Doresanipalya Forest Research Station, 160417

April 18, 2017

It was still very pleasant when several of us met up at the Millennium Avenue gate of DFRS, and Harish led us, literally, up the garden path.

Knowing what it is to drive long distances for birding, I must appreciate the interest of people who do this. For example, Latha and Satyan came all the way from Vidyaranyapura! Others in our group have the DFRS as their backyard and they just walked to the outing.

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The place is green and lovely now:

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A Shikra started off our sighting and bird list, and in fact, the sightings of these birds (probably two individuals, a male and female) were a recurring part of our whole morning.

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It was nice to have several knowledgeable people talk to us about plants, insects and several other things, as we walked. Since we are still at the season where some trees and plants are in flower, the walk was punctuated by plant and tree information too. We started with the exquisite flowers of the Sesbania grandiflora, commonly called the Vegetable Hummingbird tree….

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The list went on. Ajit was delighted at finding Ixora pavetta:

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Here’a closeup of the fragrant flowers:

For example, Ajit powdered the resin of the Shorea roxburghii, and told us the common name of the tree…”dhoopa”, as the resin is ignited during the puja rituals. We heard an interesting story about why the cashew is so called (ask Harish if you weren’t there!)

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Resin of Shorea roxburghii

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When powdered, the “dhoopa” resin gave off a stronger fragrance.

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Nest of Social Spiders

Perhaps there were no “unusual” surprises…but the “usual gang of suspects” were enough to keep us interested throughout. A few Flycatchers, the flowing song of several Magpie Robins, both seen and unseen, a tailorbird flitting in the bamboo thicket…so the list, and the walk, went.

There were some very interesting mammal sightings too. A group of these, known as the Bangalore Butterfly Club

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Rohit, one of the founders of the Bangalore Butterfly Club, RHS

were having their fortnightly “buttering” walk there, and we had a Tiger sighting ….as well as Jezebels, Skippers,

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Indian Skipper

…and a few Blues in the short time we
spent together. They were beginning their outing while we were finishing ours. I think the time frame is one of the things that determine whether one devotes oneself to birds or butterflies!

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Common Picture-wing, a dragonfly.

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A dead Tailed Jay allowed us to see this butterfly close up.The antennae and the body were eaten away, probably by ants.

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Funnel web spider waiting for prey

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Exoskeletons shed by Cicadas

A few mongrel puppies looked delightful as they settled at the base of a bamboo plant, but the few bonnet macaques I’ve noticed once in a while were absent. Since these invariably try to snatch the processed food and drink from people’s hands, it was good not to see them!

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We shared biscuits and khakras, and that made the walk all the more pleasant…but after 9am comes Breakfast O’ Clock, and soon, a few of us were seated in Adiga’s, getting outside some calories.

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I’d like to add that I missed Deepak, and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for every 3rd Sunday outing that he’s tirelessly organized. On any 3rd Sunday walk, of course, Geetanjali and Subir Dhar, who started this outing with a few of us pitching in,
are never far from my mind.

The eBird list, diligently compiled by Prasad, is

here

and my photos are

here

Hoping to meet many of you again next weekend,

Cheers, Deepa.

Superdog, 160417

April 17, 2017

As I returned
From an outing, back home
I chanced upon this sight
Of a superhero on the roam.

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I didn’t click the owner,
A proud-looking man, whose
Idea it was, to
Put the dog in four shoes.

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Though the pet seemed OK
And actually did strut
Proudly along, I’d never
Dress up any mutt!

A dog should be a dog
I feel, not an ape
Of any human being..
Whatever size and shape!

Mr Mathrubhootham and airline travel, 150417

April 15, 2017

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to you following a conversation I have just had with one of my grandchildren. I call him Arun. But his real name is some modern confusion that his parents found on the Internet. Aryamaan or Antenna or Aquarium or something like that. I only call him Arun. Because at most I have 10 good years left on this earth and I can’t waste eight of those trying to address him or his sister Shamiana.

So Arun came running a few minutes ago and showed me a WhatsApp video of a passenger being dragged off a plane in the United States. In the video you can see that he has been hurt quite severely. Poor fellow.

“Can you believe this?” Arun asked me.

“Keep quiet,” I told him, “and look at all the other passengers. Look at how they are sitting with so much discipline!”

Arun grabbed his phone and went away complaining that I lacked humanity for other people. As if he has been building free hospitals for the downtrodden with his bare hands since the age of 6.

Sir/madam, if there is any aspect of human life in which I would sanction the use of excessive force, it is air travel. From the very moment you step into an airport you come face to face with the very worst examples of humanity.

Some months ago I had the opportunity to take a short flight from Chennai to Bengaluru for a family function. First I had to show my passport and ticket to enter the airport. Then I had to show my ticket but not passport to stand in a line. At the end of the line a third fellow wanted to see my passport and ticket to give me a boarding pass. Then a fourth policeman wanted to see boarding pass but not passport, and my ticket he treated with contempt. And then I told Mrs. Mathrubootham that she can go to Kochi by herself, I am going back home because even Veerappan was not investigated so much.

But she persuaded me and I proceeded to the departure hall. There I approached a pleasant young lady in a modest shop and purchased two vegetarian samosas and two cups of tea. For this I paid so much money that I told my wife that we will share one samosa and keep the other one in bank locker in case of any family emergency. Shameless black-marketing.

And finally I met the worst of the worst: other passengers. Sir/madam, never in my life have I met a group of people dedicated to the act of doing the exact opposite of what they are told. Ask them to stand up and they will sit down. Ask them to sit down and they will stand up. Ask for only families to board, and every single bachelor will run. Ask them to keep boarding pass ready and they will hold in their hands every piece of paper from their life including passport, ticket, PAN Card, Aadhaar card, marriage certificate, Padayappa matinee ticket, but not boarding pass.

Things only got worse on the flight. One young couple sitting in front of me, perhaps on honeymoon, were behaving as if they are one of those insects that come out in the rainy season and have only fifteen minutes to produce children before dying. My wife spent the entire flight reading the air-sickness bag.

Finally, when I reached Kochi the airline informed me that my bag was still in Chennai. It is OK, I said, I will buy a whole new wardrobe after selling this samosa.

Sir/madam, therefore you will understand why I am not entirely against better discipline in the field of air travel. Of course there should be no violence or dragging or bleeding and all that. Maybe just a little bit in case of emergency.

Yours in exasperation,

J Mathrubootham

Haircut, 130417

April 13, 2017

Snip, snip, snip, go the scissors and bits of my hair fall (the best kind of hair fall there is.) I relax and close my eyes. Will this end well or will I look like Raggedy Ann? I don’t know, but I am content to leave it to fate, and the hairdresser. The lady in the next seat, with her hair in a made-of-dye-cap, smiles at me. Snip,snip,snip…every haircut is a calendar, measuring out the time in the length of my hair. Short hair has been a great thing for me; I learnt how to swim, I didn’t have to put up sweaty hair in a perpetual bun….with a light heart, and a lighter head, I walk home. Snip, snip, snip…a half hour more out of my life, but gone in serenity and peace.

What my friend Ravikiran had to say:

I love getting a haircut – That feeling of getting that weight off your head, the metronomic rhythmic snip-snipping of the scissors lulling you into a state of mild hypnotic drowsiness, the faint musky fragrance of the talcum powder, the slap-whack-rub scalp massage at the end – all followed by a long hot shower when I get home.

Colourful buses….

April 11, 2017

One of the things that interest me very much is the wonderful colours of the buses that ply on our roads….the mofussil (sub-urban) buses, and those that connect the various towns of our State.

I had a bonanza when, on our way back from

Sarkrebailu

after seeing the rehabilitated elephants, we came to the Shivamogga bus terminus.

There were a whole row of colourful beauties. I won’t say anything more, but let the colours, the images and the words talk for themselves!

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For a break, here are a row of apples (iPads?)

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Another break with the co-existence of two species:

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Some more children:

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The Tiger Fighter bus had a lovely pic of Tipu fighting the tiger:

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I feasted my eyes as I took an ordinary-coloured bus to go back to Ayanur!

Morning walk back home, 050417

April 5, 2017

This morning’s walk back home:
Women dotting freshly-washed front yards with rangoli in the making.
The carpets of Honge, Copper Pod, and mahogany flowers on the roads.
The smell of onion cooking as a lady makes morning palya at a mobile cart.
Walkers with their morning filter kaapi, exchanging notes and spreading newspapers.
Sunlight filtering through the trees, haloing the head of an old man as he walks with difficulty but determination.
No school buses or sleepy-faced students.
Milk packets and newspapers on mopeds,being distributed.
A young girl stopping for a minute in front of a small shrine, her eyes closed over her hands folded in prayer.
Cut watermelons making red stars.
I reach my home, content, looking up at our resident bulbuls as their burbling song pours liquidly over the lawn.

How food is cooked on a massive scale

March 28, 2017

Having seen for myself the deteriorating quality of food on trains on the Indian Railways, I watched this interesting documentary on IRCTC:

It’s rather long, watch only if you have the inclination and the time!

I couldn’t believe all the good food being prepared…why, I thought, do I never see phulkas or salads, even on the Rajdhani? And halfway through the film, the answer appeared. In response to complaints about the quality of food, the catering was take away from IRCTC itself (who then started concentrating on the corporate sector) and given to independent contractors who, I feel, are definitely running the catering service into the ground now. The video is still worth watching (as are several on how temple kitchens function) for the scale of food preparation.

Here’s one that’s also fascinating:

(Most temples in Karnataka provide food to the devotees who visit.)

4th Sunday: Hessarghatta kere, 260317

March 27, 2017

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Hi everyone,

I am afraid the 4th Sunday outings are not popular! Last month, apart from my group,

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(at the Mandatory Chai Stop,or MCS)

there were three people, and today, at Hessarghatta,just two people joined the group who had come from south and central Bangalore. But these two people were Prasad and Shyamal, and we
thoroughly enjoyed their company, as we all walked on the bund of the lake, and then back along the edge of the lake bed to the Durgamba temple and so back to the parking area. We were nine in all…in alphabetical order, Aravind, Guhan, Harshith,Neeti (visiting from Bikaner), Padma, Ramaswamy, Seema, Shyamal, Vidhya, and myself.

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Vidhya, Harshith, Padma, Guhan, Aravind, Seema, Nidhi, Ramaswamy, Prasad, Shyamal

A beautiful sunrise greeted us as we climbed up the steps to the temple.

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We began with the felicitious sighting of several Hume’s Whitethroats on one of Acacia trees,

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and a couple of Oriental White-eyes on another. The white gave way to other colours, as we spotted Parakeets,

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Sunbirds,

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Flowerpeckers, Blyth’s Reed and Booted Warblers,Bulbuls,

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White-browed Bulbul

and other woodland birds as we walked.

Shyamal shared some of his knowledge with us.

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He told us how the Hume’s Whitethroat is more likely to be found in Bangalore. I learnt, today, that Indian Robins often nest in the crevices of walls, and we watched one couple building their home in this fashion.

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Indian Robin female with nesting material

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Coming out of the nesting crevice

Bulbuls, Orioles, the jet black of the Jungle (er, sorry, Large-billed) Crow…we certainly did not lack for colour as we walked on.

Nor were birds the only beings of interest. The beauty of several flowers and seed pods

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Aristolochia seed pods

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Aristolochia seeds

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Ramphal(Annona reticulate)

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Solanacae sp.

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Holoptelea integrifolia, Indian Elm

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Neem flowers

along the path had Shyamal explaining to us, for example, that the Ceylon Caper flowers

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changed their colour after pollination. Seema and I tried the taste of some berries we found on a thorny bush (yes, we are both alive!), which a botanist friend, S Kassim, later identified for me as the

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Needle Bush, Azima tetracantha. It’s a medicinal plant, but it’s not the berries which are used that way.

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Needle Bush berries with seeds

There was a magnificient Rain Tree on the path

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which was in full bloom,

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as well as marsh plants like this Marsh Glory:

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We admired some of the milkweed, where seeds hung by shiny,silken threads from the seed pods. Shyamal showed us how the winged shape of several seed pods themselves allowed for dispersal by wind.

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The appearance of Ashy-crowned Skylarks, Paddyfield Pipits, an Indian Roller, several Drongos, and some perky little Silverbills

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as we walked back towards the temple, kept us interested, and at the base of the temple, several butterflies– Plain Tigers,

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Striped Tigers

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Common and Crimson Rose, many Blues…had us watching, and clicking our cameras too.

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Xanthodes moth caterpillar

Mr. Yashwanth, who is doing research on insects under the guidance of Subbu, came up and met me and helped me with the id of the beautiful Salt-and-Pepper-Moth (Utetheisa lotrix, how am I going to remember that?).

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He advised us that the raptors would come in a while to sit on
the lake bed…but we were already feeing the warmth of the sun.The very early start and the need to walk far into the centre of the lake bed to see raptors (not to mention the fact that apart from Black and Brahminy Kites, we only saw two un-id raptors) resulted in our deciding to return.

We climbed back up to the bund of the lake, and there, shared some delicious snacks…such a lot of it that it made a solid breakfast for all of us!

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Aravind baked this delicious, moist cake

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Vidhya celebrated her star birthday with kEsari bAth and stuffed sandwiches.

All that is the good part of the morning…but I cannot refrain from mentioning the other side, too. There were SUVs,

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sedans,two-wheelers, a glider-flying group,a drone-flying group

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all on the lake bed, which seems to be a very popular location now. People walking on the lake bed cannot be as bad a problem as cars driving all over it…but there seems to be no restriction on vehicle movement.

The expansion of the Durgamba temple

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also means a stall selling agarbathies, oil packets, and other snacks, resulting in a lot of plastic litter.

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It seems to be an accepted practice with any temple on the bund of a lake to throw all the litter down the embankment; I’ve found the same thing at Hennagara kere, too. Does a god or goddess not venture beyond the railings of the temple He or She resides in? Certainly, devotees seem to think so.

Since the kumbhabhishekam and the traditional re-opening of the temple after the renovation has not yet been done, the idols of every god had their faces covered up…

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I felt that not even our gods and goddesses want to look upon what we have done to Hessarghatta kere!

Oh well, one takes the bad with the good, and on the whole, it was a very enjoyable morning. It’s my usual grouse that The Experts never join us for the 3rd and 4th Sunday outings, and it was a pleasant change to have India’s biggest contributor for natural history to Wikipaedia, joining us!

The eBird list for today, put up by Harshith, is

here

My photographs are on my FB album

here

Cheers, Deepa.

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Yediyur kere, 250317

March 25, 2017

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Hi everyone,

I am not immune to FB posts, so when there was a sudden rush of bird sightings from Yediyur kere, I realized that I’d not visited for many years. When Padma and Ramaswamy suggested going there this morning, I was very happy to join them.

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So many trees have fresh leaves right now, like this Peepal tree:

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I still wish we could have an ongoing online form for the lake census and keep adding our data whenever we visit any kere. This lake is maintained well, and the water quality seems good. However, the fact of its being completely fenced around, and having all growth stunted
to bush size except for a few spots, made it feel more “manicured” than I am comfortable with…but that’s a matter of personal choice!

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A seat that cannot be accessed!

We entered the area to a rising orchestra of White-cheeked Barbets, and the unmusical calls of Rose-ringed Parakeets as they flocked to the Akasha Mallige, Peepal and Dolichendrone trees. As we slowly started moving along the path, we were treated to the sights and sounds of several Koels; whether the bodies were black or spotted, the ruby eyes were the same.

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We were, of course, prepared for the “usual gang of suspects” after which our birding group is named; but as always, something unexpected, and something interesting, happened!

We were watching both a group of Spot-billed Ducks and some domesticated mallard-derivatives (I don’t know the correct name for these interbreeds!) when suddenly, a group of drakes decided to “advance” on a female. She sank into the water under their combined
onslaught. She managed to flap her way away from the other three, but a fourth was very persistent, and made quite a nuisance of himself. It was obvious that the lady was not willing.

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Another duck, who saw the fracas,suddenly decided to come to her friend’s aid. She flapped her wings at the drake until he released the besieged duck, and both the ladies happily swam away, at the end of a successful rescue mission! We could not help laughing even as we
watched intently.

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A Black-crowned Night Heron skulked under a Lantana bush in the middle
of the lake.

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An unexpected sighting was that of a Spotted Owlet as it flew for a short distance out of the large Ficus benjamina trees, and back in.

One Dolichendrone tree close to the entrance suddenly seemed to become a hotbed of small-bird activity.

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The seed-pods, with their typical spiralling shapes, had already set, and there were no flowers…but yet, Sunbirds, Tailorbirds, Pale-billed Flowerpeckers, a Blyth’s Reed
Warbler, and some Ashy Prinias…all kept the tree literally “hopping”, and we were able to listen to their calls, too. These are occasions when one can practice birding “by ear”, and have the id validated by what one sees.

I was rather intrigued by a brick “bird wall” that had been set up at one place:

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…and concrete “bird holes” in another “bird corner”. It will be fun to see if birds do take up nesting in these holes. But meanwhile, watching Black Kites bringing in twigs to make their homes was interesting enough! A White-throated Kingfisher added its bright blue back and lipstick mouth as it waited for a catch.

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It was fun to
watch a Boating Pond Heron…it just sat on one of the boats in the water (kept there to clean the lake, I think), as it scanned the water for breakfast!

Two groups of Rosy Pastors flying overhead, their local cousins, the Common and (the always well-groomed) Jungle Mynas,and the bisyllabic call of one Green Warbler (thank you for the call tutorials, Mike and Ulhas, they’ve been useful!)…between our eyes and ears, we didn’t
know where two hours went, and we left the place before the lake was locked up. I will never understand why our lakes and parks are kept locked through the day…what are we trying to prevent?

I did look at a lot of flowers, plants and trees as well:

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Finding out names (hoping to remember them, not always successfully!) will occupy me for a while. Watching some hornets beginning to make a nest on the underside of a leaf was also fascinating.

Well satisfied with our morning, we went off for khaali dosa at the excellent eatery (Brahmin’s Special, no relation to the Basavanagudi Brahmin’s!) near my home, arranging to meet for tomorrow’s outing to Hessarghatta Lake.

Spending time with good friends, looking at many things, under the
shade of greenery, dappled with golden morning sunlight…how lucky I
am to be able to do this!

Hoping to meet some of you tomorrow,

Cheers, Deepa.

My photos are on an FB album

here

The bird list (very respectable!) is

here

Home-maker, Doresanipalya Reserve Forest, 120317

March 12, 2017

We saw a White-cheeked Barbet, idle, and free.

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It seemed to suddenly twist itself, right towards the tree.

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I’d wished to see a woodpecker, and as if granting that wish
It pecked to make a nesting-hole, work that it seemed to relish!

Here’s the bird, hard at work, rat-tatting away.

“Go and build your own home!” is what it seemed to say!

Yes, we took its sage advice and homeward went our way,
But the thought of the home-building barbet we carry through the day.