Archive for April, 2013

Words of appreciation….

April 30, 2013

Here’s an FB message I got today:

Hi Deepa,
How are you doing? Its been a while that we have had conversation and may take you a while to remember who I am. :)but more so this is a thank you message. I had been to the wildlife conservation seminar organized by the slothbear foundation over the weekend. It was such a wonderful experience listening to some of the who’s who of wildlife conservation. But it really made me wonder how did I reach there? I was not even closely related to any of this 6 months ago. It took me back to sometime in November last year when i started photography. While i was keen on visiting forests, i couldn’t. Ihad no clue about anything and started shooting birds at hebbal lake close to my house. My first proper birding trip was with you to the valley school and things have changed right since then. I saw birds, met people, lwent to forests and got genuinely interested in nature and ecology and now i see myself wanting to involve myself for the cause of conservation. In short, it was that one trip to valley school that spurred my interest and l ended up at the conservation seminar where i had a wonderful time. More so, its brought out so much interest in me towards nature. I sincerely thank you for that.
I hope everything else is fine on your end. Take care.

April 29, 2013

KTB’s fourth birthday is tomorrow, the 29th of April So we had a pool party to celebrate:

Her Nanna and GG (Great Grandmother, who turned 90 on Jan 19)are here to help us celebrate:

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She chose her cake:

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and here she is, getting sung to:

The FB album is


We’re having a great time…she’s eaten enough cake to sink a ship!

Audubon Society Bird Walk, 280413: Kennedy Forest, Forest Park

April 28, 2013

Here’s my email to Bob Bailey, who led the walk:

Thank you so much for the list, Bob!

I had been struggling to remember some of the names (especially as there were so many that were new to me!). As I walked home from Kennedy Forest, along Skinker Blvd, I spotted a lone American Crow. For me, coming from a country where crows are the most common bird, it’s amazing that a virus seems to have decimated the population of these birds, at least in St.Louis. I also saw an Eastern Kingbird (I distinguished it by the white on its tail). The walk back along Skinker, and then along Lindell. was very enjoyable, too. I did “stop and stare” for a while, at the simple sight of a Robin “feathering its nest” as Mary Poppins sang. It may be a common sight…but still something I enjoyed very much.

A list really does not convey the happy feeling of the entire morning, traipsing along paved paths and mud ones, watching the binoculars go up, trying to decipher both the birds’ names that are being exclaimed, and the birds themselves!

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It didn’t help when I was looking for the Orange-crowned Warbler, only to be told that it is actually quite a nondescript bird, not quite the orange-headed bright beauty I was imagining! However, the Scarlet Tanager more than made up for this. I do go in to raptures over raptors, and the Cooper’s Hawk couple were a delightful highlight for me.

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A Cooper’s Hawk with a squirrel catch, wow!

I’m rather Wobbly About Warblers even back home in India, so it didn’t bother me that I couldn’t identify anything except the Yellow-rumped Warbler. I found it excellent to go with people who “bird by ear”, and hopefully, I’ve learnt a little.

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Not having a car, I could not make it to Tower Grove, but it seems as if you had an equally good time there. I’m attaching a few of the photos I took today (it certainly was not a day for bird photography, as the lady with the 150-500mm lens said, as she lugged it patiently along). One can clearly see the squirrel in the claws of the Cooper’s Hawk.

With many thanks, and looking forward to next Saturday’s FPF/Audubon Bird Walk , for us beginners, while the experienced birders are away at the Audubon’s meeting!

Here’s the bird list that Bob sent out: (I did not have a car, so I didn’t go to Tower Grove, but walked back home contentedly along the edges of Forest Park).

Kennedy Woods (mostly complete list):
Canada Goose
Cooper’s Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Great-crested Flycatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue-winged Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler (on solo separate side trip)
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Kentucky Warbler (vocalizing only)
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Oriole
American Goldfinch

Tower Grove Park:
Pine Warbler
Purple Finch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Other photos on my FB album


Children’s Eternal Rainforest: Fundraiser, St.Louis Zoo auditorium, 230413

April 26, 2013

I’d been to a fund-raising event yesterday, by the St.Louis Academy of Sciences:

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During refreshments before the event, I captured this angel:

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click here

for more information about the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

The fact that second-graders from children could feel this compassion and act upon it, and make enough of an impact that children from 43 other nations also joined in the effort, is quite staggering to me.

Peter Raven

who was named by Time Magazine as a Hero for the Planet, spoke:

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The keynote address was by

Thomas Lovejoy :

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Here are several slides from his talk about the Children’s Eternal Rainforest:

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I have long wanted to meet Dr. Lovejoy, a scientist who has done pre-eminent work in the rainforests of the Amazon.

Another eminent speaker, who orchestrated the fund-raising by pledge envelopes, and spoke with passion about his farm in the Eternal Rainforest, was

Tom Newmark

Tom Newark thomas lovejoy 1 stl zoo 23041 photo DSC05240.jpg

For more photos of the evening, see my FB album,


Fast and slow trains…

April 24, 2013

I was reading a few emails about travelling on faster and faster trains….I am wondering, apropos of this thread…is speed everything?

I must say, that I enjoyed the “rattling and rolling” that Rajan describes (trains from Kolkata, where I grew up, and Chennai (and back) , took at least 36 hours), stopping at the various stations, getting a feel of cultures different from my own as well as the city I lived in….buying the mud pots to store cool water in Mughalsarai (only later did I realize the romance of the name…a place where the Mughal armies stopped!), aam paapdi in Vishakapatnam, poori-alu in stitched-leaf plates in Bhubaneswar… sipping “bhaander cha” in little mud pots as we neared Kolkata. The tea on one side of the Godavari was as good as the coffee on the other (no Rail Aahaar abominations of chai and coffee served with the same mix of milk-and-water, with either instant coffee or a tea bag dunked in!)

I find that in our lives, as we “save” more time, we are just giving that time to ever more hectic pursuits, with urgent deadlines always looming, taking away our peace of mind, and often, our health as well….

So…I like to think that slow trains are also amazing, in their own way…in fact, Indian Railways can claim to be the only railway in the world which has actually slowed down trains! Want to know the details?

Initially, the trains between Chennai and Bangalore ALL used to take only five hours. But later, I R stretched the time to six hours, and now charges higher fares for the only train that does the journey in 5 hours (the Shatabdi). And in the case of the overnight trains between the two stations…sometimes they actually have stretched the time to a little more! The Kaveri Express actually takes 7 hours…it doesn’t actually go backwards, that’s all that can be said for it, and also the fact that it does not arrive at an unearthly 4am or 5am, with vampire autowallahs waiting to suck your passenger blood.

There’s a song about taking the “slow boat to China” (which brings to my mind, the old, elegant, leisurely method of crossing “The Pond” by ship)…but I will settle for taking the slow trains around my country, enjoying and savouring the scenes as I go. Yes, mostly from behind the dirty glass of an a/c coach, because of the condition of the toilets in non a/c compartments, and the smell from the tracks, which is partly because of the toilets….but I’m happy rattling and rolling, and gently moving along.

Fast Food Brand Name Nursery Rhymes!

April 21, 2013

Children’s education includes fast food very early, these days! Here’s what she’s learnt at her daycare:

“Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut! McDonald’s, McDonald’s….”

I’m surprised another line with Coke and Pepsi hasn’t been added….

Dresser Island, Missouri, 130413

April 17, 2013

My email to Mike Grant (in charge of birding/field trips, Audubon Society of St.Louis):

Hi Mike!

I saw this message below, too late…I did try on Saturday morning, but you were already out, and I am afraid I disturbed your family.

I did not get any response to my posting on the Audubon Society’s FB page, as Mitch had suggested I do. My friend Ruth Hartsell, whom I met a couple of months ago on the monthly Forest Park beginners’ birdwalk, kindly agreed to give me a ride, and I decided we’d go to Dresser Island on our own, but since we could not leave early, we reached only as one group was actually coming out to the parking lot. One lady was kind enough to tell us about the Riverland part of the outing, but Ruth wanted to walk the trail at Dresser Island.

My problem is that if I do not go with more knowledgeable people, I am not able to id many of the birds that I see, or learn much from the outing.

It was only because the other lady showed me her list (where “Pectoral Sandpiper” was written), that I was able to id the bird when I saw it, after googling for the name. In spite of this (and in spite of reaching so late!) we did have an interesting time at Dresser Island. We got to Riverland Audubon only by about 5pm, and everyone else had left, but Mr Mugac (I am not sure if I have the spelling right) was locking up, and let us have a look around.He told us about a possible Bald Eagle sighting further up, near the fishermen’s area on the dam, but we were not lucky.

We were not able to do much birding because of the crowd of fishermen, and returned home, well satisfied with our outing. I did manage to spot a few common butterflies, and am struggling with some id’s there, too.

Since I will be here for a few more months, I wanted to know if I could somehow reach out to other Audubon Society members who reside in the U City area, and ask if I can take a ride with one of them, splitting the fuel costs. In Bangalore, where I live, we are very conscious of our carbon footprint, and ensure that we are at least four to a car. I’d like to know if you have similar initiatives here, too.

Here is my bird list from the day:

Bluebird, Eastern
Cardinal, Northern
Coot, American
Cormorant, I do not know which one
Egret, Great
Egret, Snowy
Flicker, Northern
Gull, un id (near the dam)
Hawk, Cooper’s (Or it could be Sharp-shinned, I am not sure)
Hawk, Red-tailed
Heron, Great Blue
Jay, Blue
Junco, Dark-eyed
Kestrel, American
Mockingbird, Northern
Pelican, American
Phoebe, Eastern
Sandpiper, Pectoral
Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied
Sparrow, Chipping
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, White-throated
Teal, Blue-winged
Titmouse, Tufted
Vulture, Turkey
Warbler, several un id
Waterfowl, several un id.
Woodpecker, Red-headed
Wren, Carolina
Wren, House

It was wonderful to see the numbers of Pelicans in both the water and the sky, soaring in widening circles as they climbed:

For my photos of the outing,

click here

I would be very grateful if you could let me know how I could go for outings with other, more experienced birders, and learn more. I do not have a car, and many locations are not accessible by public transport of any kind. So I tend to make the most of St.Louis’ parks, especially Forest Park, which I walk to. I am free only on weekends, as I am here to look after my grandchild while my daughter goes to work 🙂

With many thanks, and hoping to be able to participate in more of the outings,
Yours truly


April 16, 2013

When the ground is covered with snow,
Where do the birds go?
When the earth is soaked with rain,
Where do the birds go for grain?
When the sun bakes the fields with its heat,
When the cracked earth burns our feet..
When the very air is hot and dry,
Where do the birds go…and why?
When the dusk deepens into twilight,
When the darkness rules the night…
When no chink of light can show,
Where do the birds go?
We treat many people like the birds:
When they’re with us, we have kind words.
But when with us, they are not,
We do not give them a thought.
Where do the people go?
Where do the birds go?

Correcting a mistake….

April 14, 2013

and I were having a conversation about the do’s and don’ts of telling someone that they are wrong.

I learnt how to correct someone, without making them feel small, from . I’d made a mistake (I can’t remember what it was). Instead of pointing out my mistake in her reply comment, which she so easily could have, she sent me an email, *suggesting* that I might be mistaken, and giving the correction.

I learnt this valuable lesson from her, and now I follow the same practice. And whenever I am corrected in public, and made to feel small, I thank . I try, when I correct someone, to say, “in my opinion” it may be x not y…or that *perhaps* its x not y… dictum sapienti sat est…a word to the wise is sufficient.

Prashanth said that when he was in college, one of his teachers made a statement that was wrong. He went later to the teachers’ room and talked to her about it, couching his correction in respectful terms. She later announced to the class that she had been mistaken, and that he’d set her right. Later, when he was in danger of failing the subject she was teaching, having forgotten the same solution, she helped himm and…he just about passed the exam!

It’s quick and easy to point out others’ mistakes. However, with a little effort, one can do so and yet retain the goodwill of the relationship.

I know several people (and I am thinking of one particular individual!) who will never praise, but is quick to point out mistakes…always in public! The irritation I feel in being corrected like this is often difficult to swallow…so, A…thank you for the valuable lesson! And PC…at 22, I think it was awesome that you didn’t use the correction as an opportunity to score off your teacher…that’s real good-heartedness and maturity.

Guide to Missouri Birds and American butterflies

April 14, 2013

Birds of Missouri:

click here

Butterflies and moths

click here