At Dandeli, this time, we were treated to a lovely family drama, more riveting than any soap opera one could see on the idiot box! Let me introduce the hero and heroine:
That's the Malabar Grey Hornbill...hornbills are an endangered species, but around the Dandeli area, one can sight four species! They are frugivores...they feed mainly on fruit; you can see the fruit in the beak of the one on the left. They have an amazing way of bringing up a family...after practising being in the nest for a while, Mrs. MGH actually seals herself in the nest for a few months, with only a small opening through which Mr MGH will feed her, and through which she will also eliminate her own, and her babies', waste. Hornbill nests are marked, apparently, by discarded feathers and droppings on the ground below the tree.
The scene of the story was the Timber Depot in Dandeli, where timber is cut and stacked and auctioned regularly. In fact, as all this happened, a timber auction was going on, with many people going around the various stacks of logs.
We found this tree and the nest right next to the road, and with the presence of traffic and people all the time, did not feel that we were disturbing the birds, or attracting predators to their nest, in any way; in fact, this story has a happy ending, with the hornbills chasing away, not a predator, but an usurper!
Here's Mrs Hornbill, entering the nest:
You can see nothing now but her tail:
Mr Hornbill now arrives, with that delectable fruit in his mouth:
And he proceeds to practice what he will do later, and puts his head in to feed his missus:
Even as this is going on, the villain (of this piece, anyway), the Jungle Myna, makes her appearance. Mynas make their nests in very much the same sort of holes in the tree trunks, and a ready-made home is a a great attraction for this one. Here Mrs M is, even as Mr H is concentrating on his home:
As the hornbills fly to a nearby tree, the mynas become bolder. The male is nearby, and the female, with some nesting material (call it soft furnishing!) in her beak, approaches the hole.Closer and closer (the mynah really did do it in a surreptitious way and we were laughing as we watched!):
Here she is, at the mouth of the nest:
And now she looks and sees if she can get into the nest:
The male also arrives to see if the nest can be usurped...
Oh, no, is the answer, as Mrs Hornbill comes back, shoos the Mynas away (the female, with the nesting material still in her beak), and goes in to check out what damage has been done:
This time, the hornbill takes no chances. She disappears promptly inside the nest and starts clearing out material just in case there is something there left by the myna. We couldn't get a picture of the small bits of the nesting material falling out, though:
Just when the hornbills flew around in earnest to mob the mynas and chase them off, KM fell over backwards over the large logs that were stacked everywhere on the ground, awaiting auction; checking that he, and the camera, were OK, took some time! (Both seemed none the worse for the fall...but it illustrates the dangers of photographing with one's head high in the air all the time, like that lovely poem, "Little Johnny Head-in-air"! )
Finally, Mrs Hornbill decides that to stay is the only option. The Mynas have been chased off for the present, but it's better to show them who's really in residence. So here she is, with just her beak showing, the way it will be very soon:
Having earned their victory, the couple then relax on a nearby tree, preparing for the next day, the next battle, the next hurdle on the way to raising their family....
We enjoyed this little drama so much…watching the birds and observing their behaviour is far more interesting than just spotting them!