Call him at once, please!

October 16, 2018

drmayanja, blr, 161018 humour

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How different birders would describe the same outing….

October 13, 2018

On World Migratory Bird Day, three of us went to Hulimavu Lake. We were hoping to sight the Greater Painted Snipes and the Indian Eagle Owls. When I returned home, it struck me that different kinds of birders would have different perspectives on the morning…so here are three diametrically different versions that a “focus” birder and a “hobby” birder would give!

The “tick” birder

We sighted several Pelicans but we could not see even a single Snipe. We then went to Hulimavu hillock but there again, only one of the Eagle Owls showed itself very briefly. Altogether a disappointing morning. Hope to get to see these two birds soon.

The “click” birder

We went to Hulimavu kere to try and sight the Greater Painted Snipes that had been so easily seen when Vidhya took the group on a birding walk on October Bird Day. However, the mist soon obscured the sun to the point where we could not even see the far shore of the lake. The lack of light proved a big hindrance as we could not take clear shots even of the many Pelicans and Herons we saw on the lake, The mist made even the sun appear like the moon and the colours were very muted because of it. We could use our cameras very little, and went home without many satisfactory shots.

The “pick” (whatever one wants to see and observe) birder

We went to Hulimavu kere to try and sight the Greater Painted Snipes that had been so easily seen when Vidhya took the group on a birding walk on October Bird Day. However, the mist soon obscured the sun to the point where we could not even see the far shore of the lake. It was quite magical to see more than a hundred Spot-billed Pelicans dotted over the lake, later coalescing into a fairly large pod. A few other migrants like a juvenile Rosy Starling, a Brown Shrike, a and lots of Barn Swallows swooping around, kept our eyes glued to the binoculars. The sighting of the Eagle Owl was brief but Robins, Bee-eaters and other birds practiced their ground exercises and their aerobatics. It was delightful to see a single Brahminy Myna amongst the Common Mynas on the Jamun tree. We wound up with the wonder of about a hundred Barn, Red-rumped and Streak-throated Swallows in a huge flock. We observed several insects, wildflowers, plants, and the lives of the people living near the lake shore.

Well, sometimes we are a combination of all three!

My eBird list is

here

(not a bad haul for a “focus” dip on the Snipe!)

And I’ve put up photos on my FB album at

here

Looking forward to the next outing, already!

Here are a few photos (not only birds) from my Flickr album (clicking on any of the photos will take you to the album.)

Sunrise:

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High-rise with its “head in the clouds”:

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Shyleaf, a fodder plant:

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“Washington”, where laundry is dried:

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“Washington Echo”, about a kilometre away, where the sound of the clothes being slapped on the stones echoes from the granite bluff:

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Flies:

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Pea Blue:

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Red-wattled Lapwing:

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Pied Paddy Skimmer:

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Streaked Weaver:

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Swallows on the wire:

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Jai with our food at Sri SLV Bhavan: Neer dosa and khara baath.

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Mist on the lake:

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Weeds? 131018

October 13, 2018

If I have a garden, it will be full of weeds;

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Plants that thrive on neglect, and spring forth fast from seeds.

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I do not have the patience that a delicate garden needs…

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So my weed garden would grow and thrive with no gardening deeds!

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All these are wild flowers, from “weeds” that grew along the path as I walked at Hulimavu Lake today. They seem very beautiful to me!

Walk to Ranga Shankara, 091018

October 9, 2018

My walk to Ranga Shankara, in terms of smells.
The ground coffee from the darshini.
The heady aroma of the Akasha Mallige.
Frying onions from an unknown source.
Agarbathi or dhoop fragrance from a nearby window, part of the evening worship. A waft of strong perfume from a lady whizzing by on the back of a scooter. Punctuating all these, and vitiating them, the stench of accumulations of garbage.
My city is a nasal smorgasbord.

The beauty of Kasavanahalli kere, 021018

October 3, 2018

I’m just posting some shots of the beauty of the lake, as the rain-washed sunlight and the fleecy clouds were reflected in the water where waterlilies were growing. I thought of Monet’s paintings when I saw the waterlilies…

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Let me end with this surreal image of fishes “kissing” under water:

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Turahalli State Forest, 180918

September 27, 2018

Warning, contains images that may be disturbing.

The Bangalore skyline from Turahalli

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Post to the bngbirds egroup:

Today was the fourth time in a few days that I went to Turahalli. After Vijetha Sanjay discovered the patch of the carnivorous plant, Drosera burmannii (Sundew plant), I have taken friends to see the plant; they have all been surprised by how tiny it is!

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Today was the first weekday that I have been to Turahalli in a while. As we climbed the path to the Muniswara temple, we heard the temple bells being rung and some chanting too. What, however, the three of us were unprepared for, was to have four chickens beheaded and their bodies thrown in front of us, twitching as they bled to death.

The family offering the worship included young children; they were obviously inured to this, and everyone seemed quite matter-of-fact about it.

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Sacrifice is a part of many rituals of worship, and I cannot presume to judge such customs. But being completely unused to it, it was very unsettling indeed. Even more upsetting was seeing the head of one of the birds lying amongst the flowers offered for worship.

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So if anyone is not used to watching such customs, please do not go up to the temple on a Tuesday, as it seems to be the day for such sacrifices. I have never, in all my years of visiting Turahalli, seen this before.

However, the rest of our outing was very pleasant indeed. The patch of the carnivorous plants was rewarding, as was the brightly-coloured male Red Avadavat which seems to sit regularly on some dried trees near the top of the hillock.

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Several kind of insects,spiders and flies showed us their beauty. Four Southern Birdwings flashed their bright yellow and black as they flew overhead near the Eucalyptus trees. A Pale Grass Blue opened up the blue as it repeatedly sat on the freshly-fallen petals of the Cassia senna.

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Spotted Dove
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A dog near us charged at a young peacock, which flew up into the Eucalypus and afforded us a shot.

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A young family who’d brought a professional photographer (and a plastic sign saying “BABY GIRL”) to capture their daughter’s infant moments, kept yelling at her to look at the camera. (“IL NODU, PUTTA!”) Patient for a while, she finally started her own bit of yelling when she was made to put on a pair of blue plastic butterfly wings and a blue antenna headband!

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Such lilttle vignettes kept us quite happy as we slowly wended our way back, and went home after a nice hot coffee at SLV Coffee, where the ever-smiling Triveni was working as hard as usual.

A fly:

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Blister Beetle with pollen from the Stachytarpeta flowers:

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I have put up the photos from the outing

here

and the Flickr album is

here

And have made a short video of the wonderful “pot” entrance that the ants were making to their nest:

Also rather struck by the exponential growth in the human habitation in the less-than-ten-years I have been visiting Turahalli, I made a quick video of the skyline:

The eBird list is

here

Rangoli on Ganesha Chathurthi, 130919

September 13, 2018

Instead of the stock Ganesha Puja photos, I thought I’d click some of the beautiful rangolis that I saw on my morning walk. So much art on our roads and footpaths, I felt like documenting and preserving these transient works.

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Kolams like these are called “puLLi kOlam” in Tamizh, that is, they have first an arrangement of dots, which are joined together or have lines drawn around them (sometimes a single continuous line); very geometrical and precise.

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Ones like this are freestyle:

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Let me end with a lovely Ganesha-themed puLLi kOlam:

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International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), Ramnagara, and Nelligudde kere, 010918

September 6, 2018

had nearly forgotten that the first Saturday of September is International Vulture Awareness Day; a reminder jogged my memory, and my friends and I shelved our Maidanahalli plans for a visit to Ramadevara betta (hillock), to see the only known roosting and nesting spot of the Long-billed Vultures in Karnataka. The Karnataka Vulture Conservation Trust, in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, had organized a walk to see the vultures, and talks by experts, an event open to all.

We were a group that started from the south, north, and east of the city, and met up at the gates of the Vulture Sanctuary, by 6.15am.’

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UGS. Gopinath, Nikhil, Arpitha, Sriram, Sharmila, Keerthana, Subhadra,Harish, Vijay, Tara, Arnab, Anisha,Sahas, Nitin, Regin. Kneeling with Arjun : Praveen and Srini. Ramnagara, 010918

Many of my friends were visiting Ramnagara (Ramnagaram? I am not sure which is the right name) for the first time, so, having driven just past the entrance gates, we parked our cars,

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and clambered up on the rock face (slippery, alas, from the recent rains!)

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and looked up at the vultures that could be seen (three of them at that time).

The single one:

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And two sitting together (they mated a little later)

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After looking our fill at the birds, which were preening, we also climbed up the hill to the gate of the temple, and went up a little towards the temple,

hoping to sight the beautiful Yellow-throated Bulbul which is another resident of the betta. We were lucky to sight just one, upon a rock!

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We had not realized that this date coincided with a festival at the Rama temple upon the hillock; we were not sure if the increased number of visitors was just due to its being a weekend, until we saw the idols of the deities, Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Anjaneya, being taken in a palanquin (on a modern tractor!) in procession, up the hill. The vulture finds a place in the epic poem, Ramayana, the story of the ideal man, Rama. Jatayu, the vulture, finds Rama’s wife Seeta being abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka, and fights valiantly to save her, until the ten-headed Ravana cuts off his wings. He falls, fatally wounded, to the ground. When Rama and Lakshmana come upon him, he recounts all that has happened to them, before giving up his life. Here upon the rocky boulders of Ramadevara betta, the old story somehow took on colorful life as I watched the trio of deities and their faithful attendant Hanuman, wending their way to the temple, bejewelled and bedecked with flowers.

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Closeup of the adorned idols

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We watched the posters for the Vulture Awareness Day being put up,

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and after meeting up with Mike and Chris, when they came to the viewing area, we were also able to glimpse the ungainly-on-the-ground and graceful-in-the-air birds with the help of the scope that Mike set up for everyone.

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Many of us also saw the Long-billed Pipit for the first time…so birds with long bills seemed to be the order of the day!

We had left the city by 4.30am and by this time, in spite of the snacks we shared, the call of the white-breasted iddli was quite loud in our ears! So off we went to Sahasa Kala Shiksana Kendra (Centre for training in martial arts) where the event is held every year. After the pouring rain of last year, it was very pleasant to have the sun shining, and patches of blue sky appearing amidst the grey monsoon clouds.

We lined in an orderly queue and partook of a piping hot and delicious breakfast,

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and with our mental and physical batteries recharged, settled down to the proceedings.

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One of the star attractions, of course, was a White-rumped Vulture attending…or at least, an actor wearing a very well-made costume of the bird! Many of the young men present had a fun time with the “bird”, which was the mascot for the event. I would like to know who created the marvellous costume!

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These young men took the “help the vultures” message very seriously!

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It was also heartening to see how many people had made it to the event. I must mention the Forestry College in Sirsi, which always sends its students, I have interacted with them several times, at several venues (also at Kaiga) and found many of them knowledgeable about conservation issues. Several of the people who have worked untiringly to have the area declared as a vulture sanctuary, including Dr Subramanya, also took their places on the stage, and shared what the vultures mean to the ecosystem, and the history of the decline of these birds, along with the efforts made to save them from extinction. Cadets, schoolchildren, nature lovers from near and far…we all listened to the inputs being given, and took our certificates of participation.

Some of us decided to go back and see if we could get shots of the vultures flying off from the cliff, and were successful. Some of us also stopped over at Bidadi to visit the Nelligudda lake.

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Apart from an edging of the now-to-be-expected trash, which included a dead fish,

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the lake was a serene setting,and under the shade of two gigantic banyan trees, a cool breeze blew.

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Several waterfowl, including two Woolly-necked Storks,

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kept our binoculars and lenses busy; sighting two mongoose in the fields added to our delight. Both Brahminy and Black Kites dived repeatedly into the water, fishing for food. By this time, several butterflies had also emerged, and we watched as they flitted around us, too.

Grass Dart:

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Some reptiles came out to bask on the rocks.

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Well satisfied with the morning, we drove rather sleepily back to the city, making plans about whether to go birding the next morning or to spend it getting back into the good books of our families!

I have put up my photos on my FB album
here

And for other photos on the Flickr album, click

here

Our grateful thanks to the organizers of the event, which we intend to support every year, come September!

Cheers, Deepa.

Let me end with the beauty of this mushroom!

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Jewels of nature

August 30, 2018

I don’t find it necessary to go to jewellery shops, as Nature provides me plenty of jewels! All the photographs below are from local gardens in Bangalore.

Do I want pearls for a necklace? Here are the pearls of the Sterculia foetida, locally called the Jungli Badam:

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The monsoon season, or even a dewy morning, provides so many diamonds. Here are hundreds,sprinkled over a spider web:

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One of the bugs we see often is, indeed, called the Jewel Bug. It appears in rainbow glory, with a metallic sheen, on top of our most common plants and weeds:

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And when the bug decides to moult, it sheds that beautiful outer shell, and emerges, looking bright orange like a coral:

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Then there is the gold of the Copper Pod tree, scattered over the footpaths and roads of our city:

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Did you say rubies? Of course, of course! These are provided by the Bastard Sandal, a plant that gets its name from the fact that its wood is often used instead of real sandalwood; but it has excellent medicinal properties, too:

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If I want my rubies with a touch of black, I get the seeds of the Crab’s Eye creeper, locally called Gulaganji:

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The Grass Jewel is a butterfly that is well named. It is the smallest butterfly in India, and it’s as exciting to see one as it is to find a jewel!

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All of these jewels come to us with the energy produced by that great jewel of fire in the sky….

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So, keep an eye out for the many treasures, gems and jewels that we can observe in the natural world, as we walk along!

A flower that tricks the tricksters! Ceropegias…. endangered plants

July 31, 2018

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Ceropegia candelabrum, Turahalli, Karnataka,280718

We have all heard of carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap, that trap and devour insects. But less known is the fact that some plants of the Ceropegia species, actually deceive and entrap insects, for pollination!

Here’s how the Ceropegia flowers work, and it’s quite complicated.

Spiders and other insect predators often trap and eat honeybees, and there are some flies that love to eat these honeybees, too. The flies are able to smell the scent of the dying honeybees, and congregate to feed off the bees even as the predators are eating them. Since they are, in this sense, robbing the predators, they are called “kleptoparasites”

Ceropegias take advantage of this liking of the flies. They produce a fragrance that is remarkably similar to the “alarm pheromones” (the mixture of about 33 substances emitted from the glands of the bees under attack). This fools the flies into entering the flowers…and they find themselves falling into the flowers, to the pollen chamber (the pot-shaped area at the bottom of the flower).

Now, the flies, notorious thieves themselves, find that they have been doubly deceived. Not only are there no flies to eat, but also, there is no nectar in the pollen chamber of the flowers, to reward them. The Ceropegias are known as “deceptive flowers,” allowing themselves to be pollinated by the insects they attract without rewarding them with food.

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Ceropegia hirsuta, Panarpani, Madhya Pradesh, 080917

In addition to this trick, there is also the ensuing imprisonment, as the plants trap the flies in their flowers for around 24 hours. This ensures that the flies — searching for both food and a way out — do all the work when it comes to pollination. As a result of this activity combined with food deprivation, the flies are quite weak when they are finally allowed to fly away. As hungry as they are, they are magically drawn to the alluring, deceptive scent of neighbouring flowers, where they end up back at square one.

The deceit of the Ceropegias was discovered by Annemarie Heiduk, a doctoral researcher in biology at the University of Bayreuth. Scientists from Bayreuth, Salzburg, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, London, and Pietermaritzburg helped her gather the evidence. The international team has now presented its research findings in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

You can read in more detail about this fascinating process,

here

But the plant itself is sometimes subject to being eaten by the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Here a Plain Tiger caterpillar on the flower of one Ceropegia:

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Here is a photo that I took of a true carnivorous plant, called the Sundew flower, which digests the insects caught in the sticky “dew” of its flowers.

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Just another example of the wonders of the world we live in!