25 Dec 2013

25 Dec 13 - Happy Christmas

I've never been a great fan of Christmas given its over commercialism & with birding being my only religion, then it's great to be birding again abroad on Christmas Day. Having seen nearly all the Andaman endemics in the last few days, the only target species left to see were Andaman Crake & the very tricky Andaman Barn Owl (which few people see or hear). Hoping for a quiet start we headed off on another early boat to Mount Harriet National Park on the far side of the bay from Port Blair. We managed about 4 or 5 hours, before the hordes descended, but by that time we were close to packing up.
Brian & Vikram: Also enjoying Christmas Day birding
Me: With the Mount Harriet forest behind
View from the top of Mount Harriet
We spent some time birding along the road leading to the park. Whilst the forest didn't look as good as we had seen on previous days, it was still good birding.
Brahminy Kite: These gorgeous raptors have a wide range from the Indian Subcontinent to Australia. Surprisingly, I didn't see that many on this Indian trip
Andaman Green Pigeon: This party of 3 birds gave nice, but still high, views
Andaman Coucal: A typical skulking bird
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater: Another great Bee-eater
Smyrna Kingfisher: A stunning bill
Andaman Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul: Disliked by many birders as they live in secondary habitat, but I have a soft spot for Bulbuls (although I draw the line at African Greenbuls)
Asian Fairy-bluebird: Male
Olive-backed Sunbird
Andaman Butterfly: Identifying tropical butterflies is beyond my interest, so it has no name
Andaman Beetle: A cracking beetle, that had lost an antenna
We headed back to Port Blair for lunch. En route, a stop along the harbour's edge in Port Blair  produced a good selection of Waders roosting on boats during the high tide.
Eastern Reef Heron
Lesser Sandplover
Whimbrel & Pacific Golden Plover
Terek Sandpiper & Pacific Golden Plover: The first Terek Sandpiper I've seen for at least 20 years
Common Sandpiper
Gandhi Statue: Clearly a popular man in Port Blair. I only saw one more Gandhi statue on the rest of the trip
Late afternoon saw us returning to Chiriya Tapu on another search for Andaman Crake. One responded briefly to the tape, but from deep in the forest, before shutting up.

The highlight of the afternoon was rescuing this Yellow Bittern from the hands of a couple of small boys. It sounded like they had picked it up near the road and were taking it home to show the parents. After asking to have a look at it, we could see it looked unhurt and asked if we could keep it. They said they were planning on letting it go and while I think they might have, I wasn't so sure if their parents were vegetarians. After giving them a 20 rupee note, we were able to get some photos & release it. It looked a bit dazied and didn't seem to want to fly, but happily dived off into the long vegetation, when given that as an option.
Yellow Bittern: Well worth the 20 rupee note (20p) we paid the kids for him
Yellow Bittern: Good deed done for the day
Yellow Bittern: He didn't want to fly from here, perhaps still a bit shocked, but happily walked off into long grass when re-released further along the road