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BIRDWATCH: The Small Minivet

Little Minivet

The Small Minivet (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus) is listed among the common birds of the Indian sub-continent. It is to be found everywhere in the country, wherever it can find its naturally preferred habitat of forests, groves, gardens and tree-dotted cultivation. It goes without saying that the one region where Small Minivets are not to be found are the arid parts of Rajasthan.

The Small Minivet is, appropriately, a small bird (15 cms). It hunts chiefly small insects that live in trees, but does not say no to flower nectar (!) when it can’t find trees. It works tirelessly in its search for food, keeping to treetops and flying actively amidst foliage. Hence, as you can imagine, it is an extremely difficult bird to sight, leave alone photograph. Yet, here it is, sitting on a Khejri tree on the lush Savista estate! Hurrah!!

What we have here is a male: dark grey head, back and throat; orange-yellow patch on black wings, black tail; flame-orange breast; orange-yellow belly and undertail.

At the time that this picture was taken, the identity of this bird eluded us. The photographer was one of our guests, John Van der Colff, an avid birdwatcher who spent his entire time at Savista photographing birds and sharing with us his excitement, moment-to-moment, sending us a constant stream of photographs. Of all his pictures, this was the only one that we were unable to name. We initially thought that it was a Common Stonechat. But we were wrong. With the help of Birdlife Sweden, a Swedish birdwatching society (thank you Anders!), we now have the name. The search was initiated by our young Swedish volunteer who is currently staying with us (thank you, Hedda!).

John and Jean Van der Colff were visiting from south Africa with some of their friends. They had wanted to come to Savista the previous year, but as we didn’t have availability on the dates of their proposed visit to Jaipur, they decided to postpone their Jaipur holiday to a later date! When they wrote to us again in the following year, we were already charmed by their loyalty! The couple that finally arrived at Savista proved to be among our warmest ever guests. While Jean largely slept and rested her way through her time at Savista recovering from the accumulated exhaustion of her demanding corporate sector job, John – a freelance consultant at the time, whose flexible schedule left him with more energy – explored Savista’s birdlife and tramped around the countryside indulging his passion.

Thank you, Jean and John, for your warm companionship and infectious enthusiasm, and for sending us our first ever sighting of this wonderful bird in our midst.

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