Archive for January, 2020

An anecdote from the past, with a twist in the tail!

January 30, 2020

I wish we could visit a lot more of our seniors (yes, senior even to me!) and hear their stories and anecdotes. Today I visited a couple, and here’s the anecdote:

The gentleman had a big group of Japanese visitors in his factory; in preparation for the visit, he’d asked several of his colleauges and their spouses to take a course in Japanese. His wife had a ear for languages, and completed the next course too.

During the visit, she heard the visitors talking amongst themselves about the chaotic traffic in the city (remember, this must have been thirty years ago!) and expressing worry.

During the official welcome speech which she delivered in Japanese, she also added, “I know some of you were worried about the traffic and your safety…please don’t worry. The driver of the van is our second-best company chauffeur.”

“Oh!” exclaimed a visitor, relieved. Then added, “Where is your best driver?”

“Still in the hospital,” was the reply!

I am very fond of this couple. They have a great sense of humour and a big fund of stories!

The tatters of our culture of respect

January 30, 2020

तमीज़ के कमीज़ पहना करते थे हम,
बस अब फटे चिथड़े ही बाकी हैं उन तमीज़ के.
गया ज़माना सेहत और सहनशीलता का,
अब हम में हैं बस गुस्से मरीज़ के

We wore the garments of respect for others;
All that is now left are the tatters.
Gone are the days of healthy minds and tolerance:
We now have only the blind anger of sick men.

Train travel in India…the difficulties of long-distance train timings

January 29, 2020

I want to travel by train, but Indian Railways is making it tough.

I try to travel exclusively by train in India, and let me tell you that Indian Railways is making it as difficult as possible.
Let me take my longest single journey: Bangalore to Guwahati. One train (12509, Kaziranga Express) used to leave late night from the City station and reach Guwahati after 36 hours, and I used to take it.Now, according the Railways schedule, that train starts from Cantonment Station at 2340 hrs.

The other train, 22501, New Tinsukia Exp, is only once a week, and leaves City station at ..yes…0310 hrs in the morning! This is a most inconvenient departure time for a long-distance train.

I can see no reason for these kind of odd starting station and departure timings, and it makes it near-impossible for me, an elderly woman travelling alone, to take a train.Neither can I imagine that they are convenient for any train traveller.

Another nonsensical parameter is opening bookings 120 days in advance. This means that by the time one plans one’s trip, tickets are just not available, as everyone books and cancels at the last minute if they do not want to go on the journey.

I also keep getting ads from IRCTC for tour packages …by air! (I thought I R in that acronym stood for Indian Railways).Why is Indian Railways pushing so hard for tourism by aircraft travel? Again, I can see no good reason.
The idea of train travel is to journey at leisure, and this is not suited for those who are in a hurry. It is also to reduce the carbon footprint that is caused by travel. So I would appeal to the Indian Railways to make train timings more convenient for those of us who want to use the trains and not jet-set across our country. I have leisure and want to reduce my carbon footprint, but Indian Railways is making this very difficult indeed.

Birds and brains! IISc students trip to Ranganathittu, 180120

January 23, 2020

It was a new experience for me…taking 27 students of IISc(from undergrad level to Ph.D. students) along with a professor and his young daughter, to Ranganathittu, on the 18th of Jan, 2020. Arun Kaulige also guided the group. Kiran and Ambarish organized the trip extremely well.

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The group. Photo: a passing tourist!

It was a first for me as I have never before taken such a large group which does not hail from Karnataka! Naturally, since the group consisted of people who have secured admission into various programs at IISc, they were from various parts of the country.

I was also a little doubtful about our later-than-usual start…we left Bangalore at 7.15 am, stopped for breakfast at Kumbalgodu, and then proceeded to Ranganathittu…but I need not have worried.

Flycatchers of three kinds…the Tickell’s Blue, the White-breasted Fantail, and a beautiful Verditer flitted around even as we entered the sanctuary. We were able to spot both Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds.

Since almost everyone was new to birding, and the group’s budget was not very big, we decided on the short boat trip for everyone, in two boats, Arun going in one and myself in the other. However, since our boatman, Manjunath, recognized me from the Ranganathittu bird census, he kindly gave us a little extra time!

We enjoyed watching the Spot-billed Pelicans, and the Painted Storks (they are so plentiful here that it’s difficult to remember that they are near-threatened) and Openbills

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flying and perching; Several Grey Herons stood quite nonchalantly, next to rocks that, our group realized in surprised (and vocal!) dismay, were not rocks at all, but glided through the water, showing their deadly scales!

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We saw several “crocs on the rocks”, too, basking in the sunshine. Prof Chandra pointed out one saurian on the island, crunching up a fallen egg; I was able to talk about the diet of eggs and nestlings that the crocodiles enjoy, apart from fish. Manjunath gave a brief history and account of the sanctuary, which I translated for the others.

It was good to see that several Spoonbills have arrived at the sanctuary,

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and were displaying their lacy breeding plumage; Little and Great Cormorants, and one Indian Cormorant, gave diving and drying displays. River Terns made their floating, graceful forays and spectacular aerobatics as they sought fish in the water.

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Stream Glory damselflies mating

After the boat ride, we walked along the bank of the river, and the presence of several tourists did not prevent us from seeing Scaly-breasted Munias, Tricolored Munias

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and Silverbills feeding off the bamboo flowers and seeds. Rose-ringed Parakeets called from above our heads, as did White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets. Black and Brahminy Kites floated overhead, mixing with the waterfowl. Arun and I also talked about the various flora in the area

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Mucuna monosperma, Negro Bean, a native climber.

We adjourned to the canteen for lunch,

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and I then suggested that we return via Naguvanahalli, trying our luck with the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. Google maps always takes us to the “wrong” side of the river and asks us to walk through the water to the sanctuary; so I was careful to take the bus through Naguvanahalli village to the “right” side of the river. I was able to show the group the completely non-touristy landscape of the beautiful Kaveri. Clothes, cattle, vehicles, and human beings..everything was getting washed in Her waters! (Oh yes, I use a capital letter because the Kaveri is a revered, life-giving goddess to me!)

We saw a few Indian Grey Hornbills flying into the trees, and a Black-rumped Flameback rat-tatted its presence on a palm tree-trunk. A few Green Bee-eaters had the group asking me if they were the birds I had told them about. Even while I was shaking my head negatively, thankfully, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater sailed in and landed on the wire, once again riveting the eyes of the group.

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Farmer washing his cow, Naguvanahalli, 180120

I must sadly add , however, that the Bee-eater sanctuary is in a shambles (For some reason, it is marked on Google maps as a Green Bee-eater sanctuary..that is one bird which, for now at least, does not need protection.). The sign and several of the granite poles with barbed wire strung across them, have fallen to the ground. Since the floods in the monsoon of 2019, the Forest Dept seems to have made no effort to build these up properly again. Instead of the hundreds of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters I have seen here in the past, we were lucky to see just seven of them.

The group seemed to enjoy the serene environs, and many of us walked up to the waters and cooled our feet. The rustling of the leaves of the huge Peepal and other trees, the breeze along the river, and sound of the river water…I most definitely recharged my spiritual batteries in the lap of nature.

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Banks of the Kaveri, Naguvanahalli

On the way home, I decided that I would introduce the group to some of our iconic foods and beverages…so we stopped at Bidadi, and the group tasted the Karnataka filter coffee, the Bidadi thatte iddli, and the Maddur vada. The softness of the iddlis encouraged several initially reluctant people to try one!

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We drove home in the glowing, golden sunlight of the evening.

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I was very happy to have shown the students, many of whom live and work almost exclusively in the cocoon of the IISc campus, a part of the State that I live in, and love so much. I am not sure how many missed the malls and the tourist spots, though when given a choice between Srirangapatna and Naguvanahalli, the unanimous vote was for the latter!

The eBird list for Ranganathittu is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528082

and for Naguvanahalli, at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528408

I have put up my photos on an FB album at

An outing for the students of IISc.

Posted by Deepa Mohan on Monday, January 20, 2020

and on Flickr at

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I will next be sending an announcement about the 4th Sunday walk this month, which is going to be on the 4th Saturday instead. Meanwhile, enjoy “Mittwoch” (in German, the middle of the week is called exactly that!) and look forward to the weekend, with Republic Day falling on Sunday!

Cheers, Deepa.

Valley School area: A write-up for Ramki Sreenivasan

January 21, 2020

As part of the Bannerghatta Biosphere, the area of scrub jungle adjoining and abutting the Valley School ( a day school run by Krishnamurthy Foundation India) has for long been a birding hotspot.

The area that birders frequent comprises surprisingly varied terrain, for such a small acreage. There is scrub, open grassland, and a wooded area; a small stream that can run either full or reduce to a trickle in the dry months, adds a water body. This, of course, does not include the actual School campus, which, after a few instances of drunken behaviour, is not accessible for local birders in general.

As one walks along the path next to the barbed wire from the main gate of the school, one can take a right and get to the open grassland area. Sightings in this area include many flycatchers such as the White-throated Fantail,

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and the Tickell’s Blue (resident)

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Verditer

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or Ultramarine (migrant)

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in the strip of Pongaemia trees, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing and the occasional Grey Francolins

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or Quails

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in the long grass, and several raptors, like the Crested Hawk Eagle,

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which often perch on the distant trees, keeping a sharp eye out for prey.

Returning to the now well-marked path and walking along, one can see Red-vented,

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Red-whiskered

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and White-browed Bulbuls;

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Jerdon’s Bushlarks

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and Hoopoes

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forage on the ground or can be seen perched on the trees. The many interesting trees, including the Palash (Butea monosperma) and Date Palms ( Phoenix dactylifera), and even the small Tacoma stans bushes, and the Singpaore Cherry (Muntingia calabura) , are good places to sight the smallest birds we know in India…the Pale-billed Flowerpeckers

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and the Purple

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and Purple-rumped Sunbirds,

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with the rarer Loten’s Sunbird making an appearance now and then. Yellow-billed Babblers may be sighted everywhere along the path.

As one nears the building that was once built as a guest house for the School, and demolished by the Forest Dept in a legal tussle (which the School won), it’s time to look for Blue-faced Malkohas, Small Minivets and the rare delight of a Sirkeer Malkoha in the Eucalyptus trees.

The roof overhang of the abandoned building houses two nests of the Little Swifts,

which are used year after year.

As one walks further down the path, and passes the Coral Jasmine tree( Nyctanthes arbor-tristis), several kinds of babblers, like the Puff-throated

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or Tawny-bellied Babblers,

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make their appearace. The calls of several Flycatchers can be heard in and around the bamboo thicket, as also the unmistakable call of the resident family of the White-rumped Shama.

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Really lucky birders can sight the Mottled Wood Owl

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or the Brown Wood Owl… and a Rufous Woodpecker.

Back again, and returning along the “main” path, one can look up…to see the resident Honey Buzzards

soaring on the thermals; Indian Grey Hornbills

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scissoring their way through the air, and perhaps a Black-winged Kite, a Bonelli’s or Short-toed Snake Eagle to add to the species count. I cannot forget the day I saw a Black Baza in the air! Of course, the Black Kites and Brahminy Kites are always around.

The huge Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) is often a good place to sight Golden Oriole

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and Black-naped Oriole,

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too, and several kinds of Munias, like the Scaly-breasted Munias,

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and Silverbills,

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can be observed foraging amongst the grass seeds.

The Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) is a great place for the White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets,

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and for other birds like Rose-ringed Parakeets,

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Jungle Mynas,

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and Rosy Starlings

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as they busily take advantage of the ripe figs. Jungle

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and House Crows,

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and the occasional Leafbird

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may also be seen.

There has not been a single time when any of us have returned from a birding trip to the Valley area disappointed; that is the kind of bird diversity that this hotspot offers.

Bird Race, 190120

January 20, 2020

Amit, Edgar,Harish, Keerthana, Kumuda, Poorvi,Prem,Radhika, Shreeya, Sriram,Valli, and I

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To Ravugodlu.

Shared packed brefus.

to NASA’s for coffee.

To Kaggala halli kere,
Gabbadi kere,
Harohalli kere,
Suvarnamukhi Reservoir. (Ate the rest of the food for lunch)

Did not go to

Bettahalli Kaval kere.

Kabbina haalu on the way back. Coffee and checklist at Checkpost.

Gathering and dinner at Royal Orchid, Manipal Centre. Subbu’s following Salim Ali talk. Too long and not apt for the evening.

The eBird list for Ravugodlu is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63541088

The FB album is at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10157241963673878&type=3

and the Flickr album is at

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The “teacher’s” note, K2, 080120

January 8, 2020

K2’s “teacher” allegedly sent this note from school.

K2 "Send Chips" note,080120

When faced with it, he unrepentantly grinned and said, “Yes, I wrote it!”

Wonder what he will think of next!