Small-scale warfare….Valley area, 050518

May 7, 2018

On our way back from our nature/birding outing, I suddenly caught sight of a beetle and a snail, on a tiny twig. Seeing these two together isn’t very common, so I decided to photograph the scene.

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I then realized that what was going on was an attack, and a major war! The beetle, like all ground beetles, likes a snail diet, and was attacking this one.

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This was an amazing drama that we watched for a while. The beetle was attacking the snail, which produced the froth in self-defence.

Whenever the beetle approached the snail, it would get caught in the froth and would go off with a little bit in its mouth.

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You can see this here:

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The snail obviously had nowhere to go, given its speed of locomotion, and its postition at the end of the twig. It had to fight.

Having got just a mouthful of froth for its efforts, off the beetle would go, up the twig, try to get rid of it, and return to the fray,er, froth!

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Such miniature fights-to-the-death happen all the time, around us…in the parks, in our own gardens. All that is needed to endramatically interesting moments is a little observation!

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Poetry from my daughter’s pen

May 3, 2018

Dopamine skies
1st May 2018

…eight-nine-ten-change
The wind offers cool whispers
As we rotate the other ankle
Copper pod petals cling defiantly
To the dark tar sheet
Rinsed clean sometime last night
Dawn stirs awake in wisps
Night dances on her snooze button
A drop on my shoulder at Madhavan Park
Reminds me to speed up
The unconcerned metro
Zooms past swaying branches
Breezy gusts offer approval
For my effort down 40th cross.
Lunges stretch to the horizon
Mountain-like in layered bands of grey
Soft sheets give way to seductive swirls above
The corner of the terrace is on fire
Gulmohar flames are un-extinguishable
My abs soften down to shavasana
The sky begins to kiss us all
Dopamine drops
Fragile at first, then less delicate
We are compelled to linger
Then submit to the splendid shower
A rainbow day awaits me.

Food, and food for thought, 250418

April 26, 2018

Sometimes, the juxtaposition of two things strikes the eye, as it did when I saw this gentleman, along with a book that a young lady had left open on another table. The caption occurred to me at once.

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As he got up, the gentleman called the attention of yet another man to the glasses he’d left behind when moving to another table. Such casual helpfulness, somehow, made me feel very happy!

So much to see and observe even on a short visit to a Darshini (this one was Coffee Thindi in Jayangar 4th T Block)

Butterfly on the Moon

April 26, 2018

Nonsense verse inspired by Kesava Murthy, who wondered how much a butterfly would weigh on the moon

Thought the butterfly as she flitted over the moon,
“I can’t stay here, I’ll have to leave soon.
It is a matter that’s sad to state
But on this place, alas, I have hardly any weight.
How can I lay eggs or perpetuate my race
If I can’t even land but float off into space?
Alas!” she added, ” I may be over the Moon
But it’s the worth of the Earth that is my greatest boon.”

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White-bordered Copper, Binsar, Uttaranchal, 150418

Book review: The Last White Hunter, Reminiscences of a Colonial Shikari

April 26, 2018

The Last White Hunter, Reminiscences of a Colonial Shikari

By Donald Anderson, as told to Joshua Mathew
265 pp.
Rs.650

Indus Source Books
PO Box 6194
Malabar Hill PO
Mumbai 400 006
INDIA
Email: info@indussource.com
http://www.indussource.com

Readers who are interested in the wildlife history of India, and in particular, of the Melagiri and Bannerghatta forests near Bangalore, will be familiar with the name of Kenneth Anderson, a “shikari” (hunter) of the old school. The series of books that he wrote, on his various wildlife encounters, were very popular reading at one time.

His son, Donald Anderson, was brought up in the same tradition as his father, and grew up to be a hunter. But he differed from his father in two important respects: Kenneth Anderson, even in those days, slowly turned from hunting to conservation, and was also a widely celebrated author. Donald, by his own admission in this book, says that he could not hold the interest of a reader.

But since Joshua Mathew found that the life of Donald Anderson (with the line of Scotsmen dying with him when he passed away in 2014) was interesting enough for him to write this book, giving a voice and a narrative to Donald.

This task was no easy one. As Joshua recounts at the end of the book, Donald had become a recluse, not wanting to meet anyone; or he would agree to meet them only if they would take him on a “hunt” (or at least, to the locations where he used to hunt.) A parsimonious nature and a spendthrift tendency combined to make Donald perpetually hard up, depending on others’ help and scorning it at the same time.

Joshua got past these defences and allowed Donald to talk about his life. He also sifted through unimaginable amounts of pack-rat junk to sort out photographsand other material that he could use for the book.

This biography is not a linear book; Depending on what is being talked about,the book jumps backward and forward over the span of Donald’s life, However, the narrative is always clear, and as one moves through the pages, one learns of Donald’s life and times…his education, the places he stayed in, his family, friends, his own leanings and beliefs (or lack of them), his great love for the outdoors, the jungles, and for shikar.

It is not easy to adopt the voice of another person (especially one whose views one may not share) but Joshua does this with remarkable felicity. There is an absolute lack of a judgemental attitude throughout the book. When Donald himself repents something, that is conveyed; but there is no moralistic tone adopted about Donald’s actions, whether it is his extensive hunting, or his varied love life.

The book is like a bamboo basket; various incidents and interludes are woven together loosely, without the need to make a close-knit whole. In this way, a reader can dip into the book at odd points, and not have to “follow the narrative” as one would have to do with conventional books.

The language of the book is lucid and simple. Very often,Joshua uses Donald’s own words;at other times, words are carefully chosen so that the writer’s thoughts and opinions do not colour the character’s, in the narration. At the same time, descriptions of jungles, of the homes that Donald lived and grew up in, are detailed and extremely interesting. it takes one back to days when the culture, the mores and the lifestyles of those in Bangalore were very different from those of today.

And the differences are striking indeed. “There was no concept of traffic”, says Donald, and adds that he could travere across the length and breadth of what is today’s Bangalore, travel up to Ramnagara or to other parts of Bannerghatta. The life of the white (and “Anglo-Indian” _communities were very different from the Indian communities made up on the people who served them. Indeed, the book underscores a fact that holds true even today; there are two discrete Bangalores; the one of the Cantonment area, and the one of the traditional Kannadigas, and they rarely touch each other. Dances, drinking parties, convent schools and excursions..these constitute a life far different from that of the Kannadiga communities.

The incidents and anecdotes are neatly docketed into eight chapters, and they make very interesting reading. As a person who lived in the Cantonment area (Convent Road in Richmond Town) before moving to Kannadiga Bangalore, and seen the city transform from a sleepy, leisurely hamlet to today’s frenetic, groaning-at-the-seams metropolis, I can relate to a lot of things and places that Joshua mentions, in Donald’s voice. The amazing thing is that some of these places, and customs are there, in that part of Bangalore, even today.

Remarkable though Joshua’s achievement is, I do have apprehensions that the times, and values, that are described in Donald’s voice, have completely passed away, and there exist, now, at least two generations who think very differently. Since our wildlife is now decimated, today’s values make it a crime to hunt our wild creatures; and a resurgence of prudish Victorian morality would make several readers click their tongues over the accounts of Donald’s prolific romatic encounters, which were all short-termed, by his own admission.We certainly seem to be less tolerant of what we perceive to be aberrations, today, and an account of how to skin and animal and stuff it, I am afraid, will not be very popular with the majority of today’s reading public.

But if one is willing to look into history without being judgemental, and read details about how life was lived in this city in the days around the time of Indian Independence, both in terms of wildlife and lifestyles, then this book would be a great read….which is what I found it to be. I salute Joshua Mathew on a job very well done; it is Donald Anderson, and Donald alone, who speaks from the book. It is only at the end that we hear Joshua’s voice, and even then, he sets down the quirks of the shikari’s personality, warts and all, allowing us to see the man as he was..a product of his times, with unique talents….a person who was true to himself, and did not whitewash his own shortcomings. On another level, anyone interested in how the wildlife scenario was in Bangalore and its environs, nearly a century ago, would find this both a fascinating (seeing the abundance of wildlife) and depressing (seeing the hunting/shooting culture) read…but a compelling one in any case.

A good job well done, Joshua..and I wish you would reconsider your decision to make this your last book!

Health worries: K1 and K2

April 25, 2018

of experience she has seen cases that are totally asymptomatic. She has seen an 80 year old patient who was completely unaware that she even had the condition and perfectly ok vision. She has seen children who came at the same age that ours did, are older now with no reported loss so far.

K1 does already have symptoms in that she has poor night vision – we started to notice this even at Age 2. But the doc today said that her central retina looks healthy and that her vision is good. She said that in unfamiliar environments, she will not be able to navigate in dim light. Yesterday’s doc suggested that she always carry a flashlight with her.

Today’s doctor also confirmed that genetic testing may help understand the prognosis (progress timeline) because there are a great many genetic causes for the condition. She also suggested that while there was no indication of need, for our peace of mind we could get an ENT test done as well.

K2’s condition is much more mild, and therefore, less clearly diagnosed, but changes on the retina still evident. Since it is so clear for K1, there is little doubt as to what it may be for him. She did not suggest that K2’s retina is at an “earlier stage” of the same thing or anything like that – basically his retina could become more affected with time or may not change at all. He has had no vision related complaints.

The doc didn’t recommend ERG (Electro Retinogram) for now because it is an uncomfortable procedure (electrodes inside the eyelid among other things) and if the kids don’t cooperate the results will not be accurate. She also didn’t recommend field testing (sitting in a ball and pressing buttons when they see lights flash around them to determine how much loss there may be) because both appear to have no loss in field vision at the moment. So we shall seek out genetic testing for the whole fam to see how much detail we can obtain regarding what genes are causing this and what science may already be or become available us.

The next step is to get them glasses for their nearsightedness (both have astigmatism and power) and come back for evaluation in 6 months. She stressed a balanced diet for them both, but specified that there was no known way to arrest the deterioration or affect the progress of the condition.That being said, we shall read and will likely ensure our diet contains things like Vitamin A palmitate etc. which have some reported success in arresting the deterioration. Also, we have well known Ayurveda centers specifically for the eyes, so we shall go in for a consultation.

If you know ophthalmologists first hand, or have direct experience with this condition, we welcome your inputs.

Two thoughts that are helping us at the moment:
1) Random crap can happen any time but the more notice we have, the better we can respond.
2) We are more than our bodies.

Please hold positive thoughts for both our kids to retain their vision; to remain as asymptomatic as possible, with either no deterioration over their lives or the least & slowest possible.

DnA

Health worries: K1 and K2, 230418

April 24, 2018

This is what has been going on with K1 and K2, we were rather upset over the past few days, but now we are sort of accepting things and hoping for the best.

As of now, we have ordered the glasses for both the children, and the doc says the improvement in general vision will be perceptible, and that we should keep monitoring the condition every 6 months.

This upset us very much initially, but in a way, there is a relief in knowing that at least for the immediate future, there is nothing to be done.
=

Message from to our immediate family:

Yesterday (23 Apr 18) during testing for near sightedness and to get glasses, the eye doctors told us that K1 had a congenital condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa and K2 looked like he may have it too. At its worst, this condition causes loss of vision over time that could be complete, or just allow for tunnel vision (blackness surrounding a small area visible due to central retina functioning) by Age 35-40. This was devastating to hear yesterday and overwhelming to digest. The doctor had started telling us to “inform the children that sight is not the only thing in life” and that was very hard to take.

However, today, after taking a second opinion from Dr Savita Arun of Nethradhama, we have some hope that at its best, it could remain asymptomatic without much deterioration or loss or progress a lot slower.

Today, with second opinion, the diagnosis is confirmed for both children. The second doctor said pretty much all the same things that the doctors yesterday did, except with far more positivity. In her 18 years of experience she has seen cases that are totally asymptomatic. She has seen an 80 year old patient who was completely unaware that she even had the condition and perfectly ok vision. She has seen children who came at the same age that ours did, are older now with no reported loss so far.

K1 does already have symptoms in that she has poor night vision – we started to notice this even at Age 2. But the doc today said that her central retina looks healthy and that her vision is good. She said that in unfamiliar environments, she will not be able to navigate in dim light. Yesterday’s doc suggested that she always carry a flashlight with her.

Today’s doctor also confirmed that genetic testing may help understand the prognosis (progress timeline) because there are a great many genetic causes for the condition. She also suggested that while there was no indication of need, for our peace of mind we could get an ENT test done as well.

K2’s condition is much more mild, and therefore, less clearly diagnosed, but changes on the retina still evident. Since it is so clear for K1, there is little doubt as to what it may be for him. She did not suggest that K2’s retina is at an “earlier stage” of the same thing or anything like that – basically his retina could become more affected with time or may not change at all. He has had no vision related complaints.

The doc didn’t recommend ERG (Electro Retinogram) for now because it is an uncomfortable procedure (electrodes inside the eyelid among other things) and if the kids don’t cooperate the results will not be accurate. She also didn’t recommend field testing (sitting in a ball and pressing buttons when they see lights flash around them to determine how much loss there may be) because both appear to have no loss in field vision at the moment. So we shall seek out genetic testing for the whole fam to see how much detail we can obtain regarding what genes are causing this and what science may already be or become available us.

The next step is to get them glasses for their nearsightedness (both have astigmatism and power) and come back for evaluation in 6 months. She stressed a balanced diet for them both, but specified that there was no known way to arrest the deterioration or affect the progress of the condition.That being said, we shall read and will likely ensure our diet contains things like Vitamin A palmitate etc. which have some reported success in arresting the deterioration. Also, we have well known Ayurveda centers specifically for the eyes, so we shall go in for a consultation.

If you know ophthalmologists first hand, or have direct experience with this condition, we welcome your inputs.

Two thoughts that are helping us at the moment:
1) Random crap can happen any time but the more notice we have, the better we can respond.
2) We are more than our bodies.

Please hold positive thoughts for both our kids to retain their vision; to remain as asymptomatic as possible, with either no deterioration over their lives or the least & slowest possible.

DnA

In the water, in the sun, Lalbagh, 090418

April 9, 2018

Put your head out of the water.
Get a bit of sun.
Try to get some breakfast…
Without becoming one!

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Lalbagh, 9 Apr ’18

4th Sunday outing, March ’18, and bird census: Hoskote kere, 250318

March 27, 2018

Email to bngbirds egroup:

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I had been toying with the idea of making Hoskote kere the venue for the 4th Sunday outing, when the email from Swaroop and his team arrived, announcing the bird count there. That made the decision easy, and several of us gathered at 6.30am at the Gangamma temple on the bund of the lake.
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We had a good mix of experts and newbies, children and adults, binoculars and bazookas 😀

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Swaroop and his team

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sent us in several directions, to see what we could see, and document what we saw. The paths were as as follows:

Dipu K, et al: north west edge
Rajneesh Suvarna, et al: Raghavendra Talkies
Vinay Bharadwaj, et al: east edge
Ashwin Viswanathan. et al: west edge:
Deepa Mohan, et al: Meeting point plus south-west edge

I was happy to take the children from Om Shri School along, as part of the initiative to involve schools.I found the children very interested; they patiently learnt how to use my binoculars, used the scope often, and asked a lot of questions too. I was able to show them almost all the birds that we sighted, and the bird scope was used well!

I started off with group, looking at the woodland birds in the plant clutter on both sides of the road. As the mist slowly lifted, we walked down the path with the lake waters along both sides. I have never before been able to walk past the "isthmus" that juts out into the water; in fact, a couple of months ago, the lake was so brimful of water that birders could not go down at all, and had to be content with birding from the bund along the Gangamma temple.

Robins, sunbirds, prinias and others were pointed out but then we got a few Baillon's Crakes

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in the water hyacinth at water level, and most of us got busy clicking these usually skulky and shy birds, which will soon begin their migration.

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Garganeys

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But our "regulars"….the Spot-billed Pelicans, Little Grebes, Coots, and Herons (like this Grey Heron)

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kept us all occupied as we watched them. There were Black and Brahminy Kites in the air, joined by a lone Marsh Harrier, another winter visitor which was looking for prey. Rosy Pastors

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flew over the water and settled in the dry trees. We saw Barn Swallows,

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as well as the Red-rumped, Wire-tailed, and Streak-throated variety.

It was nice to see both kinds of Jacanas, Pheasant-tailed

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and Bronze-winged,

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in the lake; similarly, Yellow, Grey and White-browed Wagtails flew around. One "dip" was the Pied Kingfisher, but we spotted the Small Blue and the White-throated Kingfishers.

Glossy Ibis

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Blyth's Reed Warbler

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Schoolchildren, along with the teacher, using the scope and binoculars

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Our group

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The children of Om Shri School

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Sandpipers, too, made their appearance, flying around with their typical calls. We noted Egrets, both Intermediate and Small. Spot-billed Ducks and Garganeys flew over the water and settled down, and were quite easy to show to the children. In fact, I was wondering if the children, or the schoolmaster who accompanied them, could take so many names thrown at them at the same time! I know I would have found it difficult to remember. But their interest did not flag, and after a certain point, it was I who had to call them back to return. It is very satisfying to be able to show people a whole lot of birds on their first outing!

Ants

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Water cabbage, an acquatic plant:

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Line-up of many of my group:

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Valli and Janhvi helped me with the app and physical paper entries, and we had to catch up with the bird names every now and then, as each of us spotted different birds! It was nice to have a problem of plenty.

Fish caught at the lake is sold on the bund every morning.

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Children on the lake reaches

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An array of snacks, including Manoj's mom-made alu parathas, kept us going.

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Return we did, to a hearty breakfast provided by the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD).

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Some of the teams whose transects were further afield did not return for a while, but all of us were very satisfied birders that morning! It sometimes happens that some paths have less birds ( on a census/bird count, it's our duty just to record what see, whether the numbers are lower or higher) but it's a great feeling when everyone returns with a satisfactory count of species. One group sighted the Eurasian Wryneck, which is a new bird-sighting for this lake.

Thanks to Valli, I met Arun and his friend, from the Andamans, and they gave us insights into the birding scene where they come from.

Our grateful thanks to Swaroop and team who provided us a great opportunity to see the variety of birds that Hoskote kere has to offer. Swaroop, Praveen and Nagabhushana say that 126 species were sighted during the morning, by over 120 volunteers! A big thank you for providing this opportunity for the 4th Sunday outing.

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Fishing boats

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For the next few months, we will concentrate more on the resident birds in and around our city, and bid goodbye to our winter visitors.

The eBird checklist for my group is

here

Swaroop will provide the links to the other checklists.

I have put up my photographs (not by a DSLR camera, and not only birds…there is even a photo of some beautiful ants!) on my FB album,

here

Cheers, Deepa.

Art in commerce

March 23, 2018

I think it’s a human trait to introduce an aesthetic appeal into the most mundane tasks imaginable. Surely, one would not think twice about the peanuts one purchases from the pushcart vendors, whose paper cones are getting so slender that they may accommodate only a few groundnuts.

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But the very selection of those recycled papers for the cones, and their arrangement, is so attractive visually…a fine example of art in commerce!