Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bandhavgarh! Let’s start with the stripes….030315

March 6, 2015

We were five of us on the trip to Bandhavgarh, in Madhya Pradesh,over the past week….in alphabetical order, Karthik, Manjula, Nitin, Sharmila, and YT. Manjula and Sharmila had never seen a tiger; so naturally (with Bandhavgarh being a tiger reserve), the focus was on sighting the big cats.

Alas for the Tiger Focus, we arrived, and cloudy skies turned to heavy rain in which even birdwatching became difficult, leave alone sighting the tigers (we didn’t see any leopards; apparently, leopard sightings are rare in Bandhavgarh, unlike south Indian safaris where they are more common.) So…four safaris, the morning and evening of the 1st and 2nd of March, went by. Though they didn’t say much, I could sense their disappointment, which was not helped by tales of others in our resort having sighted them,and the general question, “Did you see any tigers” being always on the lips of fellow-guests.

A report of a tiger being sighted (rather deep in the jungle and far away from the road) had some jeeps rushing to the spot on the evening of the 2nd, but my friends could not actually see what they wanted to .

By the evening of the 2nd, however, the weather began to clear up, and we started the safari on the 3rd morning with clear skies.

The sun rose in the misty, still-moist forest:

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We had seen pugmarks, and fresh scat, earlier:

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We did hear some growls quite near at hand at one point, and Nitin and I got a fleeting glimpse of a tiger vanishing into the trees. Was this going to be the way things went for Sharmila and Manjula as well? Our driver and guide thought otherwise, and knowing the movements of this particular tiger (the Mirchaini female) well, they thought a sighting would be likely. We moved along the trail, rather hopefully.

Our guide and driver (Chuttan) stopped to ask some forest guards about the movement of the animal, and they clearly indicated that she was nearby. So they took a short detour to the trail where they thought the animal would cross. And, like good guides often are…they were right.

I did not zoom in to take close-up shots of the tiger, as all my friends had bazooka lenses and will be getting (and hopefully sharing) excellent shots. I decided, instead, to take a video. (For some reason, most DSLR photographers do not take videos as often as I do with my bridge camera.) I just clicked a few shots during the course of the video, and a couple after the beauty crossed over into the trees and thickets on the other side of the trail. So…her face is hardly visible, and she’s mostly tawny stripes and white-tipped ears. Here are the images:

She first appears behind the bund on the stream:

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The stripes of the grasses and the animal seem to complement each other perfectly:

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The sight that a wildlife tourist thrills to…stripes in the greenery!

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The following three images were taken during videography. In the video, you will hear the click and a momentary pause when I am taking the images.

Here she is, crossing the trail in a leisurely fashion

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She goes off into the thicket:

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I then tried to track her as she moved along on the other side. Focusing through the leaf clutter was a challenge, so I just shot what I could. However, the image below is still one of my favourites, showing the Mirchaini female, proud and regal, in her home:

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Those white-tipped ears are often the first sign many other creatures get, of a predator in their midst:

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Even though she was in the shade by this time, I got her face in this image.

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One can see how the stripes can so easily melt into the light and shade of the forest:

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That was it; we could not see the lady any more, and indeed, I was happier to see how Manjula’s and Sharmila’s faces lighted up (well, Karthik’s and Nitin’s too!). We went on to “Centre Point” where chai and hot alu bondas are sold, and here are my friends, with Tiger Smiles on their faces:

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Manjula took this one, where I am in the picture, too.

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My favourite image is the happiness on Manjula’s face, as she looks at the images she has captured, and the satisfaction on Chuttan’s face as he contemplates a job well done.

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Here’s the video of the tigress ambling across the path and off into the bamboo thicket…

I will be posting about the historic temples and buildings that we saw, the birds we sighted (and sometimes stopped to observe), the many plants and trees I clicked, and the other mammals in the jungle, too….but meanwhile, here’s to the tiger, the umbrella species of conservation in the Indian jungles. Is it good luck or bad, for this animal to be the single-minded focus of so many visitors to the wild, from all over the world? Are we conserving the animal, or helping it along to extinction?

The future of our tigers…it seesaws up and down like the terrain this lady traverses!

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Sands and stone….the heritage of Karnataka, 220215

February 25, 2015

On the Kollegal-Malavalli trip, that was such a great outing, I sighted several interesting things apart from the birds.

In one village, where this Goddess had her temple:

I found an area with several Hero Stones, venerated and maintained well.

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Hero Stones

called “virgal” in Kannada, and “nAttukkal” in Tamizh, are memorial stones, commemorating the honorable death of a hero in battle, acccording to the Wiki entry.

Erected between the 3rd century BC and the 18th century AD, hero stones are found all over India. They often carry inscriptions displaying a variety of adornments, including bas relief panels, frieze, and figures on carved stone.

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Usually they are in the form of a stone monument and may have an inscription at the bottom with a narrative of the battle. According to the historian Upinder Singh, the largest concentration of such memorial stones are found in the Indian state of Karnataka. About two thousand six hundred and fifty hero stones, the earliest dated to the 5th century have been discovered in Karnataka.

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The custom of erecting memorial stones dates back to the Iron Age (1000 BCE–600BCE) though a vast majority were erected between the 5th and 13th centuries AD. A hero stone was usually divided into three panels, but occasionally, into four or five panels depending on the event. The upper panel depicts the subject worshiping a deity such as a Shiva linga, the middle panel depicts the hero sometimes seated in a palanquin or a shrine being lifted toward the heavens by apsaras (heavenly nymphs), and the lower panels would display battle scenes.

The stones are found alone or in groups, often near an irrigation tank or lake outside a village. Creating hero stones had been prevalent since the Sangam period dating back 2300 years, and the practice continued until the Nayaka and post-Nayaka period to about 1800 A.D.

Well, that was one great slice (or rock?) of history that I found in a village that we passed. But later, we also drove through.

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Talakkad , a desert-like town on the left bank of the Kaveri river 45 km (28 miles) from Mysore and 133 km (82 miles) from Bangalore in Karnataka, India.

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It once had over 30 temples, most of which now lie buried in sand.

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The extant goup of temples, where the eastward flowing Kaveri river changes course as the sand on its banks spreads over a wide area, is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus.

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The town has the following mix of history and mythology:

The origin of the town is lost in antiquity; but one tradition is that its name was derived from two Kirāta twin brothers, Tala and Kādu, who, cutting down a tree which they saw wild elephants worshiping, discovered that it contained an image of shiva, and that the elephants were Rishis, transformed. The tree being miraculously restored, all obtained mōksha and the place was named Tala-kādu, which was translated into Sanskrit as Dala-vana. Two stone images declared to represent the brothers are pointed out in front of the temple of Veerabadra Swamy. In a later age, Rāma is said to have halted here on his expedition to Lanka.

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The earliest authentic mention of the city of Talekād or Talakādu, in Sanskrit Dalavana-pura, is in connection with the Ganga line of kings. Harivarma, who has been assigned to find a place (247-266 A.D) was, according to an old chronicle, installed at Skandapura , but resided in the great city of Dalavanapura in the Karnāta-dēsa. Thenceforward Talkād became the capital of these powerful sovereigns and there the subsequent kings of that line were crowned.

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Talakad is also associated with a curse!

Curse of Talakad….

Tirumala-Rāja, sometimes called Srī Ranga Rāya, the representative of the Vijayanagar family at Seringapatam (Srirangapatna), being afflicted with an incurable disease. He came to Talkād to offer sacrifices in the temple of Vaidyēsvara. His second wife Alamelamma was left in charge of the Government of Srirangagapattanam ; but she, hearing that her husband was on the point of death, soon after left for Talkād with the object of seeing him before he died, handing over Srirangapattanam and its dependencies to Rāja Wodeyar of Mysore, whose dynasty ever since retained them. It appears that Rāja Wodeyar had been desirous of possessing the jewels which was the property of the Rāni, and being unable to obtain them, and eager to seize at any pretext, he levied an army and proceeded against the Rani, conquering Talakad in 1610.

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Rāni Alamelamma thereupon went to the banks of the Cauvery, and throwing in the jewel, drowned herself opposite Mālangi, at the same time uttering a three-fold curse.”Let Talakād become sand ; let Mālangi become a whirlpool ; let the Mysore Rājas fail to beget heirs.” The latter part continued to effect the royal family, and the last scion, Srikanta Datta Wodeyar, died heirless. Though an heir has been “officially” adopted and declared recently, the (male) blood line of the Wodeyars has come to an end.

So much history…and story…lies buried in the sand and stones of my land….Oh, mother Kaveri, how many tales thou hast, to tell; and how many more lie hidden behind the veil of the centuries?

The pictures of the birds on this wonderful outing are on my FB album

here

and the pictures of other interesting things are

here

The quarrel, Kollegal-Malavalli trip, 220215

February 25, 2015

We set out to go to Gulakmale.our plans changed as we got into the Lions’ car..and it turned out to be a memorable day of excellent birding, and much else besides.

One of the scenes I watched was a difference of opinion between between a Little Cormorant and a Great Egret.

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They seemed, at first, to be quite companionably sitting next to each other on a sandbar in the lake. But the Egret seemed to be “over” reaching…

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But then…the altercation broke out!

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Differences surfaced, confrontation took place.

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If you see the neck of the Egret you’ll know the meaning of the phrase, ruffled feathers!

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The Cormorant would appear to have won this bout…the poor Egret sloped off.

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Was it a battle between “little” and “great”? Was it an altercation between “black” and “white”? Who knows what the sparking point for quarrels, arguments…and wars…are?

The geometry of life, 220215

February 24, 2015

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In the ellipses of my own making
I live, and thrive.
I cause the ripples around me
As I seek to survive.
My wings can take me far afield
From the reeds of my birth.
But from the sky…down to the water…
For survival…I come down to earth.

Black-winged Stilt at Harohalli kere (lake), Karnataka, 220215.

KTB’s life, and art, goes on…

February 24, 2015

Here are some specimens of KTB’s art, and her life with her sibling, my precious Kallubhai aka The Booda..

KTB enjoyed going on the ferry at her grandparents’ home in Maine:

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Here’s the famous Gateway Arch of Sat Luyis:

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Occasionally, instead of fighting over the same toy, they play peacefully together, according to their father.

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She made these Valentines:

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And listed what she loved:

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I love the fact that her bruthrr features on that list!

Here’s her rendition of the calendar. I don’t know what happened to November and December!

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One year, I found she’d made up a song, “Hmm,hmm, I’m hunting for some eggs”, on Easter morning. So this was her rendition and description of it this year! “I love to hunt eggs while singing my Easter song”, for those of you who don’t go with Creative Spelling.)

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Birds in the air: near and far

February 23, 2015

Though an aero-show concluded last week in Bangalore, I’d like to share other air shows I attended!

This was near Kollegal, on 220215.

These are

Spot-billed Pelicans

which are local travellers. Now, the long-distance…

These are

Bar-headed Geese

landing at Hadinaru kere, near Nanjangud, Karnataka, on 080215; they come all the way
from Mongolia!

These are two of the several birds whose arrival we look forward to, eagerly, every winter, to our shores..giving us the message that all is well with bird migration around the globe.

Putting on a good face! Kaiga, 150215

February 20, 2015

As we finished our birding transect and came back towards the backwaters of the Kali river,in the Virje area, I found this figure in the courtyard of a little home.

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Thinking that it was, possibly, an effigy created for burning, I went up to it to photograph it. Then, two ladies emerged from the house and said something to me that I could not understand. I was wondering if they did not like my photographing it. But no..it was just the reverse!

Apparently, they had put the “face” of the figure inside; they obliged me by bringing the face out.

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I got them fitting the face to the figure.

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Then it was in place, and this lovely figure beamed at me!

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I clicked Soumyashree with Mr Toothy Grin!

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I was told that the figure had been made for the jAthrE (ritual religious procession) of the Ganapathi temple nearby.

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But I could not, still, understand, whether it was an effigy meant to burnt (as effigies depicting evil are burnt.) However, I enjoyed the eyes and the teeth of that face, and the interesting, rotund figure…and walked on my way, half my questions answered, and the other half, unanswered, feeding my imagination.

Does this figure represent one of the devotees of this temple? After the jAthrE was over, why was the effigy carried to this home? How long will it stay there….will it disintegrate on its own, or be dismantled later? Questions to which I might, perhaps, have got anwers,if I’d been able to stay longer and talk to the ladies. Now…unless someone from the area helps me with the facts….they will all remain in the realm of speculation; and I can perhaps weave stories of my own. ..you are so good at this…what do you think is the story of this “eye-tooth”, obviously male, effigy?

The official gatherings at the Kaiga Bird Marathon, 14 and 15 Feb, 2015

February 19, 2015

As birders, it was a very warm welcome that we got from the people at NPCL (Nuclear Power Corportion Limited) when we met at Kaiga, for the Bird Marathon.

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The event was a part of the Environmental Stewardship Program.

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Mr D Subba Rao, Convener, welcomed us.

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Here we all are:

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There was a large group of young men and women from the Forestry College, Sirsi.

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Three of these young men were on my team the next day, and proved very knowledgeable about plants and trees.

Mr K V Rajesh also spoke.

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On the morning of the event:

Here’s a line-up of some of the organizers.

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Mr Mohandas (extreme right) has been one of the indefatigable organizers of this event; this is his fifth year!

Dr H N Bhat, Site Director, flagged us off.

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We boarded the buses that would take us to our respective transects.

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Our sample bird list

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After the Marathon was over and all the teams returned to the Nisarga Guest House, the various teams collated their lists and handed them over. While some of the organizers quickly tabulated the results, we had a formal gathering.

Dr Timmapur spoke:

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Here are some of the organizers on stage:

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Dr Raju Kasambe was the Chief Guest, as he was, last year too.

I was not happy at the teams being ranked;this makes the event a competition, which can become unhealthy, as happened at the HSBC Bangalore Bird Race, resulting in that event becoming non-competitive from 2014. It’s also unfair when the teams cannot choose their transects but have to go on the ones allocated to them.

That said, however, the count of 247 species from the 15th of February, 2015, still indicates that the area in and around Kaiga is good, environmentally. Thankfully, numbers make no difference to me; I enjoy the day…and everything about it. Not just the birds, but the scenery, the plants, the trees, the insects (and even the mammals…we sighted a Chital stag and the Malabar Giant Squirrel!)

I must agree that Kaiga is a great place for birders to visit…and I look forward to the event next year!

Kaiga Bird Marathon:14th pre-event, and 15th Feb 2015

February 19, 2015

Let me start with the iconic bird on the area…the Malabar Pied Hornbill.

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On the eve of the event, some of us met up at the Nisarga Guest House:

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Here we are, admiring the photographs of Mr Puttaraju, the one holding the megaphone.

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Here’s one of his excellent shots, that was displayed in Subhadra Hotel:

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Neha of BNHS spotted this Spotted Deer (Chital) stag on the opposite bank of the Kali river.

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The iconic bird of the area, the Malabar Pied Hornbill, made a flypast in the gathering dusk

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Mr Raju Kasambe made me see three of them!

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We watched some birds in the garden.

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This Purple-rumped Sunbird was one.

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Good photos of birds are always a draw, too!

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We went for a short night walk and clicked this Amboli Dart Frog:

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Now, to the actual event!

We gathered in the pre-dawn dark, under the crescent moon

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on the 15th of February, in the garden of the guest house:

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I led team Rufous Treepie on Transect G (the 8th of 8 transects)…which was the Virje area, comprising the Kali river backwaters, some forest and village patches.

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(Sudheer Prabhu also joined us.)

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Team Rufous Treepie lined up like willing soldiers.

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Our starting and ending point (Ganesha Temple)

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Here’s team Rufous Treepie!

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The scene at the backwaters was very beautiful, in the breaking dawn

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Here we are, looking for birds at various spots.

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We started with the Malabar Pied Hornbill, and then the White-bellied Sea Eagle sailed across the water.

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An Oriental Magpie Robin silhouette:

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The Stork-billed Kingfisher was unmistakable, even in the distance.

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So was the Golden-fronted Leafbird.

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A White-throated Kingfisher silhouetted itself against the waters sparkling in the rising sun.

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And then it took off…

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A Pond Heron:

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A White-browed Wagtail:

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Asian Fairy Bluebird:

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Chestnut-shouldered Petronia (also called the Yellow-throated Sparrow, why, I don’t know)

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There was not much trash…but it was there…

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A Shikra

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Malabar Crested Lark:

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White-rumped Munia:

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The beautiful eye of a Green Bee-Eater:

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Brown Shrike

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I also spotted many (28 species!) of butterflies. Here’s a Plum Judy:

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And that most beautiful bearer of the “Malabar” name, the Malabar Tree Nymph:

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They were on some Canthium vines:

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Some un id butterfly eggs:

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I got a few wildflowers, plants and trees, too.

Un id:

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Jungli Almond

see here

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Cashew fruit on the tree:

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I got this shot of a flowering mango tree and a Fishtail Palm:

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This un id plant was fleshy, and thick with sticky sap

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We walked through homes with flowering jasmine:

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I wondered if I would spot a Spiderhunter on this banana flower:

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I was told that this is the rAmphal, a relative of the sItAphal (custard apple)

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Some homes had pineapples growing, too!

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Soumyashree gifted this winged seed to her husband Prashantha Kumar, and he lovingly sported it on his cap for the rest of the transect.

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Un id seed:

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The girls are looking at some Funnel Web Spiders’ homes!

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The scenes as we walked through the transect:

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We enjoyed our lovely packed brefus!

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We also looked at the traditional wooden architecture of storage barns:

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The young men from the Forestry College, Sirsi, interacted with village children in a very friendly way.

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Children are delightful everywhere!

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The young men also pointed out this Civet scat, but without the coffee beans that turn into

Kopi Luwak

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Unfortunately, the high price of this coffee has resulted in some horrible practices,

click here

They also showed me their impeccable field notes:

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I enjoyed the colourful clothes

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and this effigy created for the temple jAthrE:

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I don’t know what this was!

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We came back to the backwaters

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Where the elephant God and an elephant looked at us.

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The temple had mechanically operated drums.

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the hOma kuNdA looked lovely.

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There was a navagraha hOmA going on, and I sat peacefully, listening to the mantrAs being chanted.

As I sat there, several raptors, including the White-bellied Sea Eagle, soared past.

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Here’s the representation of the Nuclear Power Plant, which I hope to get permission to visit the next time!

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We came back to the guest house and collated our sightings.

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And, ofkose, had a great lunch!

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The charming young women made a splash of colour as they relaxed.

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Here’s the list of birders from our data sheet.

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In alphabetical order:

Isha Prabhu
Janhvi
Mahadev
Poojitha R V
Prashantha Kumar
Sneha Suresh
Sooraj
Soumyashree
Sudheer Prabhu
Suresha
Umashankar
Vidyavathi
Vijay Kumar

A sample of our bird list!

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(I think we got 75 species of birds.)

I was the only person who also submitted a butterfly list :D

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We had a nice evening gathering, with the organizers officiating.

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We took the overnight sleeper bus back to Bangalore!

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MyeBird list for the 15th, the actual event, is

here

15th FB album

click here

I could not be happy about the event become competitive, with rankings being announced. However…the count of 247 species from the 15th of February, 2015, still indicates that the area in and around Kaiga is good, environmentally. I also counted so many butterflies when I wasn’t even looking for them; so I must agree that Kaiga is a great
place for birders to visit!

I’ll close with this beautiful Asian Fairy Bluebird, that lives up to its name.

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I hope you enjoyed the Kaiga Bird Marathon as much as we did!

Kaiga Bird Marathon visit, 13,140215

February 18, 2015

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

I’ve been wanting to participate in the Kaiga Bird Marathon for a
while. I must say, it intrigued me that there was a birding event in a
place where there is a nuclear reactor; one’s image of the triple-leaf
radiation “fan” symbol doesn’t go with any thoughts on the environment
or “good” ecology. Recent nuclear meltdown events haven’t helped this
mental image, either. For this very reason, I determined to go to
Kaiga and “see for myself”.

Harish Chandra and I decided to go a day earlier and get in a little
more birding in this town set in the Western Ghats.We decided to take
the scenic route and chugged along the Konkan coast to Karwar,

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Maritime Museum, Karwar.

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from where we took a bus to Kaiga.

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Even along the way, there were good bird
sightings…the “plateau of the south”, which has got anglicized from
“Dakshin” to “Deccan”, showed itself its myriad different habitats.

When we checked into Subhadra Hotel,

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we were met by Mr Mohandas

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of NPCL (Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd.). He has been one of the untiring organizers of the event. He gave us a tour of Kaiga township…

Old Ramalingeshwara temple, Kaiga Township.

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Kadra Dam.

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so green and fresh, even at the end of the winter season. He then took us to the Kaiga Timber Depot, where, amongst other beauties,
the

Malabar (Crimson-fronted) Barbet

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the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, tick-tocking its body on the branches

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and an in-the-dark duet between two Brown Hawk Owls (one of which I clicked in the dark)

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thrilled us…not forgetting the Malabar Giant Squirrel.

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the Kadra Dam was beautiful to see, by night,

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as we headed back to Mohandas’ home, where we met his talented wife Manjula, and bright children, Anshu and Dhriti.

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Here’s a video of 2-year-old Dhriti id’ing the birds in her father’s book!She’s the youngest birder I’ve ever met.

here is an album of Manjula’s creations

(I don’t know if everyone can see this)

I saw this plaque of the Kaiga Atomic Power Plant, Unit 2 (we didn’t have permission, or the time, to visit!)

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For dinner, we picked up some fresh seawater and freshwater fish (Katla and Pedi) for Harish.

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and then went to the only eatery that was open, but where the proprietor kept a very clean kitchen

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and affectionately served us a great dinner.

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The next morning, we set off to walk along the road that leads to the
Nisarga Guest House (of NPCL).

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This cow, feeding her calf, typifies rural India to me…great family values, and a lot of cleanliness issues!

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We stopped for breakfast at the same eatery, and saw this emerald-eyed cat, which reminded me of the Black Panther that had been sighted last year after the same event.

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Here’s the owner with the cat…the cat is named, Rama and the owner is Lakshmana!

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A Shikra sat, looking for breakfast.

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We went past the Day Sellers’ Market,

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noticed a Strangler Fig in convoluted designs,

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went past a little shrine.

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As we crossed over a dry ditch, what should entrance us (pun intended, this was our ‘entrance’ to birding that morning!) but a perfectly quiet, but blue-as-magic Malabar
non-Whistling Thrush!

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Our birding began in earnest, and we spotted these Chestnut-tailed Starlings:

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A flock of Wire-tailed Swallows swooped and occasionally sat on the ground:

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A White-throated Kingfisher sat around:

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A Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike lady delighted us

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as did several Common Ioras

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This one was feasting on the flowers of a tree that I could not identify

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lots of Bulbuls

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many Munias

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Orange Minivets

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Two Black-hooded Orioles had a loud difference of opinion in the golden bamboo thicket.

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So many birds have ruby eyes!

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These Green Bee-eaters have them, too:

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The golden, van-Gogh-looking grassland/field area near C-5 buildings

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was most productive. We saw the Eursasian Blackbird (I think eBird calls it the Indian
Blackbird now?)

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I got the tubular tongue of the Purple Sunbird:

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A Pale-billed Flowerpecker posed for us.

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The mango trees were in full bloom everywhere.

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I saw the architectural marvel of a pasted-together Weaver Ants’ nest:

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Kaveri and Soumya posed for me as they went to school.

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We had a masal dosa lunch

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at Mr Bhatt’s eatery, which is hidden next to a plastic goods store. This young man, deaf and dumb, is totally self-reliant; Mr Bhatt communicates easily with him, and he serves the customers with a smile.

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It was nice to see my portrait adorning a shop:

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The evening was spent in meeting other birders who gathered for the
event on the morrow; we did feel that we could have gone off for a
birding trail! But it was still very enjoyable, meeting old friends
and making new ones. We admired Puttaraju’s wonderful photographs
(we’d already seen a collection in Subhadra Hotel), and sightings of
the White-bellied Sea Eagle, flying low to the Kali river
backwaters,behind the guest house, as well as Mani’s dusk sighting of
the Indian Pitta in the bushes, added to the happiness we felt.

My eBird list for the 14th is

here

I’ve put up photos from the 13th and 14th on separate FB albums (as usual,not only the
birds; the local food and customs are very interesting too!)

The journey to Kaiga and the 13th evening:

click here

The 13th and 14th of February:

click here

Next up, the actual Bird Marathon on the 15th, and the evening gathering!


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