Monday, 17 September 2018

Two birds one song... Black Francolin and Painted Francolin

Sadly my relationship with the Black Francolin is an old one. I say sadly that because I repent hunting it, it was a common game bird and a clever adversary at that, smart - it could hoodwink you even after it was shot and it was one of those hunts that made me a birdwatcher. This is a story from long long ago. I shot a Black Francolin and I saw as the beautiful bird fell to the ground. That was a few yards from where I stood. I spent next about half an hour searching for the bird as it was a rule that you do not leave an injured quarry behind. Unfortunately, I could not find the bird. Next day when I was at the same very spot I saw a Shikra feeding upon the remains of the same bird. That was perhaps the last bird or animal I hunted.
Black Francolin: you can run but you cannot hide...

This bird was abundant, you rarely had to go to the suburbs of the city or to any village around to find it. The call of the bird was what we grew up listening even in the cities in Punjab and Haryana. The bird is also the state bird of Haryana. So there was no mistaking the bird or the bird call, even to the extent that I could generally pick out the sub-species, two that are found in India.
Typical behaviour of the bird - sitting on a fence to call during mating season... Black Francolin
At times when there is no fence/tree stump to sit upon in the birds' territory then mounds can also serve the purpose...

That being the kind of relationship I had with the bird, and when I got posted to Nashik in mid-2000, I was out for a walk and heard the distinct call of this francolin. The problem was - Nashik was too far south for this bird to be present. The walk turned out to be a search for the bird making this sound and it was the rainy season (breeding season for these birds in India) and a downpour soon shuttled my plans to search for the bird. I was there the next day, and the next until I got a glimpse of the bird. Lo-behold - the bird that was singing was the Painted Francolin. The song had an uncanny resemblance to Black Francolin. my next phase was to photograph the bird and it took me days to get a record shot of the bird.
The only and the first picture of Painted Francolin that I hugged and carried along for more than a decade

It was that day that I wanted to get a good picture of the bird. Inbetween a dozen years passed and I changed three cameras - still no picture of the bird that I could be proud of. This bird, like Black Francolin, likes to sit on fence, a tree or high ground when it calls during the breeding season. Unfortunately, unlike the Black Francolin, was extremely shy. So most of the shots of the birds are from far far away or as it jumps off the post and runs for cover.
Painted Francolin: Absolutely same behaviour as Black Francolin

The bird was very very vary of our presence...

Today, however, turned out to be a blessed day. The bird sat steady for more than a moment and oh man - shoot it I did... rapid fire at 7 frames per second. Sriram, the birder who had taken me along was with a (small, sic!!) 600mm lens with a 1.4 TC and a cropped sensor - D500. That besides the point we both took pictures that have since turned out to be the best ones that I could hope for.

Coming to the distribution charts of both the birds...
Distribution Map: Black Francolin

Distribution map: Painted Francolin