Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meet Mr.Robin with no hood

You could mistake it for pied wagtail but for its upright tail and smaller size, Oriental Magpie Robin is black and white in color while female is greyish. Quite courageous it isn’t perturbed by human presence, constantly hopping and flitting. Found mostly in South Asia and East Asia (the reason for Oriental) they are quite common in gardens as also forests. This blogger though have rarely seen it in cities or gardens nearby, they seem to have vanished. This bird is the national bird of Bangladesh (called Doyel) and also seen in the currency notes. That is quite amazing.
This part of an interesting discussion that was generated following a report in Britain to shoot magpies as they are threat to other songbirds…

Monday 28th February 2005, I wasn't much impressed by the spokesman for this proposal on Radio 4 this morning. I think what is worrying is that the "It's the Magpies/Sparrowhawks what done it, Guv" school of ecology only serves to obscure the fact that this is a complex issue which involves our own use/abuse of the environment. Given that these shootin' folks & their sympathisers tend to enjoy a dominant role in the countryside, I find this worrying. If I was cynical I'd find it sinister. What was obvious, I thought in today's interview was that the RSPB spokesman (Andre Farrar I think) was willing to accept that song bird decline was complex whilst his interlocutor seemed fixated by a single cause,John
Jane Turner Sunday 27th February 2005,
You all know my views on this type of hogwash. I'm about to step on an aeroplane or I'd post the plethora of peer reviewed articles in respected journals showing that Magpies/Sparrowhaks etc have no effect what so ever on the numbers of breeding pairs of songbirds.
If they insist on using over-simplistic simplistic measure of "eats the eggs and young of smaller species" they would do better to shoot Jays. However both would be entirely futile and they'd do better to campaign for more songbird friendly farming methods.

Gaz Shilton Well said Jane. Reminds of a conversation I overheard once between a man who had just given a talk about birds of prey at our local birdclub and a woman who thought that sparrowhawks should be shot because they took HER birds were being taken from her garden. She wouldn't listen when he mentioned the Tawny Owl does similar things because to her they were too Cute to do such things. And her attitude towards him when he mentioned her cat was taking more birds than their natural predators do, well I couldn't believe it!!!

Sunday 27th February 2005, 15:35
You all know my views on this type of hogwash. I'm about to step on an aeroplane or I'd post the plethora of peer reviewed articles in respected journals showing that Magpies/Sparrowhaks etc have no effect what so ever on the numbers of breeding pairs of songbirds.
Please don't muddy the waters by bracketing specialist predators / protected species (Sparrowhawks) with generalist-switching predators / unprotected ones (Magpies).
As regards the "plethora of peer reviewed articles in respected journals" I'm genuinely interested in them, so if you could post them when you get back. I'm very interested in the methodologies they use to demonstrate that generalist / switching predators have no effect (on songbird numbers) without removing them from the equation. Safe journey.

I read Thomson, Green, Gregory and Baillie's paper when it came out. I'll read it again, now that I'm wiser and older.
Here's a paper,peer-reviewed and published in Conservation Biology that takes a less rosy (and in my opinion) more balanced view of the arguments.

Jane Turner
Sunday 27th February 2005,
Here are some more
No evidence of any long-term effect on songbird populations in England including in urban areas (Wilkinson 1988, British Birds, 81,657-8; Gooch et al. 1991, Journal of Applied Ecology, 68, 1068-86), and in Berlin and Osnabrück (Germany) no discernible decline in their numbers due to P. pica (Witt 1989; Kooiker 1991). In rural area of Belgium, accounted for only c.*6% of predation by Corvidae on songbirds though comprising 50% of corvid population (Vercauteren 1984, Gerfault, 74 327-60); see Birkhead 1991 for review of European studies.

Jane Turner
I can see we are about to revisit the debate about post breeding numbers, which clearly predators do affect, and number of breeding birds the following spring, which evidence suggests there is no effect on! Lack of food in winter being the most likely limiting factor.

Touty Sunday 27th February 2005,
Thank you. I read Thomson, Green, Gregory and Baillie's paper when it came out. I'll read it again, now that I'm wiser and older.
Here's a paper, peer-reviewed and published in Conservation Biology that takes a less rosy (and in my opinion) more balanced view of the arguments.
# Tapper, SC, Potts, GR, Brockless, M (1996) The effects of an experimental reduction in predation pressure on the breeding success and population density of grey partridges (Perdix perdix). Journal of Applied Ecolog
y, 33, 965-78
showed that (legal) predator control on Salisbury Plain for 3 years in one area (A) led to higher breeding success and spring pair density while in the area where predators were not controlled (B) breeding success and spring pair density declined. After 3 years the researchers switched the control from area A to area B and the breeding success and spring pair density in area A fell back to its original level whilst rising several-fold in area B. I grant you that grey partridges are not songbirds

Sunday 27th February 2005,
Forgot to say that the Loddington Study (completed in 2004) follows a similar if not identical methodo
logy (actually removing predators and then letting them return, rather than area A and area B)

alcedo.atthisSunday 27th February 2005,
Jane, I do not expect a response at the moment, as you may be elsewhere, but your comment :- "Lack of food in winter being the most likely limiting factor." How does this relate then to the tonnes of food put out by bird-lovers on a daily basis especially during the winter, and even during the rest of the year. Are we as bird lovers creating an unhealthy situation of keeping the numbers high just to serve our consciences in doing our bit for the part of nature which we happen to like. Should we stop putting out this vast amount of resources, which is artificially keeping numbers well over the natural balance, and let nature take it's own course?Regards

This a study by Anil Kumar (Department of Zoology and Environmental Science, Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar) and Dinesh Bhatt (Desert Regional Station, Zoological Survey of India, Jodhpur) on Oriental magpie robin found in the net I thought was interesting, it is about research done on different calls of this bird. This the preface para of the paper...

Birds use a variety of vocal signals while communicating. These signals play an important role in their social life. A number of avian species often deliver either calls or songs or both in a variety of contexts. Information in a call usually relates to the immediate circumstances of the caller. This study characterizes different types of calls on the basis of their physical characteristics and socio-biological functions, in a tropical avian species Copsychus saularis (Oriental Magpie Robin). This species has been found to use mainly six types of calls, namely territorial calls, emergence and roosting calls, threat calls, submissive calls, begging calls and distress calls in their communication. In addition, members of this species have been observed to use escape call, anger call, etc. occasionally.

Vocal signals in birds can be classified into songs and calls. A number of avian species often deliver either calls or songs or both in a variety of contexts. In general, songs are longer than calls. The former represent complex vocalizations produced by males in the breeding season. The latter are short, simple and less spontaneous. The calls are contextual and often produced with reference to a particular function1. However, there are many examples of overlaps between simple songs and calls. The study of communication not only enriches our knowledge about behavior associated with signals, but also allows us to work out the evolutionary history of any species or relationships between closely related species.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Considerate Golden-fronted Leafbird

I heard this bird first, and saw some excited red whiskered bulbuls on a tree but then that is not the call of bulbuls said I and start the search on the leafy tree. It took me some time to spot the bird-it was Golden fronted leafbird, and t

ook almost an hour to get the above pic!!. I took many snaps but the bird is so brilliantly camouflaged (no wonder the name leafbird!!) and active, add to the fact that my camera lens are manual so by the time I had focused it would have flitted to another branch. All the while it emitted a melodious cheerful whistle, it is as if saying “ok it will take a while for you to photograph me, let me keep you entertained in the meantime!!”. Quite considerate, must say.

The Golden-fronted leafbird has vibrant colored plumage depicting hues of green, orange-yellow, black, blue, and turquoise. The bill of the leafbird is slender with an upper mandible that has a slight downward curved, and encloses the spiked tongue that enables them to feed on nectar. Their diet also includes insects and fruits such as berries and figs. They are primarily tree dwellers rarely seen on ground.

Haizi the poet who became a poem
: as one blog says “Ha Zi’s life was a poem, an extremely short poem”. Haizi (originally Cha Haisheng but he named himself Hai zi meaning “son of the sea”…I like that not only the name but also the idea of naming oneself!!) was one of the most important Chinese poets of recent times. He lived for only 25years- on the day of his 25thb’day he suicided (1964-1989). He belonged to the farming community but got selected into prestigiuos Beijing University, later had a teaching career (at Chinese University, teaching Political science). Look at the brilliant imagery the boy created in this poem “ocean overheard”, stupendous. It makes you shiver. Despite the fact that it must have lost something in translation, it is an amazing piece of work. Frankly I am not surprised that he suicided. That's what happens when reality collides with abstract images, at young age it can churn you into exhaustion and physically-emotionally vulnerable. I consider myself amazingly fortunate to read his poems, this wouldn’t been possible few years back. We need to thank technology and those who created Internet.

Ocean Overhead

Primitive mother
hides from a farmer
She throws his sickle in the field
drowns her baby in the well
and lets the field lie waste

In the lamplight it seems I’ve met her
She jumps into the ocean
and the ocean hangs over the barn
It seems the snow
of my hair and my father’s is burning.

This my dedications to Hai Zi

Spilled blood

Brittle red misshaped flowers
seep into the mud

arteries sift for kernel.

Inside words sprout, liberate
the soul
that fly the sky
and sail the oceans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An unflattering name for a miming cuckoo

Brainfever bird is a medium sized cuckoo that is a resident of South Asia, it is also referred to as Common Hawk Cuckoo. It resembles Shikra- the bird which it mimes not only physically but behaviorally too. Even a keen birdwatcher could be fooled by the resemblance- banded tails and bars on the abdomen and flanks, it even does sideways movements of tail on alighting just like Shikra. Shikra’s beak though is typical raptor type while Hawk cuckoo is straighter meant for catching insects. Like all cuckoos Hawk cuckoo too is a brood parasite (mostly babblers).

Though a secretive foragers it produces one of the famous bird calls. They produce frenzied triple call that rises higher and higher into crescendo. Now Indians found it quite romantic and interpreted the call as pee-kahaan (where is my beloved?) or in Marathi as paos-ala (the summer is coming), incidentally papeeha -the Hindi name for the bird, was favored by poets over centuries in this part of the world. Brits though had some tough time in a hot humid country infested with malaria and diseases so it is easy to imagine why they found the calls irritating, also the bird is at its vocal best in summer moonlight, just the time when sahibs were finding it difficult to sleep in the sweltering heat and tossing on the bed and lo the frenzied bird call. Things couldn’t been nastier for colonizers!. And so thought it is brain fever!. This blogger though takes serious exception to these names. Why not Papeeha?. It sounds beautiful and quite apt too.

The pictures are taken on a morning walk at Malampuzha reservoir (in Palakkad), walk few Kms along the reservoir you get to see some picturesque scenes, huge mountains on one side and plantations on the other. Need to add here that I was terrifically lucky to glimpse this bird as it is quite difficult to locate and yes just about manage to photograph it.

One of my favorite poem is a Hindi poem by Mythili Sharan Gupt “ma kah ek kahani”, we had to study this in school. This probably the first poem that gave me glimpse of the beauty of the world of poetry. What an amazing poem!!. Its about a mother asking the child to choose what is right, ethical. Beautifully woven this simple poem still touches me. Lines like "kah ma leti he leti, raja tha ya rani" or lines like "nyay daya ka dani, tune guni kahani". Simple but profound, the conversation style used in the poem makes it endearing.

माँ कह एक कहानी

"माँ कह एक कहानी।" बेटा समझ लिया क्या तूने मुझको अपनी नानी?"
"कहती है मुझसे यह चेटी, तू मेरी नानी की बेटी
कह माँ कह लेटी ही लेटी, राजा था या रानी?
माँ कह एक कहानी।"

"तू है हठी, मानधन मेरे, सुन उपवन में बड़े सवेरे, तात भ्रमण करते थे तेरे, जहाँ सुरभी मनमानी।"
"जहाँ सुरभी मनमानी! हाँ माँ यही कहानी।"
वर्ण वर्ण के फूल खिले थे, झलमल कर हिमबिंदु झिले थे,
हलके झोंके हिले मिले थे, लहराता था पानी।"
"लहराता था पानी, हाँ हाँ यही कहानी।"

"गाते थे खग कल कल स्वर से, सहसा एक हँस ऊपर से,
गिरा बिद्ध होकर खर शर से, हुई पक्षी की हानी।"
"हुई पक्षी की हानी? करुणा भरी कहानी!"

चौंक उन्होंने उसे उठाया, नया जन्म सा उसने पाया,
इतने में आखेटक आया, लक्ष सिद्धि का मानी।"
लक्ष सिद्धि का मानी! कोमल कठिन कहानी।"
"माँगा उसने आहत पक्षी, तेरे तात किन्तु थे रक्षी, तब उसने जो था खगभक्षी, हठ करने की ठानी।"
"हठ करने की ठानी! अब बढ़ चली कहानी।"
हुआ विवाद सदय निर्दय में, उभय आग्रही थे स्वविषय में,
गयी बात तब न्यायालय में, सुनी सब ने जानी।"
"सुनी सब ने जानी! व्यापक हुई कहानी।"

राहुल तू निर्णय कर इसका, न्याय पक्ष लेता है किसका?"
"माँ मेरी क्या बानी? मैं सुन रहा कहानी।
कोई निरपराध को मारे तो क्यों उसे उबारे?
रक्षक पर भक्षक को वारे, न्याय दया का दानी।"

"न्याय दया का दानी! तूने गुणी कहानी।"