All that is composed will decay...

Bikaner Wildlife Safari: Birds of Thar Desert (II)

Feb 16, 2014

Besides the interesting stories about Thar desert flora, its people and traditions, the main goal of this wildlife jeep safari was to spot various birds of Bikaner desert area. Thanks to JItu we learnt a lot about them that day.

Several times we came across nice little owlets sitting under tree shadow. 

As for other birds*, we spotted a small warbler bird, which is often seen with sparrows, a stilt and pied bushchat with two white spots on the wings (male). We noticed the stilt from afar, with a white collar, on long red legs. The bird is known locally as "pollution indication bird" and "monsoon indicator" for it produces a loud noise when it's time to get ready for the rain: 

* Notice: the below four sets of pictures are not taken by me as birds are hard to capture at a distance without a long-focus lens, which we didn't have..

Jitu brought some millet seeds for the birds - an offering to the spirits of nature and a treat for the birds who make his tour so interesting and picturesque. 

Laughing dove with a reddish collar has a very distinctive call, which why the name, while grey francolin is said to be the desert patronage. Desert wheatear has a striking blackish plumage in lots of variations and is a winter migrant to mainland India:

A funny white-cheeked  black-caped bulbul bird with a yellow tail sings a beautiful song during the mating period right before monsoon, while their nests look like a cup of chai...A yellow-eyed pigeon comes for winter to Rajasthan. It has a yellow ring around the eyes and is a rare view these days as this species has been declining rapidly due to the change of agricultural practice. There are, in fact, only 6000 of them left in the world, 20% of them are here, in Bikaner.

Before we saw really big scavengers, we noticed a cattle egret, who can be usually seen close to buffaloes or cows. Here however, we have not see any but dead cows..  Local mafia in the face of black drongo with a forked tail and red eyes is known for its aggressive behavior towards much larger birds, such as crows often attacking their nests. Black ibis's red head signifies that it is an adult one.

Grey shrike ("lucky bird") is a white bird with a black margin. This small bird is, in fact, carnivorous and feeds on rodents, insects, lizards and frogs, even ermines and other small birds. It is clever enough to put its prey on the thorn of a shrub (acacia for instance) to let it die its own death..Only then the bird eats it. We happened to see this lovely evil-looking bird close to our camp spot, on camel safari next day.

Birds of Prey and Scavengers

We were struck and captivated by THAT many of birds of prey and scavengers we saw that day.. One reason for such a big number of them is that that was their migration season, the other one is that this part of the Thar desert is a place where bodies of dead cows are brought to be skinned by the untouchable. 

Everything is reused, only plastic from cow stomach is what remains..

But before the bodies finally decay, hundreds of scavengers come to the feast. 

Steppe and tawny eagles migrate here in winter and are hard to differentiate at a distance. The steppe eagle has a yellow gap extending up to his eye edge, while the tawny eagle has it only to below the middle of the eye edge as seen on first two pictures below.

Egyptian vulture with a yellow beak is the smallest of vultures. Villagers believe that vultures eat human babies when they have nothing to eat, so they kill them...

Besides these, we saw imperial eagle, Eurasian griffon (black griffon or Himalayan griffon) whose wings have 2 meters in diameter and black kites.  A long-legged buzzard with a white chest and brownish wings looks very much like an eagle and is also a migrating bird, who comes from the Himalayas.

Done with the birdwatching and attempts to find a desert fox, we headed for a Bishnoi authentic village where we saw how people of the desert live. We even dropped in at a modern Hindu temple on the way back. The wildlife tour with Jitu turned out to be a truly informative and exciting experience :)