Do’s and don’ts for photographers on nature/wilderness group walks

July 9, 2018

I just read Janaki Lenin’s well-written list of do’s and don’ts on nature/wilderness walks.

Since so many of the participants are photographers, I’d like to add my own list of do’s and don’ts for them. This list does not list the obvious points of ethical photography, though those must be followed too…it deals with how people should do photography while in a group.

Do not stray away from the group in pursuit of the photograph. Group leaders often find it hard to trace errant members, and even in scrub jungle, which looks tame and domesticated, it is easy to get lost, particulary on cloudy days when the cardinal directions are not clear.

If you find something interesting, do (quietly) let the others (or at least your neighbours) know about it. Clicking away in silence while others wonder what you have in your viewfinder…is not A Good Thing

When you find something interesting, and step up to take your photograph, remember to check if you are getting in anyone else’s way. Many people wind up taking photographs of the backs of eager beavers who have stepped into the frame, intent on their own photography.

If you have a good zoom on your camera, do allow others to go closer.

Do not, in your eagerness to get closer, chase the subject away, so that others in the group get neither a good look nor a photograph.

Remember that others with smaller cameras and lenses, and mobile cameras too, are as much photographers as the ones with the bazooka lenses.

Silence your camera shutter sound. It’s very impressive to hear the machine-gun sounds of a burst of shots, but it can chase away an alert animal or bird. It can also spoil someone else’s video.

Do not keep interrupting the walk to show others your shots from this, or other, walks. Chimping (the process of looking at one’s shots) can be done after the walk (or by yourself, if you want to check on something.). Showing other people your shots is fine if they have, for some other reason, missed seeing the subject, and want to see it.

Do take some shots yourself, and as fast as you can, allow others to get to your particular point, so that they, too, can take their images.

I once heard someone say, “I am glad I got the shot, and I am even more glad no one else got it.” If this is your point of view, then nature walks in groups are not for you. To get unique shots, go by yourself. You may get those shots, but I assure you, you will miss out on the camaraderie, the multiple opportunities, and the safety benefits that group walks have to offer.


Turahalli, 010718

July 1, 2018

The monsoons are when the peacocks, dance, and this morning, at Turahalli Reserve Forest, we were delighted to watch this.

Lists sent to Ms Dipika, DCF, Turahalli:

Bird list:

(47 species)


Blue, Babul
Blue, Lime
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Tiny Grass
Castor, Common
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crow, Common
Cupid, Small
Dart, Oriental Grass
Emigrant, Common
Gull, Common
Lime, Common
Leopard, Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Yellow
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Plain
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass


Ants, Processional
Bee, Carpenter
Bee, Honey
Beetle, Net-winged
Caterpillars of various moths and Common Rose
Dragonfly, various
Grasshopper, various
Mantis, Praying
Plant Hopper
Praying Mantis
Spider, Funnel Web
Spider, Orb Weaver
Spider, Giant Wood
Spider, Jumping
Spider, Social
Spider, Tent Web
Spider, Wolf
Wasp, Paper
Wasp, Spider
Wasp, Scoliid


Acacia sp
Aristolochia indica seen in a lot of places (this is an endangered plant)
Catunaregam spinosa
Commelina sp
Clerodendron sp
Cyanotis sp
Evolvulus sp
Grewia sp
Fungi and Mushrooms, various kinds
Mimosa pudica
Passiflora sp
Toddelia asiatica
Tridax sp

FB album of the morning


Visit to FES for Grow-Trees, Kallimapalli, Karnataka, 230618

June 28, 2018

I got a call from my friend Srinvasa Shenoy, aka Srini, asking whether I would be interested in a visit to a site where afforestation is being done, near the Karnataka/Andhra Pradesh border, in a small village called Kollimapalli.

Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at

Bhairasagara lake

which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to


where we met Avinash Chowdary of

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)

Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to

Grow Trees

and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.

We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:


Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.


The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.

However”The objective,” says Srini, “is not about planting trees only – rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level.”

Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :


It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.

FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time – but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. – who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were

Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are ‘prohibited’ zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.


The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.

Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for ‘cattle ponds’ at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.


Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.


After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!


We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

Lynx Spider


Small Salmon Arab




Sirkeer Malkoha


Oriental Garden Lizard male


Oriental Garden Lizard female


Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:


Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)


As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.


In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.

Bird lists:

For Bhairasagara, click


For Kollimapalli, click


For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click


On watching the butterfly migration….

June 7, 2018

They fly, severally, across my path

Fluttering on their way.

“Godspeed, you little butterflies,”

Is all that I can say.

How far they come, these little ones

Creatures of light and air

With so many obstacles to face,

Who knows how each will fare?

Will this Crow make it across?

Will that Tiger survive?

Flying over in their hundreds,

How many will live, and thrive?

How many will fall, becoming the food

Of predators, swift and alert?

How many will survive attacks

And flit on, torn and hurt?

I do not how many will make it

But each one flying is a lovely sight.

I pray that these brave little beauties

Are able to survive the flight!


June 2, 2018

To someone called “Sugar”.

A friend.
Someone with whom I can talk.
Talk…about anything;
From the most mundane of everyday details
To the most existential questions.
I can talk; I can listen.
I can respect the deep wellspring of wisdom
And experience beyond anything I have known
That produces the words I listen to.
The conversation flows along
Like a gentle stream;
Taking in, here a little rivulet,
There a little trickle
Of associated thoughts.
The most profound ideas
Are simply expressed.
I do not know how the time passes.
When the conversation is over,
I feel a deep sense of contentment
And well-being.
Our conversations may go on
Or cease; but our friendship will endure.
Thank you, my friend, for the thoughts, the words,
The affection, the time, and the grace.
Neither age nor gender governs our bond.
I know your friendship to be a precious thing
In my life.

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.


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.



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.


You can see this here:


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!


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!

Poetry from my daughter’s pen

May 3, 2018

Dopamine skies
1st May 2018

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.


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.”


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.

Indus Source Books
PO Box 6194
Malabar Hill PO
Mumbai 400 006

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!