Category “General migration”

Demoiselle Crane ringed in Mongolia sighted in Rajasthan

Monday, 24 March, 2014

Demoiselle Crane ringed - Subhash Gogi (copy)MigrantWatcher Subhash Gogi spotted and photographed a ringed Demoiselle Crane at Khichan village, Jodhpur district, Rajasthan on the afternoon of 6th March 2014. The ring on the bird was red-coloured and bore the number 667.

Further inquiries revealed that the crane was originally ringed in Mongolia on 24th July 2013.

We encourage MigrantWatchers to keep a lookout for ringed birds, as they provide vital information about the fascinating phenomenon of bird migration, which is still poorly understood.

Photo: Subhash Gogi


Asian Waterbird Count, Jan 2014

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

The Asian Waterbird Count started in 1987, and many birders (of a particular generation!) were initiated into bird counting and monitoring through this project. In the early years, the AWC was very popular in India, but it then went through a bit of a slump. In the past year or two, however, it is gaining momentum again, and we encourage you to take part.

Here is more background information about the AWC. To take part you simply visit a wetland and count the birds you see there. So that there is some consistency in dates, the AWC recommends that you carry out your counts between Saturday 11 Jan, and Sunday 26 Jan 2014, although counts from any date in January are welcome.

Before you plan your counts, please contact the AWC Coordinator for your state, who will be able to provide more guidance. You can take a look at the AWC India Data Entry Form as well: scroll down the page to find the link to the excel file.

The main webpage of the AWC is here, and linked here is the text of a message sent by AWC coordinator Taej Mundkur.

If you do take part in the AWC this year (which we strongly recommend!), do drop us an email or leave a comment below.

25,000th sighting on MigrantWatch!

Saturday, 9 November, 2013

MigrantWatch reached yet another landmark with the logging of the 25,000th record — a White Wagtail by Nil N. Mohite. Remarkably, this sighting was from Amravati (Maharashtra) again! It may be noted that Amravati also has the distinction of reporting the 10,000th, 15,000th, as well as the 20,000th observation on MigrantWatch!

Hearty congratulations to everyone from the MigrantWatch community who contributed to this effort!

Dewar’s Calendar — October

Friday, 11 October, 2013

October is a season when autumnal migrants flood the Indian subcontinent. Douglas Dewar beautifully summarises this month in his A Bird Calendar for Northern India, published in 1916.

October in India differs from the English month in almost every respect…In England autumn is the season for the departure of the migratory birds; in India it is the time of their arrival…In many ways the autumn season in Northern India resembles the English spring. The Indian October may be likened to April in England. Both are months of hope, heralds of the most pleasant period of the year. In both the countryside is fresh and green. In both millions of avian visitors arrive.

It is good to ride forth on an October morn with the object of renewing acquaintance with nimble wagtails, sprightly redstarts, stately demoiselle cranes and other newly-returned migrants.

Migration and moulting are the chief events in the feathered world at the present season. The flood of autumn immigration, which arose as a tiny stream in August, and increased in volume nightly throughout September, becomes, in October, a mighty river on the bosom of which millions of birds are borne.

Day by day the avian population of the jhils increases. At the beginning of the month the garganey teal are almost the only migratory ducks to be seen on them. By the first of November brahminy duck, gadwall, common teal, widgeon, shovellers and the various species of pochard abound. With the duck come demoiselle cranes, curlews, storks, and sandpipers of various species. The geese and the pintail ducks, however, do not return to India until November. These are the last of the regular winter visitors to come and the first to go.

The various kinds of birds of prey which began to appear in September continue to arrive throughout the present month.

Grey-headed and red-breasted flycatchers, minivets, bush-chats, rose-finches and swallows pour into the plains from the Himalayas, while from beyond those mountains come redstarts, wagtails, starlings, buntings, blue-throats, quail and snipe. Along with the other migrants come numbers of rooks and jackdaws. These do not venture far into India; they confine themselves to the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab, where they remain during the greater part of the winter. The exodus, from the above-mentioned Provinces, of the bee-eaters, sunbirds, yellow-throated sparrows, orioles, red turtle-doves and paradise flycatchers is complete by the end of October. The above are by no means the only birds that undergo local migration. The great majority of species probably move about in a methodical manner in the course of the year; a great deal of local migration is overlooked, because the birds that move away from a locality are replaced by others of their kind that come from other places.

Taken, with grateful thanks, from Project Gutenberg.

Dewar’s Calendar — September

Wednesday, 28 August, 2013

September is considered a very important month in the migration calendar, and is so wonderfully described by Douglas Dewar in his A Bird Calendar for Northern India, published in 1916.

Great changes in the avifauna take place in September…the great autumnal immigration takes place throughout the month. Before September is half over the migratory wagtails begin to appear… They arrive in silence, but on the morning of their coming the observer cannot fail to notice their cheerful little notes, which, like the hanging of the village smoke, are to be numbered among the signs of the approach of winter. The three species that visit India in the largest numbers are the white (Motacilla alba), the masked (M. personata)* and the grey wagtail. In Bengal the first two are largely replaced by the white-faced wagtail (M. leucopsis)*… The three species arrive almost simultaneously, but the experience of the writer is that the grey bird usually comes a day or two before his cousins.On one of the last ten days of September the first batch of Indian redstarts # (Ruticilla frontalis) reaches India. Within twenty days of the coming of these welcome little birds it is possible to dispense with punkas.

Like the redstarts the rose-finches and minivets begin to pour into India towards the end of September. The snipe arrive daily throughout the month.

With the first full moon of September come the grey quail ## (Coturnix communis). When the stream of immigrating quail has ceased to flow, these birds spread themselves over the well-cropped country.

Thousands of blue-winged teal @ invade India in September, but most of the other species of non-resident duck do not arrive until October or even November.

Not the least important of the September arrivals are the migratory birds of prey… The necessity of following their favourite quarry may account for the migratory habits of some birds of prey, but it does not apply to all. Thus, the osprey, which feeds almost exclusively on fish, is merely a winter visitor to India. Again, there is the kestrel. This preys on non-migratory rats and mice, nevertheless it leaves the plains in the hot weather and goes to the Himalayas to breed. All the species of birds of prey cited above as migratory begin to arrive in the plains of India in September. The merlins come only into the Punjab, but most of the other raptores spread over the whole of India.

The various species of harrier make their appearance in September. These are birds that cannot fail to attract attention. They usually fly slowly a few feet above the surface of the earth so that they can drop suddenly on their quarry. They squat on the ground when resting, but their wings are long and their bodies light, so that they do not need much rest. Those who shoot duck have occasion often to say hard things of the marsh-harrier and the peregrine falcon, because these birds are apt to come as unbidden guests to the shoot and carry off wounded duck and teal before the shikari has time to retrieve them.

Of the migratory birds of prey the kestrel is perhaps the first to arrive; the osprey and the peregrine falcon are among the last.

Very few observations of the comings and the goings of the various raptorial birds have been recorded; in the present state of our knowledge it is not possible to compile an accurate table showing the usual order in which the various species appear. This is a subject to which those persons who dwell permanently in one place might with advantage direct their attention.

* Now considered as a subspecies of White Wagtail

# Current name: Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis

## Current name: Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

@ Current name: Common Teal Anas crecca

Taken, with grateful thanks, from Project Gutenberg.

Arrival patterns of prominent migrants – II

Friday, 7 June, 2013

In continuation with our presentation of present arrival patterns of our most-reported species, we now feature Black Redstart, Red-throated Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Common Stonechat.

As in previous summaries each sighting is shown as a vertical black line.

bar code - group 6- flycatchers chat redstart

It is apparent from the above chart that Black Redstart and Common Stonechat arrive in mid-September and generally leave by March-end. Red-throated Flycatchers arrive slightly in late September and return by April-end. The Paradise Flycatcher, which is an intra-subcontinental migrant, has records spread over the entire year. (Please note that this summary has only been possible thanks to your contributions!)

Arrival patterns of prominent migrants

Saturday, 11 May, 2013

Here we present arrival patterns of some of the most-reported species: the Barn Swallow, Brown Shrike, White Wagtail and Western Yellow Wagtail.

Like in previous summaries each sighting is shown as a vertical black line.

bar code - group 1- wagtails swallow shrike

As you can appreciate from the above illustration, Barn Swallows and Brown Shrikes arrive around late July/early August and nearly all of them leave by April. The wagtails normally arrive in early September and usually are gone by April-end. (This summary has only been possible thanks to your contributions!)

Dewar’s Calendar — May

Thursday, 9 May, 2013

Another extract from Douglas Dewar’s A Bird Calendar for Northern India, published in 1916 in which he describes the month of May:

May in the plains of India!…It is in this month of May that the European condemned to existence in the plains echoes the cry of the psalmist: “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest”—in the Himalayas. There would I lie beneath the deodars and, soothed by the rustle of their wind-caressed branches, drink in the pure cool air and listen to the cheerful double note of the cuckoo.

It is true that the gold-mohur trees and the Indian laburnums are in full flower and the air is heavily laden with the strong scent of the nim blossoms. The pipal trees…now offer to the birds a feast in the form of numbers of figs… This generous offer is greedily accepted by green pigeons, mynas and many other birds which partake with right goodwill and make much noise between the courses.

The birds do not object to the heat. They revel in it…The breeding season is now at its height… the man who remains in one station, if he choose to put forth a little energy and defy the sun, may reasonably expect to find the nests of more than fifty kinds of birds.

The most notable performers are the cuckoos. These birds are fully as nocturnal as the owls. The brain-fever bird* (Hierococcyx varius) is now in full voice,the eternal “brain-fever, brain-fever, BRAIN-FEVER,” each “brain-fever” being louder and pitched in a higher key than the previous one, until the bird reaches its top note…  the Indian cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus)…dwells chiefly in the Himalayas, but late in April or early in May certain individuals seek the hot plains and remain there for some months. The call of this cuckoo is melodious and easily recognised. Indians represent it as Bouto-taku…To the writer’s mind the cry is best represented by the words wherefore, wherefore, repeated with musical cadence.

In the case of the blue-tailed bee-eaters the nesting season is now at its height… The Indian oriole# (Oriolus kundoo) lays from two to four white eggs… Both sexes take part in nest construction, but the hen alone appears to incubate.

May and June are the months in which to look for the nests of that superb bird—the paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi). This is known as the rocket-bird or ribbon-bird because of the two long fluttering tail feathers possessed by the cock. The hen has the appearance of a kind of bulbul, being chestnut-hued with a white breast and a metallic blue-black crest. For the first year of their existence the young cocks resemble the hens in appearance. Then the long tail feathers appear. In his third year the cock turns white save for the black-crested head. This species spends the winter in South India. In April it migrates northwards to summer in the shady parts of the plains of Bengal, the United Provinces and the Punjab, and on the lower slopes of the Himalayas. The nest is a deep, untidy-looking cup, having the shape of an inverted cone. It is always completely covered with cocoons and cobweb. It is usually attached to one or more of the lower branches of a tree. Both sexes work at the nest and take part in incubation. The long tail feathers of the sitting cock hang down from the nest like red or white satin streamers according to the phase of his plumage. In the breeding season the cock sings a sweet little lay—an abridged version of that of the fantail flycatcher. When alarmed both the cock and the hen utter a sharp tschit.

Even as April showers in England bring forth May flowers, so does the April sunshine in India draw forth the marriage adornments of the birds that breed in the rains.

* Also called: Common Hawk-cuckoo.

# Also called: Eurasian Golden Oriole.

Taken, with grateful thanks, from Project Gutenberg.

Does the Pied Cuckoo herald the monsoon?

Thursday, 4 April, 2013

Pied Cuckoo-4yrs

Does the arrival of the Pied Cuckoo herald the onset of the monsoon? The Pied Cuckoo Campaign was launched in 2009 to collect information to assess this age-old belief.

More than 600 sightings of this wonderful migrant have been contributed by over 200 MigrantWatchers so far; the first sighting dates among these were compared to monsoon arrival, as available with the Indian Meteorological Department (see the graph alongside). Each dot shows the earliest Pied Cuckoo report (after 1 May) for a broad location (an area roughly 200 Km across).

The results are fairly clear: Pied Cuckoos arrive before the monsoon in most parts of central and northern India (they are resident in southern India). You can see this from the pattern that most dots in the picture to the right are below the dotted horizontal line.

But the degree to which the arrival of the Pied Cuckoo precedes the monsoon varies from place to place, as can be seen from the scatter of the dots within each year. And even for the same general location, this varies from year to year (see how the coloured dots are in different places in different years).

What appears to be happening is that, where the monsoon arrives early, Pied Cuckoos arrive a few days before monsoon onset; but where the monsoon arrives late, the cuckoos arrive well in advance of monsoon onset.

So, overall, the old belief is true, and Pied Cuckoos tend to arrive before the monsoon — but to different degrees, depending on when the monsoon begins at each place.

Also see this article on Pied Cuckoo migration.

Pong – a migration hotspot

Wednesday, 3 April, 2013

By Devinder Singh Dhadwalbirds-2 238 cropped

Situated about 250 km from Shimla and 190 km from Chandigarh and nestled in the picturesque Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Pong is one of the largest manmade wetlands of northern India. This huge wetland came into existence in 1974 after the construction of Pong Dam across the River Beas. Fed by waters from the Dhauladhar mountain range, the reservoir – also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar – forms a lake that is 42 km long and 19 km wide. It has a catchment area of 12,500 sq km that extends over the districts of Kangra, Mandi and Kullu. The area of the waterbody varies seasonally – ranging from about 125 sq km in summer to around 220 sq km in the monsoons.

DSC_6537 croppedPong has a variety of habitats in its fold – ranging from deep waters to marshlands. This, together with its geographic location in the foot of the Himalayas, makes Pong a very important wintering ground for migratory birds – including some rare species – from Central and Northern Asia. This wetland is the first major stopover reserve for birds migrating from the trans-Himalayan zone during winters when the wetlands in the Europe and North and Central Asia become frozen. Flocks of waterfowl that breed in the northern areas arrive during winter (October–March) to Pong to winter to more congenial climatic conditions.

Till date more than 400 species of birds have been recorded from Pong. The latest addition to the list (418th) is also one of the rarest birds to be seen in the Indian Subcontinent: On 29th January 2013, a pair of Whooper Swans was sighted and photographed. It may be noted that the last IMG_4405 copy croppedrecord of this elusive swan from India was way back in 1900 by E H Aitken (on Beas River) and Gen Osborne (at Talwara). Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland (also featured on the Finnish 1-Euro coin), is a rare migrant to India from Central Asia and Europe. Like Sarus Cranes, the Whooper Swans are known to pair for life and are one of the heaviest flying birds with an average body weight ranging from 8.2 to 11.4 kg. The news of the Whooper Swan, drew tremendous interest from ornithologists all across the country. Another interesting bird that was recently sighted at Pong was the Ruddy-breasted Crake in the periphery of the Pong Dam wetland for the first time.

Pong also has the distinction of being the first Ramsar site of Himachal. It is, without doubt, one of the most critical sites for bird migration in India. An estimated 1.50 lakh migratory birds visit Pong to roost and feed every winter! The scale can be judged by a recent survey wherein huge numbers of species such as the Bar-Headed Goose (34,000), Northern Pintail (21,000), Common Pochard (12,000), Tufted Pochard (8,000), and Common Teal (6,800) were observed.

DS Dhadwal photo_cropped1MigrantWatcher Devinder Singh Dhadwal is an Assistant Conservator of Forests with the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department. He is a passionate ornithologist who has been working on conservation efforts in Pong for more than 10 years in his capacity of Wildlife Warden. Also a keen photographer, DS Dhadwal has authored a book titled Wild Wings: Pong and its Birds.



For more details on Pong please write to DS Dhadwal at dd123.singh[at]gmail[dot]com