On cloud nine! That's how naturalist Ramanan Padmanabhan felt when he recently spotted two rare birds in the city

Ramanan Padmanabhan studies and photographs the great horned owl at the Nanmangalam Reserve Forest. While trekking through the scrub jungle on the morning of August 31 and searching for his favourite bird, he was greeted with a rare sight. It was an orange-breasted green pigeon. A senior member of the Madras Naturalists Society and a wildlife photographer, Ramanan identified the frugivorous bird straightaway. “The lone bird was feeding on scrub fruits and when I drew near for a clearer view through the lens, it glided into thicker greenery to avoid detection. This is a camouflage technique typical of this pigeon,” recalls Ramanan.

This is the first time anyone has reported sighting an orange-breasted green pigeon at any reserve forest in and around Chennai. “This bird is found in the evergreen forests of the Western and Eastern Ghats,” says Ramanan.

It's interesting to note that two months later, the birdwatcher had another rare sighting — this time, it was a dark-sided flycatcher perched on a rain tree in his backyard. “The dark-sided flycatcher was sighted at 3.30 p.m. on November 3 on a raintree at Shastri Nagar. Despite an unrelenting downpour, the bird was busy pecking at insects and it took up different perches on the same tree. From beak to tail, the flycatcher was around 13 cm long,” says Ramanan. For two more days, he sighted the bird on the same tree and, when the skies cleared up, he snapped a few pictures of it.

“The dark-sided flycatcher is a long-distance migrant: it breeds in Siberia, Mongolia and travels to the western and eastern Himalayas during winter,” says Ramanan.

Commenting on both sightings — confirmed as first-of-their-kind in Chennai by the Madras Naturalists Society — naturalist V. Guruswami says: “Through sustained observation and research, we arrive at the geographical limits of birds. They may exceed these known limits, but this fact often goes unnoticed. It takes bird enthusiasts to spot these birds, when they ‘stray' off their known haunts. The dark-sided flycatcher is an arboreal bird. But for birdwatchers, who are in the habit of looking deeper into canopies, this bird is often not easily sighted. The orange-breasted green pigeon is essentially a hill bird and found in the Eastern and Western Ghats. Habitat destruction can scatter such birds and can be one of the reasons why they are seen in places other than their known homes.”

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012