2009 India Year Listing

04 Jan 2009 14:50 #66 by Mike Prince
I thought I'd use this forum as a blog for my 2009 India year list. Now listing is not that popular here, and there is very little twitching and not much of an efficient grapevine. Since it's such a large and diverse country the secret to a big list is clearly travel, with trips to the north-east for Himalayan goodies, the north-west for some scarce Palearctic winterers, the north generally for a wide variety of excellent birding, and the southern forests for endemics and near-endemics. Since I live in Bangalore which doesn't really fit in any of these categories, and my opportunities for travel are likely to be limited, this is not going to be the story of a big year attempt! Instead it's more of a diary of my year's birding...

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04 Jan 2009 15:10 #67 by Mike Prince
Not seriously birding, but a late morning walk with my two year old daughter Tiya in Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bangalore was a pleasant way to kick off the year list. This is the only place where I have seen Mottled Wood Owl but disappointingly the regular pair were nowhere to be seen near their roost. Spot-billed Pelicans were good to see as always (the numbers of this near threatened species seem to be increasing, at least locally). Two Booted Eagles flew overhead mobbed by Black Kites (oddly not a single Brahminy Kite seen today) and two Tickell's Leaf Warblers amongst the common Greenish Warblers were a nice sighting.

Year list up to 25 by the end of the day!

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04 Jan 2009 15:58 - 01 Feb 2009 20:21 #68 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Jan 3rd - Nandi Hills
First proper birding of the year to Nandi Hills this morning, with Sree and Vinay. This is one of my favourite winter birding spots around Bangalore: whilst the species variety is not great, and birds can be quite difficult to find, there are a few species that you can't see elsewhere nearby and I always feel that there is something rare waiting but eluding me!

Sree and Vinay were keen to see some warblers and so it was great that one of the first we saw really well was a Hume's Warbler. A scarce visitor this far south, we had prolonged views of one bird at close range and slightly from above which meant the detail could be seen very well. A very greyish bird generally with completely white supercilium and wing bars, and nice white tips to the tertials. The call wasn't as distinct as I remember from further north (where they are much commoner) but was still clearly different to Greenish. We had three Hume's altogether today.

Moving slowly up the road to the summit other good sightings included Blue-capped Rock Thrush, a pair of Tawny Eagles nest-building and a Changeable Hawk Eagle (only my second sighting here). We stopped where I regularly see Yellow-throated Bulbul and managed to find four quite quickly, gaining good views of this not often reported endemic. A Large-billed Leaf Warbler calling was unusual here.

We reached the top quite late since the birding from the road up had been so good. A Nilgiri Woodpigeon was found quite easily (I bet that won't happen on the Bangalore Bird Race in two weeks time!) and one Indian Blue Robin showed very well at close range. No luck with Pied Thrushes but one confiding Orange-headed Thrush was seen, a few Olive-backed Pipits and two Red-throated Flycatchers (both definitely parva: I've not seen albicilla in the south). Finally we opted for a bit of raptor watching and saw another three Tawny Eagles, great views of a diving Bonelli's Eagle and some Alpine Swifts.

A very nice morning's birding taking the year total to 75, without yet visiting any wetland areas.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:21 by Mike Prince.

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06 Jan 2009 11:56 #69 by Sachin Shurpali
That is indeed some good sighting. So you got the Changeable Hawk Eagle:-) Like I was mentioning to you, I had just one sighting there so far. In all it appears that you had a blast of raptors again !

Like I told you, Dipu and I visited Mydenahalli, on the way covering Hesaraghatta.

Hesaraghatta had some new offerings for me like Clamarous Reed Warbler and Temminck's Stint. But what was waiting for us was not to find even one duck !

On the other hand, we had decent views of the harriers in the afternoon at Mydenahalli, though not as much as we did during our previous visit. We found just 2 harriers roosting the next morning.

Other interesting observation was to find both Marshall's and common Ioras on the same tree, very close-by. They did not bother about each other at all.

Also, the water tank on the left side, just outside the park had hosted a single parent Little Grebe and it's chick.

We had decent views of Orphean Warblers and Hume's Whitethroats.

No luck with the prinias , the coursers or the nightjars!

Anyways, eagerly waiting for the birdrace !


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06 Jan 2009 13:12 #70 by Mike Prince
Sounds a pretty good Mydenahalli trip: I think I'll aim for another trip there later this winter. Good you found Marshall's Iora after us missing them last time. I also saw both Common and Marshall's in the same tree (although not at the same time) there last year!

Will be in touch with you and the rest of team in a few days regarding bird race planning!

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07 Jan 2009 19:28 #75 by Rajneesh Suvarna
Hi Mike,

That's a good start for the year. Missed going with you this time too :(


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11 Jan 2009 11:12 - 01 Feb 2009 20:22 #81 by Mike Prince
Year list boosted to 112 today thanks to a visit to Hessarghatta Lake. This winter the lake is full of water and looks very good habitat. The only ducks though were a flock of four Northern Shoveler and five Common Teal, and the only waders apart from Wood Sandpiper were five Temminck's Stints. The wintering flock of dukhenensis Greater Short-toed Larks numbered about 90 and were being harried by a Marsh Harrier. Booted Warblers were common in the low, dry scrub and two Sykes's Warblers were seen in the larger acacias.

As often here, raptors were the highlight. 11 species altogether including one ringtail Montagu's/Pallid Harrier - despite quite close views I couldn't identify it positively. Often I seem to see pro-Pallid and pro-Montagu's features on the same bird! Other raptors included four Tawny Eagles, two Egyptian Vultures and my first Steppe Eagle here. I've now seen a total of 19 species of raptors at Hessarghatta.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:22 by Mike Prince.

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11 Jan 2009 19:47 #82 by Ramit Singal
Four is a high number of Tawny Eagles. More than the total I saw last year.

Nice start to the year for you. Pity I have got exams on, and hence am restricted to backyard birding for now.

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16 Jan 2009 01:50 - 01 Feb 2009 20:23 #87 by Mike Prince
With several of my wife's family visiting we decided to go to Mysore for some sightseeing for a couple of days. Since my two-and-a-half year old daughter Tiya, and her similarly aged cousin Maya, were with us, it was a good excuse to visit Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore for a boat ride. Whilst the girls were fascinated by the close views we had of the Marsh Mugger crocodiles, I managed to rattle off a few more year ticks amongst the breeding birds there. Indian Cormorant, Darter, Night Heron, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Spoonbill, Great Thick-knee, River Tern, Common and Pied Kingfishers and Wire-tailed and Streak-throated Swallows all gave an excellent show. Highlight for me though was definitely the Indian Spotted Eagle that flew overhead. Only my third ever confirmed sighting, the structure was distinctive being smallish but with long, narrow wings and a moderately long tail. The flight feathers were distinctly pale with even paler inner primaries.

Later some Grey Hornbills and a Hoopoe in Mysore took the year list to 130.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:23 by Mike Prince.

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16 Jan 2009 15:27 - 01 Feb 2009 20:23 #89 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Jan 16th - Jakkur Lake
In order to check whether it would be worthwhile visiting on this Sunday's Bangalore bird race, I made a one hour visit to Jakkur Lake this morning, between school drop-off and pick-up. The expected Spot-billed Pelicans, Great Cormorants, Darters, Purple Herons and Purple Swamphens were easily seen. The variety of ducks was disappointing with, apart from a few Spot-billed Ducks, a flock of 300 Garganey which despite a careful scan revealed nothing else hiding amongst them.

Two Marsh Harriers and a Greater Spotted Eagle were good - hope the latter is easily seen on Sunday. Black-winged Stilt and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas were bonuses.

No sign of any interesting passerines other than a small flock of Rosy Starlings: a bit of effort (and luck) on Sunday might turn up Clamorous and Paddyfield Warblers and Bluethroat.

A pleasant short birding session which took the year's total to 138.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:23 by Mike Prince.

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17 Jan 2009 16:18 - 01 Feb 2009 20:24 #90 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Jan 17th - Rampura Lake
Time for another 'reccy' for tomorrow's bird race and my first ever visit to Rampura Lake. En-route a small lake Horamavu Agara produced Clamorous Reed Warbler, Pintail and Lesser Whistling Duck. Rampura has more reedy vegetation than other places I've visited around Bangalore but didn't produce the hoped-for crake. Still a few Paddyfield Warblers showed well in the early morning and one Bluethroat was also good. A small flock of weavers seen briefly in the reeds included both Baya and Streaked.

Plenty of Wood Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts, a Green Sandpiper and a few snipe were seen. The latter had a bulging supercilium in front of the eye and a thin, even, black loral lone. In flight they showed a thin white trailing edge to the wing and gave a drier 'squelch' call than Common: Pintail Snipes. I managed a phone-scoped photo of one.
[img size=400]media/kunena/attachments/legacy/images/Pintail_Snipe__Gallinago_stenura_.jpg[/img]

Both Long-tailed and Brown Shrikes were seen, one very confiding female of the latter species showed a pale grey crown and had cold brown tones above: presumably a lucionensis bird, and another that allowed some phone-scoping.
[img size=400]media/kunena/attachments/legacy/images/Brown_Shrike__Lanius_cristatus_.jpg[/img]

Other birds that would be good for the bird race were all fly-overs: Black-headed Ibis, Whiskered Tern and Red Munia.

A nice selection of birds overall brought the year list to 153.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:24 by Mike Prince.

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19 Jan 2009 19:06 - 01 Feb 2009 20:24 #91 by Mike Prince
An early start saw us in darkness at the bottom of Nandi Hills at 06:00, listening to our first bird of the day: a Spotted Owlet. We were myself, Sachin Shurpali and Ajay Ramachandran, aka the Red-throated Sand Martins (a reference to two very rare finds on the previous two bird races). Unfortunately at the last minute Vijay R had to pull out due to his daughter's illness. Of course more critical was the fact that meant we lost our driver and SUV and so I was called in to service for the day in my hardy Hyundai Accent. Now I'm quite used to driving and birding but the usual birder-driver technique of pressing your nose to the windscreen to pick up birds overhead doesn't work very well in India, as evidenced by the number of pot holes I hit at full speed B) And before anyone thinks I'm too heartless, Vijay's daughter is better now :)

Nandi Hills has several species that are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the Bangalore area, but is a difficult site to visit on a bird race since several species are skulking and it needs time to see or hear much. As it was we did quite well with some of the tough species, seeing Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Pied Thrush (typical sub-second view), Hume's Warbler, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Indian Blue Robin, Indian Pitta, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Common (not here though) Buzzard and Steppe Eagle. Nevertheless we missed several more regular species and left behind schedule and feeling that we hadn't done as well as we'd wanted to.

We then took a cross-country route to Hessarghatta Lake, hoping to pick up species such as Bushlarks, starlings and munias en-route. Unfortunately it was quite a birdless drive with just a White-eyed Buzzard of note. A lovely juvenile Indian Spotted Eagle overhead was the highlight at Hessarghatta where we also added some common waterbirds, but missed waders, the usual wintering flock of Greater Short-toed Larks, any pipits other than Paddyfield and other regulars including Bay-backed Shrike.

So still being behind schedule, and knowing that it wasn't going to a record-breaking day, we headed cross-country to Jakkur Lake. A very quick stop here was productive with four species of ducks, Spot-billed Pelicans, Darter and Black Ibis. Unfortunately the Greater Spotted Eagle present on both the previous two days didn't show for us today.

We then continued to Rampura Lake where we added several more species to the list. Over 100 Black-headed Ibis, Bronze-winged Jacana, Pintail Snipe, Paddyfield Warbler and two Bluethroats were the best birds seen.

Reporting time back in Bangalore being 17:30 we headed off in plenty of time to beat the traffic. It was a surprisingly clear run so we reached the 'finishing line' far too early. Quickly we added House Swift to take the day's total to 115 species and tried but failed to add Asian Koel, our 'dip of the day'.

It had been a very enjoyable day's birding with some good birds seen, although we were well down on last year's total, and far behind the excellent record total of 145 species. Our only consolation was that I think we were the highest total of all those teams that actually reported back by the prescribed end time :P

Amongst all these birds were 10 new species for the year, taking my year list to 163.
Last edit: 01 Feb 2009 20:24 by Mike Prince.

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24 Jan 2009 19:12 - 02 Feb 2009 15:13 #101 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Jan 24th - Ramnagaram
My wife Nisha was needing an escape from Bangalore this morning, so we headed out, with daughter Tiya, to Ramnagaram. This was the first time I'd been there so it was fantastic to see two Indian Vultures (or Long-billed Vultures) at one of their few remaining haunts in Karnataka. Excluding Slender-billed Vulture at Kaziranga this was my first sighting of a Gyps vulture in India for over five years!

A soaring Shaheen (Peregrine) and a nice male Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike were also year ticks.
Last edit: 02 Feb 2009 15:13 by Mike Prince.

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02 Feb 2009 15:12 #107 by Mike Prince
Two short trips to lakes on the outskirts of Bangalore this weekend, both with some nice sightings. Five Baillon's Crakes showed well at Rampura, with brief views of a Ruddy-breasted Crake also. The reeds were full of warblers with Clamorous Reed, Paddyfield and Blyth's Reed obvious, whilst scrubby areas along the edge held several Sykes's Warblers and smaller numbers of Booted. Best of all was a Thick-billed Warbler.

Alexandrine Parakeet, Glossy Ibis and Grey-bellied Cuckoo were also nice new additions to the year list, and the 'Philippine Shrike' was seen again.

Hoskote the following day produced two Bangalore scarcities with a single Spotted Redshank, which flew up high shortly after the early morning fog lifted and disappeared out of sight to the south, and two Southern Grey Shrikes. Two Tawny Eagles, one a very pale bird which spent some time hunting from the ground, and a Short-toed Eagle were seen but disappointingly no harriers except for Marsh. One pipit looked good for Richard's, appearing long-billed with a long tibia and quite erect stance when it stopped walking. Unfortunately it never called and so remains just a possible: I'm yet to see definite Richard's Pipit in the Bangalore area. Finally, boosting the year list tally to 178 were Little Ringed Plover, Indian Silverbill and Scaly-breasted Munia.

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14 Feb 2009 01:03 #110 by Mike Prince
With my parents visiting for a few weeks we (i.e. also me and daughter Tiya) decided to take a trip to the jungle, and booked in for two nights at K Gudi , Jungle Lodges ' resort at BR Hills in the BRT Wildlife Sanctuary. The concentration was on mammals rather than birds with the obvious targets being Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear and Elephants. Well the stay was fantastic and all safaris into the sanctuary immensely enjoyable, but predictably the 'big' mammals eluded us. On the last trip we managed great views of a family of elephants visiting a watering hole, but had to make do with tiger pugmark and droppings. Some fresh tiger droppings (surprisingly aromatic and reminiscent of basmati rice!) were found just a few minutes walk from our cottage in the camp!
[img size=640]media/kunena/attachments/legacy/images/Asian_Elephant.jpg[/img]
Although no real efforts were made on the birding front there was plenty to see from the jeep and from our cottage. Highlights and year ticks included Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Malabar Parakeet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, three species of owls heard (Oriental Scops Owl, Jungle Owlet and Brown Hawk Owl), Crested Treeswift, six species of woodpeckers, Scarlet (or Orange) Minivet, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Rufous Babbler, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (the castanea subspecies sometimes split as Indian Nuthatch), Southern Hill Myna and Common Rosefinch.

The route back to Bangalore passed a nice waterbody near Kollegal which produced Woolly-necked Stork, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Greenshank, Whiskered Tern and a flock of about 500 Rosy Starlings.

All in all a productive couple of days, taking the India year list to 217 (all in Karnataka).

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02 Apr 2009 12:19 - 02 Apr 2009 12:22 #124 by Mike Prince
A good morning's birding at Hessarghatta, with five year ticks taking me to 224 for the year, unfortunately marred by the inconsiderate behaviour of several birders/photographers there.

Firstly the positives. Waders were represented by good numbers and variety with about 500 Wood Sandpipers, 3 Marsh Sandpipers, 7 Little Stints, 3 Temminck's Stints, 1 Pintail Snipe, a few Little Ringed Plovers and a Greenshank. A few Yellow Wagtails dotted around the lake margins included one fine melanogrisea male, almost entirely black-headed except for small flecks of white/grey on the lores and rear supercilium. After much searching I eventually found one Red-throated Pipit: this is now the third consecutive winter I've found this species here which is remarkable considering that there appears to be just one other south Indian record prior to this year. I also saw one Blyth's Pipit. Raptors were a bit scarce compared to usual here but I did see the male Pied Harrier that has apparently been here a few
weeks, more on that later. Other notable sightings included Whiskered Tern, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Siberian Stonechat, Booted Warbler, Bay-backed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike and Rosy Starling.

Unfortunately on to the negatives. Throughout most of the time I was present there were between 3 and 5 cars of other birders/photographers. They spent all the time driving over the dry lake bed in an attempt to get close to birds. This area is productive habitat for ground-nesting birds such as Oriental Skylarks and constant car traffic over it will be causing considerable damage. I'm told that a week or so before there were about FIFTEEN cars all driving over the lake bed one morning. I'm not sure whether this is an issue of ignorance or stupidity, but please in future park your cars somewhere and walk in order to respect the welfare of the birds (and see more incidentally).

The second incident concerned the Pied Harrier. Photographers trying to get close to this bird chased it in their cars and constantly harassed it. It flew considerable distances because of this and was rarely allowed to settle for long before another car approached too closely: usually 3 cars were after it at any one time. This is a long-distance migrant and rare in our area: please respect it's right to behave undisturbed and give other people a chance to see this bird before it is completely flushed out of the area.

I've rarely seen such lack of respect for birds in a selfish attempt to get photos. I hope this experience proves to be a one-off. Unfortunately, since I posted this same report on bngbirds , I've had many emails from people saying that they have frequently seen such poor behaviour from photographers here and at other sites.
Last edit: 02 Apr 2009 12:22 by Mike Prince.

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04 Apr 2009 22:11 #126 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Mar 22nd - Nandi Hills
My first birding for a while and it was an enjoyable Nandi Hills trip, with most of the regular goodies showing. A nice screaming flock of Alpine Swifts from the road early on and a brief appearance from an adult Peregrine (Shaheen), were followed by several good birds at the top. Good views of a pair of Nilgiri Woodpigeons, Blue-capped and Blue Rock Thrushes and several Blackbirds which showed well for a change. Flycatchers were represented by 12 Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Tickell's Blue, a Verditer and an Asian Brown. Warblers were great with about 25 Tickell's Leaf Warblers, nearly all in one flock, a single flock of 8 Hume's Warblers and one Tytler's Leaf Warbler (my first of the year). A Common Rosefinch was my first for Nandi Hills.

Finally the trip down produced some nice raptors with a nesting Tawny Eagle, a pair of Bonelli's Eagles and a Short-toed Eagle.

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04 Apr 2009 22:32 - 04 Apr 2009 22:35 #127 by Mike Prince
Replied by Mike Prince on topic Apr 3rd - Nandi Hills
Some gentle persuasion from Charlie Moores, of 10000birds fame, convinced me to take another trip to Nandi Hills this morning. I had taken Charlie there nearly a year ago but being the end of April the winter migrants had gone. Just a few weeks earlier this time and what a difference!

We struck lucky with great views of a male Pied Thrush feeding in the leaf litter, an Indian Pitta in the open and a great selection of warblers. Hoping to find a Tickell's Leaf Warbler for Charlie I was surprised when we turned up a Sulphur-bellied Warbler, loosely associating with a flock of Oriental White-eyes, in quite thick foliage but typically always sticking to the trunk and branches very like a Nuthatch. This is my second record here and the only year tick for today (226 now). A couple of Hume's Warblers were here too and then shortly afterwards we found a Large-billed Leaf Warbler moving ponderously low down in the trees. Blyth's Reed were common and we paid close attention to these, in the wake of recent Large-billed Reed Warbler findings. The variability was quite obvious, with some birds with particularly large bills, some with darker lower mandibles and some completely pale. Colouration varied as well, with some birds warmer-coloured and with a buff wash to the flanks. Never did we hear the typical Blyth's Reed 'chet-chet' call, but frequently the more chattering call. We even had a brief bit of tail-fanning from two birds. I wouldn't be surprised if, when they finally manage to trap some of the 'odd acros' reported at Kanha and near Kolkata recently, there are some more acrocephalus mysteries to unfold!

Other pleasing sightings today included close views of Indian Scimitar Babblers, a pair of Grey-bellied Cuckoos, Yellow-throated Bulbuls, still several Indian Blue Robins, Blue-capped and Blue Rock Thrushes, a Common Buzzard and the nesting Tawny Eagle.
Last edit: 04 Apr 2009 22:35 by Mike Prince.

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19 Apr 2009 11:14 - 01 Jun 2009 15:13 #129 by Mike Prince
I took a trip this morning with Vinay and Sree to Hessarghatta. Having been nearly two months since I last went there I was hoping to still be in time for Red-throated Pipits and Sand Martins , but wasn't surprised that we didn't see any. There were still a few migrants however, most noticeably several Barn Swallows and about 200 Yellow Wagtails. The latter were predominantly males and about 90% Grey-headed (thunbergi) and 10% Sykes's (beema).

Waders included about 250 Wood Sandpipers, a few small flocks taking off, calling frequently and heading directly off eastwards on apparent migration. About 50 Little Stints included several summer-plumaged birds, and the best bird was a non-breeding Curlew Sandpiper (the only year-tick, taking me to 228), picked out at distance thanks to its different feeding action from the Wood Sandpipers, probing rapidly in the mud.

Booted Warblers were still quite obvious and a single Sykes's Warbler showed well. Both Whiskered and River Terns were seen. A family party of Spoonbills circled a few times before deciding that the lake wasn't for them and headed off.

Surprise of the day goes to the Indian Pitta that darted passed us just 3m away!
Last edit: 01 Jun 2009 15:13 by Mike Prince.

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