Archive for March, 2017

How food is cooked on a massive scale

March 28, 2017

Having seen for myself the deteriorating quality of food on trains on the Indian Railways, I watched this interesting documentary on IRCTC:

It’s rather long, watch only if you have the inclination and the time!

I couldn’t believe all the good food being prepared…why, I thought, do I never see phulkas or salads, even on the Rajdhani? And halfway through the film, the answer appeared. In response to complaints about the quality of food, the catering was take away from IRCTC itself (who then started concentrating on the corporate sector) and given to independent contractors who, I feel, are definitely running the catering service into the ground now. The video is still worth watching (as are several on how temple kitchens function) for the scale of food preparation.

Here’s one that’s also fascinating:

(Most temples in Karnataka provide food to the devotees who visit.)

4th Sunday: Hessarghatta kere, 260317

March 27, 2017

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Hi everyone,

I am afraid the 4th Sunday outings are not popular! Last month, apart from my group,

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(at the Mandatory Chai Stop,or MCS)

there were three people, and today, at Hessarghatta,just two people joined the group who had come from south and central Bangalore. But these two people were Prasad and Shyamal, and we
thoroughly enjoyed their company, as we all walked on the bund of the lake, and then back along the edge of the lake bed to the Durgamba temple and so back to the parking area. We were nine in all…in alphabetical order, Aravind, Guhan, Harshith,Neeti (visiting from Bikaner), Padma, Ramaswamy, Seema, Shyamal, Vidhya, and myself.

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Vidhya, Harshith, Padma, Guhan, Aravind, Seema, Nidhi, Ramaswamy, Prasad, Shyamal

A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we climbed up the steps to the temple.

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We began with the felicitious sighting of several Hume’s Whitethroats on one of Acacia trees,

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and a couple of Oriental White-eyes on another. The white gave way to other colours, as we spotted Parakeets,

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Sunbirds,

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Flowerpeckers, Blyth’s Reed and Booted Warblers,Bulbuls,

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White-browed Bulbul

and other woodland birds as we walked.

Shyamal shared some of his knowledge with us.

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He told us how the Hume’s Whitethroat is more likely to be found in Bangalore. I learnt, today, that Indian Robins often nest in the crevices of walls, and we watched one couple building their home in this fashion.

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Indian Robin female with nesting material

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Coming out of the nesting crevice

Bulbuls, Orioles, the jet black of the Jungle (er, sorry, Large-billed) Crow…we certainly did not lack for colour as we walked on.

Nor were birds the only beings of interest. The beauty of several flowers and seed pods

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Aristolochia seed pods

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Aristolochia seeds

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Ramphal(Annona reticulate)

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Solanacae sp.

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Holoptelea integrifolia, Indian Elm

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Neem flowers

along the path had Shyamal explaining to us, for example, that the Ceylon Caper flowers

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changed their colour after pollination. Seema and I tried the taste of some berries we found on a thorny bush (yes, we are both alive!), which a botanist friend, S Kassim, later identified for me as the

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Needle Bush, Azima tetracantha. It’s a medicinal plant, but it’s not the berries which are used that way.

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Needle Bush berries with seeds

There was a magnificient Rain Tree on the path

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which was in full bloom,

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as well as marsh plants like this Marsh Glory:

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We admired some of the milkweed, where seeds hung by shiny,silken threads from the seed pods. Shyamal showed us how the winged shape of several seed pods themselves allowed for dispersal by wind.

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The appearance of Ashy-crowned Skylarks, Paddyfield Pipits, an Indian Roller, several Drongos, and some perky little Silverbills

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as we walked back towards the temple, kept us interested, and at the base of the temple, several butterflies– Plain Tigers,

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Striped Tigers

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Common and Crimson Rose, many Blues…had us watching, and clicking our cameras too.

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Xanthodes moth caterpillar

Mr. Yashwanth, who is doing research on insects under the guidance of Subbu, came up and met me and helped me with the id of the beautiful Salt-and-Pepper-Moth (Utetheisa lotrix, how am I going to remember that?).

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He advised us that the raptors would come in a while to sit on
the lake bed…but we were already feeing the warmth of the sun.The very early start and the need to walk far into the centre of the lake bed to see raptors (not to mention the fact that apart from Black and Brahminy Kites, we only saw two un-id raptors) resulted in our deciding to return.

We climbed back up to the bund of the lake, and there, shared some delicious snacks…such a lot of it that it made a solid breakfast for all of us!

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Aravind baked this delicious, moist cake

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Vidhya celebrated her star birthday with kEsari bAth and stuffed sandwiches.

All that is the good part of the morning…but I cannot refrain from mentioning the other side, too. There were SUVs,

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sedans,two-wheelers, a glider-flying group,a drone-flying group

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all on the lake bed, which seems to be a very popular location now. People walking on the lake bed cannot be as bad a problem as cars driving all over it…but there seems to be no restriction on vehicle movement.

The expansion of the Durgamba temple

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also means a stall selling agarbathies, oil packets, and other snacks, resulting in a lot of plastic litter.

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It seems to be an accepted practice with any temple on the bund of a lake to throw all the litter down the embankment; I’ve found the same thing at Hennagara kere, too. Does a god or goddess not venture beyond the railings of the temple He or She resides in? Certainly, devotees seem to think so.

Since the kumbhabhishekam and the traditional re-opening of the temple after the renovation has not yet been done, the idols of every god had their faces covered up…

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I felt that not even our gods and goddesses want to look upon what we have done to Hessarghatta kere!

Oh well, one takes the bad with the good, and on the whole, it was a very enjoyable morning. It’s my usual grouse that The Experts never join us for the 3rd and 4th Sunday outings, and it was a pleasant change to have India’s biggest contributor for natural history to Wikipaedia, joining us!

The eBird list for today, put up by Harshith, is

here

My photographs are on my FB album

here

Cheers, Deepa.

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Yediyur kere, 250317

March 25, 2017

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Hi everyone,

I am not immune to FB posts, so when there was a sudden rush of bird sightings from Yediyur kere, I realized that I’d not visited for many years. When Padma and Ramaswamy suggested going there this morning, I was very happy to join them.

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So many trees have fresh leaves right now, like this Peepal tree:

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I still wish we could have an ongoing online form for the lake census and keep adding our data whenever we visit any kere. This lake is maintained well, and the water quality seems good. However, the fact of its being completely fenced around, and having all growth stunted
to bush size except for a few spots, made it feel more “manicured” than I am comfortable with…but that’s a matter of personal choice!

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A seat that cannot be accessed!

We entered the area to a rising orchestra of White-cheeked Barbets, and the unmusical calls of Rose-ringed Parakeets as they flocked to the Akasha Mallige, Peepal and Dolichendrone trees. As we slowly started moving along the path, we were treated to the sights and sounds of several Koels; whether the bodies were black or spotted, the ruby eyes were the same.

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We were, of course, prepared for the “usual gang of suspects” after which our birding group is named; but as always, something unexpected, and something interesting, happened!

We were watching both a group of Spot-billed Ducks and some domesticated mallard-derivatives (I don’t know the correct name for these interbreeds!) when suddenly, a group of drakes decided to “advance” on a female. She sank into the water under their combined
onslaught. She managed to flap her way away from the other three, but a fourth was very persistent, and made quite a nuisance of himself. It was obvious that the lady was not willing.

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Another duck, who saw the fracas,suddenly decided to come to her friend’s aid. She flapped her wings at the drake until he released the besieged duck, and both the ladies happily swam away, at the end of a successful rescue mission! We could not help laughing even as we
watched intently.

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A Black-crowned Night Heron skulked under a Lantana bush in the middle
of the lake.

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An unexpected sighting was that of a Spotted Owlet as it flew for a short distance out of the large Ficus benjamina trees, and back in.

One Dolichendrone tree close to the entrance suddenly seemed to become a hotbed of small-bird activity.

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The seed-pods, with their typical spiralling shapes, had already set, and there were no flowers…but yet, Sunbirds, Tailorbirds, Pale-billed Flowerpeckers, a Blyth’s Reed
Warbler, and some Ashy Prinias…all kept the tree literally “hopping”, and we were able to listen to their calls, too. These are occasions when one can practice birding “by ear”, and have the id validated by what one sees.

I was rather intrigued by a brick “bird wall” that had been set up at one place:

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…and concrete “bird holes” in another “bird corner”. It will be fun to see if birds do take up nesting in these holes. But meanwhile, watching Black Kites bringing in twigs to make their homes was interesting enough! A White-throated Kingfisher added its bright blue back and lipstick mouth as it waited for a catch.

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It was fun to
watch a Boating Pond Heron…it just sat on one of the boats in the water (kept there to clean the lake, I think), as it scanned the water for breakfast!

Two groups of Rosy Pastors flying overhead, their local cousins, the Common and (the always well-groomed) Jungle Mynas,and the bisyllabic call of one Green Warbler (thank you for the call tutorials, Mike and Ulhas, they’ve been useful!)…between our eyes and ears, we didn’t
know where two hours went, and we left the place before the lake was locked up. I will never understand why our lakes and parks are kept locked through the day…what are we trying to prevent?

I did look at a lot of flowers, plants and trees as well:

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Finding out names (hoping to remember them, not always successfully!) will occupy me for a while. Watching some hornets beginning to make a nest on the underside of a leaf was also fascinating.

Well satisfied with our morning, we went off for khaali dosa at the excellent eatery (Brahmin’s Special, no relation to the Basavanagudi Brahmin’s!) near my home, arranging to meet for tomorrow’s outing to Hessarghatta Lake.

Spending time with good friends, looking at many things, under the
shade of greenery, dappled with golden morning sunlight…how lucky I
am to be able to do this!

Hoping to meet some of you tomorrow,

Cheers, Deepa.

My photos are on an FB album

here

The bird list (very respectable!) is

here

Home-maker, Doresanipalya Reserve Forest, 120317

March 12, 2017

We saw a White-cheeked Barbet, idle, and free.

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It seemed to suddenly twist itself, right towards the tree.

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I’d wished to see a woodpecker, and as if granting that wish
It pecked to make a nesting-hole, work that it seemed to relish!

Here’s the bird, hard at work, rat-tatting away.

“Go and build your own home!” is what it seemed to say!

Yes, we took its sage advice and homeward went our way,
But the thought of the home-building barbet we carry through the day.

Raindrops

March 12, 2017

Inside her little box of an apartment
Lies the elderly woman,
While I tell her about the rain
That is wetting the roads
Outside. Confined to her bed,
She cannot even move
To the window, without help,
To look at the few drops
Falling from the sky.
The plants she has in pots
Cannot feel the rain, either.
All they can get
Is the “filtered water”
Whenever the sullen maid
Remembers them.
The woman is able
To have a roof over her head…
But some simple joys,
Like savouring the raindrops
Which wet that roof,
Are beyond her,
Small deprivations
Can sometimes be big ones.

Raindrops

March 7, 2017

Inside her little box of an apartment
Lies the elderly woman,
While I tell her about the rain
That is wetting the roads
Outside. Confined to her bed,
She cannot even move
To the window, without help,
To look at the few drops
Falling from the sky.
The plants she has in pots
Cannot feel the rain, either.
All they can get
Is the “filtered water”
Whenever the sullen maid
Remembers them.
The woman is able
To have a roof over her head…
But some simple joys,
Like savouring the raindrops
Which wet that roof,
Are beyond her,
Small deprivations
Can sometimes be big ones.

I reflect…

March 7, 2017

What if the reflections
Of faith and belief, in my soul,
Are different from yours?
I might see a temple in the glass;
You might see a church spire.
Should we then fight
And argue and shed blood
Over what is right and wrong?
Surely, all these paths and reflections
Lead but to the innermost soul
Where resides the Force, the Being
That we believe in…both you and I.

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Blooming in Lalbagh now…010317

March 2, 2017

Several blooms to delight the senses!

A walk in Lalbagh is always something that will bring a lot of joy. I decided to capture some of the blossoms that appealed to my eyes, my nose, my touch, and sometimes, as they rustled in the morning breeze, to my ears, too! Some of them are quite uncommon…but can all be found in the park.

The Purple Bauhinia (Bauhinia blakena)

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These are the flowers of the Cabbage Bark Tree (Andira inermis)

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The Pride of Bolivia (Tipuana tipu)

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It tickles me that a tree which is apparently called after the Tiger of Mysore should have the common name, Pride of Bolivia!

One of the many cultivars (cultivated flowers, not wild ones) in the flower beds:

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Here’s the “octopus” flowers of the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla), just beginning to bud:

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Children, as well as birds, love to sip the drop of nectar that can be found at the base of the Rangoon Creeper (Combretum indicum):

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The flowers have a lovely, heady fragrance, too.

Another variety of the Bauhinia, this time, a creeper (Bauhinia alba)

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The delicate blooms of the Silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra)

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The flowers of the Weeping Boer-bean (Schotia brachypetala)

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Sometimes even the seed pods are as beautiful at the flowers. Here is the fruit of the Pithraj tree:

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The purple of the Jacaranda (Jacarada mimosifolia) is a harbinger of “vasanta ritu”that is just begiinning.

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The Kanaka Champa (Pterospermum acerifolium) is another beauty to behold:

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Finally, here is one of the most beautiful…. the Philippine Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) that blooms annually at this time.

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Here are the unusually coloured blooms, in close-up:

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All these photos were taken in Lalbagh on 1st March 2017.These are only a few of the many flowers you can see right now…so do go and visit our beautiful public park, and enjoy the flowers in one of our lung spaces.

Forms of poetry and verse

March 2, 2017

My friend Janet asked for 10 prompts about which she would write haikus.

To this, someone asked:

“Yeh haiku kaiku?” (Why this haiku?)

And my response was:

When we cannot think
Straight, or write words as is done–
We pen a haiku!

To this Chiddu said:

I love to ride my bike-u
This is my 1st two line haiku!

and I responded with a limerick:

When we talked of haiku
And someone asked, “Yeh kaiku?”
Though you made a bhool
And you broke the rule
Your haiku on baiku…I laiku!

(bhool=mistake in Hindi)

I love bu**-shi##ing in verse!