I am not sure whether this bird has been recorded in this part of the country. On 16th February 2011 afternoon at around 4.30 p.m. the bird landed on a broad leaved tree near my residence in the Pondicherry University Campus. It was a slightly pleasant afternoon and the sunlight was trickling through the sparsely wooded campus. The bird appeared not too frightened and intimidated by the photographer. After a quick glance around and waving its crest the bird flapped into the neighbouring wooded area adjacent to Auroville campus.
The Pondicherry University campus is coterminous with the boundaries of Auroville—(a significant place on all tourist maps of the country on account of the idealist bio-centric international community living together inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s vision of harmony)– and the land, soil and vegetation certainly is not much different. There are not much variety in terms of trees and bushes. Cassia, Acacia and Cashew Nut trees along with variety of palms comprise the major flora. An occasional Neem or a Tamarind would add spice to the air. Many new species are also being planted and cared for. But then for the most the campus is dry and does not harbor many fruiting or flowering tree, except of course for the ubiquitous cashew—and when in season it is rife with birdlife. Coppersmith Barbets and the other kinds of frugivorous birds usually live off the nuts and berries. Tamarind, Mango and Lime are also not too hard to come by. Insects and reptiles abound. And so do a variety of amphibians. An occasional visit from a Peafowl from beyond the walls of the University Campus would add a tinge of colour to the red sand dunes.
The heart-line of the campus is of course the deep gorge or the Ravine that runs toward the sea on the east coast. A walk down or even along these red slopes in the early dawn or late evening is bound to yield interesting results for the avid bird watcher. Resident owls and nightjars have been reported by enthusiastic students. During the rains this ravine empties the excess water down to the sea and all along the dry summer days the ravine affords some sort of cool shade and respite for the ground dwellers, lizards, scorpions, snakes and chameleons as well.
For the most the sprawling eight-hundred acre campus is a quiet haven for a large number of bird species. And overhead at almost any time of the day depending on the season one can find large flocks of estuary and coastal birds, egrets, and herons slow winging toward the marshes and salt water ranges on the east coast road. The crackling racket of Roseringed Parakeets is a fairlycommon greeting for the naturalist who steps into the campus during the day. So is the tonk-tonking of the Coppersmith Barbet.
The afternoon of the 16th February was just like most other late winter afternoons—there were Common Myna, Black Drongo, Red-Vented Bulbul, Iora, Brainferever bird, Paradise Flycatcher, White-browed Bulbul, and Golden Oriole, hunting about when the Red-Winged Crested Cuckoo landed. There was a slight breeze from the east. My excitement was overflowing. At first I had thought this was a rather plump Paradise Flycatcher female, but then closer inspection showed the clear white shoulder patch and black crest. Identity confirmed! [Clamator coromandus]
It was the Red-Winged Crested Cuckoo visiting the campus and perhaps taking off immediately. Strangely enough I spotted the very same specimen the next day at almost the same time on the same whereabouts. But that was all. The bird’s brief visit had ended as suddenly as it began.