Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Mumbai - Talk at BNHS tomorrow

I have so much to share including a birding day with 85+ species but I'll have to wait until I return.  For now I am in my hotel room, polishing my talk for the Bombay Natural History Society, occassionally stopping to watch the three games of cricket being played across the street. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where in the world is Becky?

Updating the blog has been a bit trickier than I imagined...and admittedly, I am busy taking everything in and spending time with my hosts in the evening rather than getting online.  So please forgive my slowness in posting as well as the shortness of my posts.  All of the stories of where we have been can be found on the GSE team blog as well, so I have focused on my birding and vocational visits here.  Thank-you all for following and your interest and I can't wait to share so much more over the coming weeks and months.

Amravati -the orange grove, November 8, 2012

Our ride home from the orange grove.
Not only did we eat delicious oranges picked ripe off the tree but a few new species popped up; two White-browed Fantails were flying tree to tree, a Black Redstart perched along a fence, Common Tailorbirds littered the orchard and a single male Purple Sunbird on a wire…absolutely wonderful.

Amravati – a morning of birding, November 7, 2012

The Lake/dam.
This morning, my host’s brother, who is a trekker and has trekked the Himalayans, got up bright and early, along with two of his friends, to take me to the a nearby dam to go birding.  I arrived to find a huge lake, complete with a Grey Heron and a large flock of Great Thick Knees.  Alongside the lake was some short, dry scrubby areas as well as a more forested area.  Amongst the trees, I found my first Asian Koel and, in the scrub, my first sunbird nest complete with chicks—and I watched the female fly back and forth to the nest with food for quite some time.  In the open area, near the Lake there was an Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark doing some sort of a display – it flew into the air tweed-i-ling and then would drop down with a long whistle.  Just as we were leaving a White-browed Wagtail flew in…just in time to be added to the list.

Sunbird nest.

Scrub by the lake.

Fly-bys and window birds

Probably the most difficult thing to handle when traveling with non-birders is the fact that you can’t stop the car for every species…this is particularly difficult when all of the species are new so you know you are not only missing birds that could be added to the list but birds that you might not find elsewhere.  For example, bird-wise, no day was more difficult than on the trip to the Gandhi Ahram, Sewagram and the medical college in Sewangi.  I know…you’re wondering how can I even think of birds when heading to see where Ghandi lived…but for those who know me, you also know I have a one track mind.  In my defense, it was the first time we had been out of the city and so as we drove for an hour, zooming past the countryside, a combination of grassland and trees, it was hard not to yell “stop” at everything that kept cropping up on the wires.  All that said, I did manage to hone in on a few new, and some already-seen but still enjoyed species including: a Common Hoopoe (its crest is pretty distinct), White-throated Kingfisher, Black Drongo and a Rollerbird.  My biggest near miss was a species of snipe, with its distinctive body shape and long-bill.

However, on the flipside, one of the most exciting things is that my team members are starting to share my birding enthusiasm.  Jean is getting very good at spotting birds, Alain has brought me picture of rapotrs to i.d. (it was a Black Kite), Kelly has taken numerous bird shots with her Nikon and Sarah is ever patient.

Tadoba, November 3 and 4, 2012

The GSE team and the Patrol Team (Harsh is in the middle in
the beige shirt)
 I knew our trip was going to be great, when I arrived at Harsh and Poonam’s house in the morning to find a Grey Hornbill in the trees around the house.  Soon all five of us were packed in the car with Harsh and on a hour and a half long drive to Tadoba.  Along the way, we made a stop at a roadside restaurant and shops…much like the Canadian truck stop but all outdoors…and we were met in the parking lot by a White Wagtail.  Soon, filled with Samosas and pepsi we were back on the road to Tadoba.  It wasn’t long before we were off the main highway and rolling through villages and along dirt roads (with Black-winged Kites along the wires).

Harsh explaining to Jean about the leopards that walk by
the house.
Much of our visit has been detailed on the GSE blog including a wonderful afternoon/evening hike, our trek through Tadoba and our afternoon tea in the village. So, I’ll share just some of the wildlife highlights.   We started off early to the Tadoba Tiger Reserve, and were the first truck through the gate.  In a period of 24 hours we saw the following non-birds: Langurs, Spotted Deer, and Buffalo and Wild Boar.  Birds included: Indian Peacock, Jungle Fowl (alarm calling so we waited a while in case there were any tigers that wanted to appear), Rose-ringed Parakeet, Red-wattled Lapwing, White-breasted Waterhen, Grey Francolin, Black-winged Stilt and Grey-headed Fish Eagle.


Harshawardan and Poonam Dhanwatey, November 2, 2012

Poonam Dhawatey and I.
 One of my most wonderful mornings in India was the one I spent with Harsh and Poonam Dhawatey, two of the Founder Trustees (and President and Secretary) the Tiger Reserve and Conservation Trust (TRACT).  Founded in 2001, TRACT’s goal is to conserve the wild tiger and its habitat within and beyond the boundaries of Tadoba, a Maharashtra State Tiger Reserve.  The Tadoba Tiger Reserve is ~ 625 sq. km with a 1,150 sq. km buffer zone.  The reserve is home to three of the country’s large carnivores: the tiger, leopard and dhole.  TRACT runs a number of projects including mitigating human-tiger conflict outside the protected areas, surveys for the availability and connectivity of suitable tiger habitat and patrolling the reserves borders to reduce threats to tigers, monitor and deter illegal activities and to provide timely assistance to management and injured wildlife.  An extremely important part of TRACT is that they take a grass roots approach to tiger conservation, working with the local communities, villages and farmers and employing and training local community members to conduct patrols in the sensitive border area.

As we sat for the morning and discussed TRACT and each of our countries conservation issues, we were surprised at the many similarities in our organization’s basic operations.  Like Bird Studies Canada, much of TRACT’s funding is project-based, sought on a yearly basis to support specific conservation activities and projects.  Also as in Canada, partnerships, between state and federal government, are important to advancing conservation efforts.  On a personal note, it was wonderful to speak with two people who “spoke the same language” as me and I felt quite honoured to have been afforded the opportunity to spend time with Harsh and Poonam. 

As I left, Harsh provided me with several books, Mammals of India, Snakes of India…to prepare me for our group trip to Tadoba the next day.