Bird Watching

Birds in my School

Birds of my school
-Neel Gadikar

Pleased to share with you an article on the many species of birds that I used to observe in my school campus since last 5 years. I composed this article with the hope that it will be a great treat to the other school students and it will also encourage them to watch and document birds in their school campus.

Bird watching is my hobby since my childhood days; most of my holidays were spend at National parks or Bird sanctuaries. Slowly my bird watching hobby got converted into my passion. When I was only 9 years old I gave a presentation on “Wonderful World of Birds” to a fully packed auditorium in Indore.

This passion for bird watching has kept me close to nature and over the years my knowledge about the different bird species has also increased.  
India has a great biodiversity and one can watch around 1300 different species of birds in our country. With so diverse landscapes and topographies to see the birds a single lifetime is not enough to see all of them.

I am thrilled to see around 50 species of birds in my school campus itself. Our School has got a great mix of fruiting and flowering plants and trees which attract many species of birds, also the large lush green playgrounds attract large number of birds whose primary diet is seeds and insects.

Morning is the best time to see their activity in the school ground and the campus.
 
As our school is situated at the outskirts of the City, it has been a boon for a birder like me, as you come to see more species of birds at the city outskirts compared to what you could see within the city limits. Even while coming to school in the bus on the way I am used to see a varied species of birds.

The very fast diminishing population of Vultures has raised concerns to the birding fraternity in last two decades, but luckily I have spotted many a times pair of endangered Egyptian Vultures circling above the school and at times at quite a low height also.

In winter months the migratory birds like the White wagtail, the grey wagtail and the yellow wagtail are seen in the ground looking for the insects.
Other migratory birds like the Black Redstart, Siberian stonechat, Grey headed canary flycatcher also visit the campus in winters.


Three species of Owls are also seen frequently in the school campus. I have seen the Indian Rock owl adults with their chicks in the junior building. It was very interesting to see their behaviour everyday early in the morning.

The Spotted owl pair also marks its presence daily in the school. The pair had found a small crevice in the school building where they are mostly seen. 
The barn owl is seen sleeping in the day time on a tree on the passage to the swimming pool, many a times I have observed its pellets and dropping on the cemented road of the campus.


The common Myna and Brahmney Myna raise their offsprings every year at the pipe fixture near the entrance of the school building.
A swallow nest is built just outside the pool entrance only. It’s very interesting to observe how the male and female pickup mud from nearby areas and build the nest slowly and steadily.

Plenty of cattle egrets are also seen feeding on insects in the lush grass of the school playground.
Red wattled lapwing in numerous counts is also seen. They make loud noise and fly away if students try to approach them.
Laughing doves, spotted doves also make nest in the many trees found around the school.


The most common species seen in the school is the Purple sunbird which finds plenty of nectar diet to suck from the different species of flowering plants planted in the school building. The Sunbird erects beautiful pendulum shaped nest on the small trees. I have seen a very interesting phenomenon where the sunbird nest was built with many paper pieces which the bird has collected from the school dustbin.


In last 05 years I have seen the House Sparrows population dwindling fast from the campus, once they were seen in hundreds and used to roost on the series of trees in front of the swimming pool entrance but now they are seen in very less numbers.
 
Rock pigeons is another commonly seen species which are very prolific breeders and try to make nest at every possible nook and corner of the school building.
Black Drongo also forages here and there and look for insects. This bird is completely black in colour and has a typical forked tail.


Red vented Bulbuls are also commonly seen. These omnivorous bird nests in the small trees inside the campus.
Smaller birds like Ashy prinias, Plain prinias, Tailor birds, Indian chats, Indian robins and Silver bills are seen foraging near the small plants in search of food.  

Big groups of rose ringed parakeets daily fly over the school campus in search of food to nearby villages and agriculture land.

Now a days many bird species are facing tough time with the fast speed of development which is unknowingly damaging their habitat.  I hope a bird club should be started in the school and the bird watching hobby should be encouraged in the school among the junior classes as well.

Burning Issues

Asia'sCritically Endangered Vultures

Asia'sCritically Endangered Vultures
-Courtesy Chris Bowden

SAVE( Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction ) is a consortium of 21 partners and many more associated organisations, with backing of Governments of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and Pakistan, sharing the goal to identify and implement the priority actions (based on scientific evidence) that are urgently needed to conserve Asia’s Critically Endangered vultures. 

As documented in their 7th Annual meeting held in 2018, the achievements in protecting the endangered vultures till date are as under
  • Govt ban of ketoprofen and aceclofenac declared in Bangladesh
  • First releases of captive-reared white-rumped vultures in Nepal (& satellite tracking of 11 wild birds)
  • Successfully upholding the multi-dose-vial ban in India (winning the challenge in Madras High court case brought by two pharma companies)
  • Initiation of NSAID safety-testing program on vultures by IVRI started for tolfenamic acid o Population trends in Nepal for wild white-rumped vultures now positive where diclofenac use has been stopped
  • The first F2 generation white-rumped vulture offspring (ie both parents were hatched in captivity) for the programme were fledged at Pinjore centre.
  • Increasing Government support and resources for breeding and release programme in India

The updated priorities for 2018 are,
  • Veterinary licenses to be withdrawn for two drugs – ketoprofen and aceclofenac - based on the good existing evidence that they are unsafe for vultures.
  • An effective system of regulation of veterinary drugs, based upon safety-testing on vultures is continued for all current painkillers (NSAIDs) and for all potential new ones entering veterinary practice.
  • Evaluate safety to vultures of nimesulide as a priority.
  • Identify additional vulture safe NSAIDs (alternatives for vets).
  • Defend and communicate the 2015 multi-dose ban of human diclofenac formulations to relevant authorities & stakeholders (India).
  • Major efforts urgently needed within South Asia to address the immediate and increasing gap in funding for vulture conservation
  • Promotion of network and approach of ‘Vulture Safe Zones’ across South Asia with expansion to include trans-boundary cooperative efforts.
  • Maintain and support the existing vulture conservation breeding programmes throughout South Asia.
  • Create a safe environment for further soft releases of captive vultures at identified sites (100km radius) in Nepal and first soft releases in India in 2018, requiring satellite monitoring of the released birds.
  • Improved availability of well-formulated meloxicam products thereby facilitating their popularity with veterinary practitioners.
  • Use the Convention of Migratory Species’ Vulture Multi-species Action Plan as a tool to promote SAVE priority actions and engage with governments. Inform CMS about significant changes (e.g. changes to threats) in the SAVE region.
  • Closely support National Vulture Recovery Committees and the Regional Steering Committee in order to facilitate the urgent implementation of the 2012 Delhi Regional Agreement and SAVE priorities.
.
White rumped vulture
Photo Pradeep Sharma

Did You Know ?

How do birds cope with winter?


How do birds cope with winter?

-Susan Sharma


The winter season is still going strong in the North of India.  Winter poses several challenges for birds as well, especially when the temperatures dip, and dip some more in the night.

Here are some important ways that "Nature" helps birds to stay warm during the cold winter.  

Many birds must at least triple their normal intake to survive.  Birds have many adaptations to survive the extremes of winter.

Fat treepie

Some birds migrate.


Some adjust their diet habits.

Fat magpie robin
By the time winter arrives, many have doubled their feather count.   

Birds have a unique circulatory system in there legs to help them cope with cold temperatures.  Warm arterial blood from the birds interior, which is on its way to the bird's legs and feet, passes through a network of small passages that runs alongside the cold returning blood veins from the feet.  The network of vessels acts like a radiator and exchanges the heat from the out-going warm arterial blood to the cold venous blood.

Fat parakeet and not so fat mynah
By warming up the old blood, no heat is lost and the feet receive a constant supply of life sustaining blood. Because the blood doesn't warm up a bird's feet and because of the scales (no skin, no sweat or evaporation), birds don't freeze to metal poles or birdbaths.

Fat, is another important winter weather survival adaption.  Fat acts as an insulator, in addition to an energy reserve.  During the day, birds eat to build up fat reserves.  On average, a bird can put on up to 15% to 20% of body weight in fat before it becomes to heavy to fly. 

The smaller he bird, the higher the metabolism (more energy burned).  Birds don't have brown fat, the kind we have. Instead they have white fat. White fat is a high-energy fuel used to power the bird's warming process.

Thermogenesis is a fancy name for shivering.  You can't really see it, but all birds shiver in the cold of winter.  From the largest of birds like eagles and water fowl to the smallest of birds, like hummingbirds.  They all shiver to maintain their core body temperature at about 40 degree centigrade.  That is an amazing high temperature compared to the surrounding air temperatures. Without shivering the bird's body temperature would quickly drop and the bird would become hypothermic.

I have observed kingfishers go into a state of unconsciousness called "torpor" during winter season. Respiration and heart rate will also drop during this period. The bird remains in one position without moving for a long long period. 


(All photographs of birds clicked in the moth of January)
(The details are courtesy Ronald Patterson of http://www.gardening-for-wildlife.com/ )

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