Blr-Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip, 100717 and part of 110717

July 20, 2017

Adnan and Sarrah, who are two of the most impressive young people, with unbounded talent only matched by their humility about those talent, invited me along on their trip to the places mentioned above, and I jumped at the offer…such great places to visit, and such great company to do the trip with!

I am choosing only a few photos from my Flickr albums of the trip, which are

1. Blr-Pollachi

here

2. Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip

here

3. Top Slip-Parambikulam-Top Slip (public bus route)

here

4. Top Slip-Valparai

here

5. Valparai, and my train journey back (that’s only the last 5 photos)

here

We started off from Bangalore rather late in the day, as they had to re-do their tickets to return to the US (18th August is their departure date). But though we did not take the “scenic” route, and travelled through Krishnagiri, veering away before Dharmapuri, on the Pollachi road, there was enough to keep us interested and excited all the way.

I told Sarrah I’d get her chai at one of the “copper boiler chai shops” on the way, and we stopped at Tiruppur, where Lily runs her chai shop. These copper boilers are slowly being replaced by more efficient,but less quaint, stainless steel ones.

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Lily’s mother lives with her, and she has two daughters. One is married and living in Coimbatore; the younger one works as a teacher in the school near the airport, just a few kilometres away.

Against the monsoon sky, these village guardian deities, called

Aiyanar

sit in conference…alas, the car hit a particularly bad pothole as I clicked!

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Saradha sat outside her biscuits/snacks stall, looking over her little daughter’s homework.

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We reached our hotel in Pollachi (Ratna Square, the building in the centre…the one on the left is a movie theatre called “Shanthi”, and don’t miss the amazing architecture of the bakery on the right!)

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The next morning, we had a superb brefus at Amutha Surabhi, just a few doors away,

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We stopped for a while at Aliyar on the outskirts,

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looked at the temples,

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the scenery,

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the fishes,

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the butterflies and flowers,

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the insects,

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Mating Damselflies

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and the people eking out their livelihoods

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at some cost to the environment

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We had to wait around until 9.30 am, when the Tamil Nadu Forest Dept office at Pollachi opened.

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We wanted to book accommodation at Top Slip, but could not book accommodation online, and had to wait to talk to the young lady in charge at the Forest Dept office. She did give us a lot of information, but did not even give us an acknowledgement slip; all she did was talk to the Forest Guest House in Top Slip. I do wish the booking could be streamlined…we found the morning enjoyable, but would have preferred spending it in the

Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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I’ll write about the trip through the Reserve and into Top Slip tomorrow…but will tease you with the largest butterfly in south India, which we sighted (amongst many other Interesting Things) on our drive!

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The Nano graveyard

July 15, 2017

We went on a nature/birding walk to Kalena Agrahara today, and skirted the lake at IDBI Bank Layout. I was amazed to see several Nano cars parked, and rusting in the monsoon weather.

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There must have been about sixty of the cars, parked all around.

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At a conservative estimate of Rs.2 lakhs per car, that’s Rs. 80 lakhs just wasting away.

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I finally found this banner, saying that these cars apparently belong to this rental initiative:

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The problem in our country seems to be, not lack of good initiatives, but keeping up with them. I have tried to call this number to find out why so many cars are rusting…and could not get through. I will try again on Monday (which should be a working day.)  But meanwhile…would it not have been better to just donate these cars rather than let such an investment waste away in this fashion?

“Oh…this is a new AirBnB effort!” said my friend Rekha-Ram Lakshmanan, from St.Louis, when he saw the cars. “No,” I riposted, “This is CarBnB!”

What a sad state of affairs. Can anyone throw any more light on this failed initiative?

The blanket comes to life, 080717

July 8, 2017

Sometimes a blanket is quiet…

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But sometimes it becomes active…

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And soon shows its face!

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Life is made up of such joyful moments. This has been his favourite game with me since he was two!

Morning walk, 080717

July 8, 2017

The morning walk, in cool, cloudy weather, is a great joy.

I start by buying the Deccan Herald (the news is always the same, but I love the Saturday cryptic crossword). I walk under the shade of large trees, watching the vegetable, fruits and flower vendors setting up for the morning.

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Joggers, walkers, and others pass me or fall behind. Several people stand on the grass, contorting themselves into good health.

Barbets and Koels welcome the morning as they clear their throats, prior to singing their familiar songs.The screech of a squirrel as the resident Shikra catches it. A snatch of Venkatesha Suprabhatham from someone who has apparently not heard of earphones.

The White-Hair-or-No-Hair brigade sitting in easy companionship, with steaming cups of darshini coffee, and the morning papers. Youngsters employed in call centers leaving, looking bleary-eyed.

I come home, tear off yesterday’s sheet on my Murugan calendar, and give thanks for the new day that lies ahead. And yes, I have filled in a few words in the crossword!

Multilingual humour

June 28, 2017

What do you call a bee that comes from America?

USB

What do you call a lady who drinks only one tea in a day?

Jaswanti

Why don’t people clap in Afghanistan?

Because of ‘Tali-ban’

How do you ask your ‘Maasi’ to take a dip in water?

Diplomacy!😀😀

How do you say “she is calling a cab” in one word?

Vocabulary

Which Pakistani cricketer does not have a date of birth?

Umar Gul

What you call a fat girl waiting at the Bus Stop.

MOTIVATING.

T G Halli, 260617

June 27, 2017

A last-minute decision, and six of us, including a birder from Noida, Delhi, who will be moving to Bangalore in a while…off we went, in the predawn dark, to T G Halli Reservoir.

Padma Ramaswamy, Akhilesh Sharma, G S Ramaswamy, Y S Prasanna, Sudha Mahalingam

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It’s getting harder for me to categorize these outings as birding trips, as there is always so much more to observe and enjoy. Just watching the lush greenery that has sprung up after the rains, with the waters reflecting the scudding monsoon clouds, lifts the heart and
brings such joy.

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As we descended towards the water, we were stopped, literally in our tracks, by a Pioneer bush. This was one where the leaves had all been stripped away by the caterpillars of the Pioneer butterfly,

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which had then pupated on the branches and twigs.

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Many of the butterflies had just emerged or were emerging…

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and those which had taken on their new form were flittering around the bush. We could not help watching this dance of new life for a while.

There was also a bird’s nest in the middle of the bush.

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As we walked along the banks of the reservoir, the birds did not disappoint us, either. Beautiful little Indian Silverbills made music scores on the wires.

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Spot-blilled Pelicans, which are now resident birds, floated on the surface,

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…as did Little Grebes and Common Coots. Cormorants…Little, Great, and the distinctive Indian…flew and swam around, occasionally diving beneath the surface in search of food.

Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks

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and Tawny Larks

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flitted about the landscape.

Ashy Prinias went about picking up prey and going to their nests.

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A Little Ringed Plover sat on a mud flat.

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Since it is the time of year when we can only see RBI (Resident Birds of India!), we watched two Spot-billed Ducks, and a Clamorous Reed Warbler. However, some Tawny Larks, flitting about, a Whte-browed Wagtail behaving according to its name, added to our list, as did this White-browed Bulbul.

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At one point, the sounds were much more than the actual sight of the birds! The Common Hawk Cuckoo called its complaint of “brain-feeever!”, Tailorbirds, Flowerpeckers (presumably the common Pale-billed variety) and Sunbirds added their calls, Grey Francolins and Red-wattled Lapwings (we did see some later) punctuated the general bird song with their phrases, too. We heard the trilling calls of the Green Bee-eaters long before we saw any.

Both the woodland and the water birds continued to delight us as we walked along. At two spots, active colonies of Baya Weaver nests were being constructed.

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We watched these residential layouts taking shape, and also being inspected by the prospective owners (is there a word such as “owneress”? as the inspectors were the ladies!)

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Flying between the nesting tree and the thorny date palm behind, the birds kept us quite occupied.

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It was business as usual for the contract fishermen on the lake.

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The birding was interrupted by more “buttering” (as Rohit Girotra says, if birdwatching is birding, then butterfly-watching is buttering!) as Pioneers, Crows, various Blues, Pansies, and others flew about us, mud-puddling and also basking in the weak sunshine.It’s not often that one gets to photograph the Blue butterflies with their wings open, and we made the most of the opportunity.

Forget-me-not

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Blue Pansy

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Plains Cupid

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Common Banded Awl

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Indian Skipper

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Grass Yellow

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Common Leopard

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We observed some insects, too, such as this Blister Beetle

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this Green Marsh Hawk Dragonfly

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and this Jewel Bug

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this caterpillar

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a Day-flying Handmaiden Moth

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Even the common Housefly can be beautiful up close!

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But a further treat awaited us a little further. Two juvenile Green Bee-eaters, which have, apparently, not (yet) developed any fear of humans, sat quite close to the path, and flew around us as they hawked insects from the air. Their plumage, much duller than that of the
adults, allowed them to melt into the foliage of the tree they sat in.

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We walked a little further, expecting them to fly off to a distance…but they did not. All of us had goofy smiles on our faces as they flew about our heads, and landed on twigs quite close to us!

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Here’s a full-frame shot of one of them.

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If only all birds,and indeed, all wild creatures, could be (safely)thus free of the fear of humans…well, for a little while, we were in that Utopia!

Just when we thought of turning back, a nice “zebra-backed” Hoopoe, foraging along the ground,

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kept us there for a while longer…

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Reluctantly, we turned back on the path, heading back towards the chores and commitments that awaited us back home.

The wildflowers were lovely too. The Water Hyacinth, an ornamental which is now choking up our waterways as an invasive pest, still has lovely flowers:

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The Cleome had begun to blossom:

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Commelina flowers made bright sparkles underfoot.

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But the scenes. of the cloudy, cool morning on the reservoir will surely be in our mind’s eyes, recharging our souls and getting us through the stresses and strains of our mundane weekdays…We wished every devout Muslim citizen Id Mubarak, as we went home.

Oh…the food? Since we were in a rush, we did not stop for the usual post-trip brefus, but we did have fun eating Padma’s sandwiches, and some of the sweets I’d brought from the wedding I attended on Sunday.

The eBird list (and an impressive one it is, too, for a “summer” outing!) is

here

and I’ve put up my photographs of the trip on an FB album

here

Birders:

Akhilesh
Padma/Ramaswamy
Prasanna
Sudha (from NOIDA)
and I

Butterflies:

Awl, Common Banded
Blues, various (the experts are still disagreeing over the up-wing photos of some of those I clicked, so I will stop with that, instead of going into Gram, Grass, Pea and so on!)
Baronet
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Cupid, Plains
Emigrant, Common
Emigrant, Mottled
Forget-me-not
Gull, Common
Jezebel, Common
Leopard, Common
Lime,Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Blue
Pansy, Chocolate
Pansy, Lemon
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Sunbeam, Indian
Skipper, Indian
Tiger, Plain
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Already looking forward to the next weekend and what it may bring,

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Livelihoods: Driving others

June 23, 2017

Every now and then, a glimpse into lives very different from our own, brings us up sharply against alternate realities.

I am used to the notion of auto drivers as rough, rude people who will generally not co-operate with passengers. This preconception got a jolt when I noticed this man driving his autorickshaw in the traffic.

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It cannot be an easy life when your own mobility depends on a pair of crutches. I realized that this man, and many others like him, battle many disadvantages to earn their living. I have learnt to try and remove my prejudices, and look afresh at my ideas about my fellow-citizens.

3rd Sunday outing, Turhalli, 180617

June 21, 2017

It was still rather cloudy and overcast as several of us met at Vajrahalli Gate, on our way to the Turahalli Forest Trail, where a few more nature lovers from the nearby areas also joined us.

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It was heartening to see that several children had joined the walk too! Keerthana had brought her friends Anvitha, Krishna, and Sahana; Subrahamanya C N and his wife Neha had brought their son Shreyamsh along. Many of the children kept meticulous notes in their notebooks.

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Ulhas introduced himself and talked a bit about the Turahalli forest, its earlier range and present confines. Prasad, too, joined us, and shared his knowledge with us.

As we slowly walked up the trail, Deepak decided that rather than go uphill, we would take the path skirting the base of the hill.

Ulhas and Deepak (centre left, and right)

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The usual gang of suspects, as we like to call the birds that one expects at a birding spot, turned up one by one…White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, the Green Bee-eaters flying around as they hawked insects in the air, those who were more experienced pointed out the birds to those who were coming on an outing, or seeing the birds, for the first time.

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Nor were birds the only creatures of interest. Several of us were interested in the plants and trees that we passed; Ajit, Subbu and I looked at the tiny, beautiful flowers of what Arun Kumar N later told us, was the Byttneria herbacea, or Herbal Byttneria.

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Some species of Clerodendrum,

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little blue Evolvulus flowers at our feet,

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Spider lilies

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the children (and some of us adults too!) having fun watching the Touch-Me-Not (Mimosa pudica) close up its leaves when we touched it….all these added to the walk. On the trees, the summer flowers were slowly giving way to the monsoon greenery, but here and there, the Jacaranda still held on to its purple blooms. Tiny wild jasmine flowers starred the path and added the magic of scent to the sights and sounds.

The sounds, too, were plenty. Ashy Prinias and Tailorbirds “marked attendance”. The sight of a peacock with a full “tail of a thousand eyes”, in the branches of a Peepal tree,

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held us riveted at the beginning, and we kept hearing them throughout. The songs of Oriental Magpie Robins floated liquidly through the air, and we heard the harsher call of the Shikras even before sighting one.

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All around us, the butterflies dotted the air as they flitted about, and a fair amount of the walk was spent observing these winged beauties.

Crimson Tip

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Common Gull

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Zebra Blue

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Cotton Stainer Bugs

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Spider, Turahalli, 180617 Plexippus paykulli, Salticidae spider

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Finding some caterpillars,

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a large Cicada, and other insects, also kept our interest from flagging.

This Yellow Pansy was caught in a spiderweb, and the eternal dilemma…should we intervene or not? solved itself as the butterfly suddenly freed itself and fluttered away.

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The heavy, moisture-bearing clouds slowly gave way to the fleecy cotton-puffs (insert scientific names like Nimbus and Cumulus here!) that heralded bluer skies and bright patches of sunshine. Several walkers and cyclists shared our path.

Subbu and Nandini, who live in Turahalli Forest View, informed me that the Indian Rock Eagle Owl can still be seen regularly in this patch. We were not able to see too many raptors, though, probably because of the cloudy weather; we were content to see Brahmin and Black Kites, and an Oriental Honey Buzzard.

It is one of the marks of an interesting walk that even after many of us returned to our starting point, we were still observing and enjoying ourselves, and rather reluctantly pulled ourselves away

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to go off to a late breakfast at Adayar Ananda Bhavan (A2B)!

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Birds:

The eBird list, compiled by J N Prasad, is

here

Birders (as far as I can remember)

Adnan Raja,Ajit Ampalakkad, Amit C Javgal, Anil Bhatta,Anirudh
Bhatta, Anvitha, JN Chandrashekar,Deepa Mohan,Deepak Jois, Harish
Chandra, Janhvi Vyas, Lata, Keerthana ,Krishna,Lata, Nandini, Neha,
Padma Ramaswamy, Prashanth M Badrinath, Raji Hari, GS Ramaswamy, Rupa
Rao, Sahana, Sarrah , little Shreyamsh, Reshamwala,Sathyan, TS
Srinivasa, Sriram Prabhakar, Subramaniam Kumar, Subrahmanya C N,
Tamanna, Tara Jayarao from Hyderabad,Tarachand Wanvari. Uday
Kumar,Ulhas Anand, Vijay Krishnan. If I’ve left out anyone…put it
down to my famous memory (or lack of it) and forgive me!

Butterflies:

Baronet
Blues, Various
Blue, Tiny Grass
Blue, Zebra
Brown, Common Evening
Castor, Common
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crimson Tip
Crow, Common
Cupid, Plains
Emigrant, Common
Emigrant, Mottled
Gull, Common
Jezebel, Common
Leopard, Common
Mormon, Common
Orange Tip, White
Orange Tip, Yellow
Pansy, Lemon
Pansy, Yellow
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger,Dark Blue
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

I have put up my photos on an FB album

here

Let me leave you with my “shadow selfie”…

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Passiflora incarnata at the Butterfly Festival, 170617

June 17, 2017

Today I volunteered for the very first Butterfly Festival in Karnataka.

You can see the photos on my Flickr album

here

But amongst other things… This purple variety of the Passion Flower somehow seems to represent, to me, the intensity of passion in life…the force that often keeps us going. I had heard the interpretation of the parts of the pistil representing the Pandavas, and the many petals, the Kauravas. Today I also heard the mythology of the flower representing the Apostles of Christ. How many meanings we invest in these beauties!

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Doresanipalya Forest Research Station, Bangalore, Karnataka, 17 Jun ’17.

Jaipurdoddi trip, 110717

June 12, 2017

What started out as a plan with 3 people rapidly developed into an outing with 15 other people! It was a very enjoyable outing to Ragihalli and then to Jaipurdoddi.Here they all are, at the MCS (Mandatory Chai Stop) where the group meet each other.

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There was not much interaction as we were driving through the reserve forests of Ragihalli and then Jaipurdoddi; but we all stopped at the Ragihalli sheet rock

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The prehistoric dolmen, or burial site, can be seen. I often feel that even if I am not buried in this beautiful spot, my spirit is likely to be wandering around here!

Since there were two very young women, Akansha and Aadya, who were coming from quite far away (they were very punctual, too!) I woke up at 4 am to make

veN pongal

for everyone.

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I served it with that most healthy of foods…potato chips! Everyone enjoyed it, to my delight.

As we drove to Jaipurdoddi, the rampant granite quarrying caught my eye once again and I hoped that our petitions to the government are fruitful in checking the depradation of our hillsides.

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Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker

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We stopped several times before reaching the reserve forest, and at one place, this Oriental Garden Lizard was hoping to catch some sun in the cloudy weather.

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This particular tree, alone, at Jaipurdoddi, was replesendent in new foliage.

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As the monsoon clouds cleared (we still do not have adequate rainfall), I saw this strange cloud formation…seems like a ear in the sky!

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Tiny blue Evolvulus flowers grew along the ground.

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I photographed very few birds, leaving them to the DSLR bazookas.

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Here’s the Large Cuckooshrike:

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An Oriental Honey Buzzard, surveying the territory for prey:

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An Ashy Drongo:

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A Black-rumped Flameback, amongst the bushes:

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I call these two Spotted Owlets “Asleep” and “Awake”!

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Aadya, who sketches what she observes, made this drawing of the Spotted Owlet, calling it James Bond!

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This short stretch of the reserve forest is very scenic (with, alas, a terrible road!)

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The fleecy clouds and blue skies later dissolved into cloudy grey again.

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Everywhere, Pavetta indica (Indian pavetta) bushes were in full bloom.

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Here are some Vitex negundo (Medicinal nishad) flowers:

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We wound up near the tiny lake just beyond the forest stretch, full of muddy water after the rains.

I caught some of the others standing in the shade of a beautiful Banyan.

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Several butterflies kept all of us riveted for a while, watching and trying to capture them on camera.

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Common Leopard

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Yellow Pansy:

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Tawny Coster:

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Pioneer:

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Common Lime:

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Common Emigrant:

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I’m glad there are no dogs in the forest, or else Aadya and Akansha would have to stop for every one! Here they are petting one at a farmer’s home.

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We wound up with a thatte iddli brunch at Manjunath’s Ragihalli Fine Dining.

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eBird list from Ragihalli is

here

and the list from Jaipurdoddi is

here

Butterflies

Blues, various
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crimson Tip
Crow, Common
Eggfly, Danaid
Emigrant, Common
Emigrant, Mottled
Jezebel, Common
Lime. Common
Orange-tip, White
Pansy, Lemon
Pansy, Yellow
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Dark Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger, Striped
Yellow, Spotless Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Let me leave you with a “Leopard sighting”!

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