PASSAGE TO INDIA… Part 2

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Part 1 of the Passage to India can be viewed HERE. This is the second part…

“The Red-Wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus, is an Indian native (below left). There is some discussion as to whether or not this bird is a natural visitor to Singapore, or are those that we see here actually imported foreign talent brought in by the zoo and bird park. No argument about the status of the bird in the picture.

“Common Sandpipers, Actitis hypoleucos, are passage migrants through India (above right). In Singapore I have seen them in mangroves. This one in India was in a pure freshwater hill stream.

“I think that these are Indian Padi-field Pipits, Anthus rufulus, foraging in grass by a roadside (left).

“This species is resident in India, but at the end of the year (and I was there in November) other temperate-country pipits also migrate into the area. The species are not easy to tell apart.

“Three seed-eating and one fruit-eating dove were encountered on my trip.

“Rock Pigeons (Columbia livia) were everywhere, in the cities (below), the suburbs, and even deep in the forests.

“Unlike in Singapore, there seemed to be no laws against feeding birds in public areas, and people brought bags of seeds for the birds.

“Is this Collared Dove in the photo (below-left), Streptopelia tranquebarica, Streptopelia decaocto or a hybrid? The various species of Collared Doves have proven to be extremely prolific in aviculture. Released birds are spreading all over the world.

“In India, Collared Doves are almost as common as Rock Pigeons. These birds too have learned how to take advantage of handouts from humans. I saw many individuals at the edges of the feeding parties. Being smaller, they get pushed to the fringes by the pigeons, but still obviously get enough to eat.

“I grabbed this blurry shot of what was unmistakably a Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) on the roadside (above right). Though the barring and the spotting are less distinct than that on the birds in Singapore, I am confident in the identification.

“The very subtle differences between the various species of Green Pigeons in Singapore and Malaysia always get me confused. Add one more to make me even more mixed up.

“I was told that this is a Yellow-footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera (above left). A flock of them were feeding in this Ficus religiosa tree.

“This chicken, photographed deep in the jungle away from any human habitation, caused two nature guides at the Corbett Tiger Sanctuary to cross swords (above right).

“The first claimed that it was a Grey Jungle Fowl (Gallus sonneratti). The other said that it was an immature male Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus). I am inclined to the latter opinion. Even though this bird does not display the white cheek patches commonly seen in Red Jungle Fowl in Malaysia and Singapore, it looks nothing at all like the photos I have seen of Grey Jungle Fowl. The two species have been recorded from the Corbett region, but the Grey is said to be rare. They have also been known to hybridise.

“No argument whatsoever about the identity of these gallinules in the trees (above). They are young male Blue Peacocks (Pavo cristatus). Peafowl are everywhere in India, both wild and semi-domesticated. These were roosting for the night outside a village.

“This Hoopoe (Upapa epops) was digging in a jungle path (below left). I could not figure out what it was after because the ground was hard, sandy and dry, with no sign of life. But it spent quite a while diligently going through the soil.

“Three species of bulbuls were encountered on this trip. The nationality of the bird in the picture (above-right) is subject to controversy, even though I think that its identity is not. The guide at Corbett called it a White Cheeked Bulbul.

“A check in reference material identified it as Pycnonotus leucogenys, which goes under this common name, but also under another moniker of Himalayan Bulbul, which I think is more appropriate.

“The name of White Cheeked Bulbul is also used for Pycnonotus leucotis, the national bird of Bahrain, though that bird is also known as the White Eared Bulbul. There are very strong similarities between these two species, but leucotis does not have a crest as prominent as that of leucogenys, and the white on the cheeks is more widespread.”

“The crest is more clearly visible in this second picture (above left). To add to the confusion, the ranges of these two species are supposed to overlap. And to make matters even worse, suggestions have even been put forward that leucotis was introduced to the Middle East. Arabs keep songbirds, and the trade in live birds between India and Bahrain is supposed to have existed for centuries.

“Another common bird was the Red-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer (above right).

“And of course the Red-Whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jocosus, should be familiar to bird watchers in Singapore and the rest of South East Asia (above left).

“The Indian subspecies, abuensis, is larger than the birds we see in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Though not evident in the bird featured, most of those I have seen, including those I have kept in my aviaries, also have taller crests. Despite the impressive appearance, the Indian race is seldom traded and not favoured in aviculture because it does not sing as frequently and as melodiously as the Thai and Malaysian birds. Most of the feral birds in Singapore are probably descended from Thai stock.

“Woodpeckers were quite common at Corbett National Park. They did not seem in the least bit shy. This female Himalayan Flameback, Dinopium shorii (above right), drummed and drilled daily in the dead trees outside the Visitors’ Centre.

“Corvines are known to be intelligent and inquisitive. In the rural areas, the Rufous Tree Pie, Dendrocitta vagabunda, displays this characteristic to excess (above left). It is a noisy opportunist who follows visitors around in nature reserves, hoping for free handouts.

“But the House Crow, Corvus splendens, takes the cake when it comes to taking advantage of humans (above right). This one at Agra has learned the advantages of using taps for drinking and bathing.

“It merrily ignored puddles on the ground and was totally at ease using water gushing straight from the tap.”

Lee Chiu San
Singapore
21st January 2013

…to be continued.

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