Archive for August, 2017

For life to begin

August 31, 2017

In an empty, silent house
I wait for life to begin.
Life will arrive
With the first young child
Bubbling over with tales from her school.
I make sure she eats the rest of her lunch.
While listening to her,
I make preparations
For the evening meal.
More noise, more tumult
When the little boy comes in.
“Dwag me to the bathwoom!” he yells
Glowing with the dirt of the day
Spent in playschool.
Soon, other children come in to play.
The house wakes up, is full of life.
Homework, Hindi, settling squabbles:
Bath, dinner, and a game or two.
I cuddle up to one, or both
As we say a prayer, or read a story.
The little, reassuring rituals of bedtime
Are done. Darkness prevails.
Peace reigns again as they lie asleep,
Hair tumbled over pillows, arms askew.
Life sleeps now, but will be up tomorrow,
Getting ready for the day, again.
Awake and asleep by turns, this house
Is the home of the future.

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A Mushroom..a Fun Guy!

August 29, 2017

Mushrooms or Toadstools

are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
I’ve been amazed at the variety of mushrooms that, er, mushroom during the monsoons. Here are some:

A group of mushrooms:

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Pic: Vandana Murthy

Mushrooms go by different names, such as “bolete”, “puffball”, “stinkhorn”, and “morel”, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics”.

Puffball mushroom:

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Saucer mushrooms:

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Their spores, called basidiospores, are produced on the gills and fall in a fine rain of powder from under the caps as a result.

Bracket mushrooms:

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Scalloped edges:

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Many species of mushrooms seemingly appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. This phenomenon is the source of several common expressions in the English language including “to mushroom” or “mushrooming” (expanding rapidly in size or scope) and “to pop up like a mushroom” (to appear unexpectedly and quickly). In reality all species of mushrooms take several days to form

The classic “toadstool” shape:

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Mustard-coloured:

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Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying network can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres

Bright orange:

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Greenish:

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Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese). Though neither meat nor vegetable, mushrooms are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world.[21]

Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of these are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species available at many grocers include Hericium erinaceus, shiitake, maitake (hen-of-the-woods),

Fan-shaped ones:

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Rosette-shaped:

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People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists, collecting them is known as mushroom hunting, or simply “mushrooming”.

Looking like a human brain!

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This one was more than 6 inches in diameter:

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You can see the human foot for reference:

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More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. Additionally, even edible mushrooms may produce allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, from a mild asthmatic response to severe anaphylactic shock.

Stunning lilac ones:

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Mushrooms with psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They have been used as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing, and to facilitate visionary states. One such ritual is the velada ceremony. A practitioner of traditional mushroom use is the shaman or curandera.Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers, too.

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But of course, the best use of mushrooms, for me, is as food! Here’s one of the eateries around Hessarghatta, which specializes in mushroom (khumbh) dishses:

Hotel Oyster at Hessarghatta:

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Here’s a mushroom dish at the eatery:

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A most interesting and complex organism…that’s why I say that a mushroom is an example of a “fun guy”!

Layers:

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A delicate umbrella:

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What should I do?

August 23, 2017

Should I feel happy for what I had?
Should I feel sad for what I’ve lost?
Should I take the value of what I still have?
Or should I count the loss and its cost?

Both my daughter and I are taking inventory and finding things missing around our homes…..Neither of us knows quite what to do about it.

But I think my words apply to both tangible and intangible things.

Wildlife events in Bangalore, Aug 2017

August 23, 2017

The third week of August ended with a wildlife event and a wildlife/conservation festival, both of which  I thoroughly enjoyed.

The first was 

the screening of “Cobra King”,

a documentary on the

King Cobra

made by

Sandesh Kadur of

Felis Creations

It was Gowri Sankar  of

Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology

narrating  the life cycle of this iconic reptile of the Western Ghats.

I cannot yet find the documentary on the net ( has it not yet been released to the wild, like rescued snakes are…?), but here is another video on the same snake from the same film maker:

Here’s a young mother giving her son a reassuring touch during the intense parts of the film:

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Here is the team who created the film:

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The other event is one that is turning from a wildlife photography event into an annual festival that celebrates various wildlife conservation, while also indicating how much still needs to be done.

The Nature in Focus Festival

Kalyan Varma

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one of the co-directors of the festival, compered the event, and a smorgasbord of people associated with wildlife documentation and conservation spoke at the event.

Sale of art and crafts at the event:

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Here’s

Dhimant Vyas

 talking about his journey as an illustrator, in conversation with

Rohan Chakravarty

an award-winning wildlife cartoonist, who later spoke (with humour, of course!) about his craft as a tool in conservation.

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Dhimant and others, enjoying the event:

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It’s a big measure of the increasing importance of this festival that it is now drawing speakers and participants from all over the world.

A section of the audience:

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Two of the award-winning photographs:

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An expert birder and photographer looks at the images on display:

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Though the major part of my wildlife experience will always be the actual visits to the forests and wilderness, such events celebrating wildlife and conservation help people like me listen to many voices both of the creatures who share this Earth with us, and the committed people who carry those wild voices to many urban dwellers who feel out of touch with the natural world.

Well, naturally!

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The culture of opacity

August 16, 2017

One of the things, I think, that impedes my country in her progress, is our culture of opacity.

As a nation, we do not seem to like sharing information at all. Government offices, political leaders, even small businesses…how many of us like to share, openly, the information that we possess?

The first thing I notice when a business gets going is that the name of the founders are immediately hidden behind a wall of anonymity. Phone numbers are withheld, as are the names of those who run the show.

I find this refusal to share in the world of wildlife, too. When a rare bird, plant or animal is sighted, the threat from others is cited as a reason to make the information secret.

This would be a useful thing to do if the information were genuinely withheld from everyone else. But what actually happens is different. The information and the knowledge become instruments of power.

To know the man at the top, to know where X animal can be seen, to understand the workings and financial dealings of (to take an example) a hospital…these, then, become privileges granted to only a few.

Alas, information can never be kept entirely secret, either. Corruption and the cooking of figures soon becomes known; everyone knows about the place where one can see something special. But the information is not open to all; it remains in the hands of the privileged elite, and always kept a secret from the “mango public” (aam janta).

Even the process of this secret transmission of information vitiates it to some extent; the information is corrupted often.

This lack of transparency, this tendency to keep information to oneself and not share it…we have to overcome this in order that all of us may stride forward on the path to progress.

The tinies of Turahalli, 120817

August 15, 2017

As my friend Janhvi was going to do a trek to Turahalli State Forest as part of her Corporate Social Initiative (CSI), a few of us decided to join in.

True to the lacklustre response from her company, the usual number of people (two!) turned up….and we promptly hijacked the trek into a nature outing.

Here we are, at brefus before beginning the walk:

Akash, Janhvi, Anand, Subbu, Shoba, Padma and Ramaswamy

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We started our walk from a point not known to regular visitors….and the lesser-travelled path proved to be extremely productive.

Several tiny flowers caught our eye.

Andrographis serpyllifolia:

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Commelina sp:

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Ground Orchid, Habenaria roxburghii:

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The “Argyreia cuneata” name of this flower won’t stick in my mind, but its common name, “Mahalungi” will, for the wrong reasons!

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We were lucky to find this Ceropagia candelarbrum:

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Tiny flowers of the Dodonea viscosa:

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Some of us took a break to look up things:

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Unknown:

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We were also enchanted by some of the six-footers we saw. Sometimes the insects and flowers were together.

Blister beetle (on Clerodendron flowers):

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Ants on Leucas species:

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Sarcostemma acidum:

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Crinium, or the Spider Lily:

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Stachytarpeta, the Devil’s Coach Whip:’

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Such small beauties:

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Gulaganji, or Abrus precatorius:

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The tiny flower of the Bastard Sandal:

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This Puffball mushroom had broken, showing beautifully-speckled spores:

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A tiny fly on the Sarcostemma plant:

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A Common Wanderer female:

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A Bagworm Moth pupa:

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A Hoverfly (that huge part of the head are just its two compound eyes!)

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A Plain Tiger caterpillar:

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A Geometer moth:

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A Peninsular Rock Agama coming into breeding colours:

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We did go over a few rocks:

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Eggs on the Bastard Sandal:

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A Shield or Stink Bug:

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Even the Giant Wood Spider was smaller than usual!

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The insects got tinier:

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Of course, one of the highlights of the morning was sighting not one, but two

Atlas Moths

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Very satisfied with all that we’d seen, we went home…looking forward to the next outing!

The Atlas Moth, 120817

August 15, 2017

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We have a huge variety of moths in the world, but one of the most spectacular is the

The [Atlas Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacus_atlas), which is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.

The Atlas moth was held to be the largest moth in the world, before the

[Hercules Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coscinocera_hercules) relegated it to second place. However, it still remains one of the most spectacular moths one can see!

We were very lucky to see two of these moths on a nature walk at Turahalli State Forest, on 120817.

These Saturniid moths have wingspans reaching over 25 cm (9.8 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier than the males.

Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as “snake’s head moth”, referring to the apical extension of the forewing, which bears a more than passing resemblance to a snake’s head.

Here are the beautiful, feathery antennae of the moth:

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In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as “fagara”.

Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones which males detect and home in on with the help of chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae. Males may thus be attracted from several kilometres downwind! The females do not wander far from their chrysalis.

After mating, the female lays about spherical eggs,

I was equally struck by the beauty of the moth’s thorax.

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Another amazing fact…the adult moth has no mouth parts, and cannot eat! Adult Atlas m only live for a few days…finding mates and reproducing within that time. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after about two weeks. Theyfeed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus and other evergreen trees.The caterpillars are adorned with fleshy spines along their backs which are covered in a waxy white substance. After reaching a length of about 115 millimetres (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Here’s the moth whith its wings folded:

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We were extremely lucky to see not one, but two moths in the wild…it’s an experience that will stay with us for a lifetime!

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Words of wisdom

August 8, 2017

He who knows, and knows he knows…
He is a sage: Seek him.
He who knows, and knows not he knows…
He is asleep: Wake him.
He who knows not, and knows he knows not…
He is a child: Teach him.
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not…
He is a fool: Shun him.

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Votive stones, Thotti Kallu Falls, 160717

Look carefully….

August 2, 2017

Look carefully at your mother…she’s the person you will probably become.
Look carefully at your daughter…she’s the person you probably were.
And both of you, look carefully at the grand-daughter…she’s probably going to be more than both of you.

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That should actually read, “parent”, “child”, and “grandchild”.

Two Malkohas and an unknown Owl: Valley School area, 300717

August 1, 2017

The fifth Sunday of the month, when it occurs, is an occasion when the “bngbirds” umbrella birding group of Bangalore does not have an organized bird walk; it’s time for most of us to earn back some brownie points, or at least get out of the doghouse, by attending to home,families, and other social commitments.

But alas, alas, several of us don’t heed the call to redemption. When Sangita S Mani, who works for Kanha Taj Safaris, told me that she’s in town, and that though she’s been working in Madhya Pradesh for about 12 years now, she’s not birded in Bangalore…it was too good a chance to pass up! Aravind, Padma, Ramaswamy, Srini and I bore her off to the Valley School area.

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I never go to any destination with any particular bird or other sighting in mind. In general, I am content to see what comes my way. However, Sangita particularly wanted to see the Blue-faced Malkoha, and we hoped that this would not be the one day when the bird decided to skulk successfully in the foliage!

We started out with loud calls from the peafowl (though we never saw one of these birds throughout the morning), and carried on along the path,

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sighting White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, and a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite perched on a bare tree. Several birds like the Ashy Prinia, a quick-fleeing Spotted Owlet, Small Minivets

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and White-eyes

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brought us just past the last banyan tree before the abandoned building. Though our names had been the first on the school register, by this time, several others had preceded us with their cameras and binoculars, and two of them were looking into an Acacia tree just beyond the stone seat in the field. “Sirkeer Malkoha,” said one of them, and yes, there the bird was…I was seeing it at the Valley after a long gap, and for some of my friends, it was a lifer, too.

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Just a little later, as we walked along looking up at the swifts and swallows swooping above us, the Blue-faced Malkoha also granted Sangita’s wish.

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Meanwhile, we’d also sighted three flycatchers: a Tickell’s Blue singing its heart out,

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a dancing White-browed Fantail, and a Paradise Flycatcher with an almost-full tail, swishing itself rufously about, to our cries of “There it is…no, it’s moved…it went there…there it is now…oh, it’s gone!”

A White-naped Woodpecker was an uncommon sighting, as it worked its way along the bark of a bare tree.

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My friends had a great experience of a mixed hunting party, quite large, all foraging in the area near the wall, and were very happy with their observation of how the different birds fed together. In many Hindu cultures, we have the concept of the “samaaraadhana” where people belonging to all castes and communities have a meal together, and this was the birding equivalent!

The plants and six-footers caught our attention too.

Crimson Rose

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Common Gull

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Psyche….it wanders about like the spirit (in Greek) it’s named after.

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Dark Blue Tiger

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White Orange-tip

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Shield Bug

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Gram Blue on Grewia sp.

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Golden Eggs of Coreidae bug:

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Bagworm Moth pupa on spiderweb

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Moth caterpillars with egg:

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Beautiful berries

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? tiny flower

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Bauhinia purpurea

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Allmania nodiflora

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We walked into the bamboo thicket and heard another Tickell’s Blue singing; several babblers gave voice in the bushes on the way there. Raptors never fail to arrive when they can be seen for the shortest time, and a Short-toed Snake Eagle shot past the small gap between the bamboo leaves.

We decide to take a calorie break, and ate some pongal with roasted appalam. Some of us were scheduled to attend formal lunches, and I hoped to avoid the usual “brefus stop” on the way home.

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(But of course, I wanted a bit of caffeine on the way home and when we stopped at Vidyarthi Grand, the coffee somehow developed into a proper breakfast! I am certainly not fast…on either expertise with the natural world, or with avoiding food!)

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We were very like the seamen of old being led on by the Lorelei, as we walked towards where we felt the call of the White-rumped Shama was coming from. As we did so, Srini sighted an owl sitting high up on a tree; it flew away almost immediately, but we feel it was not the Brown Wood Owl, but rather, a Mottled Wood Owl (I’ve seen one often in the area behind the abandoned house, which is now walled off.)

The Shama treated us to a couple of sightings in the misty morning,

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and full of its beautiful song,

we turned back towards the main gate, and so off towards what the Sunday held for each of us. Our hearts, binoculars, memory cards were all filled with images of the morning.

The eBird list, compiled by Aravind, is

here

I have put up photos on my FB album

here </a.

(as usual, documenting the morning, not focusing on any one living creature).

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Cheers, Deepa.