Posts Tagged ‘behaviour’

The terrace and the window..

March 30, 2020

Being housebound is not very tough for me, as we have our essential supplies, and are quite used to doing our house chores without maids. But certainly, the time spent indoors has been very rewarding because of the two features of our apartment, that form my subject title.

The builders of this apartment designed the terrace in a rather unusual way; the access is only through one of the bedrooms, so I cannot go out on to it whenever I wish to. However, one window in the living area has a view of the terrace, and I sit at my laptop, facing the many pots placed there.

I always have noticed the Red-whiskered Bulbul pair that flies around, as well as many Purple-rumped Sunbirds. That, I thought, was the sum total of what I would see through the window.

Of course, you all know that the story has turned out differently! One day, both my son in law (I typed sin in law, which is a very interesting relationship!) and I watered the plants, and apart from the shallow plate kept on the floor of the terrace, a couple of pots had an inch or two of water in them.

The two Bulbuls, which had, so far, disdained using the shallow plate, suddenly decided that the muddy water in the pot was ideal for their hamam! First the adults, and then the juvenile, would come and alight at the edge of the pots, and very carefully look, and hop around, the edges. Then, emboldened, they would sit in the water and splash to their hearts’ content, coming out and sitting on a branch of the small Frangipani tree, “shivering” themselves out and preening, with that fashionable “wet-spiky” look.

I started hearing the tiny cheeping sounds of the Sunbirds too; but they were much more wary in approaching the pots, and would often only take a dainty sip or two before flying off. However, as I started watering the plants both morning and evening, I started seeing them having a quick dip, too. They would perch mostly on a small twig just above the water, and pick their moment to dip in.

Then came a bird with its “upticked” tail…yes, a little Tailorbird, which literally zoomed in and out like one of the bazooka lenses that my friends use! After the rapid bath, though, its call was loud and clear.

The Bulbuls, I found, are bullies! They often sit on the edge of the pots, not allowing the other birds to come near at all.That probably accounts for the lightning-fast visits of the Tailorbird and the Sunbirds!

Meanwhile, the squirrels did not come to have a bath, but did come over to take a little drink from the pots. They whisked themselves into gravity- defying poses on the branches of the Frangipani, and would then scurry off.

I must say, there are no House Sparrows, and the Barbets, Koels and Pigeons seem not to want to bathe in the water at all; so I thought to myself that three was the total of birds that were bathing and drinking. However, I corrected myself when an Oriental White-eye delighted me by coming in for a very, very brief visit! Here I sit, now, with my eyes glued to the terrace in the fading light of a warm evening, hoping to see the yellow beauty again.

The household chores call, as do two active young grandchildren who want to play a card game with me; but still I sit on, looking through the window, into the world of the thirsty squirrels and the bathing avians.

I took a quick video of one of the Bulbuls bathing. It was through the glass of the window, and the anti-mosquito wire mesh too, so it’s a little hazy:

Birding at home, 250320

March 25, 2020

It is the first day of the total 21-day lockdown announced by our Prime Minister. I decided to move to my daughter’s home as that makes more logistical sense.

I have watered all the plants in the pots on the terrace, not knowing that my son in law has already done so. This results in a pool of water in some of the pots (though the Coleus plants still look droopy and deprived).

I come inside and sit, typing random stuff on my laptop; the terrace is visible through the grille of the window, which also has an anti-mosquito mesh.

To my delight, one of the pair of Red-whiskered Bulbuls that are resident in the building, decides on a long, luxurious bath in one of the pots! After a few delighted moments, I quickly get my camera, and the following video.

I wasn’t able to get the lady sunbird that was feeding off the Hibiscus earlier; I am glad I’ve had more success this time, though it was through the grille and the net…I can call it the Internet Bulbul!

The bird flies off, and I return to my work, smiling happily to myself.

The Leaf-cutter Bee making a nest….

March 24, 2020

We were at the Kanakapura Police Station,

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trying to make a complaint to the traffic police (why and how is another long story!) and while Jayashree and I were waiting for Deepak to finish his work, we noticed a small insect flying into the open tube of the steel chair.

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I quickly realized that it was a

Leaf-cutter Bee

and that it was trying to make a nest in this space!

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I tried to take photos of it, and got just a couple of shots at odd intervals.You can see a fragment of a leaf being brought in every time.

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It was very tough to click because of the speed at which the insect went in…and since it came out even faster (it didn’t have the burden of the leaf!) I missed it several times. Then, I decided to take a video and got the insect leaving the hole.

You can see the bee zooming out:

Leaf-cutter Bees are mostly solitary, and build their nest cells in various cavities (the hollow arm of the chair appeared very suitable to this insect!) by cutting leaves or collecting resin and bringing them inside. They are, for the most part, above-ground nesters and more commonly attracted to artificial nests…and this one certainly was!

There is afossil record for megachilid from a Middle Eocene dicotyledonous leaf which shows definite semicircular cutouts along its margin, implying that leaf-cutting bees existed at that time.Amazing!

When Deepak came back after finishing his work, he might have felt that we were getting tired or bored…but thanks to the Leaf-cutter Bee, we never knew where the time went! Another opportunity for observing Nature at work in the most unexpected of places.

The Yellow-throated Sparrow, Mudumalai, 290220

March 2, 2020

Those who know their Indian bird lore know that the Chestnut-shouldered Petronia is the bird that inspired Dr Salim Ali to become an ornithologist. It was earlier called the Yellow-throated Sparrow, as the male shows a yellow throat in the breeding season. I caught these two males (you can see the yellow throat patch) at Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, on 29 Feb ’20.

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

July 31, 2018

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Ceropegia candelabrum, Turahalli, Karnataka,280718

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

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

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

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

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

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Ceropegia hirsuta, Panarpani, Madhya Pradesh, 080917

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

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

You can read in more detail about this fascinating process,

here

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

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

Drosera burmanii, Panarpani,080917

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

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

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.

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!

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.

Compare and contrast, 2017

February 2, 2017

Contrasting, in my mind, the tennis match that happened between two men, recently in Australia, and the US Presidential election process over the past year.

One was played fairly, by the rules, both parties were excellent at what they did,and would bring lustre to the title they won. There were no personal attacks, no smears, the process of winning the title was completely transparent.

The other….