More forays into Lalbagh: a few more migrants

Prashanth MB

December 30, 2023

Following the brief visit after the 2nd Sunday outing, I happened to visit Lalbagh on half a dozen occasions (14th – 29th Dec). It was mostly for a morning walk, but I had chosen some closed canopies, trees and clumps to get a better view of some of the migrants we would encounter during winter. Most of the regular visited spots were sampled with a stationary count of at least 10 mins and often followed by an extend of a min or two.

Flycatchers – It was quite fascinating to hear the shriek calls of the Asian Paradise male with the dangling white ribbons, and coming out as the most common flycatcher. I often saw it foraging at a height of ~40+ feet under rain tree canopies. The bird, either male or female, did swoop down to lower heights and at a mid-height of barely 15 feet or so under dense thickets, but never too low. The Black-naped Monarch was one other bird that stuck around the mid-heights wherever the Paradise foraged and in close proximity of Leaf-Warblers and Great Tits. It was a hunting party like scene which led to a spurt of activity many times, or would follow into long periods of silence with just the shriek of the Paradise FC and none other. The Asian Brown FC was another bird that was sighted around the tree canopies, but nowhere close to the hunting party like waves. It usually was a solitary bird, once again close to the crown of the tree or a touch lower and giving me a tough time to keep the neck stretched. The Red-breasted / Taiga just came out with a few glimpses in three different places and at low heights close to the ground as one would imagine. However, it was the Brown-breasted (Layarad’s) that sprung a surprise by sticking to the same set of perches for almost two weeks and later moving to an adjoining patch (I guess it was the same individual). A larger grab-from-the-perch bird in the form of an Ashy Drongo was seen on the perches and made me wonder if the BBFC had moved places while being shooed away from the larger bird. But sparing a thought on the size of grub each of them would follow made me feel if that wasn’t really the case. It anyway left me with no convincing answer as it hung to low perches ~ 5 feet perches. The customary non-flick of the tail was to be seen (as Krishna pointed out) and spent most of the time sallying in a desolated corner. The Verditer Flycatcher though was the most sporadic and came about in a couple of locations on the open-side of the canopy, however not too far away from a tree where we were seeing it 10 years ago !

Leaf and Reed Warblers  – The Leaf Warblers on the other hand were largely Greenish, without much (or none) of the P. nitidus being heard. It was probably too late into winter to hear a lurking P.magnirostris. The last few weeks have been cloudy and gloomy in the morning, and choosing an ideal site to see the light shadow interplay and still spot the warblers was quite a challenge. Sometime ago in BBMP parks I’ve come across the Tickell’s or what could have been the Greenish (Bright Green and a tinge underneath) foraging on low thickets or even trees with some clumps sticking to the lower part near the trunk. One would wonder why such a layer would go missing in a large heritage park, and the bushes reclining to the ground would be pruned. Kishan pointed out the Powder Puff tree clump where we spotted the RBFC on the 2nd Sunday outing was pruned under the crown to an extent where the tree clump would resemble an arch with no overhangs. None of this was seen, as I still look out for a vantage point where I can see the wing bars and the colour of the mantle rather than the plumage underneath in the flittering waves of Leaf Warblers. The Blyth’s on the other hand was the only other Warbler that I noticed, and either the Booted / Syke’s (Iduna) were yet to be spotted on the trails walked during the last fortnight.

Spot-billed ducks – It has been a year since I compiled the duck congregations from Kishan’s counts and looked at the peaking of numbers by late winter (; Cit Sci Conf 2023). Whatever makes me think that the Spot bills at the marsh are winter visitors, however the Marie and glucose biscuit pampered ducks are now no way shy of people an almost form a duck chain towards the shore while seeking titbits from walkers and an expected scream from the guard at the bridge to ward them away. From rather bleak no sightings of ducks at all 15 years ago in the marsh, to a whooping numbers of 25 odd pampered ducks was quite a sight. I was curious to note if the ducks were bill-dipping in the waters to feed and away from the biscuit laden shore, and, to notice if it was a case of opportunistic feeding during the winter forays into the marsh. However, whether it was bits of floating flour or submerged forage for the ducks as they would do during the rest of the day went unanswered.

Bulbuls, Robins and the Peepul tree – It isn’t just the Ducks, but also the Bulbuls that have come in hordes. A walk or list ten to fifteen years ago along the old 2nd sun trail would make us come across just a bulbul or two. In fact, a pair on the Plumeria next to the Elephant apple tree had made me make a note. Now, on an early winter morning, I was witness to an explosion of Red-whiskers all around the big Peepul near the Jap garden. I witnessed a frenzy of Bulbuls flying all around and foraging on the tree, and many birds seem to stay put even later into the day. However, the abundance of the Bulbuls seem to be rather patchy across the garden and rather restricted to a few clumps. The Magpie Robin too joined the cacophony of the Bulbuls and the early morning calls were noticed to be quite varied compared to the repetitive swee, swee, call that follows by late mornings.

Booted Eagle – Another one of those birds which would make us raise eyebrows upon sighting it in Lalbagh. Even though one of the most common wintering Eagles, a bird or two seems to have been hanging around since the last many seasons. On one of the mornings, I saw both the light and dark morphs, separated by barely half an hour. One of the birds even uttered a klee –klee –klee call that I could record on the phone while diving onto a branch. I’ve come across a Booted Eagle dive onto a hapless wing-drying Cormorant and observed making a full meal out of the catch over an hour or so in Solapur (iNat/obs/65692084). Given the 55 packed formation of Great Corms I saw this morning (29th), it is anybody’s guess as to what would keep a large Eagle going in winter in a depauperated urban setting. Perhaps an occasional Corm, a Pigeon, rats and so on. Kishan even marked a perch where it was seen on most mornings and predicted the soaring time 😉

Starlings, Wagtails, Orioles – The Starlings though have given me a miss and a paltry number of 4 Chestnut-tails is all that I saw during the fortnight. Perhaps they may become more common by spring and when the flower petals could be a lot more abundant and some of the Ficus could come into play. The Grey Wagtail popped out at just two places, either at the silt pond or under the bridge on paved surfaces, and no number of sprinklers dragged them to it. Another striking absence has been the Orioles on the 2nd sun trail, and I queried if the change in trail from the glass house to the west gate were making us see fewer Orioles. Whatever the reason, I saw a pair here and there on denuded trees, and once a party of 3 females that sounded a lot different from the Golden Orioles. A call was recorded to see if it was the much mellower cry of the Black-naped.

Jungle Mynas – I’ve been seeing the Jungle Mynas in not more than two locations and crowding in small numbers around littered feed and nowhere else. The hyacinth in the marsh where they would take a dip is now absent, however it might be early days before they flock with and around the starling roosts by early spring. A peep into the counts put forth 15 years ago did suggest that their occurrence was rather low during in the Sep-Dec period (Monitoring prog, IBP post).

To cite this page: 2023. More forays into Lalbagh: a few more migrants. Accessed on 2024-01-02.

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