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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.


Anonymous said...

That was SUCH an enjoyable post! Lovely to see so much about a bird that lives near us....and yet we don't really take the time to "stand and stare". Thanks!


Sharath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I know about missed photograph opportunities all too well...
Recently.. on a trip to Dandeli, I spotted a paradise flycatcher and a hornbill... but at the time my lens limited me in taking pics.. and before I could get my friend's S3 IS, the birds and the opportunity were gone...

Uma said...

Lovely post and lovelier pics! Such a pleasure to see more than we get to of this 'common' bird. It is almost impossible to see the barbet when it is in a tree - so these shots are truly a great catch!

Couch Potato said...

Thank you Deponti, Sharath and Uma for stopping by and for your comments.
Uma, you're right about catching sight of a barbet when it is in the tree. I also think there is something faintly ventriloqual about its call. Very often I've seen a barbet in one tree but heard the call from somewhere else. Of course, it could be another barbet unseen by me.
Sherry, talk about missed opportunities. My wife is even now sitting with her video camera and desperately waiting for the shikra to show itself.
Deepa, two ineffective words: My condolences.

Pallavi said...

Fantastic pictures. Pleasure reading this. It's one of my favorite birds. And perhaps the only one whose call I can identify 'beyond reasonable doubt'. :)

rambler onner said...

You know couch,

I have always regarded people who watch birds as loonies. People with a tangential purview of life.

After this post (and so many others on your blog), I still think you are nuts and have an obtuse view of life.

But, the birds (and others) are so beautiful. Its great to see mankind's most prolonged saga unfold right in front of your eyes in a matter of minutes.

Get married, get a job, find a house, plan for the kids - in 2 minutes flat. WOW.

Mr & Mrs W.C.Barbet - Congratulations and we need you here in management. Waiting for your 'call'.

The Rambler.

P.S: Not many people can capture beauty in its element. I am not saying you've done it. But you are damn close. Keep it up.

Couch Potato said...

Rambler, you're so loony you qualify for a free straitjacket. :)

Couch Potato said...

Pallavi, thanks for dropping by. This comment was edited after I visited your blog and was enthralled by your Bhutan trip. Loved it. Thanks for sharing. :)