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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bushlark – Something different!? – Mysore, March 2013

Does the Jerdon's Bushlark call differently South of Mysore?

Early March, Pratap Singh forwarded this message from Per Alstrom to me:

Dear friends,

An unexpected window of opportunity has just opened up! My Shanghai trip has been cancelled, which means that I can apply for an Indian visa TODAY.

However, due to the long and uncertain time of obtaining the visa, I can't be absolutely sure when I could leave.

I could book a ticket for 20 March (arriving in Bangalore just before midnight, which means I'll have to spend the night in Bangalore and go to Mysore early in the morning), and if it takes shorter time to get the visa I could change my ticket and come earlier.

Please confirm that you've seen this email, and that that would be OK with you.

All the best


Per Alström
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ArtDatabanken/Swedish Species Information Centre
PO Box 7007, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.

Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution
Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
1 Beichen West Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101
P.R. China

This mail was the beginning of an unique experience for me!

A Danish gentleman Mr. Thorkild Michaelsen, who lives in Mysore had contacted Per about a few Bushlarks that resembled the “Jerdon’s Bushlark” but had a different call! Per was curious and wanted to investigate this further and hence the above mail…

On the 20st of March, Per Alström landed in Bangalore, Pratap Singh came down from Dehradhun and the three of us drove to Mysore on 21st Morning. By noon we met up with Thorkild Michaelsen in Mysore. After checking into the Mysore Sports Club (Many thanks to MN Jayakumar) and a superb lunch, Thorkild led us to the location!

Here, just outside Mysore, a small deviation from the road to H. D. Kote, we came to an open area, a housing layout. Within minutes we sighted a “Bushlark”! Per confirmed that it looked everything like a “Jerdon’s Bushlark” but was indeed calling differently to the ones he had heard…

Shashank Dalvi and Rajah Jaipal (SACON, Coimbatore) came down to Mysore that evening and that completed our little team!

All of next day (22nd) from very early (5.30 am) to dusk we tracked these Bushlarks (we found four of them), no one complained about the heat! Keen observation with a spotting scope, discussions, notes, call recordings, videos, photos all…

It was certainly a unique experience for me to be in the field with these scientists and observe them work! Very inspiring!

I was the only one with a camera. Two full days out in the sun and all I got was images of a “Bushlark”!?

On the 23rd, I drove back to Bangalore. The others would continue this work for a couple of more days… So, how come these Bushlark’s are calling differently?

Later (2nd April) Per wrote:

Dear all,

I arrived in Beijng on Thursday afternoon, two hours after my brother and his family arrived from Sweden to spend 9 days with us (Easter holiday; Swedish and international schools closed); two days later, two of my son's best friends also arrived. Since then, I've been completely swamped with family matters, and had no chance to write to you – until now (just back from a visit to the Great Wall).

Many thanks to all of you for your extremely nice company during the "Jerdon's Bushlark quest"! It was really nice to spend time with all of you.

Vijay, I'm most grateful for putting me up the first night, for driving us around in your car, booking accommodation in Mysore, and for your excellent photos, and please convey my very best wishes and thanks to your wife and son;

Thorkild, I'm most grateful for all your invaluable help in connection with my stay, and for urging me to come and study these bushlarks, and please give my very best wishes and thanks to your wife, her cousin, and the two girls;

Pratap, Jayapal & Shashank, very many thanks for coming from far away to join this study, and for your help with permits etc.

On the way to Kabini, I stopped at a few places. At one of these, along the main road close to where the dirt road leading to Kabini begins, I heard at least 6 bushlarks, all with the strange song that we heard south of Mysore. Near the entrance to Kabini I heard two more birds with the same song type. So evidently, this song type is more widely distributed than we previously thought. Perhaps it occurs throughout the south, meeting the typical song type on the southern edge of Mysore.

The challenge for the future will be to (1) map the distributions of these two song types and (2) to try and catch a few individuals of each one and take blood samples. To all of you who live in the S of India, please try to (1a) survey suitable bushlark habitats in different areas to get a better picture of where the different song types occur (are they truly parapatric, or are there any places where both are found in sympatry?); (1b) try to get sound recordings from different places; (1c) if possible, try to carry out some playback experiments (suggested procedure: (i) 3 mins of song from the other song type compared to the one being tested, (ii) 3 mins of song from the own song type); and (4) Vijay, if you get a chance to photograph more individuals of both song types, that would be very useful. Pratap, I would be grateful if you could send me your Jerdon's Bushlark recordings from various places. I'll provide sonograms and send you in the next few days.

My visit to Kabini was excellent. I saw three Tigers (two quite distant, but decent views through my scope), one very close, but sleeping inside dense bushes), many Elephants & Gaurs, and my first-ever Mouse Deer and Malabar Trogon (male)! Many thanks Pratap for booking it through the MD; thanks to that I got a room in the Maharaja Bungalow. I attach a list of the birds that I saw that I'll send to the MD (Pratap, do you have the email address to Mr Anu Reddy? Is that the correct spelling of his name?). By the way, the local guide who accompanied me on all four jeep rides, Afsar (does anyone know his family name?), was extremely good at birds, and knew calls even of small birds. I donated the Indian field guide ("Grimskipp") that I had with me to support him (I donated the same copy to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in August, so I'll have to buy a new one to them…).

I hope to see you all in November.

All the best


Birds observed at Nagarahole (Kabini) 25–27 March 2013

Per Alström
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing & Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.

English and scientific names and order follow “Birds of the Indian Subcontinent” (Grimmet, Inskipp & Inskipp, 2011).
* species only observed outside park/lodge

Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
Grey Junglefowl Gallus sonneratii
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica
Garganey Anas querquedula
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Wooly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus*
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
Red-naped Ibis Pseudibis papillosa
Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Great Egret Casmerodius albus
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Darter Anhinga melanogaster
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 1 imm.(!)
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis 3 + 6
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus 3
Black Kite Milvus migrans*
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Shikra Accipiter badius
Crested Hawk Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Red-wattled Lapwing Hoplopterus indicus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Small Pratincole Glareola lactea
River Tern Sterna aurantia
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea
Spotted Dove Stigmatopelia chinensis
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicopterus
Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
Malabar Parakeet Psittacula columboides
Common Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx varius
Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus
Asian Koel Eudynamus scolopaceus
Blue-faced Malkoha Rhopodytes viridirostris
Southern Coucal Centropus (sinensis) parroti
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
Little Swift Apus affinis
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus 1 male
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Indian Grey Hornbill Ocyceros birostris
Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
White-cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
Lesser Goldenback Dinopium benghalense
Streak-throated Woodpecker Picus xanthopygaeus
Malabar Woodshrike Tephrodornis (vrgatus) sylvicola
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus
Ashy Woodswallow Artams fuscus
Black-headed Cuckooshrike Coracina melanoptera
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
Asian Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda
Indian Jungle Crow Corvus (macrorhynchos) culminatus
House Crow Corvus splendens
Great Tit Parus major*
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Jerdon’s Bushlark Mirafra affinis*
Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera*
Rufous-tailed Lark Ammomanes phoenicura*
Malabar Lark Galerida malabarica*
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii
Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis*
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides
Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
Booted Warbler Iduna caligata
Puff-throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps
Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra*
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufa
Jungle Babbler Turdoides striata
Lesser Hill Myna Gracula (religiosa) indica
Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
Jerdon’s Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni
Gold-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile
Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus*
Loten’s Sunbird Cinnyris lotenia
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Gymnoris xanthocollis
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus
Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii

Acknowledgements I am most grateful to Mr. Anur Reddy, MD of Kabini Jungle Lodges & Resorts and Mr. Afsar XX, expert bird and wildlife guide for their help during my visit.

Vijay Cavale
March, 2013