Hubli, at 670 metres above sea level, encompasses a wide range of habitats including scrublands, grasslands and marshlands. Agriculture is predominantly practised in the region, and the crops grown surrounding the scrublands include chilies, jowar, chickpeas, onions and cotton. During summers, the mercury rises as high as 40 degrees Celsius, while winters see a low of 14 degrees Celsius. Hubli’s average annual rainfall is 722 mm.
This climate creates a suitable habitat for a wide range of mammals and birds. The diverse habitats also result in interesting wildlife activity throughout the year. The rainy season turns the region into a lush, green carpet, echoing with the calls of resident birds and some migrant birds that move in by June to mate and breed. By October, migrant birds are seen in all of Hubli’s habitats.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, beautifully camouflaged with their habitat.
We have been documenting the species seen yearly, and comparing them with the inflow of birds. We have been co-relating the reasons for birds wintering in these ranges, with the crops grown. The availability of certain crops draws smaller birds to migrate here, which in turn attracts birds of prey. These migrant birds also attract smaller mammals like the Jungle Cat, Monitor Lizard, Bengal Fox, and Golden Jackal, which prey on them.
Indian Courser in a scrubland.
Photography is the medium through which we are attempting to help with the conservation and preservation of the lesser-known creatures of the region in and around Hubli. We also educate farmers about the importance of these creatures to both us and nature. Every year, the cycle shows some new changes and additions in species and their behaviour. We aim to capture the unique behaviours during each season, by photographing species and documenting the nesting and denning processes of these beautiful beings.
Summer sees a lot of nesting of Hubli’s resident raptors. Harvested, dry lands reveal mammals, which keep moving around in search of water and food in the early morning hours. A few nocturnal animals are also occasionally seen. By May, field bunds are occupied by Fan-throated Lizards, which display their colourful throats. They are seen in grasslands and scrublands too, and their display is seen until mid-June.
A Fan-throated Lizard is seen flaunting its colours to attract females and also as territorial behaviour. By mid-June, it starts raining and these lizards vanish, making way for the Rain Quail and other species.
The rainy season sees the growth of jowar and maize, which attract canids like wolves and jackals. Seen here is a Golden Jackal. They prey upon blackbucks, hare, and small birds in these fields.
Wolves and jackals are usually seen in pairs during the early morning hours. This Indian Grey Wolf was the alpha male of a pack.
Hubli’s unoccupied residential layouts have proven to be the perfect breeding grounds for mongoose. They shelter their young ones in drainage pipes, as it keeps them safe from stray dogs and other danger. These Indian Grey Mongoose sub-adults were seen atop their hiding place. The mongoose has highly adapted to Hubli’s urban environment.
The Red-necked Falcon is seen from early June to August, hunting Rain Quails, larks, pipits and rodents, which are abundantly found in all the habitats in Hubli. These falcons are resident birds and often seen in pairs. The bird is seen here with its Rain Quail kill.
Rain Quail is seen only during the monsoon and are heard calling loudly in search of a mate. There are records of Rain Quails breeding here, and images of Rain Quail chicks from Hubli have been seen.
Rain Quails vanish as winter approaches and are seen only during the next monsoon season.
Painted Francolins are spread across all kinds of habitats in the region of Hubli. They are vocal during the rainy season, and can be found by the loud calls they make to mark their presence and attract females.
Winter sets in by October in Hubli, and is when this place is in its full glory. The sky is filled with thousands of starlings, which can also be seen foraging in jowar fields. Starling flocks shelter the thousands of buntings and finches that winter here. These jowar fields then attract harriers and other birds of prey, which feed on locusts and the small birds that are abundantly found during this season.
A Pallid Harrier is seen roosting in the grasslands. The population of this species is dwindling around the world, and only a few Pallid Harriers are seen amongst the large number of harriers that migrate to Hubli.
This is a Lesser Kestrel (adult male). Very few of these are seen in Hubli’s grasslands during the winter. The duration of stay of their stay here is very short. These birds are often chased by the Common Kestrel, which shares the same habitat. A male Lesser Kestrel and a sub-adult were seen during this winter season (2019).
This sub-adult Greater Spotted Eagle was seen in ranges near water bodies and dump-yards.
A Steppe Eagle is seen in a scrubland, trying to scavenge the leftovers dumped by farmers. This species is seen from November to February.
The Short-eared Owl is the most awaited migrant every year, and this species has been seen regularly since the last three years in different ranges; a good number of them visit and winter here. They are mostly active in the early morning hours. They are seen roosting in groups on trees, in chilly fields, or resting in scrublands.
By the end of December, the Laggar Falcon begins its nesting activity. We documented a pair of Laggar Falcons successfully nesting. The pair was observed every day for five months and its nesting behaviour was noted down. We also documented the birds it preyed on and the growth of its fledglings until they parted from the adult birds. This was the first breeding documented from South India and it was published in Indian Birds.
The Bengal Fox or Indian Fox starts breeding in Hubli by December and is seen during this time. The denning sites we observed were mostly on a bund or under a tree.
Sub-adult foxes are spotted by March and they have been seen with adult foxes until the end of June or July. This sub-adult fox is being groomed by a female.
Some other migrants that are sighted during winter include Isabelline Wheatear, European Roller, Long-Legged Buzzard, Shaheen Falcon and Peregrine Falcon. Eagles seen include Indian Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle and Short-Toed Snake Eagle. Harriers seen include Pallid Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier.