend's house or just down the road to the restaurant. This comes in handy when I see any animal life indulging in natural behaviour.
One such occasion was when I visited my in-laws, family in tow. My wife decided, on the way back, that she had to drop in on her old hair dresser for a "quick cut". My son and I sat in our car mulling over the misfortune of having to sit by the road side when I caught sight of a barbet on the electric cable above my head. Telling Adu to keep an eye on it, I slipped to the back seat of the car to change the lens on my camera and came up with some pictures of barbet behaviour.

This barbet left the electric cable and flew down to a nearby branch which, fortunately for me, was even closer. I first photographed the barbet from inside my car and then slowly began to emerge. This bird paid almost no attention to me and sat there, only occasionally changing position to exasperate me.
I soon found out why. It was waiting for its mate. This barbet.

The very branch on which the first one was sitting turned out to be hollow. I hadn't noticed it at all till the mate came in. The second barbet alighted on the branch from below and began to very thoroughly chisel away the wood around a little hollow. Periodically, it took a breather ostensibly to have a look around and make sure that I was harmless or that I had not overstepped my limits.
It remained very actively employed in either enlarging the opening or in delving deeper into the branch.
At some points, it went in so deep, I wondered if it would manage to get out safely.

I had initially thought that the first barbet was a chauvinist and wasn't participating in the excavating activities of the second one. However, a few minutes of putting my camera down and watching the birds convinced me that barbet number one was also equally involved. Both, in fact, were taking turns at digging out the rotten and dried up wood widening and extending what would be their living quarters for that monsoon season.
Soon, the eggs would be laid and then the young would be hatched. In a few weeks, the young ones would be fledged and would begin exploratory flights before joining the world outside which would ring with the "brrrrrr, butterk, butterk, butterk" call. Come summer, the call is heard in the tree laden avenues that still dot Bangalore city. The circle of life goes on.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Oh! Deer

Chital or spotted deer, in South India, are frequently found in close quarters to human habitation. I remember asking about this peculiar occurrence while all other creatures would stay well away from anything human, spotted deer would be found all around huts in the forest.

On safari in Kabini, I photographed so many spotted deer that I began to get quite fed up with them. Some of them were absolute charmers though. Like this fawn that went on the alert when our jeep stopped quite close to it.

I felt quite thrilled with the results when I previewed this picture for the first time and continue to enjoy it each time. Another that gives me a great deal of pleasure is this picture of a fawn suckling. There's something to be said about the care mammals give their young.

The fawn's tail was wagging so fast that I couldn't freeze it. True, the moment was but fleeting. The doe moved away rather quickly, perhaps because we were watching.
October 2007 saw me at B.R. Hills, where once again, I was treated to the sight of chital quite unafraid of human company. Barely a few feet from the safari jeep, this beautiful stag went on the alert filling us with hope that it had sensed a predator. To our disappointment, it turned out to be a second safari jeep.

The deer, we saw didn't seem to be fazed by the squeals of my fellow travellers some of whom had not seen chital in the wild. For Adu and me it was a rather "ho hum, another deer...".
Turning a corner along the beautiful forest trails often offers several surprises. Like the stag with new velvet on his antlers. In a few days he would rub the irritating velvet off and his polished prongs would have done battle for the doe of his choice.

Could it have been this beautiful lady of the forest?