Sunday, April 12, 2015

Andamans birding


Day 1 - Scuba diving at Chidiyatapu
Day 2 - Jirkatang road birding
Day 3 - wash out due to Lehar cyclone
Day 4 - Chidiyatapu birding trails and local harbour
Day 5 - Chidiyatapur trails and Sippy ghat
Day 6 - Havelock Island
Day 7 - Jirkatang road birding
Day 8 - Corbyn's Cove and departure

In short, this was the summary of our week long birding and wildlife trip to the Andaman islands of which two full days were lost due to the Lehar cyclone that hampered the weather, our plans and made us miss quite a few species that were otherwise had to be seen.

Tsunami had a devastating effect on these islands and the proofs of that are still evident today with numerous localities lost and some tracts of land lost forever to the might of the sea/ocean. Lehar cyclone came in unexpected and hit with greater impact than expected (was expected to be a passing one with the impact being a gloomy half day with some showers) and Mount Harriet and Havelock islands bore most of the severity of the cyclone.

We thought of cancelling and pulling out mid way but when the cyclone hits the islands, all services are disrupted and importantly the air services are cancelled for the days till the impact reduces. So, in short we were stuck on the island and had to bear the gloomy days. Being positive thinkers and having planned and spent, we decided to complete our trip to the T and then return as per our schedule. Photography wise, it was not very fulfilling but sighting the species through your eyes and binoculars were rewarding enough.

Overall, birding in Andamans is no easy job, there are no definite trails as such and most of the forest birding happens from the road. Jirkatang trail is a traffic magnet as this road passes through the Jarawa reserve that has restricted timeline and the vehicles are always in a hurry to cover that stretch. Early mornings and early evenings are the order of the day which means early morning birding is the best bet and evening sessions would be short and a bit tricky. Darkness sets in very fast and you need to spend long evenings everyday.

Added to all the above, the vegetation in Andaman and Nicobar islands are tropical rain forests and the trees compete with each other in growing tall and at many places, the sun barely gets a chance to reach the ground that means light is quite tricky for birding. Species wise, almost all that you see in this region are either new for you (if you are visiting for the first time) or are subspecies of the mainland species. So, it's like you need to make a note of everything you see including the most common ones too as you never know for tomorrow they may be classified as a new species in itself.

For us, Chidiyatapu and Jirkatang was the best trails in terms of species seen as we got to see the Anadaman Woodpecker, Andaman Drongo, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Serpent Eagle, Andaman Scops Owl, Andaman Cuckoo Dove, Violet Cuckoo, Andaman Nightjar, Andaman Shama, Andaman Hawk Owl, Andaman Treepie, Andaman Teal, Olive-backed Sunbird, White-headed Starling and many more species.

I'll add below a few species that I could document for you guys out there to see and enjoy from the Andaman islands. Please note they are nowhere close to good but yet want to showcase what we got to see.

(pair of Changeable Hawk Eagle)

(Andaman Coucal)

(Andaman Woodpecker, most commonly seen)

(Andaman Treepie, always prefers to be inside...)

(Red-breasted Parakeet and the moon)

(Crested Serpent Eagle, Andaman subspecies)

(Andaman / Sunda Teal, their numbers have gone down after the Tsunami)

(Collared Kingfisher, Andaman subspecies, the most common Kingfisher seen here)

(Hume's Hawk Owl, Andaman speciality)

(Andaman Hawk Owl, another Andaman speciality)

(Violet Cuckoo, one of the most colorful birds)

(Andaman Cuckoo Dove, another Andaman specialty)

(Blue-eared Kingfisher)
(this was being chased about by the bully Stork-billed Kingfisher)


I'll try and fit in shots of landscape, butterflies and few more birds in the next post.

Till then... Adios!

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