Bird Watching

On the Nesting of the State bird of Madhya Pradesh

On the Nesting of the State bird of Madhya Pradesh

By Ajay Gadikar

The Indian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphoneparadisi)is the state bird of M.P.  This beautiful bird is found practically throughout the country.  I will like to share my observations regarding the nesting behaviour of the paradise flycatcher.  This bird is a local migrant in this part of the country, arriving in March and staying till August end. Its breeding behaviour is studied by me at the Kajligarh Forest area near Indore.

Generally, I used to go with three more birders in my endeavours, my wife and son, as both of them have quite a lot interest in bird watching and my friend Pravar a young chap who is also a good bird watcher and photographer.  We generally used to start at 6:00 am on Sundays from our home to watch this beautiful beauty in the valleys of Kajligarh Forest where they nest each year.

We used to reach  the forest area  around 7:00 am as the place is about 30 kms. from Indore city.  It is famous for its old fort which is now in ruins; the fort is situated on top of the hill and our area of observation was the various valleys surrounding the hills.  In this valley, during the monsoon season many water streams are formed and along these streams many birds can be seen. The birds come here during the summer season and just before the onset of monsoon starts preparing the nest to breed and bring their next progeny.

It’s a mixed deciduous type of forest, with teak trees dominating the major area, apart from various varieties of teak trees the other major trees found are Palash and Arjun.

We descend into the valley carefully through a makeshift staircase prepared by the forest department.  An age old lord Shiva temple is situated beneath a rock here, near the temple a small gorge is created by the water falling from upside.  A stream is formed by the overflow of the water, we follow the stream and look for the birds on the trees alongside it.  Most of the shrubs areof Lantana plant which grows on both sides of the stream.  At some point we need to cross the river stream and go on the other side due to very thick vegetation with no further access possible.

As the forest canopy is very dense in the valley and the light conditions are also dull, the birds are not always visible.  Most of the birds are heard rather than seen here.  One can see birds feeding on the fruiting tree up in the canopy, the mixed hunting party of babblers, woodpeckers, orioles and drongos are seen foraging from one tree to another.

The main attraction of our visit to Kajligarh forest area just before the monsoon is to see the nesting behaviour of the paradise flycatcher. The Paradise flycatcher males are seen in two colours, the ruffous color and the white color. The rufous ones are younger than the white color males. The males also possess a long tail which is absent in females.  In the month of April one can see the courtship rituals of the male and female. The rival males can be seen chasing each other to establish their territory.  Once the territory is secured and successful mating is done, both the sexes participate in nest building but the female majorly contributes. They carefully choose a branch of the tree which can withstand the heavy rains
and strong wind. The nest is cup shaped and generally can be seen easily tied on a tree branch just above a water stream.

Each year just before the onset of monsoon one can see many pairs of paradise flycatchers building their nest, then both the parents incubate the eggs.  It takes around 20-22 days for the eggs to hatch, and as soon as the young ones come out of the eggs, both of them start feeding the babies.  The chicks become restless with the arrival of their parents at the nest and stretch their beaks to the fullest to grab the food.

It didn’t take us long to spot the nest of a paradise flycatcher in which the chicks got hatched a couple of days earlier and were ready to fledge any day.  Observing the nest quietly from a safe distance, we could see the Male and Female bird arriving silently at the nest and feeding the chicks. It was wonderful to observe the behaviour.  We noted them bringing various insects at a quite fast pace as they need to cater to the demand of those four highly demanding babies.  The breeding process ends by August each year and the young ones can be seen moving around with their mother in the vicinity for a few more days.

The reason for breeding at this time of the year is the richness of food.  With the arrival of Monsoon and the subsequent rains causing dampness in the forest, an abundant supply of insects and different species of flies become available.  This is the time of the year when most of the forest birds breed, specially flycatcher family birds,  as there is ample supply of protein food in the form of insects.  Many of the flycatcher family bird nests can be seen at this time.  At the same time, some other flycatchers are also seen hatching the eggs or feeding the young ones while the latecomers are still seen preparing of the nest.

I had been visiting the Kajligarh forest area since last many years and found that many resident species of birds live here and many summer migrants also visit here for breeding purposes.  Areas like these should be protected and conserved so that upcoming generations of these bird species should find a place to live and flourish.

(Text and Pictures Ajay Gadikar, a naturalist from Indore)

organic farming

Conducting the ecological choir

Conducting the ecological choir       

Below-ground biodiversity is found to be important in how the ecology responds to climate change, , says S.Ananthanarayanan.

Biodiversity is now recognised as a vital factor in the resilience of the environment. The nine ‘planetary boundaries’, or the limits within which the world would have to stay to avoid irreversible environmental damage, developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in 2009, listed the loss of biodiversity as one, along with climate change, chemical pollution and land use.

Biodiversity, however, has been understood more in terms of the plant and animal species in forests and grasslands and even in agriculture and aquaculture. A paper in the journal, Nature Communications, now turns the focus on lesser studied variety of life forms to be found underground and within the soil. Xin Jing, Yu Shi, Haiyan Chu, Ke Zhao, Litong Chen, Yue Shi, Youxu Jiang and Jin-Sheng He from the University of Peking and the Chinese Academy of Sciences at Nanjing, Xining and Beijing and Nathan J. Sanders and Aimée T. Classen from the University of Copenhagen report that soil bacteria and below-ground plant and animal species form an important part of a complex that regulates relations between parts of the ecosystem and how it responds to climate change.

Although there is debate regarding the mechanism of the action of biodiversity, the fact that a variety of species living together makes for stability and efficient recycling of resources in an ecosystem is understood with some clarity. The studies, however, have been in the form of measuring the productivity, for instance, of a group of plants when grown either together or separately, in small plots, to demonstrate the value of diversity. But an ecosystem is seen as consisting of several, different, inter-related functions, a property that is termed ecosystem multifunctionality, or EMF, and studies have shown that the EMF is dependent, even more than individual functions, on biodiversity, or the presence of a variety of species. Within biodiversity, however, analysis and separation of the effect of variety of species either above or below ground, has not been possible, the paper in Nature Communications says, perhaps because of the great complexity and variability underground, even within a short distance.

“….pick up a handful of soil and you might find more species there than all of the vertebrates on the planet,” says co-author, Aimée T. Classen, from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, in a news release from the University. The study, in fact, cites an 1881 paper, ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits,’ by Charles Darwin, to illustrate that the diversity and importance of underground species has been long recognised.

There have also been a number of investigations, the study says, of the effect that climate has on the constituents of an ecosystem, like the plants, animals, earthworms, microbes and hence the composition of biotic communities. There have even been studies that combine variations of climate with different levels of biodiversity to see how these affect different things, like the productivity or resilience and the way the whole, integrated ecosystem works. The studies have made use of changes in climatic conditions as one moves over a landscape, and also the changes in the kind of vegetation, but mainly the over-ground plant cover. Carrying out a study of how changing geographic, climatic and also the biodiversity, both above and below ground, affect the ecology, would help identify and quantify the effect of different components, the Nature Communications paper says.

The study here reported hence covered sixty sites spanning a gradual variation of climate along alpine grasslands on the Tibetan plateau, spread over nearly 1,000 km, to examine how the EMF, the combined ‘suite’ of environmental functions, behaved under different levels of climate as well as biodiversity, both above and below-ground. For quantification of multifunctionality, eight key ecosystem features: (1) over-ground biomass, (2) root biomass, (3) soil organic carbon, (4) soil nitrogen, (5) soil available nitrogen, (6) soil phosphorus, (7) plant nitrogen (nitrogen pools in aboveground biomass), and (8) plant phosphorus (phosphorus pools in aboveground biomass), were estimated at each of the sixty sites and averaged. As for the levels of biodiversity at the same sites, estimates were made of the different kinds of (1) bacteria in the soil, (2) another variety of living cells called archaea, (3) of other animal life in the soil, (4) of fungi in the soil and (5) plant species, to compute a ‘soil biodiversity index’. The method used to count the kinds of soil organisms was by analysis of DNA extracted from soil samples.

The levels of multifunctionality in the various sites, as the five elements and the combined index of biodiversity increased or fell, were then analysed statistically. The levels of EMF can be seen to increase with increase in diversity in soil bacteria and fauna, and total soil biodiversity, while diversity in fungi and archaea do not seem to have an effect.

Non-biotic influences were also assessed by relating EMF levels with rainfall, temperature and the soil content of moisture, acidity and calcium carbonate (limestone or chalk). On further statistical analysis, it is found that the strongest single driver of EMF is soil moisture.

Plant species richness and below-ground biodiversity are seen to have about equal effect and the two factors, taken together, accounted for a large fraction, about 45%, of the variation in EMF across sites. The finding, overall, is that non-biotic conditions, of rainfall, moisture and soil chemistry influence the effects of biodiversity, which in turn, mediate the effect of non-biotic conditions on EMF.

The study represents investigation into how different condition affect the way an ecosystem responds to climate change. The findings suggest ways of influencing levels and nature of the components of the ecosystem to help the system adapt to changing conditions, the study says. A significant finding, for instance, was that soil biodiversity may have stronger effects on ecosystem in areas of higher rainfall. “That is important because scientific studies often focus on temperature – not precipitation – when predicting how ecosystems will respond to future changes such as climate change”, Aimée Classen said. ……As climates change and species are lost and gained from ecosystems, predicting how ecosystems will function in the future will require experiments and observations that link biodiversity above and below ground to EMF,” the paper says.

The writer can be contacted at



As time flies and 2017 unfolds, Team IWC wish all members a very Happy New Year.   

Here is a poem by author Arefa Tehsin and  Adityavikram More


I see Time as it rolls and flies

And crawls and laughs and spies

It stands like a rock stock-still

As a heron looks for a kill

It looks with horror struck eyes

Of the fish…and then it dies

It hangs upside down with a bat

It slinks around the night with a cat

It flicks its tongue with a snake

It stares up the sky with a lake

It sighs with lovers under the moon

Then falls in their arms with a swoon

It runs down with tears on beer glasses

When you want it to stay, it passes

It dashes with the vigour of youth 

When you’re old it acts like a sleuth 

Sees dusk with an old man’s sight: 

The passage of another day into night 

It heaves up and down with breath

It moves slowly in a house of death

It repeats itself with the waves 

It lies to rest with the graves

It snoozes with dusty old snaps

And traces its footprints in maps 

Raises sword with a madman’s rage

And denounces the world with a sage

Whether we’re angry or we grieve 

It won’t slip a second down its sleeve

Time, our greatest enemy and friend

Marks our beginning, brings our end

One thing Time can’t do is wait

Call it fated will or willed fate 

Any moment, our time can run out

My friend, that’s what time is about

On this day, we wish you Time

A life that’s not a rush, but a rhyme

(A poem by Arefa Tehsin and Adityavikram More)

Do not miss the rainbows on the roads you travel!

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