Friday, December 15, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - Flamingos

I first came face to face with this beautifully colored, long legged and amazing bird in Lahore Zoo in my childhood. While I admired this tall with elongated curvy neck and pink plumage, I was equally fascinated the Urdu translation of its name as Lamdheeng - someone with long legs, which is a befitting translation of a flamingo's appearance.
Flamingos do not have a sizable population in Pakistan, but out of the six species found world wide, Greater Flamingos are spotted in Pakistan, mostly in the salt lakes or the coastal regions of Pakistan. As per Wikipedia, the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, on the India-Pakistan subcontinent, in the Middle East and southern Europe.

Many years ago, while going to Skasar in the Soan Valley near Khushab/Sargodha, I came across this beautiful birds in the Ucchali Lake at the footsteps of Skasar hills.It was getting dark that day and traffic going up the hills was almost non existent, so I sat with the guard in the guard room. As it was his evening food time, he picked up his shot gun, went out and I heard a single shot. And then he triumphantly returned with a duck in his hand that he cooked and we both ate. Thankfully, he did not shoot a flamingo.

Flamingos have long, lean, curved necks and black-tipped bills with a distinctive downward bend. The specially curved beak of flamingos helps in stirring up mud to sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks. 
The close up of the bill of a greater flamingo - Photo: National Geographic

It is observed that the Greater Flamingo feeds with its head down and its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.
Why flamingos are always found in the saline water - there is an interesting Argentinian folktale that describes its colours and saline water abode. Here is how the folklore goes:
Long ago, the animals of a forest arranged a ball. While the rest of the animals had a new dress, the flamingos had nothing but a white cloak only. This really saddened the flamingos and decided to consult the jungle wizard, the owl, for a solution. The owl designed vividly coloured striped trousers and the flamingos looked really attractive. At the ball, they caught everyone's attention but the snakes got angry as the trousers were made of snake skin - for owl prey on snakes and the owl wizard had only snake skins left in her nest. The snakes as a protest bit the flamingos who ran to the nearest lake to ease their pain. Since that day, the flamingos do not leave the saline water as the saltwater keeps away the pain caused by the snake bites away. That is why they have red legs red and their feathers pink.
The flamingos breed in the form of a community around large lakes and water reservoirs. In captivity in zoos, they still breed well as the zoos keep large mirrors in their cages, which gives a feeling of not being alone as the mirror imaging looks like a community to the captive birds.

ave you heard flamingos calling? Well I have not, but it is said that their call is a goose-like honking. 

The photos by Mirza Naim Baig have been taken in the coastal region around Karachi, Pakistan. But flamingos are mostly spotted in the central Punjab in the salt lakes like Ucchali and Khabekki.
About the Bird Watcher and Photographer
Mirza Naim Baig is a freelancer member WWF who takes part inn the preservation of wildlife, beside being a wildlife tour operator. He is from Karachi and studied Bachelor of Arts at Edwards College, Peshawar and lives in Karachi. He is the owner of Dream Merchants.

His birding experiences and photos can be seen on FacebookAll photos above are the property of Mirza Naim Baig and have been shared here with his exclusive permission. In time more of his birding photos will be posted to share his hard work and love for these little flying birds.
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - 3

We usually see ordinary wood peckers in our courtyards, lawns and gardens that remind us of the famous cartoon series "Woody Wood Pecker". But I have never seen the colourful Black Rumped Flameback Woodpeckers as shot by Nusrat Ali and seen in the caption photo (above). I am sure for many of novice birdwatchers, this will be a unique addition to their albums. As per Wikipedia, the black-rumped flameback (Dinopium benghalense), also known as the lesser golden-backed woodpecker or lesser goldenback, is a woodpecker found widely distributed in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the few woodpeckers that are seen in urban areas.
I always mistook hoopoe to be from the family of woodpeckers and would think of the cartonned version of this bird as it often landed in my garden (below). 
But it is only today that I came to know that this brownish coloured bird with black and white stripes is called hoopoe and not at all related to the woodpecker family. It is found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive "crown" of feathers. Three living and one extinct species are recognized, though for many years all were lumped as a single species—Upupa epops.

Now scroll down for many more beautiful birds of Pakistan as seen and shot by Nusrat Ali:
Tawny Eagle

The Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) is a majestic, large, handsome and rather ferocious looking bird of prey that inhabits Africa. Although it is generally observed both north and south of the Sahara desert. the one above was observed in the desert of Sind, Pakistan. The Tawny Eagle was once considered a relative of the Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), however, it is now classed as its own species due to differences in anatomy.
Spotted Munia
Black Headed Bunting Male

Paddyfield Pipit
Striolated Bunting
Grey Francolin
Baybacked Shrike
And last photo of today: My favourite colourful Green Bee Eater

About the Bird Watcher and Photographer
Nusrat Ali is a graduate of Karachi University and resides in Karachi. He finds time from his busy life in search of birds in and around Karachi. He shares his photographic adventures specially with regard to his birdwatching hobby on Facebook. All photos above are the property of Nusrat Ali  and have been shared with his due permission. 

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - 2

This is my second post on the beautiful birds of Pakistan. Birds, not only fill the nature and our environment with their colourful attire and sweet chirping, they are also an essential part of our ecology. It is heartening to note that more and more bird watchers are sparing their time to observe birds in their natural habitat or even in the cities and adding their birding experience on the media for the benefit of novices like I and the nature and bird lovers in general.
Today I am sharing the adventures of Mirza Naim Baig, a free lance WWF enthusiast and avid bird watchers. The birds shared here are found in the coastal part of Pakistan, Karachi and surrounding areas  in particular
Majestic Egrets
Cattle Eaglet
Asian Koel (Male above - Female below)
Though recorded with Pakistan wild life this is one of the very few pictures ever recorded. Yellow Wattled Lapwing spotted in DHA Phase 8, Karachi
Posing Robin
Male Sun Bird

Besides many species of indigenous birds, Pakistan is home to a large number of migratory birds who flock to this part of the world in March and November to avoid cold Siberian winters and to nurture their future generations - Green Bee Eater is one of the migratory birds. 
Green Bee Eater (above and below) is a migratory bird of summer for breeding
Common Bank Mynas (above) - Bee Eaters (Below)
Jungle Babbler
About the Bird Watcher and Photographer
Mirza Naim Baig is a freelancer member WWF who takes part inn the preservation of wildlife, beside being a wildlife tour operator. He is from Karachi and studied Bachelor of Arts at Edwards College, Peshawar and lives in Karachi. He is the owner of Dream Merchants.

His birding experiences and photos can be seen on FacebookAll photos above are the property of Mirza Naim Baig and have been shared here with his exclusive permission. In time more of his birding photos will be posted to share his hard work and love for these little flying birds.
Caption Photo: Pied Bushchat
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Beautiful Birds of Pakistan - 1

Just a couple of days ago, I wrote a post on the Birds - the scary birds of Alfred Hitchcock from his film "The Birds' and lifeless, yet beautiful, birds hanging from the ceiling of a store that i visited. The post prompted me to write and share beautiful birds that keep flying around us but we do not really care. But there are people who have an eye to spot these beautiful birds, photograph them and save for us to see.

So here I am with the first batch of beautiful birds of Pakistan, that are not only beautiful, vividly coloured and eye catching, but also speak volumes about the shooting skills of the bird watchers and use of their cameras just about the right way. 

In this post today, I am sharing photos taken by Mohsan Raza Ali, who shares his birding photos at Facebook. Most of these photos have been shot at F-9 Park, Islamabad, the Margalla Hills and the surrounding areas.
Sunbird (Female) 
Oriental white eye
Red Minivet

Continue to scroll down for many more beautiful and colourful birds of Pakistan:
White Throated Fantail
Common starling
Oriental white-eye
Cinereous Tit
Fighting Swallows
Pied kingfisher
This is the first batch of photos by Mohsan Reza Ali - in time I shall share more of his photos about life, Islamabad and landscape he shoots with equal passion and professional eye.

About the Photographer:

Mohsan Raza Ali hails from city of Multan and is now settled in Islamabad. Besides his wonderful hobby of bird watching and photography, he is computer science graduate from Islamic University, Islamabad and has been a senior Software Engineer at Bentley Systems, Development Manager at Aspose, Development Manager at Data Focal Innovations and an Application Architect at LMKR.

All photos above are the property of Mohsan Raza Ali and have been shared with his due permission. His photos can be seen on Facebook | Caption Photos: Crimson Sunbird

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock was a legendary filmmaker and director. All his movies were instant hit for mysteries hidden in each. "The Birds" was one such movie that I watched in my childhood in the 60s. The film was about an unexplained attack of violent birds on the people of Bodega Bay, California.

The attack by the birds and the scary effect it created on its viewers did not escape me and I still have a vivid memory of the birds swarming on the people of Bodega Bay and even breaking windows to get into their houses.

But that was just a movie.

Recently, I accompanied my wife into a store and while she was busy in selecting a suit for herself, I was looking at the hundreds of birds artfully decorating the ceiling of the store. 
And at that very instant, I went back into my memory lane recalling the Hitchcockian birds swarming the skies and the houses.

IF you have seen the film by Hitchcock, you will appreciate the post and the photos that I took that day in the store. But even if you have not seen the movies as it snow six decades old, you wont be able to resist and appreciate the aesthetic sense of the person who designed the store, even if you are not an art lover.

I am sharing a movie clip of the film to show you how many birds were there and how these haunted and hurt the people of the small village.
Pray these birds do not actually happen !!

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fascinating Pakistan: Skardu - the Cold Desert

One hears of cold arctic desert covered with thick layers of ice or the Gobi Desert of Mongolia - the hottest desert of the world. But you may be surprised to know that there is one 'cold' desert located almost at the height of 8,000 feet, above mean sea level, surrounded by snow clad mountains in Pakistan near the city of Skardu - the road way to world’s highest mountains that includes K2, K3, and Gasherbrum. Since the temperature falls below freezing point in winters, the desert is rightly called the cold desert - or may I say the coldest highest desert in the world - or better name it a desert above the clouds!!
The beautiful sand dunes of Katpana Desert at Skardu, the main city of the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan, are one the favourite tourist destinations. Owing to its location at this high altitude, it is rightly known as the cold desert. 
A spectacular view of the sand dunes
A rare phenomenon: desert at foothills of snow clad mountains

These vast stretches of sand dune exits along the course of mighty River Indus, which start from the Khaplu Valley to Nubra Ladakh and Shigar Skardu valley. However its largest area can be seen in the Skardu and Shigar valley.

I first saw this beautiful natural phenomenon when I visited Skardu many years ago. I could see these sand dunes from the airplane window as these are very close to the Skardu airport. I took a few shots, but lost these over a period of time. Strong winds shift the dunes as quickly as nomads. At this high altitude and cold region, this desert holds strange a attraction. 

An awesome view of Skardu desert near Shiger
Now watch a beautiful drone video capturing the vast stretches of cold desert in Skardu Valley:
(The second part of the video shows the beautiful road to the Shigar valley of mighty K2. An amazing road looks very beautiful through the lens of this drone.)

There are many other spectacular sightseeing places in and around Skardu. Some of these are:

  • World’s second highest plains, Deosai
  • Sadpara Lake - one a monumental lake now being consumed by making of  a dam (photo below)
  • The 600 years old Kharpocho Fort - built by Balti ruler Ali Sher Khan Anchan.
  • Shangrila Resorts built on cold icy waters of Skardu Lake. There is no better place in Skardu than to lodge at the Shangrila Resorts to enjoy the pure natural beauty of Skardu.
If you wish to visit Skardu and its sand dunes, beside its many other attractions, do plan a visit in summers as the winters are very severe. You may take a flight from Islamabad to Skardu. But due to weather turbulences, the flights are often disrupted. One can also opt to take the land route on the Karakorum Highway, the KKH. After Jaglot on the Karakorum Highway, an almost seven hours narrow road leads towards Skardu. So do keep Skardu as of your travel destination next time you plan to visit an adventurous journey to Fascinating Pakistan.

Photos: Northern Areas of Pakistan
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