Posts Tagged ‘article’

Valley School area: A write-up for Ramki Sreenivasan

January 21, 2020

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

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

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


and the Tickell’s Blue (resident)




or Ultramarine (migrant)


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


or Quails


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


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

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




and White-browed Bulbuls;


Jerdon’s Bushlarks


and Hoopoes


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


and the Purple


and Purple-rumped Sunbirds,


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

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

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

which are used year after year.

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


or Tawny-bellied Babblers,


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


Really lucky birders can sight the Mottled Wood Owl


or the Brown Wood Owl… and a Rufous Woodpecker.

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

soaring on the thermals; Indian Grey Hornbills


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

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


and Black-naped Oriole,


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


and Silverbills,

can be observed foraging amongst the grass seeds.

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


and for other birds like Rose-ringed Parakeets,


Jungle Mynas,


and Rosy Starlings


as they busily take advantage of the ripe figs. Jungle


and House Crows,


and the occasional Leafbird


may also be seen.

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

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

July 31, 2018


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.


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,


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:


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.

Drosera burmanii, Panarpani,080917


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

The Atlas Moth, 120817

August 15, 2017


We have a huge variety of moths in the world, but one of the most spectacular is the

The [Atlas Moth](, which is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.

The Atlas moth was held to be the largest moth in the world, before the

[Hercules Moth]( relegated it to second place. However, it still remains one of the most spectacular moths one can see!

We were very lucky to see two of these moths on a nature walk at Turahalli State Forest, on 120817.

These Saturniid moths have wingspans reaching over 25 cm (9.8 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier than the males.

Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as “snake’s head moth”, referring to the apical extension of the forewing, which bears a more than passing resemblance to a snake’s head.

Here are the beautiful, feathery antennae of the moth:


In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as “fagara”.

Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones which males detect and home in on with the help of chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae. Males may thus be attracted from several kilometres downwind! The females do not wander far from their chrysalis.

After mating, the female lays about spherical eggs,

I was equally struck by the beauty of the moth’s thorax.


Another amazing fact…the adult moth has no mouth parts, and cannot eat! Adult Atlas m only live for a few days…finding mates and reproducing within that time. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after about two weeks. Theyfeed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus and other evergreen trees.The caterpillars are adorned with fleshy spines along their backs which are covered in a waxy white substance. After reaching a length of about 115 millimetres (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Here’s the moth whith its wings folded:


We were extremely lucky to see not one, but two moths in the wild…it’s an experience that will stay with us for a lifetime!


My article in Silver Talkies

August 2, 2014

Anno Domini is not inimical to birding; indeed, it’s a great hobby for the silver years.


is the article I wrote for

Silver Talkies

An e-magazine for seniors.

“World famous in Jayanagar!” :D

February 24, 2014

That’s a local saying, gently ribbing anyone who is getting their names in the news or talked about…it’s literally come true for me!

I always knew they’d run out of people to write about and would arrive at me….

JLR Explore: Cauvery WLS Bird Census, 100114

February 18, 2014

Click here

for my article about the Cauvery WS Bird Census, in JLR Explore.

Nature Feature 2: The Alternative

January 17, 2014

click here

for the article about Survival and Scaly-breasted Munias.

Wildlife equipment!

March 1, 2013

I made friends with Kiran Srivastava at INW (I’ve still not met him
face to face..the one time he visited Bangalore, I was out in Nandi
Hills or somewhere.) He has a great sense of humour, liked this
piece very much!

Cheers, Deepa.

The lighter side of some wildlife equipment you can buy today:

Bat detectors: There are Heterodyne Detectors and Frequency Division
Detectors and Time Expansion Detectors and Full Spectrum Bat
Detectors. There is also a Batbox, and if this doesn’t make you crazy
you could always go in for a Batscan.

Flir Scout PS24 Thermal Imaging System: used for scanning heat
signatures. Not to be used for any other purpose other than detecting

Endoscope camera: used for footage in difficult situations such as
nesting burrows and crevices. Certainly not to be confused with a
medical device of the same name. Ditto SeeSnake Inspection Camera. Not
to mention that the long cable at night itself looks like a snake…

Real Estate Deals

Hogitat Hedgehog Home, Hibernation Box, Dormouse Box, Ceramic Frog &
Toad House. These are presumably, 1BHK, ground floor flats. And if you
cannot afford this then the broker can show you a Bug Box, Bee Hut or
a Bee and Bug Biome. That’s the current low down on housing in this

Night Vision Goggles & Scopes: Hands free with a padded head mount and
a built-in infrared illuminator. Something akin what US marines wear
in Iraq on night patrol. Scope of getting arrested by over-zealous
law-n-order authorities is rather high…

Sound Recording equipment: Everyone’s heard about Short Gun and Long
Gun Microphones but the one expense that will set you back a couple of
hundred dollars is a ‘dead cat’ windshield. Here I would instantly
apologise to Garfield.

Entomology Kit would include a Beating Tray, a Barrel Pooter,a couple
of Pot Pooters, maybe even a Malaise Trap, Berlese Funnel. Note:
pooters are not for poo-poo collection.

Fisheries department

Buy an Aquascope for viewing the underwater world. It looks like a
narrow-bottom bucket held upside down. A funny picture you’ll make
peering underwater in the midst of stream! Buy yourself some Mudders
(easier walking in sticky mud) and carry your Invertebrate
Colonisation Sampler to impress the PYT who tagged along thinking it’s
a Discovery Channel adventure

I won’t even enter the realm of wildlife photographers but I can tell
you that it’s all hush, hush work with Stealth Gear Chair Hide,
Leaf-cut Scrim Net and needless to mention, camouflage clothing that
would fool leaves off a tree.

Words to use in the field:

‘Drats, I forgot to bring my THERMOHYGROMETER’ or ‘has anyone seen my

[with sincere apologies to equipment manufacturers whose name may have
inadvertently crept into the text]

Once upon a flame…

February 21, 2013

Every friend who’s gone with me on the UGS (Usual Gang of Suspects) nature trails this year, has enjoyed the sight of the Pakshi Darshini (Eatery for birds)…

click here

for the short photo-feature on Citizen Matters.

Sloth Bears of Daroji: article in The Alternative

December 25, 2012

click here

to read my article on the efforts at Daroji, Karnataka. The photos are mine (to use a terrible pun!)