…continued from Andaman Endemic Birds Day 1
Day 2. Morning Session.
The pattern of birding was pretty similar to day 1.
This time we planned to visit Shoal Bay. Pick up from our hotel in Port Blair was 4.40am. Yes, you guessed it, it was so that we could make the 5am ferry from Chatham to Bamboo Flats.
On the ferry the temptation to shoot this subadult white bellied sea eagle was too strong to resist! We did get better images the next day.
A quick cup of tea at a tea stall at the Bamboo Flats jetty and from there onward to Shoal Bay.
En route we stopped near a marshy area just off the road hoping to see reed-warblers, in particular the rusty-tailed reed warbler.
We did see Oriental reed warblers, Clamorous reed-warblers and black-browed reed-warblers.
The rusty-tailed played spoilt sport however and failed to show up.
Driving further we made a quick stop to shoot a brown Andaman coucal. This species is similar to greater coucal or crow pheasant that is commonly seen back home. It differs in that it has a rufous body as opposed to a black one and is endemic to the Andamans.
Hoping to get a closer shot, we made our way through a marshy nalah, but this is the best that we could manage before it flew away.
15 minutes later Gopal turned into a dirt road and parked the car in an open space adjoing a heavily forested area.
Within minutes the call of an Andaman black woodpecker was heard and moments later we got our first sighting of this striking (though IMO slightly untidy!) bird.
This species, endemic to the Andamans, is now listed as near threatened due to habitat loss.
Walking down the jungle road we see a pair of Andaman bar-bellied cuckooshrikes. They were obviously nesting in one of the trees just off the road thanks to which we got some great sightings and images.
The female’s underbelly is barred right up her neck while the male has a grey neck and upper chest.
We were on a roll!
An Andaman coucal was feeding in a tree beside the road. We did wait – unsuccessfully – for it to come out in the open to get a clearer shot.
Not so this Asian brown flycatcher (above) and the endemic Andaman flowerpecker (below) that had no reservation to posing on a bare branch!
As did this Andaman bulbul.
Although the bulbul was not as obliging and flew away quickly.
A pair of spot-breasted woodpeckers completed the morning’s sightings. (I must say, despite a couple of sightings I was still unhappy with the quality of images I got of this bird. I think it was only on day 4 that I managed to get half decent shots!)
By now it was around 9am and quite warm. Remember, being so far east sunrise is around 5.30am. Vickram had packed a small breakfast of boiled eggs that we had before moving on.
This time we headed for a mangrove adjoining the main road.
The 2004 sunami devastated this area and destroyed large sections of mangrove trees. The government filled these areas by replanting the trees and full credit to them. However, in typical bureaucratic fashion the trees are planted in geometrically precise rows and columns and I must say when driving past the sudden transition from the pre-existing natural mangroves to the absolute symmetry of the newly laid ones is almost comical.
Back to the birds.
This area is home to a few ruddy kingfishes. Thanks to Vikram within moments of getting here we get a great sighting! Although not endemic to the Andamans, the distribution of this bird is very restricted and I was thrilled at the opportunity to see and photograph it.
The morning session was coming to a close and we decided to drive around some open fields to see what we could get before heading home.
It was during this time that the only hiccough to an otherwise super morning of birding occurred.
This beautiful green snake decided to cross the road and landed up under the wheels of our car. A friend later help identify it as an Andaman green bronzeback (dendrelaphis andamanensis), a non-venomous snake that is endemic to the Andamans. A little research over the internet suggested that this snake is on the verge of extinction making this particular incident all the more horrific.
Sightings of chestnut headed beeeater, the endemic Andaman drongo, racquet tailed drongo and white bellied woodswallow completed the morning session of day 2.
Lunch was at a cute hotel called Driftwood and we chose to park ourselves at their Drifters bar. The food was average but the pre-lunch cocktail certainly helped to compensate!
Day 2 Evening Session
By now the pattern was set and we were ready at 2.30 for the evening session. It was back to the same forested area in Shoal Bay that we visited in the morning, but this time we were after owls.
Only one stop en route to get a few shots of white-breasted wood swallows in a field.
Birding during the day is one thing but birding at night in the jungle is a different cup of tea altogether.
For one, the ground was booby trapped with cowdung of different levels of maturity!
Ranging from steaming hot and freshly laid to large globs of manure in which previously ingested seeds were well on their way to becoming trees, as in the image below!
And then there was this little matter of the open graveyard in the vicinity. During the day we did not give it a second thought, but in the dark of the night… That was a different matter alltogether!
The final rattle of the chain (or the creak in the floorboard, if you will) was when a van drives up, kills its lights and slowly comes to a halt about 30 metres from where we are standing. A young man, obviously high on something gets out and menacingly shuffles towards us. As he comes closer others began to open their doors and get out. Just as I resign myself to the possibility of being forcibly parted with my camera equipment in the very near future, the intoxicated youth is recognised by one of our guides and slinks back to his car. Whew!
Then it was on with our search for owls. The endemic Andaman hawk owls were easy. And we spotted 2-3 of them in a short space of time.
We also got great sightings and images of a Walden’s scops owl, a resident sub-species of the more widely distributed oriental scops owl.
We did hear several calls of an Andaman scops owl but despite all our efforts failed to spot one.
Ah well, there were still two and a half days to go!
Go to: Andaman Endemic Birds. Day 3