A landmark occasion had the family matriarch and her brood head to Goa in the last week of May 2018.
Pre-monsoon thundershowers had driven the humidity through the roof, fully justifying in retrospect the additional trips made in the preceding weeks to install more air-conditioners.
In fact, in the months of April and May we made so many trips to Goa that it was almost as if we were in Goa all that time with only occasional excursions to Mumbai.
All through those visits a tree just outside the yard continued to produce loads of small, yellow-green fruit. A quick e-mailed image to to Dr. Neil Soares, (my go-to person whenever I have difficulty in identification), and we learnt that the tree was a ficus ampelos.
What we mistakenly took for berries were actually wild figs.
The tree did attract a number of birds. But, there was this one bird in particular, a female Asian koel, that simply did not seem to get enough of the fruit. She was there each morning, without exception, moving around the branches with a fixed routine. She’d look around and close in on a fig, gently prodding it with her beak, testing it for ripeness. When she eventually found one to her liking she’d pluck it out spend a few moments eating it before repeating the sequence all over again.
By the end of May the bulbul nest in the cycad just outside the front porch was empty and the chicks gone. Over time they had got used to our presence on the porch and we enjoyed watching them grow as much as they, I would like to think, (especially with the Koel’s continued proximity) enjoyed our protection.
I did get this shot of the juvenile birds at the water bath on our last day. The emerging tinges of red on their ‘whiskers’ and rump confirming that they were well on the way to adulthood.
Plum-headed parakeets came in droves of 5-6 early in the morning. They would perch on the trees to the left of the porch noisily squawking for about an hour before making an equally vocal exit.
Brown-cheeked fulvettas, made a brief appearance towards the end of April. For those few days they were there in numbers thronging the trees around the water baths. And then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they disappeared and I never saw them again.
Puff-throated babblers, Tickell’s flycatchers, white-rumped-munias black-hooded orioles, Indian golden orioles red-whiskered bulbuls, white-browed bulbuls and baya weaver birds on the other hand, unlike the fulvettas were daily visitors.
With the impending onset of the rains many of the birds were preparing for breeding.
The male baya weavers had begun to attain their yellow breeding plumage (above) that set them apart from the female and non-breeding counterparts (below).
Sunbirds too look resplendent in their breeding colours.
Purple-rumped sunbirds, purple sunbirds and Loten’s sunbirds are regulars to the backyard. They love to hit the hibiscus and other flowers for the nectar they provide.
Vigor’s sunbirds (Aethopyga vigorish) on the other hand, only occasionally put in an appearance. They tend to be shy, and, more often than not, the ones I’d see were either females or a non-breeding male, (the so called ‘eclipse’ form), whose breeding plumage is yet to fully develop.
This species of sunbirds is endemic to a very small area – the northern parts of the Western Ghat region of India. They were previously considered a sub-species of the crimson sunbird that enjoys a much wider distribution to other parts of India and South Asia.
When in full breeding plumage the males are spectacular. Unfortunately, over the past decade I have managed to get only a handful of half decent images of these birds in their most colourful attire.
All that changed on the penultimate day and I was in for a truly unexpected treat.
Breeding male Vigor’s sunbirds were everywhere. To the extent that they came a time when I actually put away the camera and simply sat back and savoured the view. There was this one magical moment when they were a few of them on the hibiscus bushes intent on imbibing the nectar and without another care in the world barely 5 feet away from where I had parked myself!
More images of Vigors Sunbirds can be found in the image ‘Galleries’. Follow this link: Images: Vigor’s Sunbirds
The first rains had also initiated another cycle that would continue well into the new year.
A fresh crop of wild crotolaria or rattlepods had already begun to attract ‘tiger’ butterflies.
The butterfly-attracting plants I had planted last year were flourishing and I could not wait to see the species of these winged beauties that would be drawn to them!
Images of butterflies can be found following this link: Images: Butterflies
For more images of birds in my backyard follow this link: Images: Goa Farmhouse
Looking back, these past few weeks in Goa have only served to further solidify my conviction that, if you are prepared to keep your eyes open, you do not need to move out of your backyard to seek entertainment!