Posts tagged with “nesting”

Dewar’s Calendar — July

Monday, 8 July, 2013

Douglas Dewar again enthralls us with a vivid description of July in his A Bird Calendar for Northern India, published in 1916.

In July India becomes a theatre in which Nature stages a mighty transformation scene. The prospect changes with kaleidoscopic rapidity. The green water-logged earth is for a time overhung by dull leaden clouds…the rain pours down in torrents, enveloping everything in mist and moisture. Suddenly the sun blazes forth with indescribable brilliance and shines through an atmosphere, clear as crystal, from which every particle of dust has been washed away.

…the winged termites appear after the first fall of the monsoon rain. These succulent creatures provide a feast for the birds  The ever-vigilant crows are of course the first to notice a swarm of termites… The kites are not far behind them. These great birds sail on the outskirts of the flight, seizing individuals with their claws and transferring them to the beak while on the wing. A few king-crows* and bee-eaters join them. On the ground below magpie-robins, babblers…and other terrestrial creatures make merry. If the swarm comes out at dusk…bats and spotted owlets join those of the gourmands that are feasting while on the wing.

The earth is now green and sweet…the pied crested cuckoo uplifts his voice at short intervals.

In July the black-breasted or rain-quail (Coturnix coromandelica) is plentiful in India. Much remains to be discovered regarding the movements of this species. It appears to migrate to Bengal, the United Provinces, the Punjab and Sind shortly before the monsoon bursts, but it is said to arrive in Nepal as early as April. It would seem to winter in South India. It is a smaller bird than the ordinary grey quail and has no pale cross-bars on the primary wing feathers.

July marks the end of one breeding season and the beginning of another…In the present month the last of the summer nesting birds close operations for the year, and the monsoon birds begin to lay their eggs. July is therefore a favourable month for bird-nesting. The paradise flycatchers leave Northern India and migrate southwards a few weeks after the young birds have left the nest.

The nesting season is now at its height for…the various babblers and their deceivers—the brain-fever birds and the pied crested cuckoos. In order to satisfy it the unfortunate foster-parents have to work like slaves, and often must they wonder why nature has given them so voracious a child. When it sees a babbler approaching with food, the cuckoo cries out and flaps its wings vigorously. Sometimes these completely envelop the parent bird while it is thrusting food into the yellow mouth of the cuckoo.

Numbers of young bee-eaters are to be seen hawking at insects; they are distinguishable from adults by the dullness of the plumage and the fact that the median tail feathers are not prolonged as bristles.

Of the scenes characteristic of the rains in India none is more pleasing than that presented by a colony of nest-building bayas or weaver-birds… Every bird-lover should make a point of watching a company of weaver-birds while these are constructing their nests.

* Current name Black Drongo

Taken, with grateful thanks, from Project Gutenberg.

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.