BIRDWATCH: The Blue Bearded Bee-Eater & Black Crowned Night Heron
Hurrah! In the wake of the prolonged and heavy rains this year, we have two new bird sightings to report from the Savista garden!
Our most recent residents are the Blue Bearded Bee-Eater and the Black-Crowned Night Heron. It is possible that the Blue Bee-Eater may have got drawn to our luxuriant winged insect life that has undergone an additional growth spurt with the rains. The Black-Crowned Night Heron probably feels attracted to our ponds, which are currently alive with uncle and grandfather frogs and lots of jumpy babies.
The Blue Bearded Bee-Eater (30-34 cm) is much larger than his cousin the Green Bee-Eater (21 cm), who is one of Savista’s more ubiquitous residents. The Blue variety normally lives in the hill forests of the Central and Eastern Himalayas and the Western and Eastern Ghats of peninsular India, and in the forested parts of Madhya Pradesh; it is a rare pleasure to have it choose our lush-with-the-rains-tree-covered-estate, even if it is only for a seasonal visit. Greyish-green above and bluer on the forehead, blue along the centre of throat to breast and along the wings, and with a long tail that lacks long central pins (a characgteristic of the Green bee-Eater), the Blue Bee-Eater looks quite at home at Savista, perched high up in the garden and on the haveli’s terrace, making its harsh korr-korr croaking notes as it keeps a look-out for juicy insects.
We spotted the Black-Crowned Night Heron one late evening quite by chance. He was standing at the edge of what used to be our horses’ drinking water pond (that has now been taken over by water plants and frogs), motionless and totally absorbed by something in the water that he was looking at. It was his apparent unflappability which had us watching him closely until it became too dark for us to see clearly. This heron is small but heavy, its plumage mostly grey, black and white, with a black head, back and crest, a white forehead and very long white feathers. The species is nocturnal, shy and secretive, which is probably why we have never spotted it since. It roosts in trees during the day, and arrives at its feeding grounds by dusk – ponds and marshes containing fish, frogs and aquatic insects – where it continues to feed through the night until early morning. It is resident all over India.