Prashanth MB

January 2, 2024
Sterculia tree and pods

Sterculia tree and pods














Many who had the chance to gorge on a sumptuous meal on the eve of the new year may not have made it to the early morning walk at Lalbagh. Maybe they did, but for some reason I felt there were fewer than the other days.

The stroke of the new year may have had little to do with the birds, and they were up early in the morning as usual. Up in the heights, close to the crown of a dense tree, I chanced upon a Paradise Flycatcher making a meal out of what looked like the female of the Danaid Egg-Fly. The bird was beating it to the right and to the left, and, moreover, this is a bird with neither a big beak nor long legs to pin it down. In the majority of the situations, we come across the Paradise Flycatcher hawking small insects which only the FC would spot with its large eyes. Comparatively, if a human were to have their eyes proportionate to our body size, then we would be carrying heavy eyes rather than heavy hearts! The bird gulped it down entirely, and the wings with strong colours went in. We often see harriers dissect the wings of a grasshopper which display bright colours to ward off a predator, and this one didn’t, and all along had the white ribbons swaying below the branches.

Close by, on a wide branching Ficus was an Oriole (Golden), with a clearly visible white caterpillar and hammered it aside. The grub posed little problems to the large bird, unlike the Paradise and the Butterfly.

Not too far away was an Asian Brown Flycatcher and the birds swooped with a parabolic dive and lifted itself to a twig. Here too I could see an insect in the bird’s beak, but had little chance to see what it was except for the legs dangling out, and it was a fairly long one. The Asian Brown Flycatcher was flittering for close to 5 mins until it grabbed this meal and went silent without a move for many minutes after this one. Somehow gave me a chance to watch the plumage while the insect went down its throat.

Next in the line on the trail was a pair of Coucals, with one of them on the ground and had its wings motionless and looked as if it was injured. Right above it on a perch was another calling out with a hissing call which is best recorded than verbalized (cat-hisss, cat-hisss). I did manage to do it and found the Coucals on the rather cleaned up but spilt over litter. One of them ran on the ground and picked up an insect, and my luck had run out this time to see what it was eating. Another one ran and came quite close to me to twist its head in a funny arch to get a good sight of what looked like a motionless human. I had frozen, standing still, and did watch how the birds would react to the walkers. They seem to be not bothered since the people were on the path and not on the leaf litter. Perched close by was a White breasted Kingfisher, fairly away from any puddle, and it wasn’t surprising to see it there. I did see a grasshopper amidst the fallen leaves as I avoided plonking my foot on the leaf litter.

The Indian red bugs (Probergrothius sanguinolens)














Broken twigs and stems from regenerated vegetation didn’t make it easier with an already swollen toe, however, here I witness the frenzy of rich red Indian red bugs (Probergrothius sanguinolens) that thronged the sides of a Sterculia tree. Moreover, a lot of other malvales (Bombax and Ceiba trees) are found in the park which could be attracting them, even though the only Baobab in the park now a tree of the past.  Obviously one couldn’t walk through a teeming field of mating red bugs which can stay copulated for a long time (days perhaps) and in hundreds. So one would imagine how the bugs would survive an army of Mynas, or even the Red-breasted Flycatcher seen in another corner of the park, and other gleaners. Maybe the rich red colours serve the purpose to ward some of them off? However, a popular pest control web source mentioned the use of caging chickens to control the cotton strainers (Pyrrocoridae,

In any case, there was no way I could see what the Red-breasted Flycatcher was feeding on, even though it was barely meters away from where I was standing, and saw it plunge to the ground and the litter, while taking cover to forage barely a few feet above the ground.

Some of the Mynas though walked through half a foot deep litter during the previous week. They would shove their heads into the litter as if to hear crawlies under the litter, raise their head, walk a few steps and repeat (or so did I think and may have been to just peep into the depths). For years, we’ve seen the Mynas walk with a swagger on the neatly swept lawns close to the Japanese garden, and made kids notice a walking-Myna, a hopping-Crow, a never-descending-Barbet, but had missed paying attention to any particular mode of foraging. At least one acrid was around for the Acridotheres tristis, as I carefully placed my feet to avoid the red bugs!

It was a little over a week ago, when I browsed through some papers authored by Katti and Price in 2003, to see what the Leaf Warblers were feeding on. They had draped plastic bags on branches in focal trees to analyse arthropod diversity. Amidst the wave of migrants I’ve spotted over the last fortnight, the morning on 1st January was one of those where the birds offered a better glimpse of their meal 😀 Incidentally, the morning was clear and well lit than many of the gloomy mornings in December, and, with no particular relevance as to why I may have observed some of them in detail.

To cite this page: 2024. A new year’s meal: January 1st 2024. Accessed on 2024-01-02.

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