Some Observations
Common Redstart in Kashmir?
The Common Redstart has never been reported from Kashmir unlike its cousin, the Black Redstart. Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts are quite common near water. I photographed this bird in May 2006 in a willow on the banks of the Jehlum at Shivpora. It has been studied by the foremost experts on the subject. The verdict is a definite maybe :-) . If only I had managed a better photo, like the one that got away from the fisherman.
Arboreal Golden Oriole
Through the years an observation in Salim Ali's "Indian Hill Birds" about Golden Orioles being "strictly arboreal and never seen on the ground" remained stuck in my memory. I never did see an oriole on the ground in many subsequent summers of observing these lovely birds - till this fellow turned out to be too young to know better.
Barbets in Kashmir
Sir Walter Roper Lawrence, served as the Settlement Commissioner for Kashmir between 18891894. He authored the seminal and encyclopaedic 'The Valley of Kashmir' in 1895. In the chapter on the Fauna of Kashmir he confesses his surprise at the absence of the Barbet family in Kashmir.

A few years ago a Great Barbet crashed into a glass window in the Zabarvan foothills at Shalimar. Last year I observed a live Great Barbet calling frantically from a treetop on Shankracharya confirming that at least one member of the Barbets is resident in Kashmir..

Click for call:

In defence of the male Asian Paradise-Flycatcher
Asian Paradise-Flycatchers are among the loveliest birds in this part of the world. A pair has been building their nest right outside my office window for the past two years. The nest is in a fig tree in an ancient graveyard slap-bang in the middle of Kashmir's busiest hospital. Bates & Lowther observe that they never saw the male helping in nest-building despite prolonged observation. From my vantage point I can absolve the male Asian Paradise-Flycatcher of shirking his matrimonial duties. [Short video]
Nesting Little Forktails
Bates & Lowther could find only one record of a Little Forktail nest in Kashmir. A chimney like opening in the left cliff face of the basin between the upper and main waterfalls in Aharbal may be the nesting site of a pair of Little Forktails.
A word about Eye Color
The only drongo one would expect to encounter in Kashmir is the Ashy Drongo. If we observe the following images : Drongo 1 and Drongo 2, it appears that the juvenile has darker almost black eyes while the adult has red eyes.
In Krys Kazmierczak's excellent "Field Guide to the Birds of India" and in Grimskipps guide, Scaly-bellied Woodpeckers are depicted as having somewhat red eyes. Again if we observe the following images: Woodpecker 1 and Woodpecker 2, the woodpeckers appear lighter-eyed than in the guides.
Some experts say that eye-color is not a key characteristic while identifying birds while others maintain that the Kashmiri Dabchicks should be classified as a new species based on the fact that their eyes are yellow, as compared to red in their European counterparts. I guess the jury is still out on this one.
'Breeding Birds of Kashmir'
Bates and Lowther made sixteen visits to the valley over a period of twenty years, culminating in the landmark 'Breeding Birds of Kashmir' published in 1952. This book with 5 colour plates and 151 remarkable black & white photographs detailed the habits and habitats of over 150 birds native to the Vale of Kashmir and the neighbouring valleys of the Kishenganga, Lidder, Sind, and Wardwan rivers. A must-have book for anyone interested in the wildlife of the beautiful valley.


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