Black Crested Baza (Aviceda leuphotes), one of the most beautiful raptors I’ve ever encountered, prefers broad-leaved forests. The colouring is so spectacular that you wont mistake it for another raptor. No concrete studies have yet been done on this species. Sighting of this bird itself is a prized moment for many a birders. These birds are supposed to be migrating from Burma or Thailand or China. The diet for this bird consists of small lizards and insects.
These birds like to sit on bare branches on top of the trees and wait for the prey. They usually nest from April to June. The nest is made of small twigs.
Black Baza is the darling of Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, located in Kerala. It is considered as one of the rarest birds spotted from there. Various surveys from Arippa Bird Sanctuary in Trivandrum also spotted this bird. I was longing to see this bird for a long long time. Every time, I visited Arippa, which is about 55 kms from my home, I was searching for some flash of black and white on the trees. But, such was my luck on spotting this bird that, on numerous occasions, my fellow birders saw this bird and on the same day, I was deprived of that cherished moment.
Towards the end of 2010, myself along with Susanth sir and Abhiram Sankar decided to have a go at the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary. I was quite thrilled as it was my first visit to the famed Sanctuary. But, something went wrong in the beginning itself. The sanctuary was closed for the public owing to some disputes between the locals and the Forest Department. Our only option was to go to Munnar and surrounding areas or wandering in the nearby areas of the Bird Sanctuary. Reluctantly, we sought the help from a local guide ( - the only time I went with a birding guide -). Mr.Sudheesh, a young man of around 30 was going to be our guide for the next couple of days. The forenoon passed without much of interesting sightings, except the Ceylon Frogmouth. In the afternoon, Sudheesh wanted to show us the crested tree swift, a beautiful bird. And he was telling us that black bazas do occur at the place rarely. When we entered the semi-deciduous patch, my eyes were wandering with excitement. Walked for a couple of hours – no black bazas. Sudheesh was pointing to some trees where he spotted the bird before. It was time to return and we proceeded towards our stay. As we were nearing the road, a medium sized black bird appeared from nowhere. ‘The black baza !!!’, yelled all of us in excitement. The bird was sitting on a tall tree with lots of green cover, with its back towards us. We watched in amazement at the bird’s beauty.
We approached with cautious steps towards the bird. But, the cunning fellow spotted us and flew away to another tree and hid there. I walked towards the tree. Took the camera and set it to take action shots. My aim was to get atleast a flight picture. But, there was a serious disadvantage for me. The Sigma 170-500 I was using was quite old and focusing was really slow. After a few more cautious steps, I saw the bird sitting quietly on the branch of a teak. Pointed the lens toward the bird and took some distant shots. With thumping heart, took a few more steps and the bird looked agitated. I knew instantly that it was going to fly. Somehow, made the lens focus and took a couple of flight shots. I was over the moon !! The bird disappeared in some dense greenery. There was no way to go near. Some kind of thorny bush was all around. I was wearing a jeans and thinking that it would prevent some of them (very often I do that .. hehe.. ), I ventured into the bushes. But, avoiding the thorns proved to be a futile attempt. Soon, I disappeared from the fellow birders and was looking here and there for any trace. My heart stopped a second when I realized that something was right above where I was standing. The pearl of the forest was sitting very causally on a small bare branch. I forgot the pain caused by the thorns. Immediately, got the bird in my camera view finder and clicked with excitement. After sometime, the bird flew away.. Thereafter, I couldn’t locate it. But, I got what I wanted – a decent image of the black baza.. All of us were happy that day. And, as so often happens, the birding friends demanded a special treat from me J.