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The beautiful birds of Puttaparthi - 1
Puttaparthi was a tiny hamlet in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba made it shine brilliantly on the world map. The village has experienced rapid growth and has developed into a township with an airport, a railway station, a bus stand, an international indoor sports stadium, a fully equipped cricket ground, a super specialties hospital, a general hospital, a University of higher learning, many museums and a fast growing population. The amazing thing is that this town also seems to be attracting a large variety of colourful feathered friends! I have personally taken pictures of at least 90 different species of birds in the past one year. Here I present 20 photographs as an ode to the beauty and majesty of the birds in and around Puttaparthi.
This is more of a small menu card which will present part of the great variety. A brief of each bird is also given but even as you read them, know that there is a whole world about each bird that is waiting to be discovered.
There are four large lakes around the town and they support a variety of rich bird life. The river Chitravati which flows through the town lends sustenance to many more. Among the most common sounds you will hear will be the kreeeeeee kreeeeee of kingfishers. It is a real joy to see these blue beauties in flight and at perch.
The house crow is considered as the most common bird in many parts of India. But not in Puttaparthi! More common is the Small Green Bee Eaters that keep gliding out of their perch to catch unwary bees in mid air. Their speed and agility is simply impressive and I have rarely sen them miss their target.
Many large water birds too, are at home here. Fishing in the shallow waters, the Grey Heron looks like a graceful ballerina practicing her steps. She is mostly a solitary bird but can sometimes be seen in pairs. The Painted Storks on the other hand, always feed in groups. They come together, eat together and fly away together, riding the high thermals in the sky.
How can any aquatic bird life be complete without the share of ducks? The Spot-Billed Ducks are very shy birds that always seem to wade away from you at great speeds. It is very difficult to get a picture of them from the front for I have never seen them come towards any observer. The Large Stone Plover on the other hand stands steady on the rocks. But don’t get fooled by its steady appearance. It can run and swim at real amazing speeds - and that is not mentioning its quick flight!
With the onset of rains, a lot of frog-breeding goes on and the croaks are heard throughout the nights. The Pond Heron population shoots up every year during the rains and they feed on these frogs. The Pond Heron also frequents the crop fields, catching rats, worms and insects. You can approach these birds from quite a close distance and they seem to have gotten used to the idea of living with humans. That however, cannot be said of the Purple Moorhen. It is a very shy bird that looks like a normal hen but transforms into an excellent and fast swimmer when alarmed. It’s beauty is so ethereal.
Occasionally, you will find a large, dark bird with a brilliant red cap of feathers. The Black Ibis has a loud and terrible shriek. However, you cannot help but admire its elegance as it goes about its business of feeding on marshy grounds.
The Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have adopted the beautiful and brilliantly blue Indian Roller as the state bird. One look at it and you will realize its ‘state’liness! It has more than five hues of blue when it opens up its wings. No wonder that it is also called the Blue Jay! Again, this is a very shy bird and you can see and photograph it only with stealth.
The Greater Coucal belongs to the cuckoo species. But it seems to be the noblest among them for it is no parasite and builds its own nest. It has a strange ‘Whoo whoo’ call which has it named as the ‘red ghost’ in the local languages.
We arrive now to the little ones! There are a host of tiny birds and they keep fluttering by, every now and then when you go for a morning walk. The Chitravati river is shallow and it forms tiny islets in-between the flowing waters. Reeds grow here and these reeds are home to may of these tiny birds. Mention must be made of the brightly colored Red Munia that is smaller than the common sparrow. The Streaked Weaver Bird builds amazing cup and helmet shaped nests in the reeds. It is slightly larger than the sparrow and has a crown of brilliant yellow feathers.
The tiniest of them all are the Sun Birds which present themselves in quite an abundance. They come in many varieties which can be distinguished by looking at the male bird. All the females look alike with a brown upper body and a white to yellowish lower body. They keep visiting flowers and drink deep with their slender and curved beaks.
You may be on a lookout for birds, but do not forget to look at the floor. The areas by the river have grasslands and many birds keep hopping about on the ground, pecking seeds and picking insects. The Sparrow Lark is one such grass ‘hopper’! And the most hyper active among them all is the ashy prinia which is found on the ground, in the air, on the trees and in the shrubs and bushes! The Ashy Prinia has a variety of calls and seems to be the most daring as far as proximity to humans is concerned. You can at times almost touch the bird before it flies away.
With such a rich bird life, predators are always lurking amidst the foliage. Puttaparthi has a fair share of Black-shouldered Kites, Brahminy Kites and Shikras. The Shikra is slightly larger than a crow and is very elegant and powerful. It swoops and picks up tiny mammals and birds with its powerful legs and talons.
On rare occasions, you will also stumble upon a male Laughing Dove making an impressive display to woo the love of his life. Incidentally, the dove has been so named because of its call which sounds like rippling laughter.The regions around the town are havens to study mating and nesting behaviour in birds.
To validate my point, I post a picture of a Night Heron family. The adult birds have a black and white (male) or brown and white (female) coloration. The juveniles and adolescents have a white spotted appearance. You could enjoy these family get-togethers along with your family!
With such a variety of bird-life, Puttaparthi should figure on any bird-lover's itinerary in India. This is especially true, if the visitor happens to be near the state of Andhra Pradesh.
If you enjoyed this, go ahead to the second part....
- The beautiful birds of Puttaparthi - 2
Puttaparthi, the abode of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is a haven for birds and therefore for bird lovers too! With more than a hundred species of birds being sighted within a few kilometers of the town, the surrounding forests and vegetation present
© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya