Navrang aka The Indian Pitta!

It was 3.45 am and I couldn’t help but keep turning in bed, waiting for 4 am to tick over and time was just not moving. Eventually I gave in, got up, switched the alarm off and got into shower and was sitting ready on the swing on my verandah at 4.15 waiting for my friend who had promised to show up at 4.30am. This buddy of mine was sharp and punctual and he drove in at 4.30 and whilst he parked his car, I readied my car and we left at 4.35 am in a search that was now reaching desperate levels. Unlike most people who like to sleep in on weekends, I have a penchant to not let a minute of the weekend go to waste and to use the chance to go out in the field and be birding by day break.

Just the previous evening, another Instagram friend had messaged me that they saw the Indian Pitta, she thought she should inform me. I immediately responded and after talking for half an hour with her and her husband, both keen birders, I knew the location where the Pitta’s were visiting. I have been searching for them desperately since a while now. They do visit my district but somehow they have always eluded me. I have seen so many photos of it, read so much about it and although not having seen it I just knew that I was missing something really beautiful in life. How I could not have seen such a pretty bird, even after it visited my own town.

The car zoomed past the last village Gulvani on this route at 6.30 am and we parked our car on a rough road where we found it difficult to separate the road from a dry river. I was joined by my friend and his 12 year old son. We parked, ate a couple of thepla’s and took out our binoculars and were ready to go looking for the Indian Pitta.

Luckily this is not a silent bird, also this is the start of the breeding season, so I was instructing my friends son, that a lot of birding is done by the ears so to keep talking to a minimum and listening to a maximum. We had just walked about 5 mins and we were greeted by Chestnut Shouldered Petronia’s, Indian White Eye, a yellow-crowned woodpecker and the Black Drongo. We then heard the Pitta call, they were coming from a higher slope, but they were here for sure!

I do encourage small kids to join me on my birding trails, I kind of always want to show things to them, somehow I want to be able to maybe play a miniscule role in connecting them to nature and perhaps someday getting them interested the world around us and the wildlife and flora around us which desperately needs conservation. So whilst I had to show these common birds to the kid, today I felt a strange desperation, of wanting to see the Pitta. There was kind of an impatient urge in me to ignore all others and just look for the pitta. We had walked just 5 more minutes and a small Pitta sized bird flew and like the Indian pitta sat on the floor and I almost skipped a heartbeat that I found the Pitta so soon. However, that fellow was the Orange Headed Thrush and not the Indian Pitta, another not so common and a very brightly contrasting bird, this fellow wasn’t shy, he stuck around and showed us himself quite nicely, infact we let him be and moved on.

The Orange Headed Thrush that posed for us.

Again, a similar movement like that of the thrush, this time in the undergrowth the bird seemed all dark. We all had our eyes in the shadow, the colours not visible but the target acquired. This must be the pitta I thought to myself, then after a brief pause, the bird moved, hop hop hop… out it came into the direct sun to reveal itself. The spotlight suddenly was on the star! I finally had the Indian Pitta right in front of me! It would hop, stop, turn a leaf over, pick up something, eat it away, again hop, hop, checkout another leaf and so on. I was glued to my binoculars, following every movement. Although this was the first time I was seeing it, I almost knew how it would behave, owing to how much I had read about it and heard about it! It then called loudly and another Pitta zoomed over and there were two Pittas about 10 meters apart from each other in front of us!! This was a moment that I am not going to forget for the rest of my life! ❤

Finally! The first look of the fella who eluded me for so so long!

The Indian Pitta is not a very common sight also it is not a very rare bird at the same time, however, it is pretty famous. The fact that it has so many colours and is so pretty looking, it has been covered by lots of books and magazines so even though not all might not have seen a live Pitta, most of them are aware about this bird. It has various colours and that has led to its fabled status, its Hindi name is ‘Navrang’, in Gujarati it is called ‘Hariyo’. The origin of the name though is from Telugu, pitta bird, meaning a small bird.

The subtle shades that it has are absolutely a treat to watch through the binoculars!

It is a local migrant and spends most of its time from October to March down in southern India and even Sri Lanka. However around April it starts its migration upwards to northern India. It goes as high up as Uttarakhand, Himachal and even Nepal to its breeding ground which range from lower Himalayas to central and western and eastern India, nesting from Gujarat to Bengal! Hence the fame and so many names in so many different languages.

The Indian Pitta can be seen foraging around and checking out all the dry leaves that have fallen during the current summer season!

It should make a globular structured nest now around below the 3 meter height on trees and should be ready to breed and lay eggs and rear its young. It being rather active during breeding time and vociferous too it should not be difficult to locate if you find its suitable habitat. However, do understand its breeding nesting time and so do keep appropriate distance and do not go near a nest too much as they could abandon the nest if they feel threatened.

The front of the Pitta is in start contrast to its back!

Around the globe there are over 40 species of pittas, however the India Pitta was the first to be scientifically described and published in scientific literature in 1713. Its present day scientific name is Pitta brachyura. Perhaps the most interesting name of the Indian Pitta is from Sri Lanka, in Sinhalese it is called ‘Avichchiya’. The Sinhalese interpretation of the call of the Pitta is that the bird is complaining about the theft of its dress by a peacock!! So now you know how the Peacock got its colours and beauty! Stealing for our small dear Indian Pitta!

Now if the beauty of this fella has intrigued you and you want to find it in the wild, grab your binoculars and set out looking for it in the forests of central India to Lower Himalayas! Happy Birding!!

Old Magazine House

I have been planning to go to the Western Ghats for a birding trip since long, many articles, pictures and stories have been coming my way since a long time about how the bio-diversity here is amazing. Eventually this Diwali we managed to go and finally made a road trip down to North Karnataka.

The first destination on the list was The Old Magazine House a jungle camp that is run and managed by The Jungle Lodges and Resorts. As it turned out this place is a heaven for bird watchers!

Tucked slightly away from the highway, a 2 kms off-road drive brings you to this small camp. Amidst tall trees and very little sun peeping through the camp gives you a feel of calm and peace and tranquility about it. They have a small area that has been cleared of the trees where they have put some bird baths and on days when there is no rain around these very bird baths are an absolute favourite of the birds. The birds come here in throngs and they have put some green nets with small gaps made for the camera so that the birds are not disturbed by the bird watchers and photographers.

The first evening itself after around 5 till around 7 we counted 32 different species of birds at one spot, all you had to do was keep your note and pen ready, we would sit around sipping tea or reading a book and the birds would come! I mean I have gone to a lot of places to spot birds and yes there is a lot of fun and a sense of achievement in walking on trails and identifying birds but this was a first!


Here you just wait and all the birds from the surrounding woods come and give their attendance! How cool is that!? We counted 48 species in 24 hours and that I think is an amazing number! So many firsts that I cannot even tell you! This place is an absolute paradise for bird watchers who are lazy to go on trails I tell you!


The staff in the place is also very well equipped in terms of bird, plant, reptile identification and can have a conversation with us quelling all our curiousness. They not only are efficient that ways but are extremely caring and hospitable, never imagined govt tourist houses to have such a courteous and caring staff. They made some awesome meals as well and also took us out on trails in the woods.


The boarding facilities are basic, whilst the cottages are under repair the dormitory that they have are quite simple and good and adequate. Very neatly run this place has to be up on your list if you are looking to go birding in the Western Ghats. Here are some of the birds that we spotted here!


Flame Throated Bulbul


White Bellied Flycatcher



Spider Hunter playing hide and seek with us


Orange Headed Thrush & Fulvetta


Emerald Dove, the state bird of Tamil Nadu


Asian Paradise Flycatcher (female)



Hump Nosed Pit Viper. Apart from the birds there are many other things to spot too 😀







The birds of Binsar

So the road trip came to a brief halt for two days at Binsar, where we shun the car and took the boots, off we went walking on trails into the woods looking for the winged beauties, we did get to see a bounty, whilst all were not keen enough to be photographed but still the paparazzi in me did manage to catch hold of a few as these lil beauties hopped, strutted, jumped, laughed yes that too whilst I got busy with my Nikon.

Please do click on the collage to see individual photos of all the birds and the names of all of them are also revealed. Special thanks to our bird watching guide Jack who helped me identify all of them and showed me many others as well which we could not capture with our camera but remain in our hearts! 🙂


Bird Watching

Honestly, till before I bought my camera, I was never inclined in watching birds or identifying them, I did know a few species that were common but nothing more than that. Its the camera’s advent in my life and simultaneously friends like Shail, IHM and Sangeeta that I slowly but surely started identifying the birds. Once into the identifying thing, I realised how little we took notice of such pretty creatures, even though some of them were so near us we knew so little about them. After beginning to identify thanks to these buddies, internet and FB Group like the Indian birds, I have noted that as many as 19 different species visit my garden!!!! I never knew so many different fella’s actually came about to take a look at me every year!

The Birds of Indian Subcontinent (book), internet amazingly aided in the keen interest that was not developing. In fact since I started noticing these birds and I am thankful once again to my lovely friends Shail, Ihm and Sangeeta for this I have realised that every step I take outdoors is now so much more interesting than before, that so many of these fellas are there to be looked at, identified and noted albeit in the mind!

The day my friend Nitinbhai sent me the details of the Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat’s program of bird watching in Kutch I had decided that I was going to go. It was a total no-brainer, I knew that perhaps the best season is probably still about 50 days away but I wanted to find out the places where to look more than anything. What I did not anticipate was the fact that I was going to be amidst a crowd of hard core bird watchers (read lovers), Ornithologists, Botanists, Conservationalists and Environment activists!

It was fascinating to listen to these folks either when I asked them something or whilst they conversed with each other. To be frank I felt tiny, there was so little I knew about the world around us and I wondered what the hell was I doing all this while? So many questions never arised in my mind about how what happened and why? The finer details of all things around us amazed me and that there are so many people who actually look out for these things and appreciate it and try to understand solve the puzzle is surely something to be appreciated.

I also met one very senior bird watcher, Mr Shantilal Varu, apparently he has been keenly into bird watching and record keeping since over 50 years!!!! I found it quite staggering really, in an age when no such bird books were available as easily, there was no internet how this gentleman went about watching birds and identifying them. Fortunately for me, he was in our jeep at all times during this trip and I absolutely was amazed by the amount of knowledge the man had gathered about birds from so many years of observing them, he could tell us their traits, flight patterns, their call types and so much more. Also he would just not guess any bird unless he got a clear sight of it. Everything thing he saw, he would carefully note it down in small writing pad he had at all times. He then regularly transfer’s all this records into a diary that he maintains which could be useful for bird record keeping! Quite intriguing to me how much a man can love something and how dedicated and disciplined he becomes thanks to it. Simple pleasures of life I guess are just around us, its only about when do we realise them!


All in all I must confess I am falling in love with this activity, yes, perhaps I will never be as dedicated to this one thing or be very disciplined about record keeping and yet I must say this bird watching is enthralling. 🙂

Since we are onto the bird watching theme, here is one passage migrant, a first timer for me, Red Backed Shrike, that Mr. Shantilal helped me identify. This Red Backed Shrike is a carnivorous passerine bird of the Shrike family, also known as the butcher bird for the way it consumes its prey. You can visit here to see how it holds its prey and eats it. This bird breeds in most of Europe and western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. Whilst it makes its journey to Africa for about a month in September you can spot them in Kutch! Amazing traveller these birds are I tell you! Here are a few shots of it that I managed to capture! 🙂