Saturday, January 10, 2009

In Search of Paradise

One of the best things about winter in Mumbai is the number of interesting birds that check in, fleeing the increasing cold in the lands further north. Some others choose to reveal themselves now to take advantage of the booming bug population post-monsoon.

One of them is the Paradise Flycatcher ... a small, absolutely gorgeous but extremely shy bird. The females are a rust-and-white combination but the males! You just have to see the males !
Jet black head with a tuft of spiky feathers on top, and a white body. As if that were not striking enough, he has two extremely long tail feathers that ripple and flutter in the air, like streamers being twirled !

Very often, the fluttering tail feathers are what gives away their presence as they swoop and chase small flying insects through the garden. But just as I run behind him and try to get a photo or at least a closer look, he's off again to another tree at the other end of the garden, or even into my neighbour's garden. Oh-h-h ... the aggravation!

The other day, after many days of chasing him around the garden, I spotted him zip into the banana grove next door . Perfect! The grove is at a lower level so I could get a better view of him from my garden. And there he was... flitting from one broad leaf to the other, snapping up flies and mosquitos in quick sallies.

He had found an old dried-up leaf which had fallen across another plant, so the stalk was like a great viewing perch and launch-pad. From here, he would cock his head in every direction till he saw a tasty-looking insect... swoop! and there's one less insect in the world. I really, really like this bird!

Uh-oh! Looks like he's spotted me now...

And he's off again ....

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  1. Thank you so much for your persistence, Sunita. Great pictures of the Flycatcher. What a great sight!

  2. How lucky you were Sunitha! He's a handsome chappie!
    They are quite breathtaking aren't they. The few times I've seen them, I've been left with a feeling of delight thats lasted several days!!

  3. Great photos, Sunita. How fortunate you are to have such a beautiful species of bird right in your own yard!

  4. Excellent job of capturing him! Very beautiful too.

  5. Oh dear! Breathtaking is an understatement to describe the way you have captured this beauty.
    Like your flycathcher chap I too have a similar urge to escape the frigid north indian winters and fly to the comfortable tempratures of Mumbai.

  6. Chandramouli, I have to admit that there were times when I could've sworn he was teasing me! The very second he spotted me, he would take off for some other part of the garden. Not too far away but definitely out of camera range.
    But you still have to see him first-hand to know how fascinating he is.

    I'm sure Flowergirl knows what I'm talking about, dont you? Those streamer-like tail feathers are truly eye-catching! The way they ripple and twirl in the air as he flies ... beautiful ! Did you see the Paradise Flycatcher in Chennai ? I didnt know that was part of his territory.

    Kim, I've seen him and his family only in the cooler months starting December. He's either a nomad or keeps himself well-hidden at other times.
    You're right! I'm very lucky to have him flit in my garden at least for a few months of the year.

    Isnt he gorgeous, Tina! But I havent given up. I'd love to get a better and clearer photo of him. This time the late afternoon sun was shining directly at my camera lens so the photos arent as clear as I would've liked (plus, I couldnt believe I was finally getting him on camera and my hands kept shaking!)

    And like my Flycatcher, you would be very welcome too, Green Thumb! What are you waiting for? Come on over and have bhelpuri on the beach or samosas on Fashion Street! There's winter comfort for you!

  7. Wonderful pictures, Sunita, and a fun narrative -- your posts are always a delight. That's a marvelous bird-- hope he visits your garden regularly!

  8. Sunita, thank you so much for the picture of this gorgeous bird. I admire your persistency in getting a good "shot". The most interesting birds are shy and hard to catch with the lense. The ordinary ones which are all the time frequenting the garden just look at you and think here she comes again...can you see the birdie?...

  9. I love to watch birds a lot.....and this bird looks gorgeous....thank you very much for sharing this with us...

  10. Thanks, Anne and I hope he keeps visiting too. Frankly there are so many mosquitos there that he may never wish to leave.

    Trudi, you're welcome. And as always, you're so right! I wish he would stay around like the sparrows and mynahs do. But then he's too gorgeous for that . And he knows it!

    Humanobserver, I wonder whether Mr. Paradise Flycatcher frequents Delhi when he goes missing from Mumbai? Its possible, dont you think?
    Maybe when your cold weather season is over you could look out for him in the gardens and more wooded areas of Delhi.

  11. What an exotic looking bird! I thought drongos had great tails but this one is gorgeous. You did a great job--it's difficult to shoot birds, especially infrequent visitors!

  12. Looks like our two gardens has one thing in common, Sunita! I have a white morph and a red morph male in addition to red short-tailed females. You have done extremely well to photograph them. It isn't all that easy as they are quite restless.

  13. You said it, magiceye! Unfortunately the places where you can spot such beautiful wildlife is sadly dwindling. Well, I'm doing my bit with my garden. I hope that makes a small difference.

    Kanak, I'm seeing a lot of drongos too . And Golden Orioles. They're making my garden a very colourful place now!

    Amila, I havent spotted so many of the red young male adults this year. I wonder why. Come to think of it, I havent seen many of the females either. Hmmmm.... something's fishy in Paradise! BTW, why do you call them a 'morph'? Do they look like something else at other times? My knowledge of the birding world is only from Salim Ali's very useful book 'The Book of Indian Birds'. Can you tell me anything more about them?

  14. Wonderful shots Sunita. It is a gorgeous bird and the pics looks warm, nice and humid too. Just what I needed, thank you/ LOLove Tyra

  15. Sunita, As you may know, "morph" usually refers to plumage variation within a population of a given species. Having said that there can be morphs that are only within a given sex or an age group of a species also. i.e. Plaintive Cuckoo female known as 'hepatic' morph.

    As you know, the white and red morphs belong to one species Terpsiphone paradisi. The migratory sub species:leucogaster,occuring in Nepal and the sendentary: saturatior from Sikkim east are known to show "abrupt morphological change", which according to Birds of South Asia by Dr. Pamela Rasmussen requires further study.

    The term morph was NOT used due to this 'abrupt changes' that are known to occur in the aforementioned sub species but to refer to a morphological form (or colour phase).

    Even we get intergrades (red ones with white patches) which needs further study as far as I am concerned (through ringing and other means) to ascertain whether they are any migrant populations arriving from Nepal. Current knowledge suggests that the red morphs that come to the wet zone Sri Lanka during the migratory season to be from the dry zone of Sri Lanka where the endemic sub-species: ceylonensis, which nests in the dry zone and doesn't occur in white morph!

    During the migratory season we get white morph ones to pretty much all parts of Sri Lanka.

  16. Nice :) You must have lots of patience to get that photo...

  17. Tyra, It is still warm in Mumbai but it has lost that sultry rainforest feel. I'll have to see which other warm photos I can post for my frozen friends. Plenty, I think.

  18. Wow! Amila, that IS a lot of information! Well, that explains a lot. I think I had taken you too literally. But obviously there's a lot more that I need to find out. Thanks for going to all that trouble !
    Are the Paradise Flycatchers you normally see in Sri Lanka different from the ones we see here in India ?

  19. Thanks, Julian. Ummm... Patience and I are almost strangers to each other but when something sparks my curiosity I think I go to illogical lengths to find out more about it :D

  20. No worries, Sunita!
    The sub species leucogaster of Nepal in the NE, is known to winter in "Southern Peninsula" in Kerala according to Dr.Pam. I suspect it is the one you get at Mumbai.

    The white morph ones we get as a migrant is the sub-species: paradisi , which according to Dr. Pam, winters mainly in Sri Lanka.

  21. That probably explains the lack of a blue ring around the eyes. I had read that T. paradisi has that but 'my' bird didnt. It was black instead.
    Thanks for the info, Amila!

  22. What fun, to finally get to take a bunch of pics of such a cool looking bird! Thank you for bringing the exotic to me bird to my computer.

  23. You're welcome, Sue. There are some really great photos of the Paradise flycatcher on the Net. Clear and sharp, unlike my fuzzy attempts.

  24. I just found this sight off a friends list-how nice to have found something so fun and informative-I love birds-never seen birds like yours-they are so exciting. And we get flowers too-thank you so much for sharing. We are in winter for 4 mon. yet-so what a pleasure to read all the information and look at other gardens. How do I join these blogs?

  25. Hi Chickadee! Its great meeting new people and hearing about their life and gardens.
    Winter for 4 months more! We'll be sweating in the middle of the most miserable days of summer then. Maybe I should ask you to post photos of your winter then! :)
    I'm glad you liked the photos of my garden. BTW, do you have your own blog? If you do then maybe you could join Blotanical and get to read many more garden blogs. Have fun!

  26. What a little beauty he is! And that tail!! It goes on and on!
    You did so well capturing him in these shots. Lucky you to have him in your garden.
    Oh, how I'd love to have him in my viewfinder!
    Thanks for sharing him :)

  27. Kerri, I know one thing for sure, you would've done a fantastic job of photographing him! Its all too easy to blame the limitations of my point-and-shoot but I know that I'm not so experienced a photographer to get the best angles, etc. Plus, my hand trembles with the excitement of the moment everytime I see such a beautiful bird.

  28. Absolutely love this post! Paradise flycatchers are brilliant!!!!

  29. I totally agree, Aakanksha! the Paradise Flycatcher is one of those birds that really make your day when you spot them. I wish they'd stick around, though, instead of being winter visitors..


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