Archive for January, 2015

Aaru-maNi kuruvi…(the 6 o’clock bird)! CWLS, 240115

January 29, 2015

the INDIAN PITTA

is just as colourful and beautiful as the much better-known Indian national bird, the Indian Peafowl.

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But alas, being a crepuscular (active at dawn or dusk) bird, and a migrant to our State, it’s not easy to spot this bird at all. All we usually go by is quick, short sightings, as we see it turning over the leaf-litter in some leafy glade, generally in light so bad that photography is near-impossible.

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When I visited the Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary (CWLS) on the banks of the Kaveri, recently, we were overjoyed to see one bird hopping around in the undergrowth.

As usual, it managed to keep out of sight behind bushes and in the dips in the ground.The small stubby-tailed bird is mostly seen on the floor of forests or under dense undergrowth, foraging on insects in leaf litter. It then hopped on to a tree, which is when we were able to get some shots.

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Indian pittas roost in trees. Thy feed on insects and other small invertebrates that they usually pick up from the ground or leaf litter. They have also been noted to take kitchen food scraps from the ground.

They breed during the south-west monsoon from June to August, with peaks in June in central India, and in July in northern India. The nest is a globular structure with a circular opening on one side built on the ground or on low branches. It is made up of dry leaves and grasses. The clutch is four to five eggs which are very glossy white and spherical with spots and speckles of deep maroon or purple. The eggs must be very beautiful, but I’ve never seen a nest or an egg.

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The wiki entry says, “It has long, strong legs, a very short tail and stout bill, with a buff coloured crown stripe, black coronal stripes, a thick black eye stripe and white throat and neck. The upperparts are green, with a blue tail, the underparts buff, with bright red on the lower belly and vent.” What a scientific description of a rainbow bird!

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It is more often heard than seen and has a distinctive loud two-note whistle wheeet-tieu or wieet-pyou or sometimes, a triple note hh-wit-wiyu. They have a habit of calling once or twice, often with neighbouring individuals joining in, at dawn or dusk leading to their common name of “Six-O-Clock” bird in Tamil. When calling the head is thrown back and the bill is pointed upwards.

I remember,at Nandi Hills, hearing two of them constantly calling to one another and except for brief flashes, remaining out of sight!

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The name is very interesting. The name pitta comes from the Telugu word meaning “small bird”.[7] Local names in India are based on the colours and their behaviours such as the time of calling and these include Hindi: Naorang, Punjabi: Nauranga (=Nine colours), Bengali: Shumcha, Cachar: Dao bui yegashi, Gujarati: Navaranga or Hariyo; Tamil: Arumani kuruvi (=6-OClock bird), Kathu-alechi (=Wind blown), Thotta kalla; Telugu: Polanki pitta, Ponnangi pitta; Malayalam: Kavi; Kannada: Navaranga and Sinhalese: Avichchiya. The Sinhalese interpretation of its call is that the bird is complaining about the theft of its dress by a peacock: “Evith giya, evith giya, ayith kiyannam, methe budun buduwana vita ayith kiyannam,” which translates as: “Came and went! Came and went! I’ll still be complaining when the next Buddha comes! I’ll still be complaining!”

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ndian pittas breed mainly in the Himalayan foothills from the Margalla hills northern Pakistan in the west, to at least Nepal and possibly up to Sikkim in the east. They also breed in the hills of central India and in the Western Ghats south to Karnataka. They migrate to all parts of peninsular India and Sri Lanka in winter. Exhausted birds may turn up inside homes. They are rare in the drier regions of India. Yes…one exhausted bird turned up last year at the doorstep of my friend Abhilash Pavuluri! What a find!

The Pitta…a bird which avid birders look forward to sighting, every winter!

My FB album of our buttering visit to Galibore in the CWLS, during which we saw the Pitta, are

here

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Kalyan turns two, 280115

January 28, 2015

He started out life as a small dash on the pregnancy-test kit. He was a peanut in his first scan, then he became Thupples, slang for “thappalai” or frog, because he looked like a tadpole….all while he was inside his mother.

He officially became Kalyan Mohan Shaffer on this day, two years ago.

2 kallubhai

Now, he is The Booda (no good reason why, except that his elder sister is Boodi Ma or Boodi)..and is also Kallubhai as in the best Mumbai mafia.

His mother has this to say: “Two years already. Phew, survived it this far. Glad to be able to follow Indian tradition and clad him in new clothes today. Thank you,Lynn. Can the magic of longer, stronger sleep begin now please ? These 2 years have certainly been made longer if I add the hours I’ve been awake with him: more like 3.5 years. The personality is emerging. He is strong willed and has a controlling nature and does NOT like to be led. I hope his affectionate side strengthens, and that he grows to harness the mechanical intuition and intelligence he already has to expand it into general astuteness. On a side note, I hope he grows up to like American football. He can always have an easy, good party if so.”

My darling grandson…here’s wishing you health, happiness, and peace of mind!

“Lying down” Trees, Galibore, 240115

January 27, 2015

As we walked along the campus of Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) Galibore, on the banks of the Kaveri in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, I found something rather intriguing.

I found this tree, which seemed to have fallen to the ground…and, instead of dying, having a branch rising, phoenix-like, from the trunk:

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I’d never realized that even if the trunk falls, trees can regenerate themselves. And as I was musing on this, I saw the second such tree.

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What looks like a tree in the centre of the horizontally fallen trunk, is actually a branch of the tree (you can see the roots disappearing into the soil on the right-hand side.)

I googled for something on this interesting phenomenon, but all I got was

this link

about tree trunks.

I’ve never before seen such “lying down” trees which then decided to “stand up” as it were, and become full-fledged trees again, with the original horizontal trunk having its roots in the soil. Can anyone let me know of anything like this that they have seen?

The first tree is a Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) and I do not know what the second tree is.

CWLS/Galibore outing, 240115

January 27, 2015

We (Ashok Sengupta, Nitin Achari, Prashanth Bhat, Rama Warrier, Rohit Girotra and I) left while it was still dark:

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The sun slowly came up…

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The Kaveri flowed in all her usual beauty:

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Manjunath, the Forest Guard, was with us throughout:

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Some of the birds:

WOOLLY-NECKED STORK

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ORIENTAL DARTER

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HOOPOE:

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CRESTED SERPENT EAGLE:

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BLACK-RUMPED FLAMEBACK

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GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE

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WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW:

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RED-RUMPED SWALLOW

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HOUSE SPARROW

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JUNGLE MYNA:

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INDIAN ROBIN

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INDIAN PITTA

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Insects:

A beautiful wasp:

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Plants:

We saw the seeds and wind dispersal of this particular milkweed:

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with

the “pencil-shaving” bark Acacia

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I call these thorns the “bad habit thorns as they are easy to get into, and very tough to get out of, thanks to their inward-curving hooks!

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the beauty of this Acacia trunk:

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Un id flowering tree

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The beauty of these un id seed-pods:

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Liana vines:

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Rohit clicking a Little Orange-tip:

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Then noting it down with his meticulous field notes:

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Here are some of the butterflies.

COMMON SILVERLINE

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SPOTLESS GRASS YELLOW

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YELLOW ORANGE-TIP

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PLAIN TIGER:

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LITTLE ORANGE-TIP:

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AFRICAN MALLOW SKIPPER:

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INDIAN SKIPPER

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ZEBRA BLUE

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COMMON JEZEBEL

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SPOTLESS GRASS YELLOW

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COMMON PIERROT

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ROUNDED PIERROT

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JEZEBEL

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GREAT ORANGE-TIP

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PLAINS BLUE ROYAL

that we saw at Chunchi Falls

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Mammals..

GRIZZLED GIANT SQUIRREL:

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At Chunchi Falls, we were awed by the sight of this

SMOOTH-COATED OTTER

right on the road, as it ran along the irrigation canal:

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Reptiles… a rock would wave its tail..

that rock would be a croc…

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a COBRA

we saw on the road:

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The beautiful villages:

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This is “oLagaLLi”, the village where Chunchi Falls are..

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Some had pink houses and lovely trees!

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The path winds away into the future…

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Children sometimes have to be dragged!

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Colourful “gOpurA”

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Shiva, with matted locks, dressed in deerskin, with snakes at his throat, hands and feet, with some politicians

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At one village, a fire had been set:

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Lovely roof design…

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Colourful little vans…

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More colourful houses

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With colourful washing:

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Still figuring out what kind of Nazis these are:

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Some random artwork in a village on the way:

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We visitd Chunchi Falls, another beautiful place:

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We ate a delayed lunch:

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Let me close with this Plains Blue Royal, which was a lifer for me:

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Bangalore Bird Race, 180115: Organizing a group 6 teams, and how the day went

January 23, 2015

The Bangalore Bird “Race” is an annual event, where teams of birders scour the quadrants of the city and its outskirts (up to 60 km radius) and try to spot as many birds as they can, until sundown. Since last year (2014), the “race” is just a race against time; the competitive element has been removed.

Every year, even when the race was competitive, my goal is to take as many people as possible, and show them as many birds as possible.

Here

is my account of last year’s event.

Our group (Kiran Kashyap has not yet arrived)at the MCS(Mandatory Chai Stop, where everyone introduces themselves, and the conversational ice is broken), Bannerghatta Circle.

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Sunrise at Gulakmale.

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I must say, it’s quite a challenge to organize a group of 30+ (last year it was 38, this year it was 33) people, many of them newbies (new to birding), not all of them knowing each other (or me), and organize a birding trail, lasting through the day, that would provide an at least satisfactory birding experience for them all.

Pale-billed Flowerpecker with the fruit of the Singapore Cherry tree.

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I like to minimize the number of cars taken, and I like to plan for the many details that seem minor before the day, but become quite important at the time…

1.”Nature break” opportunities where there would be toilets available, especially for the ladies (not just the bushes!). I factored in the toilets at Valley School and in the zoo area.

2.Organizing breakfast and lunch stops, finding the space for all of them to sit comfortably and eat (last year, we ate at a Thatte Iddli Darshini on the way back from Ramnagara, at Bidadi; this year, my route was different, so I decided that everyone would bring packed breakfast and lunch…a good decision). I knew the chai/biscuit shed at Gulakmale near where we’d park our cars would not be open by 9am, and it had stone benches, so that was our breakfast venue.

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I knew it also had two waste bins..they came in handy!

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For lunch, this year, it would be too hot to eat in the zoo parking lot, so I decided to buy a few extra masala dosas at the Mayura open-air restaurant in the Zoo area, which would allow all of us to sit and eat our food, as well. Both places worked very well indeed!

Lunch at the zoo area.

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Sighting the Ultramarine Flycatcher.

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3. Organizing seating in the cars for those who didn’t have cars, didn’t want to drive, or couldn’t bring their cars. With no less than 3 people who were supposed to bring the cars, suddenly developing problems, this was one part of the organizing that did take a lot of effort. But friends willingly responded to my call for replacement cars, and we finally used 7 cars.

Arun showing other visitors to the Zoo, the fact that there are several colourful birds out there while they are looking at the caged ones!

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Seating in the cars had to be done keeping several factors in mind. Families, of course, needed to stay together; as did people who’d brought friends along. Every lady needed to have another lady in the car, as well as at least one person that she knew from before, to make her feel comfortable. I played “musical car seats” with the names and cars quite often, sometimes coming close to having no hair at all as I tore it out, and I just hope I managed creditably! I left one family with a free seat so that their 6-year old son would have the space to have a nap in the car, as it would be a long and tiring day for him. I also made the sole exception for them; we “acquired” them as we went past from our starting point, giving them a half-hour leeway in which to get ready. I must say, the young man, Soham Sinha, kept up magnificiently with the rest of us, and spoke at the dinner venue about seeing his favourite bird, the Pied Kingfisher!

Saji Yunus of HSBC, Sanjay Gubbi, and Dr M B Krishna, on the podium in the evening.

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4.Keeping to a time schedule. Knowing that most of the group were keen on photography, I had to build in some slack, and ultimately, dropped the last venue on the list (my route was Gulakmale, Valley School, Zoo area and Puttenahalli Lake) in the interests of everyone getting back to our starting poing (Shoppers Stop on Bannerghatta Road) at a reasonable time and not have to battle too much traffic to get to the dinner venue (Hotel Infantry, on Infantry Road.) Lunch was certainly a little later than I had budgeted, but it wasn’t too bad.

Youngsters sharing their experiences. Swarna, the compere, had her son Shiva literally attached to her!

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The big plus…the incredibly tasty home-made food and the great variety of it, which we all enjoyed as much as the birding! By asking late-comers (there was one) to join at the MCS, I avoided too much of delay, and we left our starting point just 8 minutes late, as the retired Naval officer pointed out! (Last year, one person succeeded in delaying the whole group by 45 minutes…I learnt my lesson!)

Here are some of the birds:

White-throated Fantail Flycatcher.

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Common Sandpiper.

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Can you spot the Paddyfield Pipit in the reeds?

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Here’s the Paddyfield Pipit:

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The Golden Oriole:

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The Blue-bearded Bee-eater:

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A Jungle Crow drinking puddled water.

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The Asian Brown Flycatcher:

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The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher:

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The Asian Paradise Flycatcher (rufous male)

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A greedy pig of a Black-crowned Night Heron, which flew into the Cayman’s enclosure and was trying to swallow a large fish whole!

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With its reflection:

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The lane that I call Flycatcher Avenue lived up to its reputation, and we sighted 6 kinds of Flycatchers there!

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Other interesting things:

Ipomoea (batatas? Not sure)

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Jewels of the Peepal leaves:

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Collating our sightings before winding up for the day:

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A promise to myself to visit this temple next time:

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Pot-balance:

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A perfect rain of raptors interrupted our breakfast!

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Butea monosperma, the Flame of the Forest or the Palash:

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Close-up of the flower:

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Birding in Valley School:

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A magnificent Ficus in the Valley campus:

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A Solitary Hunter (Pompiliid) wasp, looking for both prey and a place to nest:

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A Baronet:

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The beautiful spreading Banyan on the outer path of the Valley, through which the path goes:

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Croc in the Herbivore Safari area (we were looking across the fence)

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The youngest birder (all of 4 years old!) speaking in the evening:

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Kumkum tree,

Mallotus philippensis

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This leopard will definitely not change her spots, she’s in captivity at the Zoo:

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The birders list…every single person made it a very enjoyable day!

Andrew Underwood *Lela
Anuradha Krishnan *Brinda
Aravind AM
Arun P V
Brinda Y S
Deepa Mohan
Devaiah KR
Dhananjay Rao
Dipayan Chakraborty
Harish Chandra
Harish Kumar V
Indira Raghunath *Raghu
Janhvi Vyas
Karunakar Ramarao
Kiran Kashyap
Kumuda’s mom *Kumuda
Kumudwathi.V
Lela Roy *Andrew
Mani K
Mohammed Rafiq
Nachiketha M V *Vasuki
Prem Prakash Garg
Raghavendra Joshi
Raghunath M S
Ravindranath E H *Harish Chandra
Ruma Sinha *Sneha
Sajid Yunus
Snehasis Sinha
Soham Sinha *Sneha
Valli Iyengar
Vani V *Vasuki
Vasuki B K

The birds list, on eBird:

Gulakmale,

here

Valley School,

here

Zoo area,

here

(Consolidated list for my team, Black Stork,from all 3 venues, was 134 species.)

More photos on my FB album,

here

Let me close with this shot of the beauty of the rising sun, sparkling in the wavelets on Gulakmale kere:

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And this pic of Srihari Kulkarni, who works very hard before, during and after the Bird Race each year, and whom we must thank for being able to enjoy the event!

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Memories…of two cities

January 22, 2015

A friend, Vasu Ramanjuam, living in the US, posted on a mailing list:

http://www.bbc.com/travel/feature/20150116-living-in-2015s-hottest-cities/2

One of 2015’s Hottest Cities?

I have always known Chennai to be hot in the literal sense, now looks like Chennai is hot in every sense. Only, over here we think that is cool!

He also posted this video that describes the city and mourns the new customs and mores:

Love the “Madurai” Tamizh (more gentle and melodious than “Madras Tamizh”)of the song.

That set me off on a walk down memory lane, in not one city, but two.

Oh…are we still letting BBC tell us about our cities? Madras/Chennai (there are people who still don’t want to accept the “new” name) was a popular city with expats for as long as I know! Imagine actually liking the heat and humidity. I lived there for 11 years on the first stint, and 4.5 years on the second…could not make any new friends, and since my brother passed away, and my sister in law moved to Gurgaon, I hardly ever visit. The two months that are enjoyable there are December and January; I’ve enjoyed the Carnatic “music season” (and given concerts, too!) in less commercialized times, enjoyed the excellent public transport (buses, I mean…the auto-drivers are awful!…routes no. 12B, 29C, 21…there was a movie called “12B”, too)…enjoyed Moore Market, Luz and Pondy Bazar shopping…these areas had, and have, so much character, very different from today’s malls. I may detest the city’s weather, but love what remains of the Indo-Saracenic architecture…and the lovely houses that still remain in Mylapore and T. (Theagraya) Nagar. Besant Nagar was rather desolate in the late 70’s…and there was no East Coast Road (ECR).

However, I still can’t say that Chennai is a clean city (though Bangalore is getting just as dirty now, as the exploding population strains the infrastructure.) I’ve seen the Cooum and Buckingham Canal always as sewers, and seen the Adayar also deteriorate into one. In fact, I think I have a sneaky love for some things in the city..Ambika Appalam Depot, the once-fantastic Grand Sweets, maangai-thengai-pattani sundal on the Marina, jaathi malli, little shrines to Ganesha set in every wall that was part of a T-junction..

With regard to the video, Vasu…how clean and sparsely populated the city looks in the 60s! How lovely the buildings are …they appear dilapidated now. I remember seeing this movie, not in Chennai, but in Calcutta/Kolkata where I grew up…the Menaka theatre in south Calcutta would screen Tamil movies at 9am on Sunday, and we “Madrasis” would rush to see whatever fare was offered, because there were no other places where we could see them.I don’t remember very much about this movie, except that my parents condemned it out of hand as trash.

Thank you for taking me down memory lane… in two cities!… as a result of your email.

Gulakmale (yes, again!) 10 and 110115

January 20, 2015

On the 10th only 3 of us went there, but we did find quite few other birders. We were able to meet and exchange notes.

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Kiran, Guru, and Prem….we are ready to start!

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The swallows made written music against the sky.

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It was a misty, beautiful sunrise:

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The lake was equally beautiful as the sun rose.

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We found a fair number of birds, including this

JERDON’S BUSHLARK on a Calatropis (milkweed) bush:

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A

LITTLE RINGED PLOVER

ran around, too.

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This

WHITE-BROWED BULBUL

posed for me.

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One bird that I don’t often click is the

JUNGLE CROW

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This palm tree bears many

ASIAN OPENBILLS.

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Here’s their typical foraging behaviour, picking up snails from the shallows:

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Here’s one in flight.

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Everywhere, on the dried-up areas of the lake bed, the Calatropis (milkweed, this one’s called the haldi-kumkum plant because of the yellow and red flowers) plants were flowering and dispersing their seeds by the wind:

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SANDPIPERS

waded along the water’s edge.

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SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS foraged, too.

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Here’s the beauty of the shallow part of the lake:

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And the beauty of the arid mounds with grass:

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It was fun to see birders and birds looking in opposite directions!

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I liked this Cat On A Cool Tin Roof!

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It was funny to see the cat and the White-browed Wagtail completely ignoring each other!

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Peepal leaves made emeralds and a ruby.

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This is what our revered and worshipped gods come to, after immersion:

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On the 11th, we were a larger group at the MCS (Mandatory Chai Stop):

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Some of the sights were not as delightful as others.

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A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but these two

TAWNY-BELLIED BABBLERS

were priceless!

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RED AVADAVATS (Lal Munias), were in the reeds.

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they had the photographers waiting.

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BARN SWALLOWS

sat upon sticks and pondered the meaning of life.

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A

SIBERIAN STONECHAT

did so, too!

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GREAT CORMORANTS

formed a diving and fishing line.

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Butterflies like this

TAWNY COSTER

were around, too.

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The grasses looked gorgeous against the light.

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We returned via the Champakadhama temple.

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I must end with a pic of this ruby-eyed ruby of a Lal Munia male:

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More snaps on my Flickr album,

here

and all the photos on my FB album,

here, for the 10th

and

here, for the 11th

KTB’s interpretation of segregation

January 20, 2015

A has been talking to Kavya about Martin Luther King and the problem of racial discrimination.

She made this post on FB yesterday:

“We asked Kavya what she was so busy doing after she came home, and she explained that she segregated the pieces of this game board to demonstrate what life was like before Martin Luther King Junior. Yep, it sure seems exactly this arbitrary in retrospect.”

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I am glad my grand-daughter can think for herself.

Anklets, Bheemeshwari, 070115

January 15, 2015

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She wades out of the water, her beautifully-wrought anklets jingling, and her toe-rings spiralling round.

The beauty of the jewellery, on feet that walk over miles each day, captivated me, and I asked her if I could photograph those anklets. She smilingly obliged, and stood on the wet rock, on the banks of the Kaveri.

No, I didn’t want to photograph her face…for me, the feet and the anklets belong to all the women of that area in Karnataka, who, while leading tough lives, yet take the time for pilgrimmage, and wear such beautiful jewellery.

In fact, to me, this image is one of mother Kaveri herself, sparkling with silver as she flows on through the land…

Sunset and Sunrise on the Kaveri, 06 and 070115

January 14, 2015

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And now for the next morning’s sunrise…

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