31 Mar 2014

31 March 14 - Indian Mammals Fest

Having completed all the daily posts on my recent Indian trip, I thought I would put a post together of all the mammals I photographed on the trip to Calcutta, the Andamans, the Western Ghats, Gujarat & Rajasthan. I only spent a couple of half days birding around Calcutta, but I saw a Brown Rat at about 04:00, as I was waiting for the night watchman to open my hotel on my first night. The only other mammal in Calcutta was an Indian Mongoose. On the Andamans, a Five-striped Palm Squirrel & some unidentified Bats were the only mammals seen. However, I saw a good variety of mammals on the rest of the trip. In total, I managed to photograph 27 species (excluding the Water Buffalo) & saw another 6 species. Here are the mammals I did get to photograph. No doubt my mates, Richard Webb & John Wright, will tell me if there are any misidentifications.
Rhesus Macaque: Bharatpur, Rajasthan (27 Jan 14)
Bonnet Macaque: Travelling from Jungle Hut to Ooty, Western Ghats (30 Dec 13)
Southern Plains Grey Langur: Mount Abu, Rajasthan (21 Jan 14)
Tufted Grey Langur: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (28 Dec 13)
Nilgiri Langur: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (1 Jan 14)
Jackal: CEDO, Gujarat (19 Jan 14)
Jackal: Bharatpur, Rajasthan (28 Jan 14)
Indian Fox: Desert Coursers, Gujarat (17 Jan 14)
Indian Mongoose: CEDO, Gujarat (20 Jan 14)
Asian Elephant: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats (10 Jan 14)
Wild Ass: Desert Coursers (15 Jan 14) 
Wild Boar: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (1 Jan 14)
Chital Deer: Male. Bharatpur, Rajasthan (27 Jan 14)
Chital Deer: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (28 Dec 13)
Chital Deer: Bharatpur, Rajasthan (27 Jan 14)
Sambar Deer: Male. Periyar Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats (10 Jan 14)
Sambar Deer: Female. Parambikulam, Western Ghats (2 Jan 14)
Muntjac: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats (10 Jan 14)
Gaur: Ooty, Western Ghats (30 Dec 13)
Gaur: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats (10 Jan 14)
Nilgai: Male. Sultanpur, Rajasthan (29 Jan 14)
Nilgai: Female. Bharatpur, Rajasthan (27 Jan 14)
Water Buffalo: All the Water Buffalo I saw were probably domesticated. Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (30 Dec 13)
 Chinkara: Family Party. Tal Chappar (24 Jan 14)
Blackbuck: Male. Tal Chappar (24 Jan 14)
Blackbuck: Females & an immature male. Tal Chappar (24 Jan 14)
Nilgiri Tahr: Eravikulam, Western Ghats (4 Jan 14)
Nilgiri Tahr: Eravikulam, Western Ghats (4 Jan 14)
Three-striped Palm Squirrel: Thattekad, Western Ghats (5 Jan 14)
Three-striped Palm Squirrel: Bharatpur, Rajasthan (27 Jan 14)
Western Ghats Palm Squirrel: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Western Ghats (10 Jan 14) 
Five-striped Palm Squirrel: Mount Abu, Rajasthan (21 Jan 14)
Nilgiri Palm Squirrel: Thattekad, Western Ghats (5 Jan 14) 
Indian Giant Squirrel: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (28 Dec 13)
Indian Giant Squirrel: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (29 Dec 13) 
Indian Giant Squirrel: Chinnar, Western Ghats (3 Jan 14)
Indian Giant Squirrel: Thattekad, Western Ghats (5 Jan 14) 
Indian Giant Flying Squirrel: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (1 Jan 14)
Indian Giant Flying Squirrel: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (1 Jan 14)
Black-naped Hare: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (28 Dec 13) 
Black-naped Hare: CEDO, Gujarat (20 Jan 14)
Frustratingly, I failed to get a photo of two of the best mammals seen (Caracal at CEDO, Gujarat & Jungle Cat at Tal Chappar, Rajasthan). Less exciting & not photographed (although I tried) was a Mouse feeding in the drinks stall at Bharatpur. Additionally, I saw several Foxes & photographed one, but the photos were too poor to keep, (given the species extends as far as the UK). Additionally, I didn't photograph a medium sized Bat at Bharatpur (too tedious) or the many Fruit Bats at Periyar (never saw them when I had the camera).

The Indian trip was focused on birding & all mammals seen were a result of bumping into them whilst birding, rather than a specific attempt to see the mammals. On my 91 trip to India, I was lucky to see a female Tiger with 3 cubs & so no attempt was made to see Tigers again. Likewise, I've seen Lions in Kenya & Wolves in Tibet, so no attempt was made to get to Gir in Gujarat (mainly as it would have meant dropping at least one of the birding sites).

30 Mar 2014

30 March 14 - Rewarding WeBS

For those who haven't come across the term WeBS before, it is the Wetland Bird Survey, which is a monthly winter count of waders & waterbirds in the UK. We have a coordinated count across the whole of the Poole Harbour on the low tide as it results in the highest counts. I think many parts of the UK carry out their WeBS counts on the high tide. However, in Poole Harbour we count on the low tide, as research by Nick Hopper a few years ago as part of the field studies for the Sound Approach Catching the Bug book by local birders, Mark Constantine & Nick Hopper, confirmed that counts are consistently higher on the low tides. On the high tides, a number of the duck & wader species disappear into the salt marsh to roost, making counting very difficult. Also sadly, disturbance is also likely to be higher on the high tides, as there are still a number of individuals locally who seem to think it's OK to kill wildfowl & this is more likely to happen on high tides.

Today, was the last winter count for Poole Harbour & while I was carrying out my sector on private land, I had a call from Kevin Lane on the adjacent section that he had just found a Red-breasted Goose in with a party of Brents. This had been reported a few days earlier flying out of the Middlebere channel, but there have been no further sightings. I looked a few days ago, but didn't find any Brents in the area I checked. Fortunately, I have permission to count in Kevin's sector & so joined him once my count was finished. Unfortunately, both Kevin & my sectors do not have any public rights of way. But there is a reasonable chance the Red-breasted Goose will reappear at Middlebere or be visible from the Middlebere channel side of the RSPB Arne reserve.
Red-breasted Goose: Adult with Brent Geese. Unfortunately, it wasn't very close
Red-breasted Goose: Adult. Note, no rings on the legs
Red-breasted Goose: Adult. Adults have two clear white wingbars & sometimes a very faint third wingbar. Juveniles have several less clear cut, wingbars. Additionally, Juveniles have a duller, smaller face patch
Red-breasted Goose: Adult. About the best view of the third faint wingbar

29 Mar 2014

29 March 14 - Indian Owl Fest

I've just completed writing the last post for the Indian trip which visited Calcutta, the Andamans, the Western Ghats, Gujarat & Rajasthan. Out of the 420 species of birds seen, I managed to photograph 342 species (over 81% of species seen). However, to spin these photos out a bit further, I've decided to pull together some posts on particular themes. So here is the first of them on the Owls seen on the trip. On the trip I managed to see 11 or 12 species of Owl depending on taxonomy & all species seen were photographed. On the Andamans, I saw Walden's Scops Owl which Clements currently lumps as a subspecies of Oriental Scops Owl, but Rasmussen splits. I can't tick it at the moment as I also saw Oriental Scops Owl in the Western Ghats & I keep to a Clements taxonomy for simplicity.
I can't tick this Owl at Periyar
India is a great country for seeing Owls & seeing them well. In most countries, Owls are something you look for at night & we did see several species after dark. However, due to the large game animals & the number of sites I visited which are Tiger reserves, then looking for Owls after dark is often not possible (the Andamans being the main exception on my trip). But the result is the local Indian guides have become good at finding Owls in daytime roosts, where with care, you can get some good photos & more importantly not disturb the Owls. I'll leave you to enjoy the Owls.
Andaman Scops Owl: Jirgatna, Andamans (23 Dec 13)
Indian Scops Owl: Nominate subspecies bakkamoena, Thattekad, Western Ghats (5 Jan 14)
Indian Scops Owl: Subspecies gangeticus, Bharatpur, Rajasthan (28 Jan 14)
Bruce's Scops Owl: Desert Coursers, Gujarat (14 Jan 14)
Oriental Scops Owl: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (2 Jan 14)
Oriental Scops Owl: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (2 Jan 14) 
Oriental (Walden's) Scops Owl: Chiriya Tapu, Andamans (24 Dec 13)
Rock Eagle Owl: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (29 Dec 13) 
Rock Eagle Owl: CEDO, Gujarat (19 Jan 14)
Dusky Horned Owl: Bharatpur, Rajasthan (28 Jan 14)
Brown Fish Owl: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (2 Jan 14)
Jungle Owlet: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (1 Jan 14)
Jungle Owlet: Parambikulam, Western Ghats (2 Jan 14)
Spotted Owlet: Subspecies brama, Jungle Hut, Western Ghats (29 Dec 13)
Spotted Owlet: Subspecies indica, Desert Coursers, Gujarat Ghats (14 Jan 14)
Andaman Boobook: Chiriya Tapu, Andamans (22 Dec 13)
Hume's Boobook: Chiriya Tapu, Andamans (22 Dec 13)