Birds’ site fidelity can work for you

An orange-headed thrush in Sembakkam and Asian brown flycatcher in Mylapore. Photos: Leo Vino and Rama Neelamegam

Desultory birders may blame it on their luck: others’ is always better. Birding is not about lucking out, but looking out for avians all the time. There is no telling what feathers would pop in round the corner — it does not matter where your turf is. Even with a scattering of greenery, nature has a way of breaking through, and bringing unusual feathers one’s way.

Recently, birder Rama Neelamegam had a closer view of a winter visitor, an Asian brown flycatcher, that had been haunting her busy neighbourhood, D’Silva Raad, for four winter seasons, if not more.

From the terrace of her first-floor home, she had been training her binoculars on the weeny little bird, certain that it was a flycatcher from its call and flight pattern. The bird would check into an Indian almond tree ( terminalia catappa ) on the opposite side of the road, three buildings away.

An Asian brown flycatcher on D'Silva Road in Mylapore. Photo: Rama Neelamegam

An Asian brown flycatcher on D'Silva Road in Mylapore. Photo: Rama Neelamegam

Slipped in between two houses, the Indian almond tree underwent some significant chopping to keep its nosey branches out of windows, notes Rama. The Asian brown flycatcher did not take this unfriendliness to heart, and has made a mango tree bang opposite Rama’s homestead its new home. “It resides on the mango tree, where it also hunts for prey. It sunbathes on a mast tree nearby when the sun is high, usually around 7.30 a.m.,” notes Rama.

As her new neighbour prefers the upper and lower canopies — as a species, the Asian brown flycatcher would instinctively reach for the top of a tree — Rama is now spared the effort of having to climb on to the terrace, binoculars tucked in an arm.

Just one seed dropped to the ground can make a difference to the migratory season: a nugget of wisdom birder and photographer Leo Vino has discovered parked in his living room. He has raised a fig tree in the vacant plot adjacent to his home in Sembakkam, obtaining permission from the plot owner who lives abroad.

As a result of this prudent move, uninvited visitors have been bringing chirps and cheer into his life. There are birds that display site loyalty, returning to the tree season after season. The loyalists include an Asian brown flycatcher and an orange-headed thrush. Common hawk-cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo invited themselves to the party three seasons ago when many worms and caterpillars were found on the fig tree, notes Leo. One paradise flyctacher has a look-in in the first week of December, but has not put in an appearance yet this season.

“This tree is my bird hide.”

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Printable version | May 8, 2022 10:09:21 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/birds-site-fidelity-can-work-for-you/article37989914.ece