It was a Saturday when I decided to go for birding, after knowing that there were no classes. I asked some of my friends to join me, of which Kalyani showed up and we both started our journey by morning 7 o’clock.
The area we got into had become dry still the bird activity was at its peak. The sunbirds, flowerpeckers, babblers, bulbuls, peafowl… all of them were making their sounds. We were able to see a banded bay cuckoo at the starting of our journey itself. To our surprise, it was making some unusual sounds other than the four note whistle we were familiar with. I took some photographs and moved ahead.
After walking for sometime among the dry shrubs we sat down for a while to rest. We both were a bit tired and were simply staring at some starlings in the nearby Bombax trees. It was then when I noticed an odd looking bird sitting in between some bushes. When I was about to take a picture, it flew into the paper flower climbers nearby. The bird amidst the flowers presented a nice frame and I didn’t miss the opportunity to take some charming photographs. It then flew away after a few seconds. We waited for some more time expecting the bird to appear again. But that was of no use. We went near the bushes in search of it but eventually realised that the bird had flown off to a farther distance.
The crest over its head and the rufous colour on its wings gave a doubt if the bird was crested bunting, about which I had read in the newspaper few months ago when it was first reported in Kerala at Palakkad. After checking the field guide, we found it very similar to either an adult female or a juvenile male of the bird. Being so excited I immediately sent the screen capture of the picture to Adhithyan N K and Sreekumar K Govindankutty, the best people I know in birding and they informed me that it is the first report from Thrissur district and second from the state. The bird is a resident in the Himalayan foothills and is very rarely seen in South India. Male has a bluish black body, a prominent dark crest and rufous wing and tail. Females and juveniles have olive-grey underparts and mantle with dark streaks. Their habitat includes open dry grassy hillsides and terraced cultivation. They are quite common in the Northern states and only a slim chance of spotting them in the south persists.
It was such a delightful and thrilling experience of having made a record sighting whilst our casual birding expedition. Even though the bird appeared only for a couple of seconds, it made the day a very special and memorable one.