Archive for January, 2019

January 30, 2019

Though Bangalore has not had too much of winter this year, it was still an overcast morning when more than forty of us met at Madivala kere (lake) for the first 4th Sunday outing of 2019.

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In the gloaming, we were still able to see a couple of Spotted Owlets flying around as they finished up their night of hunting. All of us strained to see them as they landed on a banyan tree close to the gate.

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We walked up to the water’s edge, looking at a few trees (including that icon of Karnataka, the sandalwood!)

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Saraca asoka, the real Ashoka tree with flowers.

and in the stiff, nippy breeze, peered across at the island and on the water, trying to spot some birds. The silhouettes of a few Grey Herons and Little Cormorants, darker grey in the general gloom, were visible. “Is that a Grey Heron?” someone asked. “At this time, all the birds are grey!” I replied.

And then, quite suddenly….we gasped as a large flock of Rosy Starlings flew right overhead, and swooped past in the half-light.

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Again and again, unable to move ahead, we watched, as in larger and smaller groups, these winter visitors gave an aerobatic display of their murmuration.

Video of Starling Murmuration from the net

I never expected that I would be able to share such a stunning sight with so many people, many of whom were coming birding (and to Madivala kere) for the first time. In a swiftly changing pattern of dots across the sky, the murmuration ebbed and flowed…and we watched, spellbound. It took us quite a while to decide to move on!

The sun made a brief appearance and sank into the clouds again.

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Reaching the end of the open-to-morning walkers area, we found that the main gate and the parking area had not yet been opened up. Vidhya kindly offered to go and get the guard to open up, and meanwhile, I pointed out some other waterfowl to the people: Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Asian Openbills, Painted Storks, and Sandpipers.

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As the parking area got opened up, we walked further and I was also able to point out the pod of Spot-billed Pelicans which glided in. I was able to show how different birds use the different levels of water to forage for food.

At this point we got a sighting of the Grey-headed Ornithologist; Dr M B Krishna, who had taken two buses, came to join us.

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We got a very lively account of the history of birding and conservation in Bangalore, particularly in reference to Madivala Lake.

We walked past a bamboo gate to the area which is now off-limits for visitors. This is a mud path that goes along the retaining area and then follows the bund of the lake. As we did this, a long,disciplined line of Coots appeared, delighting everyone with their numbers…and their orderly progression! A couple of Little Grebes were also pointed out. Swamphens quarrelled and foraged in the Water Hyacinth, in their usual way. Egrets, LKG, Intermediate and Graduate, sorry, Little, Intermediate, and Great, were seen, too.

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Waterfowl in the invasive Water Hyacinth

It was very nice to see the Madivala Kere Marsh Harrier, as we call it, appear, floating over the bird flocks and, as usual, alarming them at once. The Brahminy and Black Kites do not seem to upset the birds the way the presence of the Marsh Harrier does!

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Erythrina mitis or umbrosa, Shady Coral Tree

Out came the snacks, and Vidhya’s “ammani kuzhakkattai” and “sundal” were much appreciated, as were the biscuits and fruits that others shared.

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Young Dolphin (that’s the nickname of the youngest person in our group, Srishti) was able to identify several birds very confidently. Her parents bring her regularly for the nature walks, and she is gathering knowledge very fast. There were some other young people too, and I found all of them very keen.

I had to bring the group back outside the restricted area by 9.30 am, which arrived far too soon for my liking! But Vidhya and a few others went on ahead, and birded till 11am.

A few of us breakfasted at Check Post in J P Nagar afterwards,

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while others dispersed to waiting families. Well satisfied with the morning’s sightings and observations, off we went to our other Sunday commitments.

K2 on his 6th birthday

January 28, 2019

Me: Happy birthday!
K2: You be the Evil Grandmother for my breakfast.
Me: “pluk-pluk-pluk”…I indicate a thought bubble over my head, saying, “Aha! He isn’t eating! This is a good time to go and steal his Lego Nexo Knights.”
K2: Promptly swallows a spoonful of his scrambled eggs.
Me: “pluk-pluk-pluk”…indicate a thought balloon that says, “FOILED!!” (I have to underline it in the air with my hand.)
This goes on until scrambled eggs, the RB (Regulation Banana) and milk are all finished. Ask me why I am exhausted at 8am? I have already staged a full-scale drama! George Bernard Shaw has nothing on me!
Off he goes on the school bus, with me savouring the kiss the reluctant little face dropped on my cheek.

How old are you, I asked him.

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Here he is, quite thoughtful at his party yesterday:

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No, we didn’t take him to McD, but Ronald was nearby and I clicked:

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His grandfather brought in the gods…Rama and Hanuman…to the birthday party:

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Here’s his birthday cake, which quite aptly looks like a devil:

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Here he is, look at the butcher’s knife he’s using!

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Asian Waterfowl Census, Hoskote kere, 130119

January 15, 2019

It’s always a tug-of-war on the second Sunday of every month. I have learnt a lot on the Lalbagh walks, but since I am generally committed to the 3rd and 4th Sunday walks, I do like to go to other birding spots with my friends. Well, on the 13th of January, the tug was decided by the fact that the Asian Waterfowl Census, or AWC ) is on, and we could contribute data and pretend to be very scientific, while following the experts around and getting to see a lot of birds! So off we went to Hoskote kere, after MCS (Mandatory Chai Stop) on the way.

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MCS, ITI Bus Stop. Note Vidhya’s gloves!

The group was not as large as I’d expected, but this lack of numbers was more than made up for, by the number of species sighted! I am not one for numbers, but definitely, between waterfowl, winter migrants, and woodland birds, we were able to sight, and observe the behaviour of, several species of birds.

We carefully turned into the toll-avoiding opening and proceeded down the bund of the lake. We opened our account with a White-throated Kingfisher and a Common Hawk-cuckoo sitting on the wire, out in the open.

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The fog had lifted by the time we got to the temple, and the first pale rays of sunshine showed several Spot-billed Pelicans,

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Painted Storks,

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Cormorants and Grebes on the waters.

There were two scopes on hand, and this certainly helped many of my friends, who are still new to birding, to do some Spotting of their own, apart from the bills of the pelicans and the ducks! A Pied Kingfisher hovered over the water and dove in now and then, looking for a quick breakfast.

The “spotting” extended to the far side, the scope enabled us to look at a Greater Spotted Eagle, as well as three Marsh Harriers. perched on the bare trees, and occasionally sweeping over the water, alarming all the other birds. It was delightful to see a Common Kingfisher and a Wagtail apparently enjoying a boat ride. We don’t often see birds boating!

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On the far side, thanks to the scope, the indistinct blobs resolved themselves into Garganeys, Shovellers, and Pintails too.

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Capparis flowers (Caper)

We walked down to the path into the lake from the Gangamma temple,

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Gangamma, the deity at the lake.

and Grey and Purple Herons, pods of pelicans fishing, Yellow Wagtails

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living up to their name with their bobbing tails, two Wood Sandpipers having a face-off (territory? food? We didn’t know),

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some Common Sandpipers flying with their white rumps showing. A Glossy Ibis gleamed in coppery sheen in the now strong morning sunlight,

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and we were able to make out the difference between Streak-throated, Barn, and Red-rumped Swallows in a birding id practical lesson.

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Streak-throated (L) and Barn (R) Swallows.

A Sand Martin (Common, Krishna Murthy told us) also put in an appearance. Another good comaprison study was of the three Egrets…
Little, Intermediate, and Great…It was like watching the Grimmskipp page come alive! It was lovely to see the Swallows making musical scores on the wire. I believe someone did, once, set the swallows-on-the-wire to music!

We brought out our snacks and biscuits, and stoked up enough calories to let us carry on well past the usual breakfast hour.

We then walked back up the road, doing the other part of the lake adjoining the path, and were rewarded by the sight of both the Grey-bellied Cuckoo

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and the hepatic morph, which is generally female.

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I looked at a non-singing Jerdon’s Bushlark, and a Common Hoopoe (no longer common, either) A (probable) Booted Eagle gave us a fly-past finale.

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Bee covered with pollen, on Ipomoea flowers

Not having realized just how much time had gone by, we decided to go to Sendhoor Cafe in Ulsoor, and our greed was rewarded by the fact that it was noon when we reached there, and everything was sold out! We should just have eaten at one of the two darshinis at the lake! Well, we managed to eat at the Second Choice Darshini (Kadamba, opposite Frank Anthony School) and went home, very happy with our productive morning.

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Utsava murthy of Gangamma.

The eBird list, a very impressive one, put up kindly by Praveen, is at

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S51618715

I’ve put up photos on an FB album at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10156336753578878&type=3

And on a Flickr album at

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You can see I really concentrated on the bird count this time as there are just a couple of wildflowers and one spider in the album..and no butterflies at all!

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Most of the participants, at the end of the census.

It’s Monday and I am already looking forward to the next weekend!