Valley school n+1

coppersmith barbetOnce again to Valley school today, for the (n+1)th time, with n tending to infinity. OK, not infinity, but exactly 15 times in 2008 and 4 visits so far in 2009. But who’s counting! And before you ask, no I don’t get bored of seeing the same birds again and again! In fact it is reassuring to go there and know that as soon as I arrive I will hear the ‘tonk tonk’ of the coppersmith barbets, and find them congregated around the ficus trees feasting on the berries, perfectly camouflaged inspite of their rather striking plumage. The walk along the boundary of the campus is like a viewing gallery for the common birds – bulbuls, sunbirds, prinias, barbets – with a special treat sometimes of a blue faced malkoha, an oriental honey buzzard or a pair of Indian grey hornbills.

Black-headed cuckooshrike (female)In addition to the usual suspects, Valley school holds plenty of surprises too! Past the gate leading to the KFI center, we approach a magnificent banyan tree, and beyond it, an area of scrub on the right where we saw an Indian pitta in late January. A tree right next to the scrub is usually buzzing with activity – I have often seen black-headed cuckooshrikes, golden orioles and grey-bellied cuckoo there. Last week we were surprised by a flock of birds which got flushed out from the undergrowth past the scrub, and were probably chestnut bellied sandgrouse.

Black-rumped flamebackHouse swifts nest in the corners of the abandoned house which stands at the end of the boundary walk. The area around the house is rich in birdlife. The eucalyptus forest on one side is where the oriental honey buzzard can often be seen. The grassy area nearby yields larks (in winter), red wattled lapwings and shrikes. Grey hornbills are often found in the trees behind the house. Today we got a superb view of a black-rumped flameback there! Approaching the wire-fenced gate, one can be sure to encounter tree pipits in winter, which probably nest in that area. Through the gate and inside the campus, we turn left and head towards the road approaching the study center. Oriental magpie robins call from the left and back-headed cuckoo shrikes from the right. The path leading to the bridge is superbly productive as well. In the summer, common ioras, scaly breasted munias and oriental white-eyes can be found there, while last winter, we would regularly spot a verditer flycatcher in that area. A rare sighting last year was of the rufous woodpecker.

Verditer flycatcherNear the small pond, the white-throated fantail and the Tickell’s blue have their favoured spots. The grove near the erstwhile arts village used to be the paradise flycatcher’s haunt, at least until the forest dept took over. (The forest department seems to be undertaking various ill-advised activities inside the campus on the land which Valley school authorities had encroached upon. The rubble from the buildings still lies around neglected but they have been clearing the undergrowth, cutting trees, digging trenches to demarcate the forest land, and most recently have constructed an atrocious watch-tower like structure near the Tickell’s blue flycatcher’s home.)

Puff throated babblerThe bamboo grove near the pond has its regular residents – the puff throated babblers, white-throated fantails, small minivets, and in winter the Blyth’s reed and Tickell’s leaf warblers – but there is often a surprise in store. One of my most memorable birding moments was in this area last year when an unfamiliar and melodious call prompted me to try an imitation of it to try and trace the source. What followed was a long series of back-and-forth conversations which went on for 45 minutes, with the bird ultimately revealing itself to be a white-rumped shama! This was my first sighting of it, and what a way to sight this lovely songster!

I have been maintaining a checklist of species that I’ve seen at Valley school and it exceeds 90 species. Am hoping to hit a century by the end of 2009. Wish me luck!

Other pics at Valley school:

Asian paradise flycatcher (male) Asian paradise flycatcher (female) Oriental white-eye  Indian grey hornbill Tickell's blue Coppersmith barbet Black-headed cuckooshrike (male) Tickell's blue flycatcher Small minivet (male) Oriental honey buzzard Shikra White-throated fantail Grey bellied cuckoo (male) Grey bellied cuckoo (female) Blue-faced malkoha Black headed cuckooshrike black-rumped flameback Tawny-bellied babblers Pioneer Common castor Common hedgeblue Common sailer Common leopard

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10 Responses to Valley school n+1

  1. Arun says:

    Never seen a verditer flycatcher in these parts. Amazing. It is the place I always go if I want my share of entertainment from the fantails 🙂

  2. bonerpakhi says:

    Arun – Yes the fantails at Valley school can be relied upon 🙂

  3. Uma says:

    Hey Bonbibirmeye! As always, a lovely post. A very good guide for anyone going to Valley for the first time. I thought you might have uploaded the pic of Jerdon’s bushlark that you took the last time we were there. Why don’t you add it?

  4. Vamsee says:

    Wow – 90 species!! Lucky that you stay so close to this place. You can whistle/sing like a Shama!!! That is too cool!
    Lovely post – I really enjoy reading your birding reports. Hope to see you again on a trip.

  5. bonerpakhi says:

    Thanks Uma. That lark pic didn’t come out too well… was just OK for ID. 😦
    Vamsee – thanks! Too bad we couldn’t connect in Blr. Hopefully some other time.

  6. Thomas says:

    I have never been to Valley school for birding, your post surely encourages me to pay a visit given the variety of bird life.

  7. lakshmi says:

    I came here from Vamsee and Arun’ blogs..stunning pics there..I just got back from a birding trip today and we did drop in briefly at the valley school

  8. bonerpakhi says:

    Thomas – join us sometime! I go to Valley school quite often with my birding group…
    Lakshmi – thanks for visiting!

  9. just awesome garima…!!

  10. bonerpakhi says:

    Thanks Amrita!

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