Great Hornbills

You can’t walk inside Kaziranga, you have to take a jeep. What you manage to see depends quite strongly on the driver. You are unlikely to ever miss a rhino or elephant, because they are so visible. But you can easily miss smaller animals. We had a fantastic driver on our first sortie. He first spotted the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) which you see in the featured photo. The sun hadn’t yet risen, so the conspicuous red eyes of this spectacular bird are not yet visible.

The bird waited in the top branch for a long while, examining its surroundings with care. It normally eats fruits, but it is not averse to making a meal of a mouse or even a small owl. Perhaps it was looking for big game. After all, it was getting towards the end of the nesting season, and its fledglings were perhaps nearly ready to hop out of the nest.

Later in the day we did see a nest. This is always a hole in a tree into which the female seals herself into after laying eggs. I wonder which predator she’s protecting herself against; she’s large enough to deal with most rodents and lizards, and probably also snakes. The male feeds the female and chicks through the slit in the tree which you can see. When the chicks are old enough, the mother will break open the sealed edges of the nest, and climb out. That is probably still two or three weeks away. The forests of Kaziranga seems to host quite a few of this threatened species. We saw males in flight several times.

Seeing these majestic birds in the forest is a wonderful sight. I hope their numbers grow. It will be sad if we are among the last generation to see these birds.

Fabulous Friday

The lush green valley of Valparai is a good place for wildlife and birding. The morning’s outing gave us a small bird list, but with a couple of “lifers” (birders’ shorthand for seeing a bird for the first time in one’s life). I put together four great sightings in the photos above. Going left to right, top to bottom they are two juvenile great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) with their deep calls and immense flapping wings, the rare Malabar giant squirrel (Ratufa Indica), a bull Gaur (Bos gaurus, also called the Indian Bison) keeping a wary eye on us, and one of a band of endangered lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) that now feeds on garbage heaps around villages.