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One of the remarkable things about birdwatching around Hampi is that farmers have started putting hides in their backyards. This was the first time I used one. It is change from trying to make a minimal impact on wildlife; the farmers put out feed to attract birds. I’m not sure I like the idea; because it makes birds depend on feed provided by humans. But once in there, the way I looked at birds changed. Instead of trying hard to be inconspicuous, trying to locate a bird, I sat invisibly inside the hide and watched the behaviour of birds feeding outside.

I realized that I don’t have to stick to stills. What I was seeing required videos. So here is one of the very pretty Brahminy Starling (Sturnia pagodarum, also called Brahminy Myna). In the wild I’ve only seen small flocks of them foraging together. Here they didn’t seem to mind feeding along with sparrows, waxbills, and munias. I guess the abundance of food that is laid out for them changes their behaviour. It was good to sit in a hide, but, on balance, I do prefer to peel off those covers and go back to the older way of watching,

Bird watching in Hampi

Who goes to watch birds in Hampi, you might ask. I might cough in embarrassment, me, The Family, a handful of others. Whatever for, you might persist. Then I would have to tell you that spotted sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus) have been spotted there, and if one is lucky, this might be the easiest place to spot them. And if you persist in asking whether we did, the true answer is that we didn’t. But we saw more. Like the bird in the featured photo.

No that can’t be right. Sorry, that was just a kite that someone was flying in China. No, I meant the wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii) that you see in the photo above. I’ve only seen them flitting about in the air before, and learnt to tell them by their unmistakable wire-tailed profile. I hadn’t ever had such a good view of a sitting bird. The light showed the rust on its head very well. The blue upper feathers are in shadow and look nearly black, so there is scope for a better photo in future. If you have seen clusters of mud bulbs hanging below bridges over clean rivers, they are usually the nests of these swallows. I used the word clean very deliberately, because the presence of these nests has been proposed as bio-markers for non-polluted water.

Is that all? No, we did get to see a few more birds. More about them later.

Mellow Monday

How do I start this week in a relaxed frame of mind? Maybe I could remember the quiet time three weekends ago when I saw a bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) sitting and enjoying the sunset. Would it retain the same calmness of mind today?

Dancing in the breeze

After three weeks of traveling on work and sitting in day-long meetings, it was nice to take a long weekend off to sit in the sun and watch grass flowers fluttering and dancing in the breeze. These are no daffodils, but in the cool breeze of interior Karnataka’s winter, they managed to fill my heart with pleasure.

When The Family decided to plan a break in Hampi, combining history, art, and architecture with nature and bird watching, I thought it might get a little overwhelming. But the weather turned out to be wonderful, if you were in the shade. Hampi is a small town near a nature sanctuary. A five minute drive takes you into a countryside full of scrub forests. The bird life you see here is not as rich as that in the coastal rainforests, but there are scrubland species which are hard to see elsewhere. I will post about that later.

For the moment, I just show you a simple video of house sparrows (Passer domesticus), Indian silverbills (Euodice malabarica, white throated munia), and scaly breasted munia (Lonchura punctulata) feeding together. I liked the commotion as they peck at grains. The sound is mainly due to the silverbills, which like to flock together and chirp to make sure that they are in contact. All three species are seed eaters, and therefore able to survive across a range of ecologies, including the dry scrublands of the interior of India.