Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Jaipurdoddi, 250716

July 25, 2016

What can be better than a meandering path through the hills, amongst greenery, under monsoon skies?

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The many beautiful areas of Bannerghatta National Park (this is Jaipurdoddi) are great places to visit. Thank you to Arun Gorur for taking me there, along with his wife Ramya and daughter Amrita.

Iridiscence

July 24, 2016

How would I look, if my body gleamed
With the sheen of metal?

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If my body reflected
A greenish-blue gleam
Every time I moved…

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Would I be proud?
Would I take it for granted?
Or…would I be insensible, unaware, of how I looked?

I look at the beauty of this creature, and wonder….

Ragihalli, 230716

The last pages of my notebook

July 22, 2016

⁠⁠⁠⁠TODAY⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠
⁠⁠[18:35, 7/22/2016] +91 99800 10366: ⁠⁠⁠From a friend.The last page of my notebook…

A place where I check
whether my pen is working or not
A place where I calculate
the percentage out of the marks I got

The last page of my notebook…

A place where I play the game
of flames with my secret crush’s name
Then strike it off so that no one sees
and not giving a chance for my best friend to tease

The last page of my notebook…

A place where I chat
with my friend when the class is going on
Unable to listen
the boring lecture going on since morn

The last page of my notebook…

A place where I note
important questions for the upcoming exam
A place where I scribble
random things or even try drawing the funny face of Ma’am

The last page of my notebook…

A place where I write
beautiful lines of my favorite song
A place where me and my friend play
tic-tac-toe with marks of right and wrong

The last pages of our notebooks…
aren’t just pages, They are much more…
They are precious diaries…
where I unknowingly treasure our teenage memories…

Jaipurdoddi: 3rd Sunday outing of the Bird Watchers’ Field Club, 170716

July 21, 2016

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Hi everyone,

For the past few weeks, I’ve been going to Jaipurdoddi pretty regularly, and since it’s a beautiful place, I decided I’d join the 3rd Sunday outing this month.

Some of us met quite early in the morning, and after what I call MCS (Mandatory Chai Stop!)

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to get some caffeine into our systems, and introduce ourselves to each other, we proceeded to Jaipurdoddi village. On the way, a Black-winged Kite being mobbed (as usual!) by crows, flew across the road, and it was our “boni” sighting of a raptor.

Deepak had asked us to walk along from Balaji Tea Shop (now displayed on Google Maps!) towards the Reserve Forest,and that’s what we did.

I quickly realized that many people were as familiar with the place, if not more, than I was. So the group straggled out a bit, initially.
Watching the Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers in the grey cloudy morning was a bit daunting, but we hoped for better things. A couple of Red-rumped Swallows on the wire

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had the Binoculars happy, and the Bazookas ruing the lack of light.

What brought us together again? The fact that this seemed to be “Pose For You” day for the birds of Jaipurdoddi!

After the sharp sighting of a Golden-fronted Leafbird in the trees, we were delighted when it came right out on a branch, and sat there preening,in the open. Out came the lenses and the binocs, and all of us watched the bird for a while.

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We walked through the village (where many of the farmers had already left for the morning’s work) and down the road through the fields. The lake itself was so scenic, and looking at several plants (some that I knew about, and plenty which I didn’t) kept me occupied.

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But the birding pace picked up with the appearance of two Oriental Honey Buzzards, flying right overhead. Robins, some Asian Palm Swifts and a Rufous Treepie kept us from walking too fast.

As we all stood near the watchtower, we saw a Scaly-breasted Munia making multiple with the long reeds with which their nests are usually built. To our surprise, the Munia went, each time, into the partially open window of the watchtower itself….nice to think of a house within a house!

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A group of Munias and Silverbills kept the majority of the group clicking away,

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while some of us spotted a beautiful Hoverfly on the tiny Evolvulus flowers, and decided to document that.

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A Hoopoe showed up very briefly, as did a Yellow-crowned Woodpecker. Of the many woodpeckers I have seen here in the fields (Yellow-crowned,Streak-throated, Brown-headed Pygmy, and the Black-rumped Flameback) this was the only one which showed itself that day.

However, a magnificient Honey Buzzard came and landed on a tree not far off,

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Sriram and his daughter Keertanatrained their scope on it.

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We were able to see both Long-tailed and Bay-backed Shrikes

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…the latter actually flying to a bush closer to us, and posing for a while!There were other birds, too…further off,but sitting and posing!

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As we walked back to the village, I mentioned that we’d heard so many peafowl calls, but hadn’t been able to see one. And wham! I spotted a beautiful male, in full breeding plumage (that heavy, incredible tail!), walking around on the roof tiles of a house adjacent to the
fields!

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We looked at the iridiscent plumage, and realized, from the strutting of the bird, why the expression “proud as a peacock” must have originated. Many of these peafowl, like their cousins in the outskirts of Delhi, seem very comfortable with human beings.

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But just then, there was a tiny surprise package. Hardly a few feetfrom us, a little Purple Sunbird, in eclipse plumage, darted amongst the Hibiscus flowers on the wall of the garden, and completely “eclipsed” the peacock! We looked and observed how the bird pierced the base of the flowers for a shortcut to the nectar.

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A few more birds, such as a Jerdon’s Bushlark and an Oriental White-eye, gave us nice “darshans”,

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as we finished the walk, looking at several butterflies, too.

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Our group went back to Ragihalli to eat at Manjunath and Suguna’s eatery (which I call Ragihalli Fine Dining), and a few of us decided to visit Harohalli kere as well, and returned home tired but happy.

I’ve put up my photos (not only birds..I generally document things that interest me)

here </a.

My bird list is

here

(Of course, individual bird-lists might vary.)

Let me close with the enviable view that the owners of this window had…

July 19, 2016

While we are out looking for birds, I find everything interesting, and this Sunday, when I led a walk in Jaipurdoddi, I spotted a

Hoverfly

on a tiny Evolvulus flower. Here’s what the scene looked like, without using the zoom on my camera. Can you see it?

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Here’s where the hoverfly is:

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I sometimes use what I call the “distance macro”..I step a little further back, focus on the subject (the camera automatically goes into macro mode…the joys of digital photography!) and then click. Here’s the image I got:

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But others, with macro lenses on their DSLRs, are far more careful. This is how Mr Dayanand got his shot:

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So..photographs may not lie, but photographers certainly do, in the quest for that tiny creature that they can document and share with others!

Traditional games: chaukA bArA (dAya kattAm), 180716

July 19, 2016

As I led the birding-nature walk for the 3rd Sunday outing, we walked through the village of Jaipurdoddi, adjacent to the Jaipurdoddi Reserve Forest. Walking through such settlements gives me glimpses into lives that are so different from mine…but now and then, there are elements that formed part of my own life, too.

On a concrete path, I saw this design painted.

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I posted about it n

my FaceBook page

and I got a lot of information about

the game

from Anurag and Girish.Anurag, who identifies the many lovely wildflowers and plants I see, said, “This is choukA bArA (4-12, literally).” and gave me the Wiki link above. He told me how the game is played: ” Start from one of the outer box, the one you face closest to you, go around the outer border, go into the next box when you come back on the other side of where you started and whoever gets to the centre wins.”

Girish added a more complicated version of the game:”We use to call chukka, bhara (something might be derived from hindi six and twelve).
“You can kill the coins. But there is an additional inside square where you can make a pair of your own coins. When you first pair them together, then they are called ToLLU. When you get “2”, you can move both of them together and then they become gaTTi.
“When it is toLLu, anybody kill one of the coins if they land on the same spot. And if they happen to get ‘1’ in the extra turn, second coin also go home.
“But, when it becomes gaTTi, the others can not cross or kill with single coin. They also need a pair of gaTTi to kill this pair.
“If somebody wants to cross, they have to spend a night (one turn) in the spot along with the pair. During this if the pair makes one move, the single coin(s) of others will go home.
“This used to be to block others from crossing and comes with pros and cons. The major con is, once it becomes gaTTi, it can not be broken into single again. Since its a pair, you always need even number to move.
“This reminded me of my granny, my village, my family (when I was young), friends etc.”

This reminded me of the game we used to play when we were young. It was called ‘dAya kattAm”. “kattAm” means square in Tamil. dAyam was the “one” in the pair of brass “dAya kattai” or dice, which were four-sided; 1, 2, 3, and blank. Two blanks thrown together counted as 12. We too had this feature of making pairs…but frankly, even then, I found the process (and the resultant slowing down of the game) to be very time-consuming (if one throws a twelve, one can only move the “pair” 6 spaces!)

Anurag and Girish, enjoyed the game without even playing it! Aravind, I’m glad you enjoyed this game, too.

Baya Weavers and their woven nests, 170716

July 19, 2016

Baya Weavers

are beautiful birds to watch, especially during breeding season, when they build beautiful nests.

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Baya weavers are social and gregarious birds. They forage in flocks for seeds, both on the plants and on the ground. Flocks fly in close formations, often performing complicated manoeuvres. They are known to glean paddy and other grain in harvested fields, and occasionally damage ripening crops and are therefore sometimes considered as pests.

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They roost in reed-beds bordering waterbodies. They depend on wild grasses such as Guinea grass (Panicum maximum) as well as crops like rice for both their food (feeding on seedlings in the germination stage as well as on early stages of grain[6]) and nesting material. They also feed on insects (including butterflies[7]), sometimes taking small frogs,[8] geckos[9] and molluscs, especially to feed their young.

The breeding season of the baya weavers is during the monsoon.They nest in colonies typically of up to 20-30, close to the source of food, nesting material and water. Baya weavers are best known for the elaborately woven nests constructed by the males.

The males take about 18 days to construct the complete nest with the intermediate “helmet stage” taking about 8 days. The nests are partially built before the males begin to display to passing females by flapping their wings and calling while hanging from their nests.

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The females inspect the nest and signal their acceptance of a male. Once a male and a female are paired, the male goes on to complete the nest by adding the entrance tunnel. Males are almost solely in charge of nest building, though their female partners may join in giving the finishing touches, particularly on the interiors. Females may modify the interiors or add blobs of mud.

Here’s a video I took, some time ago, of a female doing this:

Both males and females are polygamous. Males build many partial nests and begin courting females. The male finishes the nest only after finding a mate.

These birds have also entered local folklore and culture. A widespread folk belief in India is that the baya sticks fireflies with mud to the nest walls to light up the interior of the nest at night!

In earlier times, the baya weaver was trained by street performers in India for entertainment. They could pick up objects at the command of their trainers. They were trained to fire toy cannons, string beads, pick up coins and other objects. These uses have been noted from the time of Akbar, the Mughal king!

And sometimes, abandoned nests are used by Munias, and for the first time, I spotted a Rufous Treepie on an old nest. Whether it was picking insects, or trying to remove nesting material, was not clear.

A reference to the bird by Ain from around 1590:

The baya is like a wild sparrow but yellow. It is extremely intelligent, obedient and docile. It will take small coins from the hand and bring them to its master, and will come to a call from a long distance. Its nests are so ingeniously constructed as to defy the rivalry of clever artificers.
— Āīn, quoted in the Hobson Jobson

Here’s a video where the first line of the song refers to the Baya Weaver:

So….these birds have been around for a long time now, but each moment with them is also a delight. Here’s our group, on 17 July 2016, starting our outing, not knowing that so much of delight was in store for us!

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K1’s progress with Hindi: Blr, 110716

July 11, 2016

She first looked at the Hindi alphabet in March of this year…and I think her progress (while handling so much that is new and tough) is excellent. Here she is (as usual, in the car!) reciting a Hindi poem about a bird:

Both my daughter and my granddaughter continue to amaze me….!

The Culture of opacity, and decencies of debate

June 29, 2016

We recently had a debate on a birding group I belong to.

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(Photo above:Nest not easily seen. It took us twenty minutes of watching the birds to spot it, by sheer chance.)

My friends had been to x location, and found some birds’ nests. They neither told us that they had gone there, nor did they disclose the location of the nests.

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Their reasons:

1. If they put up the location publicly, others may come and destroy the nest.

2. If they reveal the location to one person, that person may tell another, and the knowledge will spread. So it is better to tell no one at all.

My friends are doing this because of a genuine concern that the nests might get destroyed (as well as a feeling, rather misplaced in this case, that not many people know about the location, and wanting to keep it undisturbed.)

Recently, I took a group of people to the location, without knowing that the other friends had gone there. We spotted the same nests. I posted the photo on my FB page. I got a lot of criticism for this.

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(Photo above: Very visible but completely unapproachable nest. It’s actually in a place where Forest Dept guards congregate all the time.)

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(Photo above: Nesting box actually provided by humans, and in the middle of a village.)

I did so for the following reasons:

1. Just giving the name of the location as I did (it’s a fairly large area) will not enable anyone to get the exact location of the nest (there were actually two nests on the day I visited).

1b. Nests are delicate things, and they get destroyed by the vagaries of nature. So birders/photographers are not the only agents of destruction.

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(Photo above:Nest high up in a tree. Not there the very next day, after heavy rains.)

1c. Why should I assume that every birder except me is out to destroy the nest? Why should I have this feeling of suspicion about everyone? I was told that my photo had 50 likes, so the chances of someone going there and destroying the nest were much higher. Let’s say I did have 50 “likes”. Of these, many will be from outside the city, or the country. Some more may not even be able to go, but will enjoy a sight that they cannot see for themselves. So, my estimate is that of the 50, maybe 3 or 4 *might* like to go to the same location (in which case, refer to 1. above).

1d. In any case, x is a place which is a known birding spot. Birding volunteers take large groups of people there regularly. There’s also a public thoroughfare. So what am I hiding, and how will I be able to hide it, if it’s being seen by all kinds of people who pass by?

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Nest clearly visible, but on a slope and not accessible at all. Not seen during the next visit a few days later.

2. Withholding information, in my opinion, is not the right way to conserve something. No matter how it happens, information always leaks out. All that happens is that the information “goes underground”, so to speak (or not to speak!), being whispered from person to privileged person.

3. In this case, knowledge becomes an instrument of power. “I know this, and I will tell only those whom I want to” is definitely a statement of power, including some, and excluding others. It’s this kind of secrecy which, to my mind, was the cause of the decline of many cultures and languages. When something belongs only to the elite, and free circulation is closed off, that thing starts stagnating and dies. Making Sanskrit esoteric, and the language of the elite alone, was what, I think, contributed to its death.

4. If I share information with someone, I can go with that person to x place, and make sure that person confirms to the norms of ethical birding, or at least tell that person that they must observing certain restrictions.

5. When we learn because of others sharing information with us, it’s our duty to pass on that information to others. Information cannot be a one-way street.

6. I do use my discretion in publishing locations. I do not,however, believe in blanket bans. Nesting is part of bird life, and if newbies can see them and learn, that should certainly be a good thing.

7. I have not, in ten years of birding, known a single documented instance of a bird’s nest being destroyed because of information given out about it. A very old instance of habitat destruction is cited endlessly as a reason for withholding information from everyone. I want to know of a known example of such nest destruction…I have not heard of any. No one is able to give me any examples.

8. In one known example of spoiling of habitat (not even particular nests) I have stopped going to that particular place. Which brings me to

8b. If the conservation experts are so keen on not having the bird nests disturbed, why do they go there? Surely it would be better to avoid going there? How is it OK for only some people to go there, and not others?

In my opinion, if concerned birders go regularly to a location, they can ensure that unethical photographers do not harm the nest. If I stop going to a location, I do not know how it is faring in terms of nest conservation. How can we conserve if we do not visit the place we wish to conserve? I actually do feel guilty that I might have had my share in the spoiling of this venue, by avoiding it.

9. In addition, people who have never led large groups give advice on how to do it. They advocate people breaking up into small groups. This, after being part of large groups that I have led! In the open forest, the correct thing to do is NOT to stray away from the group. I know (personally) of three instances in which members of a group got lost and were rescued only by sheer good luck, and others where fatalities have occurred as the result of small groups wandering off and meeting aggressive elephants. How do people become experts so fast? The person who talks about how to go birding once was thinking about hiring boats to get closer to water birds on a lake. How could this not disturb them?

A culture of opacity gives one a great feeling of satisfaction that one is doing something actively to conserve a location or nest. But it takes experience to realize that it does not achieve this end, and actually results in the perpetuation of bad practices.

These are the reasons why I will disclose bird nest locations (in a general way, not very specific), unless they fall into the following categories:

1. I feel that the nest is likely to be seen easily by anybody, but not likely to be disturbed by visitors.

2. I am taken to visit a location or a nest by someone who does not want to disclose its location.I will respect that person’s wishes.

After 10 years of birding, I do not agree that a blanket ban on all nesting photography does anything constructive for the conservation of the nests.

I realize that there will be opinions across the spectrum on this sensitive issue, and the debate might go on for ever. Everyone is worried about conserving what they love, and I am willing to respect opinions different from my own.

What hurts the conversation between differing viewpoints, however, is sarcasm and disrespect. When the decencies of debate are maintained, it remains a debate. When sarcasm and innuendo are used, it degenerates from a healthy debate to a personal attack.

The Booda, 270616

June 27, 2016

I give him pieces of apple to eat. He shoots me with his tiny forefingers, with what he thinks is a gun noise.
I have to slowly wilt, with my tongue out, on to the chair he’s standing on. He then gives me a “Vitamin K2 kiss”, and I instantly revive with a “whoosh” sound. Repeat 843 times.

Then he cuddles up with “Jahnavi Giraffe” and “Sheepy” and lies, an angelic-looking bundle, lost to the world. Peace and quiet reign again…for a while.


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