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Home >> Checklists >> Rajasthan >> Samode
 

Samode

 

BIRDS OF SAMODE
Martin and Claudia Kelsey - March 2003

 
 

Based on observations carried out on 8th and 9th March 2003 at Samode Bagh and Samode Palace, Rajasthan.

Birdwatching at Samode

Where to go

To a large extent the birds that a guest will see will depend on the different habitats visited. The Samode establishments are set in two typical eastern Rajasthani habitats. The Palace is situated at the foot of rocky hills, covered with sparse semi-arid vegetation. The Bagh lies at the edge of irrigated cultivated land, which at the time of our visit had a luxuriant crop of wheat. Close to the Bagh too are sand dunes and dry, sandy ground. Added to these habitats are the immediate environs of the establishments themselves: the Bagh is set in a mature garden with fine old trees, well kept lawns and flower beds, as well as pools and fountains. The Palace has a smaller, ornate garden. The gardens of the Bagh are a pleasure to walk in and attract many birds, but the other habitats are also easily accessible by walking just a few minutes from either centre. The cultivated areas and sandy zones are reached by walking out of the Samode Bagh gate along the metalled road. There are many tracks, which will enable a visitor to walk beside the fields and into the nearby small villages. From the Palace, a set of steps to the Samode Fort takes the visitor immediately into the semi-arid hillside scrub and beside the Fort there is a sandy plateau with acacia trees.

When to watch birds

The best time to watch birds are the first two hours after dawn. At this time birds are most active and most vocal. This can make them a lot easier to find. As the day progresses, the activity subdues. The quietest time is usually early afternoon. The last hour or so of daylight can often be productive as there is another peak of activity, although not as pronounced as dawn. However, it is always worth keeping an eye open for birds throughout the day, the wonderful thing about birdwatching is that there is almost always something to see at any time. In the winter, birds are often more active through the day than in the summer.

This survey was undertaken in early March, which is springtime in Rajasthan. This is quite a good time for such a visit because there will still be some winter visitors present, as well as birds starting to nest. The winter visitors are migratory birds that breed in northern latitudes and move south to escape the bitterly cold winters in the north. Such species are usually present in Rajasthan between September until April. Most of the species seen in this survey would be seen throughout the year, but also some different species will be seen in different months. Indeed, no two visits to any location will produce the same species of birds each time.

How to watch birds

The birds at Samode are not disturbed by human beings and are therefore quite tame. This is the case in many parts of India. Many birds can be seen very well, especially if one is still or moves slowly and quietly to approach birds closely. It is important to use one's ears as well. By listening to calls one can be made aware of a bird's presence before one actually sees it. Although not essential, if a guest has a pair of binoculars these will, of course, help to get much better views of most birds.

If the birds cannot be identified straightaway, it is important to make a quick mental note of the main features of the bird whilst you are watching it. Compare it with a species you are familiar with: how does its size compare? Does it remind you of any bird one is familiar with? What is its shape? Does it have a long or short tail? What is the bill like? What colour are its legs? What are the main colours of the plumage and where are they? Look for particular features like stripes on the head or on the wing, streaks or bars, contrasting markings on the breast, back or tail. Better still, carry a notebook and make a quick written description of the bird and make a quick sketch. Afterwards, take a look at a bird book to try to match your description with that in the book. Check to see what the book says about the bird's habitat preference and distribution.

The following bird books are particularly recommended:

Grimmett, R., C. Inskipp, T. Inskipp: Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
Kazmierczak, K. & B. van Perlo: A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
Woodcock, M.: Collins Handguide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.

The first two are more comprehensive than the third, but beginners may find the third title easier.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Ms. Teesta Verma (Marketing Manager) for her invitation to undertake the short survey. We had the pleasure of being accompanied in the field on the morning of 9th March by Mr K.K. Sharma (Hotel Manager). All staff members at Samode Bagh and Samode Palace were exceptionally kind and provided excellent service. Their friendliness made the visit truly memorable and they are a credit to their employer. We will do our best to promote Samode to our good friends amongst both the international community in Delhi and the travel business worldwide.

Results of the Survey

Fieldwork

The following places were visited:

Samode Bagh Gardens: 8th March:10.00 -13.00 pm and 9th March: 06.30 - 09.30 and 11.30 - 13.00.
Dry hillsides around Samode Palace: 8th March: 06.30 - 08.30 and 15.00 - 18.00.
Environs of Samode Bagh (cultivation and dunes): 9th March: 09.30 - 11.30.

Species recorded

The below is an annotated checklist of all species seen, giving name, status, where seen and a brief description to aid identification. Finally in the annexure is the simple species list arranged by site (Samode Bagh and environs, and Samode Palace and environs).

Black Francolin

Heard in cultivation near Samode Bagh.

This partridge-like bird is more often heard than seen. It frequents tall vegetation such as crops and is generally black with pale speckles on the body and a white patch under the eye.

Grey Francolin

Widespread. Seen in gardens of both Samode Bagh and Samode Palace, as well as the dry hillsides and dry patches in cultivated area.

A pale, grey partridge-like bird, somewhat browner on the head. Whilst normally seen on the ground, will also perch in trees, especially to call.

Indian Peafowl

Present in Samode Bagh, as well as environs of Samode Palace.

Unmistakeable. The far-carrying call often heard in the evenings.

Eurasian Wryneck

One seen at edge of cultivated area, Samode Bagh.

This is a winter visitor. A member of the woodpecker family, but spends a lot of time feeding on the ground, looking for insects, especially ants. Its plumage is highly camoflaged, looking like tree bark.

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker

One seen in cultivated area, Samode Bagh.

A small woodpecker, appearing black and white spotted in flight. The head is pale, with a yellowish crown. It has diffuse streaks on the underparts.

Black-backed Flameback

Two present in Samode Bagh gardens, and also seen in cultivated area.

A strikingly plumaged woodpecker with large red crown, forming a crest, bright yellowish green upper back and wings, contrasting with black lower back and tail.

Coppersmith Barbet

One heard calling near Samode Bagh, from nearby village.

Barbets are dumpy, colourful birds with large stout bills. They feed mainly on fruit. The Coppersmith, so named because of the repetitive "tuk" call is reminiscent of a hammer softly striking metal, is green above with a bright red, black and yellow head.

Common Hoopoe

Seen and heard in cultivated area near Samode Bagh.

This is an unmistakable bird, with its pied wings, back and tail, and sandy, black-tipped crest. They feed on the ground and should be regular visitors to the Samode Bagh lawns.

Indian Roller

Seen in cultivated area, Samode Bagh.

Usually seen perched on telegraph wires, waiting to fly down to pick up prey, such as large insects and lizards. When doing so the spectacular vivid blue wings are unfolded.

White-throated Kingfisher

One present at Samode Bagh.

Like the Indian Roller, the White-throated Kingfisher spends time perched on branches watching for prey on the ground. Despite its name, it mainly feeds on insects. It has a very large, straight red bill, brown head and underparts, with a white patch on the throat and breast. The back and wings are bright blue.

Green Bee-eater

Common in the cultivated area and above Samode Bagh and Palace.

Usually seen either perched on roadside wires or hunting flying insects in the air. Small, dainty birds, with long central tail feathers and a gliding flight. Largely green all-over, apart from a warm brownish tone on the crown and a black-line through the eye.

Greater Coucal

Seen in the gardens of Samode Bagh and Samode Palace.

This is a very large, long-tailed bird, all black apart from brown wings and back. It has a deep, resounding hooting call. It is normally seen in trees, but often can also be seen walking on the ground.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Common throughout.

This is the common parakeet at Samode, and in early March pairs were busy entering the numerous holes in the garden trees to start nesting. The availability of nesting holes is important and mature gardens like Samode Bagh are excellent breeding habitats for this species.

Plum-headed Parakeet

Seen in dry hillside, Samode Palace as well as cultivated areas near Samode Bagh.

Less common and smaller than the Rose-ringed Parakeet, and tending to favour more open, drier habitats. The male's head is plum-coloured, whilst the female has a grey head.

House Swift

Common at Samode Palace, also over Samode Bagh.

The most aerial of birds, swifts wheel in the sky hunting for tiny insects. The House Swift is all dark with a small white patch on the rump.

Alpine Swift

14 seen at dawn over Samode Fort on 8th March.

Alpine Swifts are large, dark brown swifts with white bellies. This is an unusual record for Rajasthan. They occur mainly in the Himalayas and Western Ghats.

Collared Scops Owl

One seen at dusk in trees beside swimming pool, Samode Palace 8th March.

This is a small nocturnal owl, which will spend the daytime roosting in a thickly foliaged tree, becoming active at dusk. It is dark brown above, paler with a few fine streaks on the underparts, a facial disc bordered by a dark line, pale "ear" tufts, meeting like eyebrows above the dark eyes.

Spotted Owlet

Two in a tree in Samode Bagh.

These small owls are quite active during the day. They have bright yellow eyes, and spotted plumage.

Rock Pigeon

Common in all areas.

This is the common, grey pigeon found almost everywhere. It has two black bars on the wing and a dark tip to the tail.

Laughing Dove

Common in all areas

This is a small dove, with pinkish breast and rather long, white-tipped tail. It is particularly common in drier areas.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Common in all areas.

Larger than the Laughing Dove, this species in soft grey, with a black mark on the back of the neck and dark wing tips.

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon

Seen in tree tops around Samode Palace and Samode Bagh.

The green plumage of this pigeon can sometimes make it difficult to see amongst the foliage of trees. However, sometimes it occurs in large flocks. On 9th March, a flock of 60 was seen near Samode Bagh.

Green Sandpiper

One in flight high over Samode Bagh.

This is a wading bird and winter visitor from northern Asia. It will feed beside small pools of water near villages. It has all dark wings, white underparts, rump and tail, with a few black bars at the tip.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Common in cultivated areas, especially in drier zones.

This is a well-known plover, with long yellow legs, a largely black head, with broad white strip on side of head, as well as red-based bill. It is very noisy and will often fly up in alarm, calling incessantly if disturbed.

Black-shouldered Kite

One seen hovering over cultivated area near Samode Bagh.

An elegant bird of prey, pale grey with black shoulder patches on the wing, typical of open agricultural land and grassland.

Shikra

A pair seen at Samode Bagh.

This bird of prey feeds on small birds, swooping at low height. A pair was seen in soaring display flight over the Bagh. They have pale grey upperparts and also appear pale below, with fine barring on the breast and wings.

Common Kestrel

One on hillside above Samode Palace

Like the Black-shoulder Kite, this species also hovers, but has reddish-brown back and wings (apart from the blackish tips) and a grey, black-tipped tail.

Great Cormorant

Four in flight high over Samode Bagh on 9th March.

These would have been birds travelling a great distance from one large water body to another.

Cattle Egret

Present in cultivated area, especially near villages and seen in flight over Samode Bagh.

These small white herons are common wherever there is livestock, especially cattle and buffalo. They feed in close association with these animals, preying on disturbed insects.

Bay-backed Shrike

Three seen in the cultivated area.

Shrikes are normally seen perched on bushes or wires, preying on large insects, lizards and small frogs, which they collect from the ground. The Bay-backed Shrike is one of the smallest shrikes, with a dark brown back, contrasting strongly with a pale grey crown. Like all shrikes, it has a black patch (mask) through the eye.

Long-tailed Shrike

Two seen in the cultivated area.

A typical and widespread shrike, with a rather long tail and grey back, with buffish rump and flanks.

Southern Grey Shrike

Three seen in the cultivated area.

The largest shrike, with white underparts and black and grey upperparts.

Rufous Treepie

Common in Samode Bagh and seen on hillside near Samode Palace.

This is a well-known species, seen regularly in Samode Bagh with a very long grey tail, with a black tip, sooty black head and brown back. It will be seen mainly in the trees and is also very noisy.

House Crow

Common in all areas

White-bellied Minivet

About four seen at border of cultivation with dry zone near Samode Bagh.

Minivets are small, colourful birds, which usually occur in small groups. The White-bellied Minivet is found mainly in dry scrub. The males are blackish above, with white bellies, orange breasts and black throats. The females are all white below and on the front of the face.

Black Drongo

Common in cultivated area.

Typically seen perched on roadside wires, the Black Drongo is well-known with its inky black plumage and long, forked tail.

White-bellied Drongo

One seen along road in dry zone, near Samode Bagh.

Like the above, it perches on roadside wires, but has a whitish belly.

Common Woodshrike

Seen at Samode Bagh, hillsides around Samode Palace and in cultivated area.

This species is usually seen in small groups in trees and is quite distinctive with white sides to the tail and a whitish line above the eye, contrasting with dark cheeks and grey-brown plumage.

Red-throated Flycatcher

Seen at Samode Bagh.

This is a winter visitor from northern Asia. This small bird will usually be seen in trees, flicking its tail and flying from its perch to catch flying insects. It has a dull brown plumage, paler below with prominent white sides to the tail. The male shows an orange-red throat.

Oriental Magpie Robin

Pair seen at Samode Bagh.

A well-known garden bird, usually quite tame and seen in trees but also feeding on the ground. The male is strikingly black above and white below, whereas the female is greyer. Both have long tails, usually held cocked upwards.

Indian Robin

Seen on hillsides around Samode Palace, as well as cultivated areas near Samode Bagh.

A common species, especially in drier zones. The male has dark plumage, with a white flash on the shoulders, especially visible in flight. The female is greyer. They are usually seen on the ground and like the Oriental Magpie Robin, often hold the tail upwards.

Black Redstart

Seen at Samode Bagh gardens, as well as hillsides near Samode Palace.

A winter visitor from the Himalayas, this small bird can be found both on the ground, as well as low perches in bushes and trees. The male has blackish upperparts and throat, and is orange below. The female is dull greyish brown. Both sexes have reddish tails, which tend to quiver when the bird is perched.

Common Stonechat

Seen in the cultivated area near Samode Bagh.

A winter visitor to the plains. This is a small, stocky bird of open habitat, usually seen perched atop small bushes or tall grasses. The male has a black head, white patch on sides of neck and orange breast. The female is a dull dark brown, paler below.

Pied Bushchat

Seen in cultivated area near Samode Bagh.

Like the Common Stonechat, usually seen perched on scrubby vegetation. The male is mainly black with a whitish belly and flash on the wing. The female is rather nondescript.

Brown Rock-chat

Seen on hillsides near Samode Palace.

This is a typical species of rocky habitats, usually seen on the ground or perched on rocks or buildings. It is fairly uniformly dark dull brown in plumage.

Brahminy Starling

Seen in all areas.

A smart, upright bird, normally seen either on the ground or perched on the top of trees, usually in pairs. It is cinnamon-coloured with a sleek glossy black crown , greyish upperparts and tail, which is tipped white.

Asian Pied Starling

Four seen in the cultivated area.

Common in cultivation, especially damp and irrigated areas. An unmistakable small bird, usually seen on the ground, with black and white plumage.

Common Myna

Seen around Samode Bagh and cultivated areas.

A well-known bird associated with human settlements. Usually seen walking on the ground, or perched on trees, with greyish head, brownish body with white patches on the wings and yellow bare-skin around the eyes.

Bank Myna

Small numbers seen in cultivated area.

Like the common Myna, but grey, rather than brown, plumage-toned and orange bare-skin around the eyes.

Great Tit

Two seen on hillsides near Samode Palace.

A small dumpy, arboreal species with black crown, chin and throat, white cheeks and greyish upperparts.

Plain Martin

Seen near Samode Fort.

Martins are small agile, aerial species, which feed on insects on the wing. They have shorter wings than swifts. The Plain Martin is usually found around waterbodies, but was favouring the sandy area near the Fort because of the availability of banks in which to excavate nest holes. It is uniformly dull brown above and on the throat, with the rest of the underparts whitish.

Dusky Crag Martin

Common around Samode Palace, two also seen over Samode Bagh.

A very dark small, stocky martin, usually seen near large, old buildings. This species nests under the eaves of the Palace.

Red-rumped Swallow

Seen near Samode Palace.

This is larger than the martins, with a long forked tail, pale below, dark above with a rufous rump. It also nests on buildings, under bridges or under cliff ledges.

Red-vented Bulbul

Common in all areas

One of the commonest and most familiar birds of the area, the Red-vented Bulbul is rather dull in appearance, with a reddish patch under the tail and white tips to the tail feathers. Usually seen on the tops of small trees and bushes.

Rufous-fronted Prinia

Recorded on hillsides near Samode Palace and edge of dunes near Samode Bagh.

A typical species of dry areas, this small, long-tailed bird frequents low scrub. It is rather greyish brown, with white tips to the tail. The rufous tone on the forehead is often hard to see.

Plain Prinia

Seen in the cultivated area.

This is a rather nondescript small greyish brown bird, with a long tail, usually seen darting into standing crops or tall grasses, sometimes perched to sing on the tops of the stems.

Ashy Prinia

Seen in cultivated area.

Similar in size and shape to Plain Prinia, but with a greyish head, contrasting with warm buff underparts and darker brown back.

Oriental White-eye

Seen in cultivated area.

A regular visitor to gardens and other habitats with trees, this little bird often consorts in small flocks, constantly on the move. It is a soft green above, rather yellowish on the breast and whitish on the belly. A close quarters a narrow white ring can be seen around the eye.

Lesser Whitethroat

Seen in all areas.

This is a common winter visitor from the north. It is a small bird, found in bushes and trees, whitish below and greyish brown above, with a darker, almost blackish tone to the head. The tail has whitish edges. It frequently betrays its presence through a short, harsh "tucc" call.

Common Tailorbird

Seen in all areas, especially garden habitats.

This very small, dumpy bird with a long cocked tail and long fine bill is common in gardens. It has a very loud call and can be identified by its greenish upperparts, chestnut forehead and whitish underparts. It will usually be found foraging under bushes or beside walls.

Common Chiffchaff

One seen at Samode Bagh.

A winter visitor from northern Asia, this is a small, greenish brown bird with blackish legs and bill, with a fine dark line through the eye. It actively searches for insects in the foliage of trees.

Hume's Warbler

Common at Samode Bagh.

This tiny warbler is heard frequently, giving a loud double-noted call, more often than it is seen. It can normally be found near the tops of trees, searching for insects, sometimes by making short fluttering flights or even hovering. It is a winter visitor and differs from the Common Chiffchaff in being smaller, with pale bars on the wing and a bold pale stripe above the eye.

Greenish Warbler

One seen at Samode Bagh.

This is similar to the Common Chiffchaff, but has a pale-based bill and more prominent narrow pale stripe above the eye. It is also much brighter greenish in tone. It passes through Samode on migration in the autumn and spring.

Common Babbler

Seen on the hillsides near Samode Palace.

Babblers are gregarious, long-tailed birds, usually seen in packs of between six and a dozen birds, often making a lot of noise. They pass from bush to bush, and also hop on the ground. The Common Babbler prefers drier habitats and is sandy brown above with darker streaks, and much paler below.

Large Grey Babbler

Common in Samode Bagh and in cultivated area.

This species is easily told by its large size, greyish tone and prominent pale sides to the tail.

Jungle Babbler

Seen at Samode Palace.

The Jungle Babbler is smaller than the Large Grey and lacks the pale sides to the tail. It has noticeable whitish eyes and a rather greyish head.

Indian Bushlark

A pair seen in drier ground in cultivated area.

Larks are characteristic birds of open country. The Indian Bushlark is sandy brown with spots on the breast and streaks on the crown and back. In flight its wings appear bright rufous.

Purple Sunbird

Common in all areas.

The dark, metallic purple of the male, along with its tiny size, fine decurved bill and its habits of feeding on nectar from flowers, makes this common species unmistakable. The female is quite different in appearance with olive green upperparts, paler below. Often seen perched on top of trees and bushes, these birds have a rather jerky undulating flight.

House Sparrow

Common, especially near human settlements

This is a very well-known and widespread species.

Chestnut-shouldered Petronia

Seen on hillsides near Samode Palace and drier zones near dunes, close to Samode Bagh.

Superficially sparrow-like, this species favours dry country and is greyer and less well-marked than House Sparrows, with two pale bars on the wing.

Tree Pipit

Two seen in cultivated area.

This is a winter visitor to agricultural areas and feeds on the ground, but often flies up to trees when alarmed, usually wagging its tail when perched. It is well marked below with blackish streaks on the breast and a few on the sides of the belly, greyish brown above with some streaks on the back.

A total of 71 species recorded during the survey.

Annexure

Species List Samode Bagh and immediate environs

Black Francolin
Grey Francolin
Indian Peafowl
Eurasian Wryneck
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
Black-backed Flameback
Coppersmith Barbet
Common Hoopoe
Indian Roller
White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater
Greater Coucal
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet
House Swift
Spotted Owlet
Rock Pigeon
Laughing Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
Green Sandpiper
Red-wattled Lapwing
Black-shouldered Kite
Shikra
Great Cormorant
Cattle Egret
Bay-backed Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Southern Grey Shrike
Rufous Treepie
House Crow
White-bellied Minivet
Black Drongo
White-bellied Drongo
Common Woodshrike
Red-throated Flycatcher
Oriental Magpie Robin
Indian Robin
Black Redstart
Common Stonechat
Pied Bushchat
Brahminy Starling
Asian Pied Starling
Common Myna
Bank Myna
Dusky Crag Martin
Red-vented Bulbul
Rufous-fronted Prinia
Plain Prinia
Ashy Prinia
Oriental White-eye
Lesser Whitethroat
Common Tailorbird
Common Chiffchaff
Hume's Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Large Grey Babbler
Indian Bushlark
Purple Sunbird
House Sparrow
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia
Tree Pipit

Species List Samode Palace and immediate environs

Grey Francolin
Indian Peafowl
Green Bee-eater
Greater Coucal
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet
House Swift
Alpine Swift
Collared Scops Owl
Rock Pigeon
Laughing Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
Common Kestrel
Rufous Treepie
House Crow
Common Woodshrike
Indian Robin
Black Redstart
Brown Rock-chat
Brahminy Starling
Great Tit
Plain Martin
Dusky Crag Martin
Red-rumped Swallow
Red-vented Bulbul
Rufous-fronted Prinia
Lesser Whitethroat
Common Tailorbird
Common Babbler
Jungle Babbler
Purple Sunbird
House Sparrow
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia

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