Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rangoli on Ganesha Chathurthi, 130919

September 13, 2018

Instead of the stock Ganesha Puja photos, I thought I’d click some of the beautiful rangolis that I saw on my morning walk. So much art on our roads and footpaths, I felt like documenting and preserving these transient works.

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Kolams like these are called “puLLi kOlam” in Tamizh, that is, they have first an arrangement of dots, which are joined together or have lines drawn around them (sometimes a single continuous line); very geometrical and precise.

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Ones like this are freestyle:

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Let me end with a lovely Ganesha-themed puLLi kOlam:

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International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), Ramnagara, and Nelligudde kere, 010918

September 6, 2018

had nearly forgotten that the first Saturday of September is International Vulture Awareness Day; a reminder jogged my memory, and my friends and I shelved our Maidanahalli plans for a visit to Ramadevara betta (hillock), to see the only known roosting and nesting spot of the Long-billed Vultures in Karnataka. The Karnataka Vulture Conservation Trust, in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, had organized a walk to see the vultures, and talks by experts, an event open to all.

We were a group that started from the south, north, and east of the city, and met up at the gates of the Vulture Sanctuary, by 6.15am.’

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UGS. Gopinath, Nikhil, Arpitha, Sriram, Sharmila, Keerthana, Subhadra,Harish, Vijay, Tara, Arnab, Anisha,Sahas, Nitin, Regin. Kneeling with Arjun : Praveen and Srini. Ramnagara, 010918

Many of my friends were visiting Ramnagara (Ramnagaram? I am not sure which is the right name) for the first time, so, having driven just past the entrance gates, we parked our cars,

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and clambered up on the rock face (slippery, alas, from the recent rains!)

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and looked up at the vultures that could be seen (three of them at that time).

The single one:

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And two sitting together (they mated a little later)

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After looking our fill at the birds, which were preening, we also climbed up the hill to the gate of the temple, and went up a little towards the temple,

hoping to sight the beautiful Yellow-throated Bulbul which is another resident of the betta. We were lucky to sight just one, upon a rock!

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We had not realized that this date coincided with a festival at the Rama temple upon the hillock; we were not sure if the increased number of visitors was just due to its being a weekend, until we saw the idols of the deities, Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Anjaneya, being taken in a palanquin (on a modern tractor!) in procession, up the hill. The vulture finds a place in the epic poem, Ramayana, the story of the ideal man, Rama. Jatayu, the vulture, finds Rama’s wife Seeta being abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka, and fights valiantly to save her, until the ten-headed Ravana cuts off his wings. He falls, fatally wounded, to the ground. When Rama and Lakshmana come upon him, he recounts all that has happened to them, before giving up his life. Here upon the rocky boulders of Ramadevara betta, the old story somehow took on colorful life as I watched the trio of deities and their faithful attendant Hanuman, wending their way to the temple, bejewelled and bedecked with flowers.

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Closeup of the adorned idols

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We watched the posters for the Vulture Awareness Day being put up,

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and after meeting up with Mike and Chris, when they came to the viewing area, we were also able to glimpse the ungainly-on-the-ground and graceful-in-the-air birds with the help of the scope that Mike set up for everyone.

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Many of us also saw the Long-billed Pipit for the first time…so birds with long bills seemed to be the order of the day!

We had left the city by 4.30am and by this time, in spite of the snacks we shared, the call of the white-breasted iddli was quite loud in our ears! So off we went to Sahasa Kala Shiksana Kendra (Centre for training in martial arts) where the event is held every year. After the pouring rain of last year, it was very pleasant to have the sun shining, and patches of blue sky appearing amidst the grey monsoon clouds.

We lined in an orderly queue and partook of a piping hot and delicious breakfast,

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and with our mental and physical batteries recharged, settled down to the proceedings.

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One of the star attractions, of course, was a White-rumped Vulture attending…or at least, an actor wearing a very well-made costume of the bird! Many of the young men present had a fun time with the “bird”, which was the mascot for the event. I would like to know who created the marvellous costume!

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These young men took the “help the vultures” message very seriously!

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It was also heartening to see how many people had made it to the event. I must mention the Forestry College in Sirsi, which always sends its students, I have interacted with them several times, at several venues (also at Kaiga) and found many of them knowledgeable about conservation issues. Several of the people who have worked untiringly to have the area declared as a vulture sanctuary, including Dr Subramanya, also took their places on the stage, and shared what the vultures mean to the ecosystem, and the history of the decline of these birds, along with the efforts made to save them from extinction. Cadets, schoolchildren, nature lovers from near and far…we all listened to the inputs being given, and took our certificates of participation.

Some of us decided to go back and see if we could get shots of the vultures flying off from the cliff, and were successful. Some of us also stopped over at Bidadi to visit the Nelligudda lake.

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Apart from an edging of the now-to-be-expected trash, which included a dead fish,

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the lake was a serene setting,and under the shade of two gigantic banyan trees, a cool breeze blew.

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Several waterfowl, including two Woolly-necked Storks,

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kept our binoculars and lenses busy; sighting two mongoose in the fields added to our delight. Both Brahminy and Black Kites dived repeatedly into the water, fishing for food. By this time, several butterflies had also emerged, and we watched as they flitted around us, too.

Grass Dart:

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Some reptiles came out to bask on the rocks.

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Well satisfied with the morning, we drove rather sleepily back to the city, making plans about whether to go birding the next morning or to spend it getting back into the good books of our families!

I have put up my photos on my FB album
here

And for other photos on the Flickr album, click

here

Our grateful thanks to the organizers of the event, which we intend to support every year, come September!

Cheers, Deepa.

Let me end with the beauty of this mushroom!

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Jewels of nature

August 30, 2018

I don’t find it necessary to go to jewellery shops, as Nature provides me plenty of jewels! All the photographs below are from local gardens in Bangalore.

Do I want pearls for a necklace? Here are the pearls of the Sterculia foetida, locally called the Jungli Badam:

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The monsoon season, or even a dewy morning, provides so many diamonds. Here are hundreds,sprinkled over a spider web:

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One of the bugs we see often is, indeed, called the Jewel Bug. It appears in rainbow glory, with a metallic sheen, on top of our most common plants and weeds:

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And when the bug decides to moult, it sheds that beautiful outer shell, and emerges, looking bright orange like a coral:

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Then there is the gold of the Copper Pod tree, scattered over the footpaths and roads of our city:

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Did you say rubies? Of course, of course! These are provided by the Bastard Sandal, a plant that gets its name from the fact that its wood is often used instead of real sandalwood; but it has excellent medicinal properties, too:

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If I want my rubies with a touch of black, I get the seeds of the Crab’s Eye creeper, locally called Gulaganji:

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The Grass Jewel is a butterfly that is well named. It is the smallest butterfly in India, and it’s as exciting to see one as it is to find a jewel!

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All of these jewels come to us with the energy produced by that great jewel of fire in the sky….

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So, keep an eye out for the many treasures, gems and jewels that we can observe in the natural world, as we walk along!

A flower that tricks the tricksters! Ceropegias…. endangered plants

July 31, 2018

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Ceropegia candelabrum, Turahalli, Karnataka,280718

We have all heard of carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap, that trap and devour insects. But less known is the fact that some plants of the Ceropegia species, actually deceive and entrap insects, for pollination!

Here’s how the Ceropegia flowers work, and it’s quite complicated.

Spiders and other insect predators often trap and eat honeybees, and there are some flies that love to eat these honeybees, too. The flies are able to smell the scent of the dying honeybees, and congregate to feed off the bees even as the predators are eating them. Since they are, in this sense, robbing the predators, they are called “kleptoparasites”

Ceropegias take advantage of this liking of the flies. They produce a fragrance that is remarkably similar to the “alarm pheromones” (the mixture of about 33 substances emitted from the glands of the bees under attack). This fools the flies into entering the flowers…and they find themselves falling into the flowers, to the pollen chamber (the pot-shaped area at the bottom of the flower).

Now, the flies, notorious thieves themselves, find that they have been doubly deceived. Not only are there no flies to eat, but also, there is no nectar in the pollen chamber of the flowers, to reward them. The Ceropegias are known as “deceptive flowers,” allowing themselves to be pollinated by the insects they attract without rewarding them with food.

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Ceropegia hirsuta, Panarpani, Madhya Pradesh, 080917

In addition to this trick, there is also the ensuing imprisonment, as the plants trap the flies in their flowers for around 24 hours. This ensures that the flies — searching for both food and a way out — do all the work when it comes to pollination. As a result of this activity combined with food deprivation, the flies are quite weak when they are finally allowed to fly away. As hungry as they are, they are magically drawn to the alluring, deceptive scent of neighbouring flowers, where they end up back at square one.

The deceit of the Ceropegias was discovered by Annemarie Heiduk, a doctoral researcher in biology at the University of Bayreuth. Scientists from Bayreuth, Salzburg, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, London, and Pietermaritzburg helped her gather the evidence. The international team has now presented its research findings in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

You can read in more detail about this fascinating process,

here

But the plant itself is sometimes subject to being eaten by the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Here a Plain Tiger caterpillar on the flower of one Ceropegia:

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Here is a photo that I took of a true carnivorous plant, called the Sundew flower, which digests the insects caught in the sticky “dew” of its flowers.

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Just another example of the wonders of the world we live in!

Sounds…

July 26, 2018

My walk home from my daughter’s, in terms of sounds:
the burbling, liquid sound of the Red-whiskered Bulbul and a couple of Tailorbirds, then the harsh cawing of crows.
The rasping of two coconut brooms that a pourakramika uses to clean leaf litter and trash.
The clank of the bucket and mug, that maid wields to wash the front the house.
The echoing call of “soppu!” from a pushcart vendor.
Cars, two-wheelers and the whine of autos as I cross the main road.
Snatches of conversation as I pass people, some of it very intriguing.
The monsoon wind soughing through the branches of a large Gulmohar tree.
The Venkatesha Suprabhatam from the phone of one walker who has apparently not heard of earphones.
The “ha-ha-ha” of the Laughter Club.
The honking horns of impatient motorists rushing to work.
Mukesh’s “chal ri sajni” from an open window.
A program on Ambabai, on Amurthavarshini channel, in my own ears.
My own footsteps as I climb the four floors.
Finally, the key in my front door…

4th Sunday outing, Bngbirds: Muthanallur Kere, 220718

July 25, 2018

Our group, the Usual Gang of Suspects, at MCS or Mandatory Chai Stop. The group always has different people, so this is a good way of introducing ourselves to each other!

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The assembled group except for MBK.

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Anil, Anindita, Divya, Regin, Arpita,Sushma, Imtiaz (hidden),Siri, Sanjay, Suhasini, Padma,Prathap, Ramaswamy, Gopinath, Raju, Harish, Ganesha, Priyaranjan, Subramanya, Sahas, Vijay, Arnab, Srini, Deepak. MBK is missing. Muthanallur lake,220718

With MBK, who was photographing me photographing the group!

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Email to bngbirds egroup:

Dear Shyam, Sorry that you had to miss a very pleasant morning, and one where two of the most experienced birders of Bangalore were present! It was very nice to have Dr M B Krishna and Dr S Subramanya, who shared some of their encyclopaedic knowledge with us.

Suhasini with MBK and Subbu

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All of us met at the Shani temple at Muthanallur,

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but when we started walking on the lake bund, it was apparent that because of the proliferation of water hyacinth, this part of the lake was completely choked and we could not see much. So we all piled into our cars and went to the Muthanallur bus stop, and from there to the path that leads past a pig farm to the shore of the lake.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

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The lake was brimming; this is, surely, the fullest that I have seen this waterbody.

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The path that we usually walked on was completely under water, so we took the higher path. This, too, was very overgrown after the rains, and we did not cover more than half the distance we usually cover in drier seasons. However enough interesting beings kept us occupied.

Pied Kingfisher

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Having started with Coppersmith Barbets and White-throated Kingfishers near the temple, we looked at Little Grebes, Little and Great Cormorants, Coots and an occasional Egret and Pond Heron. Black Kites and Brahminy Kites soared over the water, effortlessly riding on the monsoon wind. We heard the Common Iora before some of us spotted it. Some Purple Swamphens, Common Moorhens, and an Indian Cormorant added to our list. We watched Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers, too.

Sunbird’s nest

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Oriental Darter

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Nor was there a lack of other creatures to observe. Today certainly seemed to be Spider Day! Wood Spiders, Orb Weavers, Tent Spiders, Signature Spiders, Comb-footed Spiders, Social Spiders…what a variety of them we were privileged to see this morning!

Butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, too, dotted our walk and it was nice to see ants farming hoppers on the Milkweed plants. Siri was the only child on the walk, but she was most interested in everything, even though a snail shell had her drawing back in disgust!

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Green Lynx Spider with fly kill.

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A variety of wild plants were all around us. I showed them the Abutilon, the Devil’s Coach Whip, the Coat Button flowers, and the heart-shaped mark on the seeds of the Balloon Vine, that gives it the scientific name “cardiospermum” (cardio=heart, spermum=seed).Evolvulus, Justicia, Richardia, Senna, bloomed everywhere.The water hyacinth led the list of invasive plants, with Parthenium, Lantana, Eupatorium there too. We looked at the monocultures of Acacia and Eucalyptus.

Returning, we paused at the Adi Parasakhti temple that has been recently built, next to the huge old Mahua tree, which was fruiting.

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MBK aaked an intriguing question about why the tree dropped all its seeds near itself rather than trying to disperse it far and wide. (Want to know the answer? Email him!) We shared the variety of snacks that we brought, and having restored our tissues, walked back to our waiting commitments elsewhere and the routine of our weekday lives.

Some of us stopped for breakfast at South Inn, on Sarjapura Road, as we returned that way.

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Replete, and charged up with the easy companionship of a morning spent in Nature, we wended our way homewards.

Many thanks to Deepak, who came along in spite of running a fever the previous day. As one of us had locked the key inside the car, he stayed until the issue was sorted out (Gautam went to the village and got a mechanic from a garage, who opened the car in a few minutes!), before leaving.

Small Salmon Arab.

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MBK made the point that the walk must start later to allow students to join in. However, on my own walks, I ensure that college students and young women are provided safe transportation, and have many of them on walks that start sharp at 6.30am. It just takes a little extra effort to accommodate people in cars; and it results in everyone meeting new people and bonds the group together!

So please, if you have any difficulty with transportation on the 3rd and 4th Sunday walks, do ask on the group if someone is coming from your area; people are generally happy to share a ride, and people like me, who do not have a car, or have trouble with the low frequency and late start of public transport on a Sunday, can still enjoy these outings.

I have put up an album of my photos on FB,

here

and on Flickr,

here

I have taken a short video of the group while we took a snack break:

Shyam and others, wishing you a good time for the rest of the Sunday, (I mean the siesta as well as the time left!) and a productive week ahead.

Cheers, Deepa.

Blue Mormon, Common Mormon

July 17, 2018

The Common Mormon does not have blue
Whether it’s the UP or UN you view.
The female Common Mormon can pose
An appearance like the Crimson Rose.
But if the UP of the Blue Mormon you view
And look at that pattern of blue
The larger size will make you stare
As this beauty floats through the air.
These differences are, I tell you, true
Between the Mormon, Common and the Mormon, Blue!

Blue Mormon

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Common Mormon

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Common Mormon female mimicking Crimson Rose

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Do’s and don’ts for photographers on nature/wilderness group walks

July 9, 2018

I just read Janaki Lenin’s well-written list of do’s and don’ts on nature/wilderness walks.

Since so many of the participants are photographers, I’d like to add my own list of do’s and don’ts for them. This list does not list the obvious points of ethical photography, though those must be followed too…it deals with how people should do photography while in a group.

Do not stray away from the group in pursuit of the photograph. Group leaders often find it hard to trace errant members, and even in scrub jungle, which looks tame and domesticated, it is easy to get lost, particulary on cloudy days when the cardinal directions are not clear.

If you find something interesting, do (quietly) let the others (or at least your neighbours) know about it. Clicking away in silence while others wonder what you have in your viewfinder…is not A Good Thing

When you find something interesting, and step up to take your photograph, remember to check if you are getting in anyone else’s way. Many people wind up taking photographs of the backs of eager beavers who have stepped into the frame, intent on their own photography.

If you have a good zoom on your camera, do allow others to go closer.

Do not, in your eagerness to get closer, chase the subject away, so that others in the group get neither a good look nor a photograph.

Remember that others with smaller cameras and lenses, and mobile cameras too, are as much photographers as the ones with the bazooka lenses.

Silence your camera shutter sound. It’s very impressive to hear the machine-gun sounds of a burst of shots, but it can chase away an alert animal or bird. It can also spoil someone else’s video.

Do not keep interrupting the walk to show others your shots from this, or other, walks. Chimping (the process of looking at one’s shots) can be done after the walk (or by yourself, if you want to check on something.). Showing other people your shots is fine if they have, for some other reason, missed seeing the subject, and want to see it.

Do take some shots yourself, and as fast as you can, allow others to get to your particular point, so that they, too, can take their images.

I once heard someone say, “I am glad I got the shot, and I am even more glad no one else got it.” If this is your point of view, then nature walks in groups are not for you. To get unique shots, go by yourself. You may get those shots, but I assure you, you will miss out on the camaraderie, the multiple opportunities, and the safety benefits that group walks have to offer.

Turahalli, 010718

July 1, 2018

The monsoons are when the peacocks, dance, and this morning, at Turahalli Reserve Forest, we were delighted to watch this.

Lists sent to Ms Dipika, DCF, Turahalli:

Bird list:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46912817

(47 species)

Butterflies:

Baronet
Blue, Babul
Blue, Lime
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Tiny Grass
Castor, Common
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crow, Common
Cupid, Small
Dart, Oriental Grass
Emigrant, Common
Gull, Common
Lime, Common
Leopard, Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Yellow
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger,Striped
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Insects:

Ants, Processional
Bee, Carpenter
Bee, Honey
Beetle,Bombardier
Beetle, Net-winged
Caterpillars of various moths and Common Rose
Centipede
Dragonfly, various
Grasshopper, various
Katydid
Mantis, Praying
Millipede
Plant Hopper
Praying Mantis
Spider, Funnel Web
Spider, Orb Weaver
Spider, Giant Wood
Spider, Jumping
Spider, Social
Spider, Tent Web
Spider, Wolf
Wasp, Paper
Wasp, Spider
Wasp, Scoliid

Wildflowers

Acacia sp
Aristolochia indica seen in a lot of places (this is an endangered plant)
Catunaregam spinosa
Commelina sp
Clerodendron sp
Cyanotis sp
Evolvulus sp
Grewia sp
Fungi and Mushrooms, various kinds
Mimosa pudica
Passiflora sp
Stachytarpeta
Toddelia asiatica
Tridax sp

FB album of the morning

here

Visit to FES for Grow-Trees, Kallimapalli, Karnataka, 230618

June 28, 2018

I got a call from my friend Srinvasa Shenoy, aka Srini, asking whether I would be interested in a visit to a site where afforestation is being done, near the Karnataka/Andhra Pradesh border, in a small village called Kollimapalli.

Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at

Bhairasagara lake

which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to

Bagepalli

where we met Avinash Chowdary of

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)

Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to

Grow Trees

and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.

We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:

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Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.

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The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.

However”The objective,” says Srini, “is not about planting trees only – rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level.”

Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :

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It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.

FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time – but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. – who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were

Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are ‘prohibited’ zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.

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The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.

Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for ‘cattle ponds’ at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.

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Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.

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After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!

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We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

Lynx Spider

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Small Salmon Arab

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Robberfly

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Sirkeer Malkoha

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Oriental Garden Lizard male

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Oriental Garden Lizard female

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Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:

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Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)

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As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.

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In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.

Bird lists:

For Bhairasagara, click

here

For Kollimapalli, click

here

For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click

here