Archive for May, 2015

Traditional games: old memories

May 31, 2015

KTB had International Day at her school a while ago, and as part of the Indian display, her mother decided to display a game that she calls “guttE”

You can read about it


The game was very popular with the children…and amazingly, some of them picked it up immediately!

This brought back some old memories to my mind. My mother was, I suddenly remembered, very good at this, and she could collect up to a dozen “stones”, one by one, before she caught the first stone on its gravity-bound return. There were a lot of turns of successive difficulty…for example, one had to pick up stones two by two each time one threw the stone up.

For the game, I also remembered, she had some round seeds, which were called “kazhakkOdi”. I can find only

one reference to this seed

on the net.

We also often played the traditional snakes-and-ladders game that, in Tamizh, was called

parama padha shObAna padam

(“the picture of the Ultimate Attainment”)

which had the various levels of heaven and hell, attained by ladders, and snakes, respectively.

There was also a spoof that a Tamizh magazine had published, called

parama pathavi shObAa padam

(“the picture of Ultimate a job!”)

This one had some really humorous stuff like two ladders which led from two squares, one saying, “The lady has no good looks!” and the other, “The lady has no singing voice!” and both led up to the square that said, “Movie star”! Both of these are still lying somewhere in my brother ad sister-in-law’s home in Chennai. (My brother passed away and my sis in law lives, for her livelihood, in Gurgaon.)

Two other traditional games that we played regularly (especially during the summer vacation) were

dAya kattAm

(dAyam being dice…they were beautiful ones made of brass, long and square-shaped, not cubes like today’s dice. kattAm meant “square”)

which was a very intricate version of Ludo.


pallAn kuzhi

(kuzhi means, “hole” or “depression” in Tamizh, and the wooden playing “board” had 7 such depressions on each side.)

I remember the regular game, played with 12 beads (we used small cowrie shells) in each “kuzhi”, with a “kAsi” in the centre. The shells would be distributed, one at a time, along the line…every time 6 of the shells gathered in a “kuzhi” belonging to someone, they could collect it as “pashu” and use them as the game proceeded. If one did not have enough shells to fill all of one’s “kuzhi”s, we had other shells, with spiral patterns on their flat bottoms (the tops were rounded) called “rAvaNan muzhi” (Ravana’s eyes). One could get the shells very cheaply in seaside towns like Rameshwaram or Kanya Kumari.

There was also another game, played with 5 beads in every hole. My aunts in rural Tamil Nadu were brilliant at knowing the moves far, far ahead (several of theri children played blind chess!) and many of them would also cheat quite shamelessly…and skillfully…even when playing with children.

We also had

pANdi Attam

which was today’s hopscotch.

Later, of course we played Monopoly (the original London version, and also the Bombay version. We never got a Kolkata version.)

Games which needed no electricity, but which needed several people, playing together…suddenly floating into my consciousness after a day of being “Indian” in a foreign country!

i-Bunny, the ear Bunny! 290515

May 31, 2015

In the grass across the street


I could spy two ears, so sweet


Alert, aware…but timid and shy


I caught a bunny giving me the eye!


Red Foxes….and others. Winfield, Missouri, 20 and 220515

May 27, 2015

Email to the Mobirds egroup:


I had not realized that

Butch Lama


whom I’ve “e-known” for a fairly long time from an Indian wildlife photography forum (India Nature Watch), is based in St.Louis, and we recently met each other in Bandhavgarh, a tiger reserve in my country.

I connected with him here, too. He was kind enough to offer to take me to the banks of the Mississippi at Winfield, Mo.,


to see some Red Foxes. As my sightings of predatory mammals is quite limited in the US, I was glad to take up his offer.


On Wednesday the 20th May, a lady had, in her eagerness, trespassed upon the safety zone of the foxes, and it was also overcast, and we came back unhappy about the incident. However, on Friday the 22nd of May, there was no one else around, and Butch, his wife Susi,


and I were treated to the sight of the mother fox and her kits, in the morning sunshine.

Here’s the mother fox; unlike the usual descriptions, she has quite a ratty tail!


We watched as she crossed the path and went off down the banks of the backwaters to try and get her babies a meal.


Here are the kits, and some close-ups that I could not resist in the golden morning light.


Two kits sharing a head!


When you are in the wild…even a nap in the sun is with your ears on alert.


Here are three of the kits, on the rocks…a heady cocktail for me!


But like many desserts, this cake to had some icing to it…the birds!

On Wednesday, I saw a Bald Eagle soaring, and a juvenile , with the ratty plumage of approaching adulthood,


flew into a tall tree,


but I was still able to take a good look at it, as well as seeing war break out between a Flicker and several Starlings.

Three Great Blue Herons flew in perfect formation overhead, and I was able to watch a Red-headed Woodpecker, too. Yes, there were warblers in the bushy areas, but I could neither see them nor id them properly.

However, I enjoyed watching a large group of Cliff Swallows


under the bridge, swooping around and visiting (and building) their nests.


This was a new one in my sightings of swallows, and I enjoyed the colours of the birds very much, as they took mud from the banks to the nests
to develop these architectural marvels.


On Friday, I was able to see a Spotted Sandpiper


on the logs at the edge of the riverbank; a flock of Dunlins


gave us a display of formation flying before settling down on the mud, to forage. Both were lifers for me. A Baltimore Oriole, which I didn’t expect there, delighted me with its bright colour. There were three kinds of woodpeckers around: the Red-headed,


a Red-bellied, and the Flickers, of course. Large groups of Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles looked very colourful in the bright morning sunshine. Pelicans


stood in the middle of the flow, seemingly impervious to the chilly air.

There were some interesting insects, too, like this Damselfly:


and this midge, which is apparently of the non-biting kind, on Butch’s car:


Several wildflowers, like these,


were a delight to see.

In fact, the whole scene was beautiful.


were a delight to see.

I’ve put up the photos of birds, the sunrise, and others,


and the beautiful fox family is

here </a.

Thank you to so many of you who have taken me along to various places
to see some delectable sights of Nature!


Play with Play-Doh, 260515

May 27, 2015

Father, children and Play-doh. Judge: D. Pama.
The father won in the Realism category with some realistic Peas In A Pod and some Blueberries (he comes last in the Original Shapes category. as he seems content with rolling things into balls. ).
The daughter won in the Creativity and Color category.P Her creation was a Salute To Play-doh. She also recited: “Oh, Play-doh, never leave me, I know why/ I’m sad when you leave. Because I cry/ I love you and you love me.” It was a riot of colour. The judge has never before seen a Play-doh creation celebrating the material itself!
The son won the Drama category, pretending to eat the “boopies” (er, NOT poopies) as he terms blueberries. He also won the Devil Can Be Angelic When He Likes category.
Mother won in the Absent Because Of Study Upstairs category.

The judge did not want to use the camera, for once 😀

A doctor who makes house calls at home…and her assistant, St Louis, 240515

May 24, 2015

IMG_9202 STL, 240515

A house-cum-clinic has been constructed (probably illegally) on Enright Avenue. The brother cooks the vegetables and feeds a baby, while the sister is the doctor and treats patients.

I went to her, complaining of feeling ill. “Come in,” said the doctor.

“Doctor, I am not feeling well.”


“Hey…you are supposed to ask what’s wrong.”

“OK, how long have you felt like this?”

“Since yesterday, Doctor.”

“What did you eat?” Doctor takes out a stethoscope.

Meanwhile the Doctor’s brother is hitting the baby with the bottle.

“I ate lots of chocolate and candy, Doctor.”

“You shouldn’t eat too much of candy, because…you’ll die. I’ll have to check your ears.”
Doctor pushes one plastic instrument near my ear.

“But, Doctor, I don’t have chocolate in my ear.”

“The wax in your ears will come and make the chocolate gooey….I must also check your pressure.” (I am not joking, a sphygmomanometer is wrapped around my arm.)

“Doctor, how is my blood pressure?”

“It’s OK, but I must take something from your nose.” An evil-looking pair of pincers nearly take off the tip of my nose. Luckily, they are made of plastic.

“Do you have any more pain?” she asks me.

“Yes, Doctor, Yaya Papa and this pink teddy bear are not feeling well.”

“Let them be on the carpet, they’ll be all right. I am going to read a book.”

Meanwhile the cook has climbed into his high chair and is demanding breakfast…end of the interlude. Luckily, laughter is the best medicine…though I do have a pain in my side from laughing!

Why apps for IPhones get developed before those for Android phones

May 19, 2015

I was wondering why iPhones had apps developed for them first, instead of Android phones, though there are many more of the latter. June asked the question when a new app was announced for eBird on the iOS. Kevin Wehner responded:
Here’s an excerpt from an article on that topic:
Developing iOS apps means ensuring they work nicely on a small range of iPhones and/or iPads: generally 6-8 different devices depending how far back the developer wants to go.
On Android, it’s a different story: nearly 12,000 different devices out there in the hands of people, with a wider range of screen sizes, processors and versions of the Android software still in use.
Many developers’ lack of enthusiasm for Android is down to concerns not just about the costs of making and testing their apps for it, but also the resources required to support them once they’re launched, if emails flood in about unspotted bugs on particular models.
Full article


Monthly bird walk, Forest Park Forever/St.Louis Audubon Society (FPF/SLAS) 020515

May 13, 2015

The first Saturday of every month, SLAS, along with Forest Park Forever, organizes a Beginners’ Bird Walk, and the 2nd of May was a great day, when a huge number of birders (54, according to Amy Witt!) met up in the morning, at Kennedy Forest, the wooded area at the southwest corner of Forest Park.

Here are some of the birds we saw:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (a lifer for me)


Barred Owl (another lifer)


White-eyed Vireo (the 3rd lifer!)


White-throated Sparrow:


White-breasted Nuthatch:


The Downy Woodpecker:


The Great Crested Flycatcher:


Northern Cardinal:


American Goldfinch:


Here are some of us:


There were also Blackberry flowers:


May Apples:


Wild Geraniums:


Trillium was just about to flower:


Here are Liz Barack and Barb Brownell, who’ve become good birding friends!


Here are Bob Bailey, Dave Garcia, and Mark Glenshaw:


Here are Bob and Dave talking to Randy Korotev; Bob said he’s learnt a lot about birds from Randy, and that’s really something!


We agreed that it had been a very productive morning, even though I didn’t know the names of many of the beautiful things I’d seen.


Rob(I)n…that’s “the eye of the Robin”!…and its nest-under construction

May 7, 2015

Here’s the Robin, probably the most common bird in North America:


Here is the beauty of its eye, especially those I’d-like-to-have-’em long lashes:


There is a very small Clematis creeper in our back yard, that too, right next to the garage door, ensuring maximum disturbance.



So…ofkose, Wannabe-Mother Robin chooses this quite-exposed and dangerous place for her nest!


Every morning and evening (I am not looking at other times) she adds to the work-in-progress:




The male Cardinal looks down, literally and figuratively, upon this stupidity, and like the Kookaburra, he laughs…


Let me see if the nest progresses further, or (like many other nests), the robins abandon it.

Meanwhile, two House Finches, two Cardinals, and two Robins (different ones I think) are all fighting to build their nests in the same Arbor Vitae shrub/tree in the front yard.

Bird-brain is quite an apt term!

The great magician, Non Sensini, 040515

May 5, 2015

Yes, I know children are magic…but here is KTB with magic:

Here’s the assistant magician, eager for a share of the limelight:


Forest Park and Randy Korotev, 300415

May 4, 2015

Email to the MObirds egroup:

Being the Annual Summer Migrant, I did fly in like the others….


but I do wish I didn't need a visa, and could come without luggage! I do realize, though, that if I could fly in on my own wings…. instead of my going out to see the birds, a crowd of people would probably come to look at me.

Though a Tour of Duty (with daughter's exams and grandchildren-care) has brought me here, I still did sneak off to attend a presentation on migratory birds by that past master (well, present master too!) Randy Korotev,


read about him


He's been watching and documenting birds in Forest Park from 1979. I do like how approachable the experienced birders of St.Louis are.

But prior to that, I walked to the suspension bridge area, where I've
sighted so many birds, and of course, I was not disappointed.

First off," there was a Robin "feathering its nest" as Mary Poppins would have said:


I saw a Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by a crowd of Grackles. Then, at the stream, got a Great Egret


and a Great Blue Heron,


with its lovely breeding plumage


both intent on fish or crawfish snacks. Then the Belted Kingfisher and a couple of Northern Flickers came by,


a pretty dull-looking American Goldfinch male following. An Eastern Phoebe couple



put in an appearance, too, and their typical flycatcher behaviour took me back to my homeland where I have one special patch of wooded road, where, over a period of time, I've sighted no less than 9 types of flycatchers!

The leaves make the wooded areas look beautiful, but it also means that sighting the warblers is a challenge. I did recognize the Yellow-rumped Warblers;


but apart from the 3-part call of a Tennessee, I could not identify any of the others. I am not even sure whether they were Vireos or other woodland birds!

I walked over to the Visitors Center, looking at the Starlings nesting,


The "eee-trilllll!" songs of the Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere.


I enjoyed the bright blue backs of the Tree Swallows.


Here are Red-eared Sliders quite literally practising one-upmanship!


Feeling like a hungry person after a many-course meal, I too dragged my wings as I took off.


At the Visitors Center


I was privileged, indeed, to meet Randy. The more knowledgeable people are, the more friendly and sharing they sometimes seem to be. Given the fact that it was 5pm on a working day, he got a full house, and Amy Witt


had to set more chairs for the audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, where Randy talked about the various "dates" he's had, over the years, with short-distance, mid-distance and long-distance migrants.



Whether it was seeing the excellent visuals, finding a detailed printed report and a Forest Park bird checklist both ready to hand (organized by the ever-helpful Amy Witt and Jean Turney, who also set out some welcome coffee and snacks), or the leavening of humor that Randy used, the time just flew past.

I had Mark show me an Oriole nest that Randy passed around…the amount of fishing line used in it is amazing!


Though I wanted to see the Great Horned Owls with Mark, grandmotherly guilt made me walk at a fast pace, back to my daughter's home.

I've put up the list on eBird here:


and my usual SMS (Shamelessly Mediocre Shots) are on my FB album,

click here

On Saturday morning I was fortunate enough to go birding (the monthly SLAS/Forest Park Forever bird walk) with Randy and several other very experienced birders ….but that will be my next email, describing the three "lifers" that I got to see!

I'm glad I seem to have landed right at the beginning of the Spring Migration in St.Louis. The weather is gorgeous, and so are the birds!

Can we have the heat and humidity down for a little longer please?

A lovely afternoon in Forest Park, observing and learning…