As we approach the winter solstice, what have the birds been doing and what’s in store for December?
Most winter migrants should be safely in place by now. In the North, a few relatively late arrivals (appearing in Nov/Dec) include the rather uncommon Common Shelduck (seasonal chart | map), and the Himalayan Griffon (in those parts of the northern plains where part of the population descends in the winter). Pied Cuckoos (map for Dec-Feb), having troubled their babbler hosts from the monsoon onwards, should by now have moved back to their wintering grounds in Africa. Other species that are expected to be back in Africa are European Roller (which we see on passage migration; seasonal chart) and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (having left their summer range in western and northwestern India). The Blue-tailed Bee-eater will have thinned out in the north, having moved en masse to southern India (map for Dec-Feb).
In the South, the much-awaited Bar-headed Geese, late though they usually are, should finally have arrived in their wintering locations (seasonal chart for southernmost States). Similarly Black Bazas (seasonal chart), late arrivals in the Western Ghats, should have reached suitable places; and so also the seldom-seen Common Grasshopper-Warblers (seasonal chart).
The next upheavals in bird populations will occur in Feb-April, but until then most birds are likely to have settled down for the winter.
Monthly challenge and events
That was about birds; what about birdwatchers? There is, of course, the monthly India eBirding challenge — which, for December, is to upload as many birdlists as possible, and add media (photo, sound files) to them. This is very similar to the global challenge for this month; so do take up the challenge and help add to what’s known about our birds!
In terms of events, the Uttar Pradesh Bird Fair kicks off the month on 4-6 December with a star-filled lineup. The regular series of Bird Races across different cities in the country is due to begin soon, starting with the Kerala Bird Race this Sunday (6 December). Also in the South, the Mysore Nature group is starting off on the third year of its Winter Bird Monitoring Program spanning three districts. We wish them all the very best!
December is a wonderful birding month across much of the country — do pick up your binoculars and camera and spend time out birding.
And stay tuned for an announcement about the new eBird app for Android!