Friday, February 22, 2008

Another new raptor!

I did the survey in a different order today in an attempt to have a more representative sampling of the areas that normally I’m not getting to until after 10AM (less activity among many songbirds this late in the day). I didn’t see anything remarkably different during this part of the survey, but I did see a Watercock and more waterhens than usual probably due to the earlier hour I was there. I also got a nice photo opportunity of a cooperative Pied Cuckoo during the prime early morning light (below). This is a species that is a brood parasite and lays its eggs in other species nest’s for them to raise (much like the cowbirds do in the Americas). Almost all of the old world cuckoos and their close relations (Asian Koel) do this.

Continuing on my way I drove more slowly along the wooded section of the river/canal that enters Karaivetti Lake. My slower approach was rewarded by a brief observation of an Ashy Drongo. This is a species that has been recorded once at the sanctuary before, but it is uncommon in the lowlands primarily due to a lack of shaded woodland habitat that it prefers (it is the most abundant drongo up in the Ghats). The opening photo is a more artistic capture of the much more abundant Black Drongo that I took at the observation tower last week. The Ashy differs from the Black in being a more slate grey color with a bright red eye. The Ashy is typically found perched on the interior branches of a tree while the Black Drongo will perch out on wires and any sort of exposed and open perch.

A brief stop at the rail location garnered me looks at a Baillon’s Crake again…of course I saw this species on both days surrounding Relton’s visit. I was grateful that the greylag goose at least didn’t rub salt in the wound by not appearing today despite almost the full contingent of Bar-headeds being present (221). The rest of my survey was slow but as I was leaving I watched a Brahminy Kite that had been asserting its dominance over literally everything in the area (including openbill storks and ibis!) begin to scream and climb up towards a very long-winged raptor that was soaring above me. I hadn’t noticed this bird prior to the Brahminy Kite alerting me of its presence and a quick look through the binocs revealed that this bird was a subadult Bonelli’s Eagle, a species that regularly occurs in the plains, but that had never been recorded at Karaivetti before. I actually had seen this species at least three times last year, but this was my first observation of the species this year.

I caught the 3PM bus from Pullambadi to Trichy and had the privilege of being on a bus that was showing some of the latest films on dvd. Apparently police/military brutality isn’t something that is frowned upon here. Most of the scenes that seemed to illicit the most admiration from my fellow travelers were the scenes where one military officer was beating some hapless soul senseless. I honestly was trying not to watch the TV but every one of these beatings was signaled by an almost disco dance beat while the special effects people went nuts with slow motion. I don’t mean like Matrix slow motion or wire-foo, I mean just normal slow motion to a man being utterly battered. Yeah forgive my lack of enthusiasm; I’m accustomed to movies like Fight Club where the fighting actually has some sort of purpose…wait. Okay maybe I can’t claim the moral high ground here, but regardless I was not overly impressed.