Sunday, February 19, 2012

On 21st December 2011 we watched a Large-Billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos harassing a Long-Billed Vulture Gyps indicus on a tree near the periphery of the park in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh .

There was a carcass of a dead cow near by beyond the boundary and a few vultures and crows were waiting for the skinners of the carcass to go away so that they could come down to feed. In fact the vultures and crows had already found this kill in the morning but had been disturbed at their meal by the skinners.
A large bill crow did not like the Long Billed Vulture sitting next to him in the queue for a feed. He considered him a competitor for the food.

He watched him for few minutes and made a few harsh noises and then suddenly attacked the bigger bird sitting next to him on a low branched tree next to the walled boundary. Initially the vulture ignored him but the crow was getting more persistent and violent in his attacks. The crow was viciously pecking the intimidated vulture on the back, pulling his tail from the bottom, and, when he found that the vulture was more in self-defense the annoying crow literally sat on the poor vultures back and started continuously hammering him with his large bill.
This was way too much for the vulture so he too tried to catch the nimble crow. At this point the crow jumped off his back and sat down a few inches away from the much bigger scavenger but on the same branch.
This was when we saw some very interesting and clever behaviour done by this bright brained crow. He peeled a small piece of tree bark off the branch and appeared to show it to the vulture and then simply dropped it.

To us it looked like as if he was suggesting that he had dropped some food and that his competitor should go and grab it. The vulture did look down at this piece of bark on the floor but did not go to retrieve it.

Not fooled by this activity at all the vulture was once more attacked by the persistent crow and finally it was the bigger scavenger that lost his perch and flew away.
The crow had won the battle!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

White Eyed Buzzard watching Peafowl.

Sun was almost about to set and so the tourists for their journey back home. A lone White Eyed Buzzard was still sitting in Gohani meadow in hope to grab some meal before roosting for the night. Majority of small birds knew his presence so they left the area but few Peafowl were still hunting on small insects in the meadow. One of the Peafowl did look at him thinking Can he be a threat to me?? And probably answer came as NO in his mind. She moved forward towards him to grab an insect. He watched her grabbing her meal. I saw him watching this Peafowl for a second or so and then he must have decided that it could be a dangerous game.
Long time back I watched 4-5 Peafowl attacking a Changeable Hawk eagle at Gopalpur. It was a very successful attack. Poor chap lost few wing feathers before flying away.
It could have been the same story here again but this time they both had a respect for each other.     

Saturday, February 11, 2012


After almost 15 years I got a chance to photograph Gaur in Bandhavgarh. At Rajbehra dam we saw a cow coming out of forest and second one followed her a minute later. Within minutes we took our positions and were ready to photograph them.
Two Sambhar deer were completely mesmerized. Probably they had never seen an animal like this before. Young Sambhar fawn ran away for safety and mother followed him later. Both gaur came in Rajbehra for a drink. I hope they will stay in this area for the rest of the season. Gaur is a new attraction for Bandhavgarh.
I put my camera on bean bag and instantly I realised that one of them is carrying a huge collar in her neck. Khuda mile to ganje sir.

(This picture belongs to me and not to Google so if any cheat is trying to copy it he must give photo credit to me and not to Google.)  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Red Headed Vulture killing Long Billed Vulture in Bandhavgarh National Park

I don't know why i did not put this important sighting on my blog that time. Some friends who work on vultures around the world were constantly asking for detail. I am putting those pictures here again for  a quick reference.
  Bandhavgarh National Park (23°30” to 23°46” N and 80° 11’ and 36” E) is situated in the Umaria District of Madhya Pradesh.  Four species of vultures are resident here. Long Billed Gyps Indicus, Red Headed Sarcogyps calvus, Egyptian Neophron percnopterus and White Rumped Gyps bengalensis vultures. Though all are in decline due to the uses of the drug Diclofenac that is still freely available in the area.
On 28th May 08 at 07-01 AM a Long Billed Vulture Gyps Indicus was spotted near a stream in Dadra meadow. It appeared sickly in a sitting posture with head bowed. Nearby a couple of Red Headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus was feeding on a carcass of what appeared to be another dead vulture. At 0705 AM while still watching the sickly bird walk further away a Red Headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus flew from a nearby tree and literally landed on the bird unaware. A second Red Headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus also appeared within seconds. By now the first was pecking at the Long Billed Gyps Indicus as it set on it back. Though the Long Billed Vulture Gyps Indicus tried to defend itself by counter attacking with its beak. It seemed unable to escape the grips of the heavier and healthier bird anchored on it back. It appeared that the second Red Headed Sarcogyps calvus seemed unwilling to join in the attack possibly due to hierarchy of the group and simply stood bye watching. After total ten minutes of suffering the Long Billed Vulture Gyps Indicus managed to escape and hop off to safety after the Red Headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus became distracted by more arrivals. There were no further attacks on the bird within the following fifteen minutes. At this point the observation was stopped.

The following afternoon there was a gathering of 8 to 9 Red Headed Vultures Sarcogyps calvus. They were feeding on a carcass of the recently dead Long Billed Vulture Gyps Indicus. One bird appeared dominant and as it fed while the others stood around watching. It is very probable that this was the carcass of the sickly Long Billed Vulture Gyps Indicus.
This is not the first time cannibalistic behavior amongst vultures has been observed in Bandhavgarh. However, it is the first time that of vultures appearing to attack sickly others for the purpose of generating food has been documented.
 Surely this does not mean that these vultures in Bandhavgarh are facing any kind of starvation. This could be a case of opportunistic behavior for getting the easy convenient food. 

Effect of Cattle grazing on Buttefly Habitat in and around the villages in Panpatha Sanctuary.

Effect of Cattle Grazing on butterfly habitat in and around the villages in Panpatha Sanctuary.

We chose Bamera Kaseru and Pataur villages for this purpose. 
Bamera Village (N23 47.296 EO80 59.050) is one of the major village situated in Panpatha sanctuary. This village has very good fertile land and due to irrigation facility through canal from Bamera dam the village is thriving.
Most of the houses has cattle's and at mid day time majority of buffalo's were kept in cattle shade while goats and cows were sent for grazing in jungle. This may be due to the commercial factor in case of cattle lifting by any predator. Compensation for cows and goat is more than their market value but less in case of a buffalo.
We didn't get much interaction with villagers as most of them were suspicious about our presence in the village and were not open to talk.
This is a complete farming village. Big crop fields with good water supply. Most of the fences around field and houses were either of Bamboo and Lantana or of Cactus. One of the best Cactus fences, about 30 yrs old,  around houses can be seen in this village. This means the usual stuff that grows around fences to help butterflies is missing. During our 4 hour stay in Bamera village we just saw 3 or 4 different kind of butterflies (Common Grass Yellow, Common Gull and some sort of Grass Blue)
For some unknown reason the population of Red Shouldered Pretonia is better than House Sparrow in Bamera village. Some very good marsh land is available for water birds but all what we saw was a Large Egret and one Paddy Bird. Presence of butterflies and bees in Mustard and lentil fields as pollinators was negligible
 Is the use of pesticide killing them??
Roads in the village or in good condition. Car and Tractor can pass easily. Most of the land is irrigated and there are quite a few water bodies in the village .Government Primary School has more children than the school building could accommodate them so two classes were operating in veranda. A women was cooking mid day meal for the pupil. This could be another reason for higher attendance in the school. But in Aanganwadi things were little different. In-charge told us that total 52 kids are registered but only 20 came today. Those all 20 were having mid day meal at the time we were there.
The usual habitat for butterflies was missing. It may be due to Buffalo and goat because these two eat most of the plants. Buffalo actually pulls the plant so up to some extent it destroys the rhizome also. Most of the lantana, that is major food plant for butterflies, was cut for making fence around crop field. Most of the houses had good amount of reserve supply of fire wood means villagers are regularly visiting the sanctuary area to collect fire wood. Means a constant disturbance to the wildlife of the area. None of the villager complained about the crop raiding by deer's or wild boar and neither we saw any sign of it.
In our opinion habitat for butterflies in and around Bamera village is very poor. Villagers need to learn about the benefit from pollinators. A good field can produce poor crop with lack of support from pollinators. Villagers told us that most of the butterflies are seen only in monsoon. This is when cattle food is in abundance. Surprisingly even in marshland the butterfly population was low. 
Next day we saw a dead cattle but no vultures. Most of the meat was taken away by dogs and Jackal's. Bamera - kaseru village are situated in plains. No hills around. Nests of White Backed Vultures were also not seen around these villages.
Man Raman Singh, a resident of village Kaseru says he has not seen vultures since last 6-8 years. His other comment was, Man has become scavenger so vultures has no chance to survive.
We saw some very good mustard fields but hardly any butterflies or bees. In one such field there were only 10-12 Common Jezebel with one Lemon Pansy doing the job. High numbers of Jezebel due to Honey Suckle growing on Mahua trees.
An odd flowering Lantana was the only food plant for adult butterflies.
Kaseru and Bamera village are minimum 2-3 degrees hotter than Tala. Butea monosperma is already flowering here while trees in Tala even don't have buds.
Cattle grazing is the only reason for a poor butterfly habitat in this area.  
We will be there again on the same dates in next months.