Bird Watching

Home sweet home:a family and its struggle

Home sweet home:a family and its struggle
-Devendra Singh
(Continued from last month)

After a few days the female disappeared inside the nest and the male started sealing the tree hole. One could see the tip of the long beak of the  mother to-be through the small slit in the morning, communicating with her partner, asking for food. The male would fly around getting food and feeding her diligently. Daily he would feed her many things besides leaves. Sometimes he would regurgitate to take out fruit and leaves and give them to the female. It was a great lesson about duty, hard work, love, affection, care, sacrifice, bonding, companionship…… you name it and it was there.Off and on a Myna could also be spotted daringly near the nest, only to be driven away by the female Grey Hornbill who would take out its beak from inside the hole to do so. This continued for about a month or so.

I was overwhelmed by the events of their daily life and would go daily to be part of this process. Sometimes you discover and realize yourself through the nature’s prism and also through your passion and hobbies. It is so intricately woven by the creator in all of us and in nature. 

I was waiting excitedly about the coming days. Sooner than I had expected, I heard the male being greeted with a chirping loving noise from inside the nest indicating that the new ones had arrived. More food for him to carry I guess! The holes remained cemented from the outside with just a small gap for feeding purpose. It was now the duty of the male to protect his family inside the hole. Only the beak of the female was visible from the small slit. It was a spectacle which shall remain engraved in the mind for ever. 


Then came day that I found that the hole had been widened and a feeble looking female was sitting outside on the tree branch. The male joined her as well and both of them started communicating very loudly. The chicks were out! And the parents were still near the nest, standing guard. 

Suddenly there was cacophony and one witnessed a fight between the Mynas and the Hornbills. It was a very fierce. Apparently the Mynas were trying to drive away the Hornbills in the same way that they had been driven away a few months ago by them from that very tree. The Mynas were in large numbers and the fight continued for a while until one final day the Mynas drove away the Grey Hornbills to capture the space. It was such a proud moment as the victorious Mynas pose for the photo shoot while the female Hornbill, weakened by the process of nurturing her family, watched from a close-by branch! This was captured by the camera, thanks to the technology that the bigger and powerful lens which can capture life’s events without disturbing the process.

 As they say there is nothing permanent in life: what was home once for Hornbills had now been captured by the Mynas. The tree was the same, surroundings unchanged, only time had changed to give shelter to a different species to rear young ones. There is nothing constant except constant change. I was wonder struck with the ways of nature.

Now it’s the Mynas turn to propagate on the same spot.  The story has continued and will continue whether we are there to observe, watch and witness it or not. We as humans can be more respectful towards nature as it is the one power which sustains us without making any demandsthereby making life richer and richer: such richness which money can’t buy.

( Concluded-  Read first part)

The author is Devendra Singh, a Naturalist, Bird watcher and Civil Servant with Indian Railways at Delhi.  The pictures were taken at Rail Eco Park, North central Ridge, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi.


Book Reviews

The Vanishing- India's Wildlife Crisis

The Vanishing- India's Wildlife Crisis
By Prerna Singh Bindra

Review by Susan Sharma

288 pages of convincingly argued logic on why wildlife in India is declining fast.  Suggestions and holistic recommendations on how we can avert a crisis.  That is Prerna's book.  

The narration of ground level realities hits you hard as the author has written from personal experiences and does not shy away from expressing her own feelings which more than often reflect the readers' own.

A book which resonates with every Indian, a book without any agenda.

Nearly 40 pages of end notes and index indicate the amount of research which has gone in to complete the book.  That said, the facts and statistics are interlayed with anecdotes and real people which gives the book almost a cinematic quality.  The author has a very balanced look at where the pursuit of undisciplined and unscientific growth can lead us.

A must read for all Indians-who care about themselves and the future of their children.

When the author did a book promotion in Gurgaon, the GenNext of Gurgaon participated enthusiastically in the debate which followed.  The video recordings which I have put together can be seen at the link below.  
Here is a collective distress call on "The Vanishing"  Want to add your voice?  Watch the video and add your comments on the You Tube channel comments section.  Ideas emerge when we talk.  We at IWC will make your voices heard. 


Dragonfly India meet

Dragonfly India meet
-Nazneen Siddique

Dragonfly India meet is a get together for like minded professional and enthusiastic people who observe and study Dragonflies.
The yearly meet started from Nagpur in 2014.  2nd meet was at Thattekad Kerala in 2015, 3rd meet Gorumara National Park in northern West Bengal, and the recent 4th meet was in Goa 201.   I feel myself lucky  to be in touch with the group from it’s 3rd meet.  It’s a wonderful group with experts and professional from the field of scientific studies.
This is an amazing experience for me to be part of the meet and world of dragonfly which is not famous as other mammals, animals or birds and butterflies, but it is equally, if not more important than others.  

Dragonfly: what is dragonfly? why we are talking about dragonfly why are we discussing about dragonfly, why this small insect is important for our big world, this question came to my mind as well and I am sure you all would be going through the same while reading this text.  Let me first tell you what is dragonfly and its importance to nature. Dragonflies and Damselflies are also referred as Odonata in the  scientific world.

 Malabar Torrent Dart (Euphaea fraseri) “

Dragonfly is a small, fast flying insect, which can be seen during monsoon season easily.  Commonly it is called helicopter by many.  This small insect is an indicator of fresh water, rain prediction, controlling of macro insects such as mosquitoes, and some common and critical diseases such as dengue and malaria.  Now you know how important are the dragonflies.

Dragonfly India meet aim is to join as many people as we can for spreading the awareness of importance of dragonfly.  Identification,  Habitat  and Conservation of dragonflies are discussed in these meets.  

During the recent meet at Goa there were many researchers and experts working on the species specific to scientific research. Some student participants were also part of the meet. We can refer them as future scientist currently pursuing degrees or doctorate from different region of the country not limited to India only. Apart from expert lectures, we had  field trips and photography of dragonfly and damselflies along with knowledge about the right habitat. This also included information about the endemic species of western Ghats.

The meet was from 15-19 September 2017. There was symposium session, poster session, field trips, public talks, with expert’s view on dragonfly. During this meet I have learned a lot about identification and behavior of dragonfly and damselflies.
Some of the interesting species spotted were Spine-tufted skimmer (Orthetreum Chrysis), Pied parasol (Neurothemis tullia), Crimson marsh glider (Trithemis aurora), Black stream glider (Trithemis festiva), The slender skimmer or green marsh hawk (Orthetium Sabina). 

A group photo of participants

Environment Education

Deception with a difference

Deception with a difference
-S Ananthanarayanan

The female cuckoo adds another dimension to deception in the natural world.
Deception is essential to survival in the wild. On the one hand, all animals fall into the category of predators or in that of prey. It is hence in the interest of each one either to be concealed or to appear to be harmless, if a predator, or unappetising or dangerous, if prey. On the other hand, animals and plants often depend on other animals for transport, fertilisation, shelter or nourishment.  They hence need to provide services in return, or better, to look like a species that provides the service.

Jenny E. York and Nicholas B. Davies, from the department of zoology, University of Cambridge, writing in the journal, Nature – ecology and evolution, describe an instance of a bird that simulates the predator of a sister species, to throw the sister species off her guard while the bird makes use of the sister bird’s nest.

A well-documented instance of deception, or Batesian mimicry, is where species have evolved to   look like other species, for protection.  Caterpillars of the Heliconid butterflies of the Amazon feed on toxic leaves of the Passion Flower plant. This makes the butterflies toxic too, which is their principal protection against predators. Batesian mimics are other species of quite edible butterflies which have evolved to look like the Heliconid, to deceive predators!  Similar deception is practiced by species of harmless snakes, to look like an unrelated, but venomous snake, to keep enemies at bay.

A recent publication is about a species of spider, which is in danger of being picked up by a brace of small predators.  While there is no convenient model with the necessary protection, which the spider could hope to look like, the spider has evolved to mimic the dynamic actions of species of ants, which do have defences of strong jaws and a poisonous sting. At the physical dimensions of spiders and ants, it is not detailed, close-up resemblance, but similarity of movements that is more likely to cause deception. The jumping spider, which uses stealth and rapid jumps to capture prey, hence, imitates the movements of the ant, to be mistaken for one and be left alone by predators on the lookout for spiders.

In the plant kingdom, too, flowers evolve to look and smell like others, to attract pollinators. Orchids are known to mimic the colours and scents of nectar bearing flowers and even to exude the scent of female insects, to lure males to the flowers in search of a mate! Slightly apart, weeds that look like crop plants are more likely to survive.
The case of the female cuckoo, however, is different. She too relies on deception, but not to avoid predators, or even to attract helpers or sources of food. The Cuckoo mother uses deception to throw another bird off the track while the cuckoo commits trespass and passes off her own eggs as those of the unsuspecting other.

The common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, is a ‘brood parasite’. This means she does not lay and warm her eggs in her own nest, but lays the eggs in the nest of a host bird. The host then raises the cuckoo chicks in addition to her own. As cuckoo chicks hatch early and have marked begging behaviour, they often monopolise the nest resources, to the cost of the host bird’s chicks.

While the cuckoo generally lays eggs in the host nest swiftly and with stealth, there are instances of the male cuckoo positively diverting the hosts from their nest.   The cuckoo often removes one or more of the host bird’s eggs while laying her own in the nest. The hosts also sometimes remove cuckoo eggs if they are able to make them out.  And then, there are also instances of the cuckoo acting to destroy the hosts birds’ eggs if the host should throw out the cuckoo eggs. Raising the cuckoo chicks in addition to their own is then a lesser price for hosts to pay than trying to keep the cuckoo eggs out.

Advertising perfidy
For all this, the cuckoo cannot just march up to a host bird’s nest and lay her eggs there. The host birds would also attack and ‘mob’ cuckoos found in the vicinity of their nests. The cuckoo has hence, perforce, to be secretive and use stealth to plant her eggs in hosts’ nests. Given the need for stealth, however, it is surprising that soon after she lays the eggs in the host’s nest, the female cuckoo often breaks out into a ‘chuckle’ call, which should draw attention to herself!

This is the feature of the female cuckoo’s behaviour that York and Davies from Cambridge made their subject of study. The duo notes that the female cuckoo’s call is not just a ‘chuckle’, but is ‘hawk-like’. The chuckle is thus calculated to put the host birds on the alert, to watch out for the serious peril of a hawk, and ignore trifles like a female cuckoo messing about with the nest!
“Prey are sensitive to even subtle cues of predation risk, which provides the evolutionary potential for parasites to exploit host risk perception……. In our field experiments, reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) hosts paid no more attention to the ‘cuckoo’ call of the male common cuckoo than the call of a harmless dove. However, the chuckle call of the female cuckoo had the same effect as the call of a predatory hawk in distracting the warblers’ attention and reducing rejection of a foreign egg. Our results show that the female cuckoo enhances her success by manipulating a fundamental trade-off in host defences between clutch and self-protection,” the authors say in the paper.  
[the writer can be contacted at]

Wilderness Volunteers

Wildlife Trust of India is looking for volunteers


Gaj Yatra is a peoples’ movement. People need to take action and participate in events to help save our National Heritage Animal, the Asian elephant. We need to give the elephants their Right of Passage, and one of the biggest ways we can do this is through mass public engagement. One small step in the right direction, will take our campaign a long way. 
For this, we are looking for people who can come on board as:
1. Volunteers
2. Interns
3. Consultants
4. Part time employees

We are looking for people who can be:
1. Graphic & Web designers 
2. Coders & developers
3. Campaign coordinators (to liaise with artists, schools, NGO’s, institutions etc…)
4. Communicators
5. Event planners
6. Logistical planners
7. Public Relation & Media managers
8. Social Media curators
9. Content writers
10. Filmmakers (Film Editors, Photographers, Videographers)

*** We welcome fresher’s looking for experience in conservation campaigns ***

We are looking for people who can work out of our Head Quarters in Noida.

We also need people with the above-mentioned skills, in:
1. Assam
2. Arunachal Pradesh
3. Meghalaya
4. West Bengal
5. Odisha
6. Jharkhand
7. Chhattisgarh
8. Tamil Nadu
9. Kerala
10. Karnataka
11. Uttarakhand
12. Western Uttar Pradesh

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