Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lesser Golden Backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense)

This is surely the punk of the birds of my area. With a flaming red top and a brilliant golden yellow back it stands out in the sunshine like a punk under the neon lights of a nightclub. It has a string of spots down its side from the breast which gives the appearance of a chain of a gentleman's hand clock securely tucked into the breast pocket.

This species made its appearance in the tea garden sometime just after the onset of spring. I heard its trilling call long before I actually spotted the bird. Of course I did not then know that it was cry of a woodpecker.

My first glimpse of this bird was when I saw this creature jump from one tree to another. I say jump because at first I mistook it for a flying squirrel or a monkey. It has a very peculiar looping flight which I learned to identify later. It also crawls up and down branches rather than hopping like other birds. As I approached the creature it shifted ever so slightly so that it kept the trunk of the tree between it and me. It was only when I took a full circle that I realised I had been spotted and very cleverly evaded. As it was a very overcast day, as it usually is in Upper Assam, the brilliance of the bird's colours was not discernible.

As I began to be able to identify call of the bird I started to track it down from the source of the call. However the nifty trick of keeping a tree branch between it and me did not allow a clear line of sight for a photograph.

It was only when nest building started in earnest that I finally managed a half decent photograph. I waited near dead trees and waited for sound of the hollow thumping to start. This would give the position away and it would be so busy pecking away that one could manage to approach close enough for a photo.

As the intensity of the monsoons picked up I noticed a substantial drop in the number of woodpeckers but now as I write this, their calls have become more frequent.

This is undoubtedly one of the prettiest birds that I have seen here.

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