In Search of Hornbill in Andaman

In my previous post, (read my previous post on Little Andaman) I have shared my feeling for this green archipelago. I will cover the birdwatching part of my trip in this post. I am always a bird lover. Since few years I have gradually transformed into a keen birdwatcher. Every place gives me an opportunity to look for new birds that I never came across. But in Andaman, IΒ also had a hidden desire to look for the Narcondam Hornbill.

Andaman Teal
Andaman Teal

Giving the due credits to my husband for arousing the sleeping bird watcher in me. I would like to share the way his untrained eyes can spot birds. On our trip, he performs an added task of spotting birds. We can immediately identify a few while the rest are kept for googling later.

Could not recognise the Cuckoo-like bird... any suggestion is welcome
Could not recognise the Cuckoo-like bird… any suggestion is welcome

Andaman being the treasure trove of wildlife species, the avifaunal variety occupies a major share of it. With many endemic species restricted to this group of isles and some even confined within the small area of a particular isle.

Andaman Teal
Andaman Teal

One such species is the Narcondam Hornbill. This species is restricted to the island of Narcondam in Andaman and hence the name. These hornbills closely resemble the Wreathed Hornbill found in North Eastern states of India and also in the South-east Asian Countries.

Could not manage to capture the magnificent White Bellied Sea Eagle well
Could not manage to capture the magnificent White Bellied Sea Eagle well

Probably millions of years ago there was a land connection between or they may be situated in proximity. This may be a hypothesis for the birds travelling to this island and gradually modifying and adapting itself to transform into the new species.

White Bellied Sea Eagle in captivity, in mini zoo in 2014
White Bellied Sea Eagle in captivity, in mini zoo in 2014

Although we had an immense urge to visit this island. Various factors like clearing the permit and the connectivity did not allow us. The bad weather also played a role in consuming our days to leave us with less time.

A lot of Shrikes
A lot of Shrikes

So our search for the hornbill now transformed to search for any bird. Andaman group of islands has many rare and endemic species of birds. Now we were on the lookout for any such species.

Crested Hawk Eagle Juvenile
Crested Hawk Eagle Juvenile

We still repent a wonderful opportunity to shoot a white bellied sea eagle catching a fish from the brackish water on the way to Wandoor, on our previous trip. Read my previous experience in Andamans. Later to be snatched by a serpent eagle. This was a marked spot.

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This time we spent a good amount of time there but with no luck. As said opportunity knocks your door but once. There were some Andaman Teal and a few Moorhens in the nearby waterbody with water lilies around. They make a wonderful pair. Probably they share the same habitat. I came to this conclusion on sighting these together in many spots.

Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher

A beautiful collared Kingfisher was keeping a watch on its prey somewhere in the water. Very much undisturbed by our presence near to it. On keeping a close watch while riding towards Wandoor we did spot many Kingfishers and a few Shrikes.

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The White Bellied Sea Eagle kept roving around, up and above. It didn’t come any close. Again there were few more species of Kingfisher. Wood Pigeon is the state bird of Andaman and Nicobar Island, but the number of Kingfisher sighted was making me question the fact. πŸ™‚

Andaman Wood Pigeon, the state bird of Andaman
Andaman Wood Pigeon, the state bird of Andaman

The Dandakaranya Project was designed for the settlement of displaced persons from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The third phase of refugees was settled in Andamans. I guess the Kingfishers were also settled here. Kingfisher being the state bird of Bengal. πŸ™‚

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The same old spot of water lily pond in Little Andaman is our favourite spot for birdwatching. Like our previous visit, this place offered us with the sight of Teals, Moorhens, Egret and a bonus of a juvenile Hawk Eagle. Though a quick shot did not give the desired result. While a few Pacific Swallow perched on an electric wire to dry up their wings.

Great Egret
Great Egret

At dawn, as we were waiting for the sunrise and a Pacific Reef heron was in look for its prey. With the commencing daylight and subsequent visit to the Butler Bay Beach we spotted few more species.

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All of a sudden my husband shouted in the glory of spotting a Great Hornbill in flight. Although we had no knowledge of the presence of Great Hornbill in Andaman. Still, we tried hard to find it in the thick foliage to clear our confusion.

White Headed Starling
White Headed Starling

The chirping noise of the chicks helped us locate their colony. Sadly it was not the Hornbill but it was Hill Myna. The topmost branch of a tall tree was shared by a group of Hill Myna and some Red Breasted Parakeet, also known as Moustached Parakeet.

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The Great Racket-tailed Drongo and probably a Dollar bird were a few more to add to the list in Little Andaman. Spending some more time near the white surf waterfall could have rendered some more spotting.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
Red Whiskered Bulbul

Now venturing towards the Middle and North Andaman, we did spot a few more Kingfishers and Shrike. But the best part was the long mangrove walk in Dhani Nallah in Rangat. This dense mangrove forest definitely had many avian species.

Dollar Bird
Dollar Bird

The chirping, whistling and chattering sound in the otherwise silent forest was a sign of many resident birds. With quiet movement and watchful eyes, we tried hard to look for them in a forest with a large variety of mangrove.

Teal and Egret having a fight for the spot
Teal and Egret having a fight for the spot

Suddenly we had a glimpse of an orange coloured Indian Paradise Flycatcher flying for cover with its dangling, long, ribbon-like tail. Later its mate followed. We had no luck with photography. We waited long but it did not return.

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We were saddened as well as thrilled. The mixed feeling prevailed for a long till our attention was diverted by a group of Small Minivet. They were in a feeding frenzy. Why not? It was lunch time.

Grey Headed Swamp Moorhen
Grey Headed Swamp Moorhen

Few sunbirds and quite a lot of Brown Coucal were spotted on the way. Our stay at Mayabunder was in an amazing location. So along with the sunrise, the watchtower was a birding site too.

Moustached Parakeet or Red Breasted Parakeet
Moustached Parakeet or Red Breasted Parakeet

A tall tree that has shed its leaves might be a favourite location for the birds to rest. Dawns of two consecutive days offered us the sight of different species. The first day the upper branches were occupied by a group of Vernal Hanging Parrot.

Pacific Reef Heron
Pacific Reef Heron

The second day the spot was taken by a group of White-headed Starling. Β While a solitary Andaman Black Headed Bulbul was basking in the first rays of the sun. Far off another bird resembling cuckoo was resting. I could not identify the same even after a lot of searches. Any help on this is welcome.

Swamphen
Swamphen

Thus, my search for Hornbill ended with many other birds that I have never seen before. Though I have no regrets for the same. Rather I was content. The best part can be that of the Indian Paradise Flycatcher. So my search for Hornbill continues … till my next visit to Andaman.

Teal
Teal
Whimbrel
Whimbrel
White Headed Starling
White Headed Starling

Andaman at a glance, with travel information.

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