Archive for February, 2016

Passport renewal application online….

February 29, 2016

oday Mr R, 88 years old, and I, applied for a renewal of his passport online. We had to apply for him and for Mrs R. He’d already downloaded the application form for himself, fill it up, save it as a .xml file. What we did: we registered his name, and got an authentication email, where we clicked on the link to activate the account. Hah, sounds simple, doesn’t it! This took about 2 hours. (“This ‘copy the letters and numbers in the image’…is that an ‘I’ or a ‘1’ ? Is that a zero or an ‘O’? Is that a J or an I?…and so it went.)

Then we downloaded the form once again for Mrs R, filled that up and saved it, and registered for her. Mr R used his Yahoo id for that. We waited for 2 hours…no authentication email.

The process, as I anticipated, took some more hours. While waiting, I went and visited another friend in the same apartment complex, and Mr R had a much-needed short nap.

I came back..no email. So back we went to the registration process, and we realized that Mr R’s gmail id was now linked to his account. Mine, too, was linked to my account (I renewed my passport last year.) Since neither could be used, we used his son’s email id, and asked him to click on the activation link. Hurrah! Success.

The ultimate joke was at the last step. After uploading the filled-up e-form, one for each person, we came to a screen which had a box next to “No, I don’t want Passport SMS service”(for status updates about the passport.) There was no “Yes, I want it” box. But when we tried to finish, it said, “You have not ticked the ‘Yes’ box.”

So how did we do that? My konkified brain decided to try it…First I clicked the “No” box. Then I unclicked it. Promptly, a message appeared “Thank you for opting (sic) the SMS service.”

This is the most original way I’ve seen of saying “yes” to something..it reminded me of a shy girl who first says “no” to her swain and then takes the refusal back!

Government software…and the vanquishing of it…gives one a great sense of achievement which good software will not create! But if you want to go through any government process online…keep ALL your documents handy, have a notepad and pen nearby for jotting down various things, and…instead of looking at the clock, be happy you are not looking at the calendar!

Tears for a dead puppy

February 25, 2016

I see a dead puppy.
Crushed, upon the road.
Hit by a speeding car..
Or van, or bus….

I continue to cross the road.
My face does not change
Except that the smile that I usually have
Has been wiped off.
The usual humming on my lips
Is stilled.
Oh, yes, my tears flow..
But not from my eyes.
They drip down into my soul
And heart. I feel
The fleeting nature of life;
The eternal presence of death.
I wonder why the little puppy was born
If it was only to die so soon.

My eyes are as blank and unseeing
As that dead puppy on the road
Whose sight, fixed on Eternity
Drags me too, to the unfathomable
Mystery of what is, and is not.

There are tears..
But only I can feel them.
Tomorrow, the puppy will be gone…
And so, too, my tears of today
As I carry on with life,
Putting off pondering on death
To the next time I see it before me.

UFO (Under the Fly Over): Silhouettes, Jaaga and BDA, 260116

February 25, 2016

One of the results of building flyovers to ease traffic in our city is that the spaces underneath them are often a kind of wasteland. In an effort to address this,

Jaaga DNA

the design arm of Jaaga, co-ordinated with

Brihat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP)

to create art in the spaces under the Hebbal flyover, whereby the common citizen was both represented and asked to participate. BBMP funded the project as part of a drive to clean up the space before the Karnataka global investors meet. The art project with Jaaga(there was an earlier project at Richmond Circle) was initiated and supported at the behest of JC Sarfraz Khan, by the local councillor. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has taken up completing the painting of all the pillars. Jaaga had been the facilitators for the art component and for involving community in creative ways to contribute to the art project.

“We have so many rules about what citizens and road users should not do on the roads,” says Archana Prasad of Jaaga. “We wanted to involve the road users and pedestrians in a positive way, and let them know what they can do to claim public spaces. We’ve carried out a similar initiative at Richmond Circle; we decided that citizens could be requested to ‘do’, instead of commanded to ‘don’t do’.”

The event consisted of shining lights on citizens of Bangalore, then outlining the shadows cast on the flyover pillars with masking tape, and painting them in various colors.

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Why silhouettes? “Painting a silhouette of a citizen makes it both particular and an abstraction,” explains Kamya Ramachandran, Director, Jaaga DNA. A particular person poses for the silhouette…but after that, the outline represents all or any of us.”

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On Saturday, the 26th of January, 2016, I went to Hebbal flyover to see what would happen. I was completely absorbed by the variety of people who participated in the event, with everyone willingly dipping paintbrushes and going to work on the silhouettes.

Prakash and Satish are two volunteers, who heard of the initiative through Chithra Kala Parishath (CKP) and came along to help out.

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Here are Guru Prasad and Unnikrishna, two more volunteers…one photographing the other painting!

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Babu and Mahesh are two professional house and sign painters from Madivala, who were asked to come and help mix the paints. “We like being part of the action rather than just painting for our livelihoods and then moving to the next site,” says Babu. “Now, whenever I pass this flyover, I’ll look at the outlines.”

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The members of the LGBTQ community, who were “working” the flyover stop lights, were also very keen on participating, and when it came to holding up a slate with suggestions on how to use the space, they enthusiastically provided suggestions, including practical ones like having a toilet and drinking water facilities there!

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Here are Lalitha and Archana , holding up their suggestions, written in Tamil, asking for greenery.

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Even the police officers who came to keep an eye on the proceedings became citizens first and policemen later, holding up their suggestions…for cleanliness and safety.

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The catering staff from BBMP did a great job of serving coffee, tea and biscuits to everyone.

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One man who was detailed to up the litter, but several of us helped!

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Of course, boys always innovate…these young men managed to roll up some masking tape into a ball and proceeded to have fun with it!

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Many people from the Government were there, too. The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, with his wife Meena; the Joint Commissioner, BBMP,Mr J C Sarfraz Khan, and the Councillor, Ward 7, Mr Manjunath Babu were all present, as were many members of the Coffee Board, and many pourakramikas from various Wards.

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Here’s Shaona from Jaaga, inducting a young man into the nuances of photography:

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With people like Sarah from New York (a volunteer with Jaaga) added to the mix, and one got a fairly heterogenous collection of Bangalore citizens!

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It was a very enjoyable event, though it remains to be seen how the space under the flyover can truly be claimed, when access to it is through heavy, unheeding traffic. The place is also very dusty, and needs a few amenities before citizens can find it usable.

Hindu Temple architecture in south India

February 22, 2016

In south India, we are now used to the

gOpuram

as a sign that there is a temple at the spot. Large or small, fat or thin (if you know what I mean)…gOpurAs are THE mark of a Hindu temple built in the Dravidian style.

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But recently, I’ve been noticing some different styles of temple architecture, too. Here’s the

ISKCON

temple; the four gOpuras incorporate a large enclosed space containing several adminstrative offices, instead of enclosing an open space with the sanctum sanctorum and other shrines with smaller pagodas.

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Recently, this temple to ShanmukhAnandA (He of the six faces, who confers joy) has a very unusual gOpurA:

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Purists, of course, may find these structures hard to accept. In fact, I know many relatives who do not even like the marble statuary of divinities in such north Indian temples as the ones built by the Birlas, saying that they look too “doll-like”; they are used to the Chola idols in stone, or metal.

But I am enjoying the variety of temple architecture and hope to see more such innovations!

The Literate Woodpecker

February 18, 2016

Exchange on the Mobirds egroup:

A: ‘While reading my library book on the front porch, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker male came to a sugar maple tree. One hour and twenty-five minutes later he left leaving a typical row of holes. Twelve in this case.It would be interesting to know if that hour and a half is about average, or if he is a slow or fast driller. The library book is awesome: “The Secret Lives of Bats” by Merlin Tuttle, 2015.’

B’s response: ‘I’m more interested in the fact that he did this while reading your library book. Who would have thought sapsuckers were interested in bats?’

Enjoyed the sighting of a Literate Woodpecker! Here’s my photo of one, which is reading the book before the tree is processed into paper:

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Baevu, 130215

February 17, 2016

I enjoy visiting resorts which, apart from their purpose of hospitality, are created with any eye to detail and perfection, and which aim to use vernacular architecture with traditional touches.

I’d posted about one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve been to…

Wildgrass Resort, in Kaziranga

So, when Georg Leuzinger, the architect who built the resort, invited me to visit, I was very happy to accept the invitation.

Thanks to a late start after the morning Campus Bird Count, Guru, Kiran K, Lalitha, Prem and I reached the area only when it was near sundown. However, the beauty of the Banthemari Forest Reserve captivated us.

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The route was well signposted.

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We hardly had any time to bird on the way, and yet just a few minutes at one place yielded a fair number of birds!

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(Pied Bushchat)

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(Paddyfield Pipit)

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(Scaly-breasted Munia)

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(Greenish Leaf Warbler)

We reached the resort to find some beautiful buildings, built in the traditional “thotti manE” style:

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A beautifully carved table and chair (occupied by Mr Velu, the manager) welcomed us at the reception.

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Here’s the site map:

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Neat, elegant lines marked the cottages.

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The walls are made of mud with gravel waste:

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The swimming pool was the only feature that jarred a bit; I wish the contours of the pool had been rounded a little more, in keeping with the landscape. But I guess there were other parameters I don’t know about!

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We met Georg after he brought back other visitors from the sunset walk. He explained to us how he’s using palm wood.

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The wood, treated and polished, certainly looks beautiful and hardy.

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Georg himself delights in walking around in the forest behind the resort, and had brought back flowers of the

Buttercup Tree

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and those of

Shorea roxburghii

a heady-scented inflorescence:

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I found several touches of beauty in the resort.

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The dining area has lovely tables and brightly-coloured coir stools:

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Serving containers and ladles are traditional.

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(Don’t miss that young lady’s cascading hair!)

Beautiful artefacts adorned the place:

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The pathways were lighted by specially-designed lights:

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The whole resort runs on power from a solar array on the campus.

There was even a traditional touch in the toilet, with brass taps, and herbal powder for washing, instead of soap:

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I asked my friends to stand with Georg for a snap:

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We drove home under the crescent moon, happy to have visited a beautiful resort!

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Shashi and Sandhya run

Avani Leisure

which also includes two other resorts, Angana and Panchavati, all in the same region.

The present room rates of Rs.7000 (twin-sharing, inclusive of all meals) is beyond my budget, but Georg tells me that dormitories are planned for those who are less financially abled. Here’s wishing Shashi, Sandhya and Georg success with their venture!

You can see the photos on my FB album,

here

Campus Bird Count: IIM-B, 13 and 140216

February 15, 2016

The

Campus Bird Count (CBC)

is part of the

Great Backyard Bird Count

where on any of 4 days this year (12,13,14,15 Feb 2016), bird counts could be conducted at various educational institutions. When I was invited by Vidhya Sundar and Selvarajan Rajeshwaran, to conduct the bird count at IIM-Bangalore, I accepted with alacrity, as birders have not had access to this campus for many years now.

We had an enthusiastic group from IIMB, as well, on both days:

Saturday:

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Sunday:

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I clicked this “group selfie” at a traffic mirror on Sunday!

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Here are some birds I clicked (I concentrated more on the walk and the people!)

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(Golden Oriole)

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(Asian Koel)

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(Spotted Owlet)

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(White-cheeked Barbet)

As well as the birds, we enjoyed the plants,

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( Pithraj tree )

the butterflies,

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(Common Mormon female)

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(Common Jay)

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(Chestnut-streaked Sailer)

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(Common Jezebel on Zinnia)

the flowers

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(Torch Ginger)

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(Zinnia)

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(Sunflower)

Cricket was being played on Sunday:

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We got a lot of information about the various plants and trees from the horticultural experts:

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(B Subbanna, Administrative Officer, Myanna, Rajeshwaran, doctoral student, and our contact person.)

For the most part, though, we were “Little Johnny Head-In-Air”….it’s called Pain In The Neck birding!

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We were treated to pythonic breakfasts on both days:

Saturday:

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Sunday:

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Here are the people who helped serve the meal (Mr Epy is on the left)

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Dr G Shainesh (with Mrs Leena Shainesh, and his son Aditya, 3rd, 4th and 5th from left, front row, in the group photo above) is the Dean of Administration. He was not only supportive, but was with us from beginning to end on both days, pointing out interesting things. I wish we had such hands-on admin in all our initiatives! I found Leena very observant and knowledgeable.

The butterfly list:

Blue, Gram
Blue, Pea
Blue, Zebra
Brown, Common Bush
Brown, Common Evening
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crow, Common
Cupid, Oriental Plains
Emigrant, Common
Jay, Common
Jay, Tailed
Jezebel, Common
Leopard, Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Chocolate
Pansy, Lemon
Psyche
Red-eye, Giant
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Sailer, Common
Sailer, Chestnut-streaked
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Glassy
Tiger, Plain
Wanderer, Common

Let me close with my favourite close-up from IIMB, another “bird”…the Bird of Paradise!

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OUAT

February 10, 2016

Pretty, lively, and young;
A head full of dreams
A prattling tongue;
Once Upon A Time.

A little more mellowed
Having met Real Life
Some dreams having yellowed:
Once Upon A Time.

Love, family, daughter;
Duties to do.
Music turning to water
Once Upon A Time.

Shattered, and broke.
World dried up and withered.
Tried a smile, and a joke:
Once Upon A Time.

Now, a steadier course;
Happiness again.
Put away, with force…
“Once Upon A Time.”

Mantling, Kaggalipura Kere, Karnataka, 070216

February 10, 2016

I’ve often watched raptors (that’s birds of prey) zoom in on land or water and catch their prey, which they then take to the nearest roost and devour, with great promptness.

However, it was for the first time that I watched another kind of behaviour at Kaggalipura kere (lake).

A

Brahminy Kite

swooped in, took a large fish out of the water, and flew over our heads as we stood on the rim of the lake, and landed in the harvested field on the opposite side. I followed the bird with my binoculars and then my camera, hoping to see it feed on the fish.

However, what it did was to lay the fish on the ground, and then sit upon it.

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It (I use ‘it’ because I do not know if the bird was male or female) proceeded, then, to spread its breast feathers over the catch, and sat perfectly still.

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It seemed to scan the area, all around, for any possible other bird that might be interested in the food.

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Having determined that there was no competition, a process that took quite fifteen minutes, the bird then started eating the fish.

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I googled about such behaviour, and my friend Danny Brown, from Union, Missouri, also sent me

this link

which talks about “mantling”, when a bird covers its prey with its wings to protect it, and prevent it being eaten by another bird or animal.

“Mantling,” says this link, is “the action of hunching or arching shoulders and spreading wings over a recent kill to conceal it from other birds and predators who would be potential thieves. In this posture, the wings are mostly spread and drooped to the ground, exposing the bird’s upper back, also called the mantle, which gives the action its name. The head is usually bent down to feed, and the tail is often spread to provide additional cover and counterbalance.”

However, this bird was not mantling in this precise fashion. It was the breast feathers that were spread about, hiding the prey; the wings were not spread out, nor was the head lowered. But, I suppose, this was also a form of mantling.

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I’ve seen little children in Kindergarten, keeping the lids of their snack-boxes almost closed as they eat their snacks, looking suspiciously around to see if anyone else wants to snatch it away from them. Well, if food is so hardly won, snatched out of the field or the water, I can certainly understand a bird doing a similar thing!

Kaggalipura, Bannur and Harohalli kere, 06 and 070216

February 10, 2016

Having realized that the Bar-headed Geese, our winter visitors from
When we birders realized that the

Bar-headed Geese

(click on the bird’s name to see my blogpost from last year)

which visit us each year (flying over the Himalaya, all the way from Mongolia!)are here,

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we decided to go and try our luck at Kaggalipura Kere, in Mysore Taluk (near Somnathpura). On the first day, it was a group of 13, and the next day, I went with friends who could not make it the previous day…we were 6 in all.

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Part of the group on Saturday, watching the geese.

It is always nice to meet friends and spend time at the bar. Why was Kaggalipura Kere a bar? Because…. if these are Bar-headed Geese, and they’ve arrived at their destination, then that place is obviously a bar!

The kere is a large waterbody, and on the other side of the lake bund are both fields under cultivation, and a water canal snaking its way through the landscape. In this respect, my friend Prem Prakash Garg pointed out to me, the place is similar to Hadinaru Kere, near
Nanjangud, where we had seen the birds last time.

When we reached the bund of the kere, there were no birds to be seen, and we hung around, hoping that a longer trip to Nugu (where the geese have been sighted) would not be necessary.

Our hopes were justified. These geese, from my limited experience of their arrival, both in Hadinaru Kere and here, should be renamed the “9 o’clock ” Geese! Just my watch clicked over to 9.03, a group of them arrived, floating down overhead, and settled down on the lake after a few spectacular aerobatics, sometimes.

They were then followed by others, first in groups, and in ones and twos. On Saturday the 6th, we also saw several birds flying out to some unknown destination, westwards. We then titled the incoming birds “andar-headed geese” and the outgoing ones, “baahar-headed geese”.

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The number of birds floating around on the water, occasionally taking a sip, or more likely tucking their heads into their wings to have a nap, approximated 100. On the 7th, they kept coming in till 11am…they numbered 600+ (I used the 10-bird unit form of estimate,
and it was easy to add as the birds arrived.) On the 7th, we paid a return visit in the afternoon, and found that the birds were dotted all over the lake. Perhaps fewer in numbers, but it was hard to make a count.

On the lake, and on the other side of road, we also got several other birds…Indian Grey Hornbills,

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warblers, a Blue-faced Malkoha,

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Red-naped Ibis,

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and other woodland birds.

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(White or Black-headed Ibis, also called “Sacred” Ibis in Africa.)

A Brahminy Kite, on the 7th, took its large fish across the road to the harvested field, sat on it with its feathers spread across the fish, hiding it. Only after fifteen minutes did it start feeding, when it ensured that there would be no competition for the food.

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I’ve not seen this kind of “hiding” behaviour before…this will be a separate blogpost!

We enjoyed several other things too, like a pair of mongoose playing in the haystacks:

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Blooming waterlilies, with pollinators:

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(Purple Heron in Eucalyptus)

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(Woolly-necked Stork)

On both days, Bannur Kere was also a dream come true. A large lake with good quality of water, hardly any trash (this might change as a recreation area is being built on one side, and a road leading to it is being laid.) Pelicans, Eurasian Wigeons,

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Whiskered Terns, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails,

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Little Ringed Plovers, and the usual gang of waterfowl suspects…how lovely to watch three kinds of Kingfishers working the water at once! Peaceful was the word to describe this beautiful spot.

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(Short-toed Snake Eagle with nesting material)

On the second visit, when I found that the Wigeons had flown off to the far end of the lake, I sat under the huge Peepal tree,

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enjoying the cool breeze off the water, watching two Pied Kingfishers mate, soaking in the serenity. Three young boys frolicked in the water. Truly, this was an example of humans being one with Nature. In all innocence, the youngsters jumped in,

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splashed,

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pulled each other out of the water…

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without disturbing the birds which were at a distance.

We wound up on each day with a look at Harohalli kere in the evening, where we found Garganeys, Lesser Whistling Ducks,

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Jacanas, Purple Herons,

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and other fowl. Of course, the edge of the lake, abutting the kere was foul…with trash of all kinds. The contrast with Bannur kere could
not be more pronounced.

We came home tired but with our eyes, hearts (and memory cards) full!

I have put up photos from the first day’s visit,

here

and from the second day,

here

Birders:

6th Feb: Aravind, Harish, Honnegowda, Mallika, Nitin, Mansi,
Manjula, Pavitrakumar, Prem, Raghavendra, Sharmila, Shilpa, and I.

IMG_8612//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

IMG_8370//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

7th Feb: Anuradha, Mohit, Devadatha, Raghunath, Tarachand and I.

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Here are the lists on eBird, meticulously made by Mohit on the 7th.

The list from SH209 (Southern Highway) are

here

and

here

Kaggalipura kere list

Bannur kere list

Harohalli kere list

Let me close with two more images..

IMG_8663//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

(Painted Stork)

IMG_9217//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsKaggalipura, Bannur and Harohalli kere, 06 and 070216