Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), General, Kolkata (Calcutta) Nature, Photography, Wildlife Photography > Birding from Salt Lake rooftop during Covid 19 lock, unlock and beyond

Birding from Salt Lake rooftop during Covid 19 lock, unlock and beyond

Birding from rooftop during lock and unlock

Compilation of birds documented from my Salt Lake, Kolkata residence

Also see: Lockdown Memories (Part 1) and Lockdown Memories (Part 2)

Lock, unlock, lock… and the process goes on and on. It has been over nine months since the lockdown started on mid-March 2020 and things are yet to come to normal. We have got adjusted to our modified routines. I still spend a couple of hours in the evening spotting and photographing birds and other wildlife from my residence terrace in Salt Lake, Kolkata.

Clockwise from top left: Red Vented Bulbul. Oriental Magpie Robin, Black Hooded Oriole, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Red Whiskered Bulbul and Coppersmith Barbet

Clockwise from top left: Red Vented Bulbul. Oriental Magpie Robin, Black Hooded Oriole, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Red Whiskered Bulbul and Coppersmith Barbet

My initial days was just restricted to observation only. With a little internet search I was able to identify and spot a few birds within a week. Next step was to photograph them but with no knowledge of birds and inappropriate equipment it was not an easy task, but I wanted to give it a try. My 11 year daughter Rupsha was my constant companion from the very beginning. She soon got the hang of it and started spoting birds with the help of a pair of binoculars.

Below is a list of birds that I have spotted and photographs during the Covid 19 lock and unlock period and it would be uploaded as I spot more and more birds.

1. Black Hooded Oriole

Black Hooded Oriole

Black Hooded Oriole

Local name: কালোমাথা বেনেবউ

Scientific name: Oriolus xanthornus

This bright yellow bird has been my constant companion since my early days of lockdown.

Very easy to spot because of its bright colours but not easy to photograph as it is always on the move.

In Bengali it is known as কালোমাথা বেনেবউ and the name literally translates into wife of the merchant family.

The wife of the merchant family always wears a lot of gold jewellery and the bird is so named as its bright golden colour representing the gold jewellery of the merchant’s wife.

2. Rose Ringed Parakeet

Rose Ringed Parakeet

Rose Ringed Parakeet

Local name: সবুজ টিয়া

Scientific name: Psittacula krameri

A very frequent visitor during the ripening season of guavas. The birds which is generally spotted in pairs and small groups spends hours feeding on ripe guavas.

The male parakeets have a bright red stripe in the back of their neck and hence the name, in the front part of the neck the strip is black in colour. On the other hand, females don’t have any neck stripes at all.

Because of their large size and long feeding time they are one of the easiest birds to photograph, but catching a rose ringed parakeet taking off or in flight is a difficult shot and I am still unable to capture one.

3. Oriental Magpie Robin

Oriental Magpie Robin

Oriental Magpie Robin

Local name: দোয়েল

Scientific name: Copsychus saularis

Oriental Magpie Robin the small black and white bird was also a regular visitor during the entire lock and unlock period.

The small bird has a long tail that is held upright as they forage on the ground or perch tree tops.

They have a distinctive whistling call and were once a popular cage bird because of their songs

The male has black upperparts, head and throat apart from a white shoulder patch. The underparts and the sides of the long tail are white. Females are greyish black above and greyish white.

4. Red Vented Bulbul

Red Vented Bulbul

Red Vented Bulbul

Local name: বাংলা বুলবুল

Scientific name: Pycnonotus cafer

One of the most frequented visitor of the entire lock and unlock period. It normally appears in pairs or small groups. The normally preach on top branches of trees and on electric wires and poles making it easy to photograph.

The red-vented bulbul is easily identified by its short crest giving the head a squarish appearance.

The body is dark brown with a scaly pattern while the head is darker or black. The rump is white while the vent is red. The black tail is tipped in white.

5. Red Whiskered Bulbul

Red Whiskered Bulbul

Red Whiskered Bulbul

Local name: সিপাহি বুলবুল

Scientific name: Pycnonotus jocosus

Unlike his cousin Red Vented the Red Whiskered was a rare and occasional visitor.

They are slimmer than the Red Vented and have longer crest and have a loud three or four note call.

It has brown upper-parts and whitish underparts with buff flanks and a dark spur running onto the breast at shoulder level.

It has a tall pointed black crest, red face patch and thin black moustachial line. The tail is long and brown with white terminal feather tips, but the vent area is red.

6. Purple Sunbird

Purple Sunbird (Female)

Purple Sunbird (Female)

Local name: দুর্গা টুনটুনি

Scientific name: Cinnyris asiaticus

Purple Sunbird is an extremely small colourful bird and an regular visitor for the entire lock and unlock period. They

The males and females differ. The male is glossy metallic bluish to purplish black on the upper parts with the wings appearing dark brown. The breeding male also has underparts of the same purplish black, but non-breeding males may show a central streak of black on yellow underparts.

Females are olive brown above with a yellowish underside. There is a pale supercilium beyond the eye. There is a darkish eye stripe. The throat and breast are yellow, becoming pale towards the vent. Both male and female have a curved beak and feed on nectar

7. Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet

Local name: ছোট বসন্ত বৌরি

Scientific name: Psilopogon haemacephalus

The small little green bird camouflages with the green leaves making it difficult to spot and even more difficult to photograph. The bird normally appears in pairs or small groups.

The green coloured bird has a red head, yellow cheeks and a yellow throat. Its underparts are streaked in grey and black.

It has a distinctive loud metallic call of tuk, tuk, tuk…, which somewhat represents a hammer striking a copper sheet and hence the name. The uniqueness of the call makes it easier to spot the small green bird.

8. Blue Throated Barbet

Blue Throated Barbet

Blue Throated Barbet

Local name: নীম গলা বসন্ত বৌরি

Scientific name: Psilopogon asiaticus

Like the Copper Smith Barbet the Blue Throated Barbet is also green in colour and has blue throat and cheeks along with a red-and-yellow crown.

It is slightly bigger than the coppersmith barbet and has a brighter shade of green. Because of the bright shade of green it totally camouflages with the green leaves making it extremely difficult to photograph.

The bird has a heavy, pale-based bill and feeds on fruits and insect. It has a 3 or 4 syllabled ‘took-o-rrook!’

9. Chestnut Tailed Starling or Grey Headed Myna

Chestnut Tailed Starling

Chestnut Tailed Starling

Local name: কাঠ শালিক

Scientific name: Sturnia malabarica

Chestnut Tailed Starling or Grey Headed Myna has been a regular visitor during the lock and unlock period and they come in large groups and perching on tree tops.

They have a grayish upper part with a brownish lower part. They have a long bright yellow bill with a distinctive blue base.

The chestnut-tailed starling is fairly omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar and insects. They fly in tight flocks and often rapidly change directions with great synchrony.

10. Jungle Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Local name: সাতভাই ছাতারে

Scientific name: Argya striata

Jungle Babbler has been a very rare and occasional visitor and was spotted only a couple of times. The Bengali name refers to seven brothers as the bird moves in groups of 7 – 10.

The brownish bird has rounded wings along with a short yellow beak. The upperparts are usually slightly darker in shade and there is some mottling on the throat and breast.

The jungle babbler has harsh nasal call. It is a noisy bird and as it travels in groups their presence is generally known from some distance by the harsh mewing calls.

11. Green Bee Eater

Green Bee Eater

Green Bee Eater

Local name: সবুজ বাঁশপাতি

Scientific name: Merops orientalis

One of the rarest visitors and that too was spotted far away making it difficult (if not impossible) photographing it with a 70 – 300 mm lens.

It is a brightly coloured slender bird feeding mainly on insects. The entire plumage is bright green and tinged with blue especially on the chin and throat.

The crown and upper back are tinged with golden rufous. The wings are green and the beak is black. The bird is about 9 inches long and central tail feather extends to almost 2 inches.

12. White Throated Kingfisher

White Throated Kingfisher

White Throated Kingfisher

Local name: ধলাগলা মাছরাঙা

Scientific name: Halcyon smyrnensis

A extremely rare visitor in my residence and have been spotted only a couple of times.

Mainly found near water body and its diet includes fish along with small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents and even birds.

This is a large kingfisher with bright blue back, wings and tail. Its head, shoulders, flanks and lower belly are chestnut, and the throat and breast are white. The large bill and legs are bright red.

13. Spotted Dove

Spotted Dove

Spotted Dove

Local name: তিলা ঘুঘু

Scientific name: Spilopelia chinensis

Spotted Dove is a small and somewhat long-tailed pigeon. The species is found in light forests and gardens as well as in urban areas.

They fly from the ground with an explosive flutter and will sometimes glide down to a perch. They generally appears in pairs or small groups.

The body is basically grey with multicoloured spots. There is a half collar on the back and sides of the neck made of black feathers. The wing feathers are dark brown with grey edges. The centre of the abdomen and vent are white. The outer tail feathers are tipped in white and become visible when the bird takes off.

14. Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

Local name: গোলা পায়রা

Scientific name: Columba livia

Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove or Feral Pigeon are descended from the domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild. It have been a regular visitor during my entire rooftop birding days.

It has a dark bluish-grey head, neck, and chest with glossy yellowish, greenish, and reddish-purple iridescence along its neck and wing feathers. The bill is grey-black and the feet are purplish-red.

They are naturally granivorous, eating seeds that fit down their gullet. They also sometime consume worms or insect larvae as a protein supplement.

15. Black Kite

Black Kite

Black Kite

Local name: বাদামি চিল

Scientific name: Milvus migrans

A regular visitor circling above by head for almost the entire period of my rooftop bird photography period.

It sometimes perched on coconut trees or atop mobile phone towers but as the trees and towers were not close by it was difficult to photograph them with my 70 – 300 mm lens.

It is a medium sized bird of prey with brown upper plumage but the head and neck are slightly paler. The lower parts of the body are pale brown, becoming lighter towards the chin. The legs are yellow and the claws are black. They have a distinctive shrill whistle followed by a rapid whinnying call.

16. Jungle Mayna

Jungle Mayna

Jungle Mayna

Local name: ঝুঁটিশালিক

Scientific name: Acridotheres fuscus

Although very similar with Common Mayna it is differs considerably with dark colours, with no orange eye extension and a tuft of feathers on the forehead arising at the base of the bill.

They have grey plumage, darker on the head and wings. A large white wing patches on the base of the primaries becomes conspicuous in flight, and the tail feathers are broadly tipped in white. The bill and legs are bright yellow. The calls of the jungle myna are higher pitched than those of the common myna.

17. Pied Mayna

Pied Mayna

Pied Mayana

Local name: গোশালিক

Scientific name: Gracupica contra

A frequent very noisy visitor for my entire birding days. This myna is strikingly marked in black and white and has a yellowish bill with a reddish bill base.

They have a reddish mark around the eye. The upper body, throat and breast are black while the cheek, lores, wing coverts and rump are contrastingly white.

They are usually found in small groups, foraging mainly on the ground but perching on trees and buildings. Birds in a group call frequently with a wide repertoire that includes whistles, trills, buzzes, clicks, and warbling calls.

18. Common Mayna

Common Mayna

Common Mayna

Local name: ভাতশালিক

Scientific name: Acridotheres tristis

This along with house sparrow and crow are the commonest bird of the city and it was no problem photographing them.

They appear in pairs and common mynas are believed to pair for life. Also sighting a pair is said to bring good luck.

They have a brown body, black hooded head and the bare yellow patch behind the eye. The bill and legs are bright yellow. There is a white patch on the outer primaries and the wing lining on the underside is white. They have a wide variety of calls, which includes croaks, squawks, chirps, clicks, whistles and growls.

19. House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Local name: পাতিচড়ুই

Scientific name: Passer domesticus

One of the most frequently spotted birds of Kolkata and was a regular visitor for the entire period of my lock and unlock period photography.

The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings.

They are noisy birds appearing in large groups. They have a short and incessant chirping call. The house sparrow is closely associated with human habitation and cultivation. It is well adapted to living around humans

20. House Crow

House Crow

House Crow

Local name: পাতিকাক

Scientific name: Corvus splendens

The bird needs no introduction in Kolkata and no wonder it was the most spotted bird during my entire tenure of roof top birding.

The forehead, crown, throat and upper breast are a richly glossed black, whilst the neck and breast are a lighter grey-brown in colour. The wings, tail and legs are black.

Basically a scavenging bird it also feeds on small reptiles and mammals and even on smaller birds and their eggs. They are highly opportunistic birds and given their omnivorous diet, they can survive on nearly anything that is edible. These birds can be seen near marketplaces and garbage dumps, foraging for scraps. They have also been observed to eat sand after feeding on carcasses.

Birds spotted but not photographed

Also several other birds were spotted but could not be photographed because of my limited photography equipment. Following is the list:

  1. Rofous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) (খয়েরি হাঁড়িচাচা)
  2. Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense) (বাংলা কাঠঠোকরা)
  3. Yellow Footed Green Pigeon (Treron phoenicoptera) (হলদে-পা হরিয়াল)
  4. Purple Rumped Sunbird (Leptocoma zeylonica) (বেগুনিকোমর মৌটুসি)
  5. Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) (কালো ফিঙে)

Beyond Birds

My residence terrace photography during the Covid 19 lock and unlock went beyond birding and I started spoting and shooting other wildlife. During this time I often spotted large bats gently flying across the sky with slow wing movements. A quick internet search revealed that these bats are known as Indian Flying Fox, and their wingspan can reach up to 5 feet.

Indian Flying Fox feeding on guava

Indian Flying Fox feeding on guava

Strangely this giant bats are totally vegetarian and survives mainly on fruit and are also known as Fruits Bats.

I was lucky enough to spot and photograph a giant Indian Flying Fox feeding of the guavas from the tree in front of my house.

During my lockdown rooftop bird photography session I was often distracted by the calls and movements of the squirrels (Indian Palm Squirrel ) and I decided to make them my photography subject, thus combining mammals and bird in my wildlife photo collection.

Being larger than the birds the squirrel proved to be an easier subject but their swift movement and urban background was no doubt a challenge.

Left to right: Indian Flying Fox, Indian Palm Squirel and Garden Snail

Left to right: Indian Flying Fox, Indian Palm Squirel and Garden Snail

The other animal spotted during the Covid 19 lock and unlock period was the Common Garden Snail. This was not spotted in my terrace but in my small garden. Spotted mainly during the monsoon monts it moved around in a very slow pace.

Notes:

  • Photography equipment used: Nikon D7000 and Sigma 70 – 300 mm lens
  • My terrace Covid 19 lock and unlock photography will continue beyond the unlock period and the compliation will be updated from time to time

More on Birding Photography from my residence terrace

  1. January 6, 2021 at 8:20 PM

    Good one. Hope you are aware of the app “Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab” which is useful for identifying birds

    • January 6, 2021 at 8:21 PM

      Yes, but presently I am using a few websites to identify the birds.

  2. Tapan Kanti Mandal
    January 13, 2021 at 12:45 PM

    Nice to read and learn.

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