As the winter sets in, the morning safaris at Kabini are often misty with a sharp chill in the air. On the safari today, with the sun breaking through the mist, we set out on our jeep.
On the way into the forest, we came across a Grey Junglefowl foraging by the bark of a tree. Also known as the Sonnerat’s Junglefowl, these fowls are wild relatives of the domestic fowl. They are usually found in thickets, on forest floors and in open scrubs singly or in pairs or small parties of about six, with the sexes either segregated or mixed. Their loud calls of ‘Ku-kayak-kyuk-kyuk’ can be heard in the early mornings and at dusk. They usually feed on grains including bamboo seeds, tubers, berries, insects, termites, and small reptiles, in small mixed or single sex groups. In the wild, they are threatened by habitat loss and hunters. Grey Junglefowls are very shy and timid, but can become inured to human proximity. These wild beauties breed chiefly between February and May. Besides, the use of their feathers in fly-fishing, is fast turning into a threat.
As we made our way into the forest, we spotted a White-bellied Woodpecker atop a bare branch. He seemed to be in a pensive mood and thus I managed to click a fine picture of him. White-bellied Woodpeckers are the second largest of the woodpeckers found in India (the first being Great Salty Woodpecker). Found very often in pairs or loose family parties in large forest trees, they feed primarily on ants, termites, grubs and pupae of wood boring insects. Occasionally, they also treat themselves to fruits. Their nest is usual woodpecker hole excavated in rotten trunks of large trees. These woodpeckers, also known as Great Black Woodpeckers, breed generally between January and March and lay two eggs normally.
Although considered shy, they have been known to nest close to well used tracks and human disturbed areas. A woodpecker’s call is an interesting observation; as they range from short and sharp ‘kuk’ to a more intoned ‘kyuk’, ‘kew’, ‘kee-yow’ call. The longer calls however, are given prior to flying off. We waited for him to render a call but he was shy or probably too pensive to react.
Scanning through my binoculars, I saw a Spotted Dove on a nearby branch. Contrary to the name, these birds are pigeons which breed throughout the year, with nests commonly found in trees, edges of buildings or even on the ground. As the name suggests, these pigeons have spotted buffs on their wings, tail and back and are also known as Chinese Doves. They feed on grass and weed seeds, insects, and cultivated grains. They are fairly terrestrial, foraging on the ground in grasslands and cultivation. These pigeons prefer to nest in better moist and densely wooded areas than the other doves and are seen very often in the parks as well as outside. Spotted Dove’s call is a low and gentle ‘coo-coo-croo’, with emphasis on the last note. Occasionally, their calls transform in to a ‘coo-coo krrroo, krook’ sound!
Looking around for more birds across the forest, we saw a Wild Boar searching for some tuber in the moist ground! Ancestor of the common pig, Wild boar is of the same species that is found in Europe except that its coat is thinner. The coat is more deeply coloured in the south and east of India. The southern wild boars are also slightly larger in size. They litter through the year and the piglets are light brown with pale stripes. This colouration, primarily for camouflage, lasts for 6 – 7 months, when they become independent of their mothers. Extremely pugnacious, an angry Wild boar can cause more damage than larger animals as it seldom abandons a charge. Largely left alone by Leopards, large male Wild boars are known to have caused fatal injuries to Tigers. Seeing our vehicle, he decided to stop in front of the bush. It was almost as if he had stopped to greet us. A bit of human interaction in the wild, I guess, is a welcome change!
Our motive on the safari today was primarily bird watching. With the onset of winter, birds from far away lands usually flock towards the forest in search of refuge. To observe these winter visitors is truly amazing.