Sand Bath of Indian Roller (NeelKantha) at Manas

As a wildlife field biologist, I have many memorable experiences with wild animal birds, reptiles, and other smaller creatures as well as plants. Today I would like to write a beautiful encounter with Indian Roller (Cooracious benghalensis) inside Manas a few years back.  

In Assamese and Hindi, this bird is known as Neelkantha (Blue that). It is also the state bird of Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh of India. Several mythological legends are also associated with it. It is said to be sacred to Vishnu (Hindu God) and caught and released festivals like Dussera and Durga Puja. Its name Neelkantha is associated with deity Shiva (Who drank poison resulting into his blue throat).

It can create the variety of sounds. Often it creates harsh crow-like sounds. It eats insects, arachnids, small reptiles, small amphibians. They often are seen around grassland burning areas of Manas during the winter season to eat insects.Though generally, it baths in water, sometimes it plays with dry sand. According to a traditional belief -Neelkantha welcomes rain through the sand bath. She tries to insult rain god (Barun) about the scarcity of water in the earth by taking bath in dry and hot sands. 

The above video was taken in the last part of April 2013. We were on the way to Mathanguri (the Indo-Bhutan international border of Manas). Our vehicle was moving on a bumpy forest route. The weather was quite warm and humid. My field colleague Bipul drove our jeep and I was usual observing the surrounding areas. All of a sudden, Bipul stopped our vehicle in the midst of road. I was surprised and looked at him. He then pointed me in front of the vehicle through the windshield. He whispered a (Neelkantha) bathed in sands. Probably rain will come very soon, Bipul reiterated. Villagers nearby Manas believed that when Indian Roller or other tree bird baths in the sand for the longer time in sunny days than it rains within a short span of time. He stopped the engine and we waited till she finished her bath. She even did not care our presence and bathed till she like. It was an amazing experience for us. However, we always try to respect any wild animal activities and always try not to distract them whenever they are busy within their areas. I hope you may enjoy my Indian Roller encounter. Looking forward to your response.