Friday, December 18, 2009

Nandan, Young Ornithologist of Neelankarai, reports

Today, we feature a report on the birds of South Chennai by Nandan Sankriti Kaushik, illustrated by his younger sister Sarayu.


Hi, I’m Nandan of class 3C. I like bird watching.

In my old apartment all I could see were screech owls, (known as barn owls), crows and hundreds of pigeons.

In July last year, we moved into a new house. I never thought we’d see so many birds! It was not like we were living with a large garden. Just a tiny one with a couple of trees and a few bushes that we’d planted.

There are, of course, crows--such noisy creatures--but especially noisy were the egrets, a whole family of them, nesting on the neighbours’ coconut and mango trees; including pond herons and night herons.

There are some jungle babblers that live around us. Funny little things. They attack rear view mirrors whenever they see one.

We have put out a bowl with clean water, for a birdbath, in the garden. The babblers look very cute when they stand around on the edge and take turns to jump in and out.

Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t have a camera nearby.

But, I’d like to tell you about an incident when we DID have a camera:

Early one morning, I was getting ready for school, when my mother called me to the garden. I saw a bird. We knew it was a cuckoo, but weren’t sure what kind. The crows were all making a racket and were trying to kill this bird. It was injured, and could not fly, so we put a basket over it and gave it a cup of water.

We called the Blue Cross. They said they’d come by 10 am.

I left for school. But at 3 pm., when I got back, they hadn’t yet come, and the cuckoo was still under the basket. When the Blue Cross came and rescued it, it was nearly 4 o’ clock!

They told us it was a red winged crested cuckoo and allowed me to touch it before they took it away. It felt like soft cat’s fur. Only thing it was feathers!

Cuckoos lay their eggs in crows’ nests. When the cuckoo hatches, it pushes all the other eggs or chicks out. No wonder the crows wanted to kill this crested cuckoo.

We used to see a couple of magpie robins, but now we don’t. I hope they’ll be back.

A couple of regular visitors are white breasted kingfishers. We can’t ever get a clear picture of them, so here’s one from the internet.

From December to February, if we go up to our terrace, we can see the lovely palm swifts flying in loops over our heads.

A couple of kites tried to make a nest in our coconut tree, but the crows chased them away because they already had a nest there.

Speaking of nests, for the last couple of months we’ve been watching a pair of tailor birds build their nest, and flit in and out. We thought they must have eggs or a hatchling in it. But since the rains started they seem to have abandoned the nest.

Drongos on a wire are quite a common sight, but they still look lovely.

We get occasional treats, one time sightings, of some birds; once it was a red crested woodpecker, once a golden oriole. Just last week I saw a male and female pair of koels, right from my bedroom window! And on the bush next to them was a treepie!

Only two days ago I saw a crow and an owl fighting. The owl flew into the neighbour’s neem tree and stayed there for a few minutes. I tried to get a view of its head, but when I jumped down from our “thinnai” seat, and looked up, it was gone. I ran and fetched my binoculars. My mother said it had peeped out from under the roof next door, but we couldn’t spot it again. It was probably a barn owl. It had a white back with brown spodges, and that was all I saw. I couldn’t see its face.

There are lots of bids to see in the city… 

We just have to stop, and look up. Thank you.

The illustrator and the author at Pulikat Lake


  1. Wonderful!! Will start looking at the birds from now on Nandan - as all i hear and see in pondicherry are crows which are like intelligent pests as far as i am concerned. Will keep you posted and maybe you can tell me a bit about what i spot.

  2. Hey Nandan and Sarayu, great report and illustrations! really enjoyed it... I spot a lot of birds from my studio too... will try to make a list for you, and if I get very organized, take some pictures as well...
    Very proud of you both!

  3. Nandan,Sarayu and the "proud Mom',
    Fantastic and very intresting that you found some many different birds in and around Chennai! Well done and keep it up.


  4. Wonderful observation and nice reporting. keep us informed.


    Sundar thatha, Bangalore

  5. Sarayu - lovely illustration of the bird bath and birds!!

  6. Hey Kiddos!
    This is great! You better come back to Alibag for some more bird watching!

  7. How interesting! You're right Nandan, all we need to do is look up!

  8. Hi Sarayu & Nandan,
    Wonderful post.....lovely sketch and a very interesting and informative article. I never imagined that one could see such a variety of birds within Chennai city itself. From now on I will definitely "stop, and look up".

  9. Nandan says: Thanks for all the comments -- Aarti Aunty, please do send photographs of the birds you see from your studio along with the list!