Phillaur has a lot of forests and cultivation and is also gifted with the mighty Sutlej which separates Phillaur from Ludhiana. There are more than a hundred species that I have recorded in and around Phillaur including the Eurasian Eagle Owl, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Temminick’s Stint.
Bulbuls are small passerine birds known for their melodious songs. Their neck and wings are short while the tail is longer. Their wings are rounded and the bill is long and elongated with a hooked end.
Size(45-50cm): Brahminy Kite is a medium sized raptor.
Area: It is found throughout the Indian landmass except for drier parts of Rajasthan and high altitude regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Habitat: It is a Fish Eagle (Red-backed Fish Eagle) that is found near lakes, rivers, marshes, estuaries, lagoons and flood plains.
My two words: Adult Brahminy Kites have reddish-brown body contrasting to their white head, throat and breast. They are more reddish-brown on belly and tail. The bill is grey-white. There is a big black patch on the base of the wing.
Juvenile birds are rustier than adults. They are generally rusty-brown with wings fringed with rusty-buff. Their head is streaked and tail rusty-grey.
These birds are a familiar sight in the skies of Peninsular India where they are literally found in abundance. In places like Goa, the number of these birds is super high. During a trip to Goa in 2012, I was amazed to see these guys fill up the sky in just a few moments. But, on a school trip there, in 2018, I noted that their number had declined way too much. But still, there were many of them.
The breeding season is from December to March/April. The nest is generally made on mangroves. They nest in the same area every year. Eggs are two in number which take 20-25 days of incubation. Both parents take part in nesting and feeding but incubation is done primarily by the mother bird.
Young birds tend to indulge themselves in playful activities. When fishing they may drop into the r but coming out is no issue for them as they do it without much effort.
It is a scavenger. Diet chiefly includes dead fish and small water animals. When you hear its call, you will think that a baby is crying. It is a strange kyainh but is worth listening.
Size(30-33cm):This species of Kite is just a bit bigger than the Shikra.
Area: All India till 1600m in outer Himalayas.
Habitat: Usually grassy countryside, mild forests, cultivated farmlands and open scrubs.
My two words:Black Shouldered Kite has a grey-white plumage. It has blood-red eyes with black markings over them. As the name tells, it has a black markings on shoulders which can be seen clearly both during flight and at rest.
They have yellow nostrils, ceres, legs and talons and a black hooked bill.
Solitary or in pairs. Except for small birds, its diet is same as that of the Shikra-squirrels, rodents, and small reptiles. Mostly hunts on wing. Usually hovering over cultivated fields and scrub with ready legs in search of food. Its iconic dive is worth watching.
Pairs breed between August and January. They lay 3-4 eggs which take a month of incubation. Chicks become fully-grown 30-35 days after leaving the nest and can even hunt for themselves within a week after leaving their nest.
Size(60-65cm): Medium sized raptor. Just a little small than the Greater-Spotted Eagle.
Area: All India till about 2000m in Himalayas. Above that subspecies M. m. lineautus exists.
Habitat: Forests, human inhabitation and cultivation.
My two words: The birds has a dark brown plumage with paler head and neck. Underparts have streak. The tail is forked. The outer flight feathers are black and the feathers have dark brown bars and with some mottling at the base. The legs and bill are black. The ceres and the interior of the mouth are yellow.
Black kite is often called Eagle by children and even grown-ups in towns and cities which is slightly bigger in size than the Black Kite and the Kite has a forked tail which is not seen in the Eagle (Greater-spotted/ Indian-spotted/ Steppe/ Tawny Eagle). Black Kite can be differentiated from the Red Kite by its less forked tail.
The Indian subspecies (M. m. govinda and M. m. lineautus) breed during January and March. Eggs are usually 2 in number. Both the male and the female contribute towards making a nest which is a rough base of twigs etc. The nest is often reused.
The diet is the same as that of the Shikra-small animals, rodents, small reptiles and smaller birds.
The call is musical whistling which they utter frequently during breeding season.
Tikkar Taal is a 253000 sq. m big lake in the Morni Hills at an altitude of 1200 m from the sea level. It is about 50 km from the city of Chandigarh. This place is known for its eminent for its picturesque Himalayan scenes and landscapes and a wide range of flora and fauna.
(The bluiy scenes you get to see there during early mornings are super beautiful)
Far away from the busyness of the cities, Morni is a place where you can come and let your body relax and calm all your worries for some time.
This place was named after a noble queen who once ruled the place thousands of years back.
It is an oasis of serenity away from the bustling world all around. Morni reflects peace and stillness. It is a place where you should just sit back and get lost in the beauty of nature.
The main tourist attractions in this region are :-
Tikkar Taal and its sister Draupadi Taal
Mountain Quail Resort
Tikkar Taal Lakeside Motel
Tikkar Taal Periphery Nature Trail
Morni Fort Museum
The Tikkar Taal is divided into two by a hill in between – Bhim Taal or the main Tikkar Taal and the smaller Draupadi Taal which is located on the other side of the road. Rumours suggest that a hidden underground water channel connects the two because the water level in both the lakes remains the same almost throughout the year.
(Bhim Taal in background – clicked from the top of a magnificent herbal garden)
Tikkar Taal is slowly developing into a proper tourist spot. Haryana Government is laying efforts to create proper accommodation for the tourists. At the same time, the empty and unused lands are being converted into Herbal Gardens and long Nature Trails to prevent the unnecessary construction in this region and protect it from being over-crowded.
Hotels here are less in number which is also a good thing because lesser the hotels lesser the crowd. Boating was started in the Tikkar Taal Lake by the Government for the tourists to make their holiday a memorable one.
(Boating time click)
We started our journey from Phillaur @ 11 am. It took us about 7 hours to reach there. The distance is of barely 3-5 hours but we are a sort of travelers who are not in hurry of reaching the place like most of the people, We enjoy the journey equally as we enjoy after reaching the destination.
This time Birding was not our main motive. Instead, it was Exploring a new place. The first time we stopped in the way was when we a lot of motion of small birds at the edge of the hill. The birds were too far away and the light was not at all favorable. There were some Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers, Grey Bushchats and One little fella which I had a hard time identifying because it was sitting too far away and against the sun. I did a lot of editing and cropping of the photo to make it a bit visible and it turned out to be a super rarity – Little Bunting.
(If you can recognise this one then please comment down below)
Next up we had a group of Red Billed Blue Magpies feeding on the ground near the edge of the road. They did give us great shots but they were not great enough.
(Red Billed Blue Magpie
We reached Tikkar Taal at 6 and were lucky enough to get the only two rooms left to be booked at the Motel.
Next day, we had breakfast and went for boating. While we were waiting for our turn to come, I saw a couple of Plain Prinias on the grass about 15 feet from where I was. I took the camera from dad and laid myself down on the lush green grass and started proceeding towards them like an army man with a ‘Ready to Shoot Camera.’
I went so close to them that the camera was having difficulty focusing on them and I had to step back a bit. The little birds seemed to give not a damn to me. I clicked lots of photographs and also clicked my first very own MasterPiece photograph.
Now in full mood, I started chasing a White Browed Wagtail. That bird literally made a fool out of me by running around the big grassland like crazy. But I did manage to get a nice shot of it.
(White Browed Wagtail)
Our turn had come for boating and I was called. We unlike every other person on a boat, headed the boat towards the adjacent edge of the lake because we were in a full mood of birding. We stopped the boat close to a tree.
The littly-wittly birds were hard to identify from naked eye but the camera was smarter than them. We had a bunch of Plain Prinias, a couple of Grey Bushchats and a solitary Common Rosefinch.
We proceeded further. We saw a Little Cormorant on a submerged branch. The bird was no special one but because I wanted to click just simply any bird we forwarded in its direction. This one also came too close to us and didn’t fly away until we were so close that if I extended my hand out of the boat, I would have held his neck.
When I was photographing this bird I noticed something strange near its feet. There was a snake there. When the bird flew, it kicked the half-asleep snake and the snake went directly into the water. This was the last thing we had for the whole trip. We saw the snake’s head a few times while returning but we were not interested in it anymore.
(Little Cormorant with a Snake near its bottom)
The last thing left was the Morni Fort. It was a decent place and the government had also done efforts to restore the palace by building museums in all the four turrets of the fort.
(Rhesus Macaque that I clicked secretly in the Fort)
Photography was not allowed there so I couldn’t get anything there. While coming out I saw some Slender Billed Vultures and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk but they too against sunlight.
(Silhouette of a Slender Billed Vulture)
The journey back home was a smooth one. Overall, this 2-day New Year trip amazing and relaxed all the tension.
Size(56-58cm): It is a big Owl and very easy to recognise.
Area: N, NW, C and NE India south of Himalayas; absent in S India.
Habitat: Forests, leafy trees and close to human inhabitation.
My two words: It is a large owl with a pale grey-brown plumage and white spots on the upperparts. There are fine and long streaking on the breast and below. Ear-tufts distinctive. The eyes are yellow and fierce looking.
They are found mostly solitary or in pairs but sometimes three or four birds are scattered over a place.
They are active mostly during the time of sunrise or sunset. The rest of the day they just sit around on a tree branch and rest.
The nesting season starts from November and ends about near mid-March. The nest is made near water and preferably near human inhabitation.
House Crows are the daring birds which disturb this beast the most.
(Dusky Eagle Owl being disturbed by House Crows)
Their diet includes small birds, small animals, insects, frogs and some rodents.
Their call is a deep woo…woo…woo…woo…woo…oo…o… which starts to fade towards the end.
(Dusky Eagle Owl at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)
It is a not a rare bird or an endangered one, in fact it is listed as ‘LC’ (Least Concern) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but still is not seen very often.