Saturday, 17 December 2016

Did you water your children today ? - Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse...

Okay I admit - the heading is somewhat crazy - but you will see what I mean just a litte later. I am sitting here in an airport and like it happens somethimes - the crazy lady on the the hooter shreaks - hey man - your flight is delayed. Being a regular traveller I do not hold my head in my hands, I do not curse my luck nor crowd around the info desk - if it is late - it is late and nothing will reduce the pain other than enjoying another hot coffee. I must also admit - every such delay is utilised by me to write another blog. After all - what better way to spend time by a compulsive blogger than write another one?

I will tell you the background to my picking this species to talk about today. Sandgrouse is a bird that I remember seeing in hundreds while I was a young Captain in Army and doing patrolling or out for camping in Rajasthan. They used to come in flocks - settle down at the edge of water in a pond or canal - drink water take a bath and fly off. Take a bath - come off it ! Often out on patrolling those days I used to consider myself lucky to take a bath every other day. It was early 90s and at that time I did not have a camera and was birdwatching with help of Army issued binoculars - the world war variety in vouge in Indian Army those days.  It was a sight that I remember and miss. I believe there are still places in India where you see hundreds of Sandgrouse do the same thing but I have not come across them in those numbers anytime afterwards. Infact I did go to the same desert both early and late in 2000s for firing excercises and pattroling but could never see the birds in those numbers ever again - maybe a handful few here and then. In these 20-30 years the desert was turning green with waters in the Indra Gandhi canal trasporting water from Harike in Punjab to Thar Deserts of Rajasthan and the entire countryside changed. There was crop being sowed where there were sandunes earlier.

It was later when I started studying the birds in detail that I realised the story of mystery baths of the Sandgrouse. The birds are inhabitants of dry Steppes of Central Asia. The birds diet is primarily seeds and sometimes include green shoots, leaves and bulbs in the right season.  This diet makes them thirsty and being inhabitants of drier regions of the world they tend to travel tens of miles to have a regular drink of water. Some species of Sandgrouse travel 100 miles (160km) to have their full of water every day. The sand grouse lay eggs and after 20-25 days of incubation the chicks are hatched. The birds are not fed by the parents but are guided as to what seeds to eat and what seeds to avoid. The chicks fend for themselves as far as food is concerned but at that age they are not in a condition to make long flights with the parents to water holes. The parents go to the watering holes and - what I thought was a bath was infact the parents soaking the down feathers of the breast with water for the children to drink till the time the chicks are big enough to make this journey.

It was January 2016, the year fast passing by, when I saw a small flock next to a lake in Telangana that my memmories of this bird came flooding back. Presenting one of the eight (or nine if you consider one vagrant) Sandgrouse of India - the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse...
The burnt grass made it slightly easier to pick out the birds...  (Female)

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Male)

Another female bird...
Distribution of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Hope you get the meaning of the heading - Did you put in enough effort for your children today ?


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Harshit said...

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