Posts Tagged ‘bannerghatta’

Bear Rescue Centre, Bannerghatta, 230319

April 4, 2019

On the butterfly group that I belong to, one member told us about the Bear Rescue Centre (BRC) at Bannerghatta, and asked for volunteers.It was then decided that several of us would visit the Centre and then decide on who would be able to volunteer. Since the Centre personnel wanted only 15 participants in each group, two groups of 15 members each were constituted. One group visited on Saturday, the 16th of March, and the other on Saturday, the 23rd of March. I was with the second group, and my anticipation was not disappointed.

The visit to the Centre, which is one of ten such facilities run by Wildlife SOS (an NGO started by Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani) started with all of us gathering in the Bannerghatta Zoo parking lot, from where Chiranjib and Prajwal came and picked us up, and took us through the scrub forest of the Bannerghatta National Park to the Centre. Set amidst bamboo thickets and grassland, the low buildings of the Centre blend well into the landscape.

Chiranjib gave us an introduction to the various bear species found in the world, and then narrowed down to the species of bears found in India, and the 77 bears that have been rescued and are now at the centre. A slide presentation showed us some disturbing images of bears that were ill-treated by those who captured them and sold them to entertain others by dancing; other bears were caught in snares for the wildlife trade. Chinese medicine requires the gall bladders of bears, and several bears have been rescued from traps. “We had more than double the number of bears here,” points out Chiranjib.”We have managed to stop the practice of dancing bears, and so we now get only bears that have been injured in the forest. Now, as the bears age and die, the numbers are growing less.” Indeed, as Dr Arun strikingly pointed out, the goal is not to need such a Centre at all…but that is not likely to happen in the near future. The bears are left loose in an area of about 74 sq. km, coming in to their enclosures for food; some, said Chiranjib with a smile, go first to one enclosure, eat the food there quickly, and go to the next, looking for second helpings!

Bears residing in the Pachavati block at BBRC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Bears playing with the equipment built for them, at the Panchavati enclosure. Photo courtesy: BRC, Wildlife SOS

As we then went to look at the enclosure where food is given to the bears, more facts emerged.

Bears with simple injuries are treated at the rescue spots and allowed back into the forests; but those that have been badly hurt, or have had their diurnal rhythms disturbed (though they are nocturnal animals, they are made to be active and walk through the day by their captors),have to be put in the rescue centres for the rest of their lives, as they can no longer survive in the wild. As Dr Arun, the resident veterinarian who let us look in detail at the Operation Theatre and talked about the difficulties of treating wild and distressed animals, mentioned, the Centre is virtually an “old age home” for bears, where they will live until they die. Hence, the bears have to be given a diet that somewhat approximates what they would eat in the wild, with fruits and honey along with a ragi mixture. Many animals, used as dancing bears, arrive with their molars broken or forcibly extracted, and many also have cataracts, and most commonly, tuberculosis, from frequent contact with human beings who might be diseased and malnourished themselves.

We were then shown the “squeeze cage”, where the animal is put with as little difficulty to it as possible, in an upright position where it can be tranquillized if needed, and treated. Bears in the wild are creatures of uncertain temperament, and this characteristic might predominate in a stressed or trapped bear.

To allow them to forage as naturally as possible, there is a Termite Raising Unit, where termite hills are raised for the bears to raid as they would in the wild.

Termite Raising Unit at BBRC (2)
Photo courtesy: BRC, Wildlife SOS

The kitchen tour was fascinating, as we saw the various millets and grains that go into the bears’ daily diet. Sri Alauddin, when we visited at 11.30am, had already started cooking the ragi porridge for the bear’s evening meal, which would be cooled and given to them at 4.30pm. The diet for each bear is approximately 8 kilos of ragi porridge twice a day, along with two eggs, and approximately 2 kilos of fruits and enrichment treats.

Bears ragi porridge 2 a day, 020419 BRC Bnrghta.
The ragi porridge in the shallow steel containers, that the bears eat twice a day.Photo courtesy: BRC, Wildlife SOS

Honey and milk are added to the porridge, and sometimes they have to be added in front of the bears, to convince them, like one does with naughty children, that they are getting what they want! While we were in the bear cage building, several of the bears were waiting impatiently for their lunch, and one kept banging at the bars of the cage from the outside enclosure, demanding to be let in and fed! Both Chiranjib and Prajwal showed a great affection for these shambling animals as they described how each bear had a different personality and type of behaviour.

We were then taken to the Jambhava area (the other enclosures are Kishkinda,Panchavati,Chitrakuta, and Dr.GKV Block) and from the rooftop, we had a view of several of the bears foraging for the fruits (watermelons that day) that the staff left for them, in the open. It was delightful to see several Chital stags and does also coming for the fruit…and several birds coming to share the feast, as well!

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Tawny-bellied Babbler feasting on the fruit. Pic: Deepa Mohan

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Tailless Line Blue. Pic: Deepa Mohan

Several volunteers come regularly, and help the staff make the exercise equipment that the bears use to climb up and down on, and play with. Old, torn fire hoses are woven into rough thick sheets, and balls and sticks are added. These are made again and again in different ways as the bears’ play demolishes them.These are called “enrichment” too, as they do much to improve the quality of the bears’ lives at the Centre. The photo above gives an idea of the equipment.

We also looked at the differences in design between the older and newer bear pens, and found that changes had been made for the greater comfort of both bears and staff. Surely, this is a not well-known form of architecture and design!

Dr Arun, a veterinary surgeon who started with the main centre in Agra 17 years ago, was soon posted to Bannerghatta (which was established in 2005). He has remained here ever since. He talked with utter sincerity about the bears’ plight, without any sentimentality; his words were all the more effective because of this. “We do not want appreciation,” he says, “because we are quite aware of the work we are doing. What we want are volunteers, who will come and help our work in various ways.” The Centre is planning to have children from neighbouring villages come and know more about the mammals that share the forests and fields of Bannerghatta with them. They would like these children to know,not only about the bears, but about the other fauna, and the flora of the area, too, so that they know, and hence care, about the place they live in, and the treasures it holds.

The whole tour was well-planned and conducted, and was very informative, with an articulate Chiranjib and Prajwal filling us in on details, and Karthikeyan documenting the trip on camera.

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Pic: Deepa Mohan

We were not allowed to take photos of the Centre, but could take pictures of the birds and plants that we found interesting.There were quite a few of such plants and trees!

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Bauhinia racemosa. Pic: Deepa Mohan.

The Centre has much to be proud of. Over the years, the dependency on power from the grid or generator has been reduced by the addition of solar panels. Everywhere I found plastic bottles recycled to hold fruits or food, or used in other ways. Trees have been planted, greening the area, but the grassland has been left alone in its natural state, with bamboo and other kinds of grass providing shelter to other wild creatures and birds.

Indeed, we found so much of interest that we did exceed the time schedule and we finally had our lunch at the bus terminus area at about 3pm instead of 1pm as we had thought. Such was the care and affection lavished on the bears, that we joked to the staff that if provided with so much nutritious food along with milk and honey, we wouldn’t mind coming here ourselves in our old age!

We ended the tour with a group photograph taken by Prajwal (I clicked the group too) and returned to the outside world, very impressed with the work that is being done at the Bear Rescue Centre, and determined to work out how we could pitch to help the lot of the unfortunate animals who live there, and the dedicated human beings who try to make their lives as comfortable and forest-like as possible.

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The group on 23rd March. Pic: Deepa Mohan

We were able to do a bit of bird-watching, too. The bird lists

from the Zoo parking lot while we waited to be taken inside, is

here

and from BRC area is

here

*************************************************************

Facts and figures

Questions to Wildlife SOS:

1. How many centres of Wildlife SOS in India?
We operate ten wildlife rehabilitation facilities across India:
 Elephant Conservation & Care Centre, Mathura.
 Elephant Rehabilitation Center, Ban Santour, Haryana.
 Agra Bear Rescue Facility (for Sloth Bears)
 Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre, (for Sloth Bears) Bangalore.
 Van Vihar Bear Rescue Facility, (for Sloth Bears) Bhopal.
 Purulia Bear Rescue Centre, (for Sloth Bears) West Bengal.
 Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, in Junnar, Maharashtra.
 Pahalgam Rescue Centre (for Asiatic Black Bears & Himalayan Brown Bears), J&K.
 Dachigam Rescue Centre (for Asiatic Black Bears & Himalayan Brown Bears), J&K.
 Wildlife Rescue Centre, Haryana.
 Human Primate Conflict Mitigation Centre in Farah, Uttar Pradesh.
2. How many kg of ragi, fruit, milk, etc each day per bear?
The diet for the bears comprise of approx.8 kilos of porridge twice a day along with two eggs
and approx. 2kilos of fruits and enrichments treats.
3. Where does the funding come from?
We are a non-profit organization and are wholly dependent on donations from supporters and
grants for our funding.
Rescuing and caring for animals is always a financial challenge whether it is buying food or
medicines for the animals, treatment costs, field equipment, vehicle fuel and maintenance or
even staff salary. We are a non-profit charity and operate from donations and grants. We
request people to support our efforts by making donations to http://www.wildlifesos.org and by also
becoming monthly donors and sponsoring the care of our rescued and rehabilitated animals.
4. What are the names of all the enclosures?
Panchavati
Chitrakuta
Kishkinda
Dr.GKV Block
Jambhava
5. When was the Bannerghatta Centre started?
The Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre was established in 2005.
6. What is the area of the BRC?
The Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre is spread over 74 acres.

The schedule of our visit was as follows:

10:10 AM – Starting for the Rescue Center.
10:25 AM – Reaching Rescue Center. Orientation.
10:50 AM – Enclosure tour and feeding.
11:15 AM – Center schedule and Types of Bears.
11:25 AM – OT tour.
11:45 AM – Squeeze cage and Termite Raising Unit.
12:00 PM – Bear Kitchen tour.
12:15 PM – Jambhava Enclosure tour and sighting from top.
12:30 PM – Going back to office area.
12:40 PM – Refreshment and Group photos.
12:50 PM – Sign-off.

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Reunited with my beloved Flycatcher Avenue!

February 27, 2019

From 2006 and a couple of years after that, I used to haunt the Bannerghatta zoo area regularly. There was (and still is) a direct bus from my home to the area. The zoo was small (smaller than today), and with the Jungle Lodges and Resorts property right there, it was a very safe place to wander around, as the staff and the guards would let me know if there was any elephant movement I should be wary of.

Just outside the old wall of the zoo (which has been pulled down now, but in a touching bit of conservation, has a small part with a strangler fig growing on it, retained!)

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there was a beautiful avenue (that is, a tree-lined road). At one point, the road divided into two; the left-hand path went steadily upwards, with a sign (which is still there) saying, “To Mirza Hills”. However, I increasingly started frequenting the lower path, which went along the old wall of the Zoo, and led to a small pond, which had a circular path adjoining the Herbivore Safari area.

The pond was a lovely, leafy place where one could (and still can) see the three most commonly-occurring Kingfishers in our vicinity: the Small Blue, which is no longer “common”, the Pied, and the White-throated Kingfishers.

The areas behind JLR and along the rocky hills were also a great place to sight various birds. The area where the BMTC terminus is today was the home of a family of mongoose, which went about their business without fear. The area near the Butterfly Park was a place where I regularly sighted Scimitar Babblers.

After enjoying all this, I would fetch up along what I named “Flycatcher Avenue”, to get an unfailing bonanza of flycatchers, during the winter months. The summer months still yielded the resident ones such as the Tickell’s Blue and the Fantail Flycatchers.

The signs of change came when the present BMTC terminus was built, and much of the area which had been free and open, was walled up and included in the gated, ticketed area of the Zoo. This meant, not only that I had to pay each time to get to my favourite place, but that I could not get access to it until the gates of the Zoo opened, at 9.30am, which is usually late for birdwatching. But since the avenue always has good shade, I found the Flycatchers even after this time, and hence did not mind paying up for the privilege. We have even sighted the Blue-bearded Bee-eater, the Orange-headed Ground Thrush, and other such species, when we looked across the barbed wire into the undisturbed Herbivore area; a Nilgai or two would amble into sight, and we never failed to spot crocodiles half-submerged in the water, or sunning themselves on the rocks.

Then came more construction. Access to the Flycatcher Avenue was barred as a new wall came up across the lane, and from taking groups of children and adults there regularly, I stopped visiting the area completely. Friends who did visit also told me that access to the lane was no longer available, leave alone accessing the Kingfisher pond.

So it was with a sense of “What will I find?” that I decided to go with Vidhya to the Zoo area again, during the Great Backyard Bird Count, on 15 Feb ’19. I was in for a treat!

Of course, we had to pay for ourselves and our cameras, and could only get in at 9.30am…but once we got in, we found that the disappearance of the old wall was good for us as birders. Where the flycatchers would disappear frustratingly behind the wall earlier, now the area was clear, and we could watch to our hearts’ content.

On this first visit after a long gap, we were able to sight no less than seven of the nine kinds of Flycatchers that I have seen here. We saw the male Paradise Flycatchers in their sub-adult stage without long tails, with half-grown tails, with the fully-grown, replesendent streamer tails too! I need not tell you that we returned with beaming smiles from the visit. Nor have the two subsequent visits been a disappointment in any way, on the 23rd and 25th of Feb. Indeed, near the Leopard/Lion cage (the notice says Leopard, but there is a lion in the enclosure!) there is a bamboo stand which is home to a very tame Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, which led my friends teasingly around the thicket as they got their DSLR shots…and then sat patiently for them…while a full-tail white-morph Paradise flycatcher flaunted his “ribbons” at us from the trees above. We were quite spoilt for choice!

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Paradise Flycatcher, White morph

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Paradise Flycatcher, Rufous morph

The eBird list for the area behind the parking lot from the first visit (I’ve done three so far) is at

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S52742678

and for the Zoo itself (including Flycatcher Avenue) is at

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S52712056

I’ve put up photos on an FB album at
https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10156406434043878&type=3

The flycatchers I’ve sighted and observed here are:

Asian Brown

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Black-naped Monarch

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Brown-breasted

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Grey-headed Canary

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Indian Paradise

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Red-breasted

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Taiga

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Tickell’s Blue

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Ultramarine

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Verditer

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White-browed Fantail

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White-throated Fantail

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Which makes 11 kinds of Flycatchers, all in that small area!

I am writing to the Karnataka Forest Dept at Bannerghatta, giving these details, and asking for access in future…let’s see what comes of it!

Cheers, Deepa.

Other flycatchers I have seen elsewhere:

Great Crested Flycatcher, St Louis, Missouri:

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Dark-sided Flycatcher,Nandi Hills, Bangalore (a record for south India)

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A dead Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Munnar:

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Nilgiri Flycatcher, Munnar:

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Forest Park, 100814

Least Flycatcher, St Louis:

Least Flycatcher, St Louis, 100413

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

A special outing, for special children. Ragihalli, 160318

March 16, 2018

Today (16th Mar, ’18), I took the children of

Snehadhara Foundation

for an outdoor/nature trip to Ragihalli. Was the trip worth it? Emphatically, yes! The children smelt some fruit, felt the texture of some leaves, got distracted by the butterflies…and took care of each other in the most heartwarming way.

The children had visited Lalbagh and Cubbon Park and wanted to go to “actual forest” as one of the more articulate children put it. Certainly, Ragihalli, in the Bannerghatta National Park, fit the bill!

We started from Snehadhara, in J P Nagar, at about 8 am,

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and though we navigated Bannerghatta Road quite well, the road deteriorated as we approached Ragihalli, and indeed, with road-laying work, the road was blocked at the village itself, about 3km short of Adavi Field Station.

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Nagesh, Dhanu, Shivanaja, and Akshath took care of us while we were there. Dhanu,

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whose father Manjunath runs the eatery in Ragihalli where we always stop for piping hot thatte iddli, is quite a keen birder himself, having Akshath as a senior in school, and being trained by him.The field station is willing to conduct bird walks in the area for those who are interested. I took the children from Pramiti School there last month, and so had no hesitation in taking the Snehadhara children there. (Though if I’d known about the road condition, I might have asked for two vans rather than a large bus.)

Our bus negotiated the drive-around with difficulty. It also happened that the area had no power since 5pm the previous day, so Nagesh, his brother Shivananja, and my other friend Akshath….all their phones were without charge, and unreachable.

However, we reached after a delay, and before Akshath took us for a walk, we had a little bit of loosening up and a game of “actions” under the large banyan tree.

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Our walk led us through the mulberry plants, and under large trees, to a rock formation where we sat peacefully,

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admiring the view over the hill ranges of the Bannerghatta National Park.

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Though humid, the cloudy weather enabled us to sit outdoors without worrying about the heat of the sun. We walked back to the field station, where the children had their lunch,

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and then slowly drove back from the scrub jungle of Ragihalli to the concrete jungle of Bangalore.

I showed some children and adults various wild flowers, put together in a tiny bouquet

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cultivated ones like this Pomegranate,

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Cotton

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plants, and some birds. The children definitely seemed to enjoy the outing. We got a few fresh mangoes,

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and I feasted on fresh, sweet tamarind from the trees. My personal delight was sighting a rare tree (Firmiana colorata,also called Coloured Sterculia, the last two photos of the album) on the way home through a route that bypassed Ragihalli (the actual village).

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Thank you to Snehadhara for providing me with this opportunity to interact with the children. Sunny temparaments like that of Aravind (always with a smile on his face, and so curious about my camera and binoculars!), and quiet personalities like Karthik’s were equally fascinating to watch. And…I found that Swetha was my neighbour! The teachers
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were so patient and loving with the children, and there was so much happiness in the air!

The cloudy weather ensured that the children did not tire, and it was a very enjoyable trip indeed.

My photos are up on my FB album

here

No…I didn’t click the birds or the butterflies…I was concentrating on the children this time!

On Monday, all going well, I will be taking the wheelchair-bound children (who could not do the Ragihalli walk) to the IIMB campus, where very different kinds of minds will meet, as IIMB kindly allows me to bring special children into an academically high-performance campus for the first time.

Bannerghatta National Park, Monthly Bird Survey, 100318

March 13, 2018

Since I was not able to go for the inaugurual (Feb ’18) monthly bird survey, I went to participate in the March survey.

The survey is across four ranges, Anekal, Bannerghatta, Harohalli and Kodigere, and will be held on the second Saturday of every month for a year, to give a holistic picture of bird life in the Bannerghatt National Park over the annual period.

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Birds of Karnataka, display board at Kalkere.

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Volunteers gathering for the survey

I got the Kalkere State Forest transect, BTL (Bannerghatta Transect Line) 1. My team-mates were:

Forest Guard Michael
Albert Ranjith
Byomakesh Palai
Pervez Younus

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Michael, Pervez,Byomakesh, Albert

We stopped every 10 minutes, took the GPS co-ordinates, and then moved on.

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The Kalkere State Forest was much more productive in terms of birds than I thought it would be, because the city has actually spread beyond this forest patch now.

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We passed some quarried rock, which gave a sad look to the landscape.

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However, the good thing was that the depressions had formed rock pools:

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Our trail was quite scenic, even if it was not heavy forest:

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However, the scrub forest was very interesting, and we got several birds. Here are some I managed to click.

Greater or Southern Coucal, drinking water at the edge of the rock pool:

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Oriental White-eye:

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Shikra:
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Green Bee-eater:

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Jerdon’s Bushlark:

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Black-winged Kite:

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Oriental Honey Buzzard:

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Indian Peafowl (this is a peacock in the glory of full breeding plumage):

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Vipin was our organizer for the Bannerghatta range, and I found him very sincere and hard-working. Here he is, taking notes with a forest guard:

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An excellent breakfast of iddli was provided midway through the transect:

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I did not restrict myself to observing only the birds; here are some other interesting beings:

Milkweed:
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Peninsular Rock Agama:

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Two unidentified but beautiful flowering plants:

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This was a tiny plant growing in the path!

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An un-id insect with huge eyes:

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A dragonfly:

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the Flame of the Forest, Butea monosperma, in full bloom:

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Tired, but mentally refreshed by the morning, and the beauty of the scrub forest

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I left for Mysore to take part in the Ranganathittu Bird Census the next morning.

The Flickr album of the survey is

here

and my FB album is

here

Ragihalli with Pramiti School, 190218

February 19, 2018

I took 16 children from

Pramiti School

to

Adavi Field Station

AFS. Adavi Field Station, Onte Maren Doddi, Ragihalli (Post), Anekal(Taluk), Bengaluru, Karnataka 560083

Here’s the view of the beautiful rock formations of Bannerghatta National Park from the road:

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Anand and Mahesh were very helpful. The farmer, Shivananja, showed us around his land, talking about how they use cowdung as manure since it is plentifully available (leaf litter is not specifically composted here).

Here is Sushma, discussing composting with Shivananja, Anand and Mahesh, with little Varsha, who had a slight fever and did not go to school, listening:

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Nupura

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and Tarun

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kept meticulous notes. We were also shown around, and we really did go around the mulberry bush!

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We saw how the silkworms feed on the mulberry leaves

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Mulberries when ripe are very sweet to eat, but it was not yet the season for them.

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Shivananja showed us one local variety of mulberry, not favoured now as the leaves are smaller and the foliage less dense.

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Here’s one worm, growing fat (the worms eat voraciously, growing many times in size, before pupating)

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Here is the pupa of the silkworm; the pupae are boiled alive to extract the silk.

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The farmers sell the live pupae, which are plucked from the palm-frond frames, directly. The boiling and reeling are done later. Here is a video I took long ago, of the stinking silk waste being picked up by Brahminy Kites:

The children settled down for the packed lunch that had been brought:

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The stuffed parathas were tasty.

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We returned back to the waiting van

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You can see the rest of the album

here

The highlights, for me, were spotting an old friend, Ashwath (second from left)

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a Black Eagle

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and a sports-car-bus:

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Crows using vehicles to crack seed pods! Ragihalli, 211017

December 5, 2017

I had read about how crows put nuts and seed pods in the way of approaching vehicles on roads and then eat the cracked nut.

here

is a very erudite study which does not rule out the possibility of crows using vehicles in this way, but suggests that they only drop the nuts on the road to crack them.

However, at the Ragihalli sheet rock area in the Bannerghatta National Park, on 21 Oct. ’17, we observed a Jungle Crow which definitely seemed to use the oncoming vehicles to crack the tamarind seeds that it was bringing, and then going to the road to eat the exposed soft tamarind.

Here’s the crow, which deliberately (and fearlessly) the crow leaves the seed pod and flies off only when the vehicle is almost upon it.

Here, the crow flies in after the vehicle has passed. You can clearly hear the excellent description of the crow’s behaviour by my friend Aishwary Mandal in the video.

Birding is not “ticking off” birds that we’ve seen…it’s also watching and learning more about the feathered creatures around us…sometimes they surprise us with what they do.

Valley Outing, 021017

October 10, 2017

Gandhiji said India lives in her villages, but today, on the anniversary of his birth, we decided that she also lives in the variety of life forms that she has!

Aishwary, Ajit, Kumar, Padma, Prem, Ramaswamy, Venkatesh and I

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tarried a little on our way to the Valley as the mist hung heavy in the air. However, by the time we signed in the register at the gate and walked along the path, the weather had cleared up a little.

Whether or not we sighted any moving creature…the sheer burst of greenery had us mesmerized! Everywhere was a clean, washed green, with diamonds sparkling wherever we looked. Raindrops stood on everything…blades of grass, tiny insects and butterflies, and on the wildflowers too.

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I always feel that one of the best times to go for a nature walk is when the rain is about to stop. The insects and butterflies come out to make the most of the sun, and the birds come out to make the most of the insects…a lot of action happens at every level, on the ground, in the air…on a small and large scale. This was what happened this morning.

Spiders lay in wait for unwary flies or butterflies;

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Neoscona Spider with her egg-case

dragonflies, visiting us from Africa,

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Globe Skimmer aka Wandering Glider….this has migrated from Africa. It takes four generations to complete the migratory cycle.

Pantala flavescens

zipped along in the air, looking for food.

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Ichneumon (Parasitoid) Wasp.

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Ladybird.

Birds breakfasted on whatever they could find, on the trees, under the leaves, and in the air.

An unusual visitor for the Valley was an Oriental Darter flying overhead, which “opened our account.” A greedy Red-whiskered Barbet,

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A Black Drongo mobbing a White-cheeked Barbet, several Green Bee-eaters,a dancing Fantail Flycatcher

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(why it’s called a Fantail Flycatcher)

a preening Spotted Dove,

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with Ashy Prinias singing,

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and a Brahminy Skink (the only reptile we saw)

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a White-browed Bulbul

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made us wait in the area before the first banyan tree for a while; but then we went further down the path. With so much to observe and enjoy, from different kinds of spiders and their webs, dragonflies, plants of all kinds, a couple of Blue-faced Malkohas(giving Prem his first sighting of these skulky birds),

How we usually see Malkohas!

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Occasionally,when they can be seen better…

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by the time we reached the abandoned house, it was past 9am! Well-rewarded, we stopped to share our snacks, and then went further to the bamboo thicket.

For the first time in many years, I saw the stream of the Valley in good force, with a lot of water gushing over the stones and along the gully in the bamboo thicket.

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The song of the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and a brief hello from the White-rumped Shama filled in the audio part of our outing.

By now, the butterflies were out, too, making the most of the weak sunshine to recharge themselves, or mud-puddling along the path.

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Zebra Blue

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Bush Brown

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Common Lime

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Pointed Ciliate Blue

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Common Pierrot

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Common Silverline

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Danaid Eggfly female

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Common Line Blue on Tephrosia purpurea

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The Common Crows were out in full force, and we managed to catch sight of one Double-branded one as well. Emigrant numbers were lower than in the past weeks, but a Dark Blue Tiger appeared too. It was easy to show our friends why a butterly was called the Pale Grass Blue when it had its wings open to the sunlight!

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Common Hedge Blues also flashed their bright upper wings for us instead of sitting folded up as usual. Aishwary was a great help in singing the Blues!

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Aishwary (left) helping out.

I saw the unusual sight of a Chocolate and a Lemon Pansy executing a pas de deux as they mud puddled together. Some of the butterflies were fresh and colourful specimens, some were tattered, dull survivors of battles with predators.

Other insects:

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Ichneumon (parasitoid) wasp. Look at that ovipositor! I wouldn’t like that wasp positing any ova on (or in) me!

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Robber Fly

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Stag Beetle

We noticed some beautiful plants and wildflowers

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Cassia mimoisedes

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Pseudarthria viscida

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Cyanotis sp.

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Indigofera nammularifolia:

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(what a long name for a very tiny flower)

We returned to our regular lives, much refreshed and energized by the sights and sound, the touch of different kinds of leaves, the taste of ripe Passion fruit, and the aroma of several flowers. Truly, a treat for the senses!

Beginning my morning chores, reminiscing about the wonderful outing, and already looking forward to what the next weekend may bring!

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The eBird list, compiled by Ajit, is

here

Butterflies:
Blue, Common Hedge
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Pointed Ciliate
Blue, Zebra
Bush Brown
Castor, Common
Cerulean, Common
Crow, Common
Crow, Double-branded
Eggfly, Danaid
Emigrant, Common
Gull, Common
Jezebel, Common
Lime, Common
Orange-tip, Plain
Orange-tip, White
Orange-tip, Yellow
Pansy, Chocolate
Pansy, Lemon
Pansy, Yellow
Pierrot, Common
Pioneer
Psyche
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Silverline, Common
Skipper, Indian
Tiger, Dark Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger, Striped
Wanderer, Common
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Spotless Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

I’ve put up the photos of the birds, butterflies, insects, plants, a single reptile and us mammals,
here

The tinies of Turahalli, 120817

August 15, 2017

As my friend Janhvi was going to do a trek to Turahalli State Forest as part of her Corporate Social Initiative (CSI), a few of us decided to join in.

True to the lacklustre response from her company, the usual number of people (two!) turned up….and we promptly hijacked the trek into a nature outing.

Here we are, at brefus before beginning the walk:

Akash, Janhvi, Anand, Subbu, Shoba, Padma and Ramaswamy

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We started our walk from a point not known to regular visitors….and the lesser-travelled path proved to be extremely productive.

Several tiny flowers caught our eye.

Andrographis serpyllifolia:

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Commelina sp:

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Ground Orchid, Habenaria roxburghii:

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The “Argyreia cuneata” name of this flower won’t stick in my mind, but its common name, “Mahalungi” will, for the wrong reasons!

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We were lucky to find this Ceropagia candelarbrum:

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Tiny flowers of the Dodonea viscosa:

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Some of us took a break to look up things:

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Unknown:

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We were also enchanted by some of the six-footers we saw. Sometimes the insects and flowers were together.

Blister beetle (on Clerodendron flowers):

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Ants on Leucas species:

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Sarcostemma acidum:

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Crinium, or the Spider Lily:

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Stachytarpeta, the Devil’s Coach Whip:’

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Such small beauties:

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Gulaganji, or Abrus precatorius:

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The tiny flower of the Bastard Sandal:

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This Puffball mushroom had broken, showing beautifully-speckled spores:

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A tiny fly on the Sarcostemma plant:

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A Common Wanderer female:

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A Bagworm Moth pupa:

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A Hoverfly (that huge part of the head are just its two compound eyes!)

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A Plain Tiger caterpillar:

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A Geometer moth:

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A Peninsular Rock Agama coming into breeding colours:

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We did go over a few rocks:

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Eggs on the Bastard Sandal:

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A Shield or Stink Bug:

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Even the Giant Wood Spider was smaller than usual!

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The insects got tinier:

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Of course, one of the highlights of the morning was sighting not one, but two

Atlas Moths

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Very satisfied with all that we’d seen, we went home…looking forward to the next outing!

The Atlas Moth, 120817

August 15, 2017

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

The [Atlas Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacus_atlas), 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](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coscinocera_hercules) 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:

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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.

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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:

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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!

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