Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Documentation photography

March 5, 2020

Once again, let me state that one does not need a top-flight camera or a bazooka lens to make a significant image.


Spotting this vulture in the air on 1 Mar ’20, from our accommodation at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, I raised my little Canon SX50 and clicked. It is the critically-endangered White-rumped Vulture.

I am sure the photo (cropped) is not of any mention-worthy quality; but to me, it is important documentation of a bird which is being seen more and more rarely.

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!)


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!

Paradise Flycatcher, White morph

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

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

I’ve put up photos on an FB album at

The flycatchers I’ve sighted and observed here are:

Asian Brown


Black-naped Monarch




Grey-headed Canary


Indian Paradise






Tickell’s Blue






White-browed Fantail


White-throated Fantail


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:


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


A dead Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Munnar:


Nilgiri Flycatcher, Munnar:


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Forest Park, 100814

Least Flycatcher, St Louis:

Least Flycatcher, St Louis, 100413

International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), Ramnagara, and Nelligudde kere, 010918

September 6, 2018

had nearly forgotten that the first Saturday of September is International Vulture Awareness Day; a reminder jogged my memory, and my friends and I shelved our Maidanahalli plans for a visit to Ramadevara betta (hillock), to see the only known roosting and nesting spot of the Long-billed Vultures in Karnataka. The Karnataka Vulture Conservation Trust, in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, had organized a walk to see the vultures, and talks by experts, an event open to all.

We were a group that started from the south, north, and east of the city, and met up at the gates of the Vulture Sanctuary, by 6.15am.’


UGS. Gopinath, Nikhil, Arpitha, Sriram, Sharmila, Keerthana, Subhadra,Harish, Vijay, Tara, Arnab, Anisha,Sahas, Nitin, Regin. Kneeling with Arjun : Praveen and Srini. Ramnagara, 010918

Many of my friends were visiting Ramnagara (Ramnagaram? I am not sure which is the right name) for the first time, so, having driven just past the entrance gates, we parked our cars,


and clambered up on the rock face (slippery, alas, from the recent rains!)


and looked up at the vultures that could be seen (three of them at that time).

The single one:


And two sitting together (they mated a little later)


After looking our fill at the birds, which were preening, we also climbed up the hill to the gate of the temple, and went up a little towards the temple,

hoping to sight the beautiful Yellow-throated Bulbul which is another resident of the betta. We were lucky to sight just one, upon a rock!



We had not realized that this date coincided with a festival at the Rama temple upon the hillock; we were not sure if the increased number of visitors was just due to its being a weekend, until we saw the idols of the deities, Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Anjaneya, being taken in a palanquin (on a modern tractor!) in procession, up the hill. The vulture finds a place in the epic poem, Ramayana, the story of the ideal man, Rama. Jatayu, the vulture, finds Rama’s wife Seeta being abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka, and fights valiantly to save her, until the ten-headed Ravana cuts off his wings. He falls, fatally wounded, to the ground. When Rama and Lakshmana come upon him, he recounts all that has happened to them, before giving up his life. Here upon the rocky boulders of Ramadevara betta, the old story somehow took on colorful life as I watched the trio of deities and their faithful attendant Hanuman, wending their way to the temple, bejewelled and bedecked with flowers.


Closeup of the adorned idols


We watched the posters for the Vulture Awareness Day being put up,


and after meeting up with Mike and Chris, when they came to the viewing area, we were also able to glimpse the ungainly-on-the-ground and graceful-in-the-air birds with the help of the scope that Mike set up for everyone.


Many of us also saw the Long-billed Pipit for the first time…so birds with long bills seemed to be the order of the day!

We had left the city by 4.30am and by this time, in spite of the snacks we shared, the call of the white-breasted iddli was quite loud in our ears! So off we went to Sahasa Kala Shiksana Kendra (Centre for training in martial arts) where the event is held every year. After the pouring rain of last year, it was very pleasant to have the sun shining, and patches of blue sky appearing amidst the grey monsoon clouds.

We lined in an orderly queue and partook of a piping hot and delicious breakfast,


and with our mental and physical batteries recharged, settled down to the proceedings.


One of the star attractions, of course, was a White-rumped Vulture attending…or at least, an actor wearing a very well-made costume of the bird! Many of the young men present had a fun time with the “bird”, which was the mascot for the event. I would like to know who created the marvellous costume!


These young men took the “help the vultures” message very seriously!


It was also heartening to see how many people had made it to the event. I must mention the Forestry College in Sirsi, which always sends its students, I have interacted with them several times, at several venues (also at Kaiga) and found many of them knowledgeable about conservation issues. Several of the people who have worked untiringly to have the area declared as a vulture sanctuary, including Dr Subramanya, also took their places on the stage, and shared what the vultures mean to the ecosystem, and the history of the decline of these birds, along with the efforts made to save them from extinction. Cadets, schoolchildren, nature lovers from near and far…we all listened to the inputs being given, and took our certificates of participation.

Some of us decided to go back and see if we could get shots of the vultures flying off from the cliff, and were successful. Some of us also stopped over at Bidadi to visit the Nelligudda lake.


Apart from an edging of the now-to-be-expected trash, which included a dead fish,


the lake was a serene setting,and under the shade of two gigantic banyan trees, a cool breeze blew.



Several waterfowl, including two Woolly-necked Storks,


kept our binoculars and lenses busy; sighting two mongoose in the fields added to our delight. Both Brahminy and Black Kites dived repeatedly into the water, fishing for food. By this time, several butterflies had also emerged, and we watched as they flitted around us, too.

Grass Dart:



Some reptiles came out to bask on the rocks.


Well satisfied with the morning, we drove rather sleepily back to the city, making plans about whether to go birding the next morning or to spend it getting back into the good books of our families!

I have put up my photos on my FB album

And for other photos on the Flickr album, click


Our grateful thanks to the organizers of the event, which we intend to support every year, come September!

Cheers, Deepa.

Let me end with the beauty of this mushroom!


June 5, 2014

Adarsh Raju, Radha Rangarajan and Sangeetha Kadur put together this event on the 5th of June, at the Suchitra Film Society in Banashankari.

The documentary chronicles the work of James Balog, an award-winning photographer, who, along with his team, placed two dozen time-lapse cameras throughout the Arctic and other areas, to record melting and receding glaciers. Balog conducted the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term project to preserve a visual legacy of how climate change and human activity affects glaciers. The film was directed by Jeff Orlowski.

(you can see a short bit here,it’s about 12 min)

Post the screening, Ulhas Anand spoke of the simple ways in which each of us can save resources. He said that if all the humans on the planet were given a 30’X 40′ plot of land with 500 sq ft of garden, next to each other, the total amount of land needed would fit into the nation of South Africa; and yet we only earmark 4% of our land for our fellow creatures.

Kalyan Varma then spoke, with illustrative slides, on the importance of not being stuck to old modalities of conservation which seek to separate wildlife from human beings, literally fencing them away from each other. With special reference to grassland habitats, he said that such measures were proving counterproductive. He also showed graphic video footage of the torture endured by elephants recently captured from the wild, and “trained” to domesticity. There was a little discussion following this, but since it was getting late, the evening came to an end.

The event also provided an excellent opportunity for those interested in these topics to meet and catch up. It was pleasant to meet several people who are well-known for their expertise in the birding and wildlife fields.

There was a strong NTP contingent: Adarsh, Anjali, Chirdeep, Kalyan, Kesava, Parimala, Poornima, Radha, Raji, Sreeram and Sumeet (and yours truly) were those who were there (I might have missed someone out inadvertently, with my bad memory!)

In fact, the meet-and-greet aspect was so pronounced that I did wonder if at such events, we are just preaching to the choir. Those who attend are usually those who are already well aware of the problems and challenges posed by the environmental issues of today. Perhaps a better way to look at such events is that attendees go back with further information to disseminate the message to others, as many of us are doing in various ways.

But whether it’s a discussion forum or a social occasion, (or both) I do hope there will be more such screenings! Thank you, organizers, for an event that was nearly punctual, and had a good turnout, even though it was a working day, and there was very heavy rain before the event started.

World Environment Day, 050614

June 5, 2014

Does it move?
Kill it!
Does it sting?
Squash it!
Does it grow?
Cut it down!
Done with it?
Throw it out of your window!
Need to go somewhere?
Take the car!
Have some money?
Consume more!


Then, have plastic posters printed, saying, “World Environment Day”, with the photos of prominent pols, put it up in a public place, and feel happy that a praiseworthy effort has been taken.

Day 7, VTP, Kudremukh: Sat, 240514

June 2, 2014

Saturday, 240514, Day 7

There was an early-morning “Malabar Whistling Thrush” walk, the highlight of which was the sighting of the Blue-eared Kingfisher.

Sarath made a presentation on the tiger, the facts and figures of this charismatic animal. There were several inputs from VMR, regarding recent findings and theories.

VMR then talked about the Wildlife Protection Act and its ramifications, enforcement, and otherwise. Rather than a dry disposition, he showed the participants the other side of the Act…the ways and means that poachers and traffickers adopt, and the measures the Forest Department takes to counter them. The Forest Department is hobbled by limitations such as jurisdiction; the poachers are not limited in any such way. He showed the photographs of sandalwood being smuggled, especially “Rakta Chandana” or Red Sanders, as well as other trees like teak and mahogany. He mentioned how Red Sand Boas were trafficked for as much as Rs.20 lakhs each, during the Bellary mining boom. Other trees such as Durvasane mara, Saptarangi Selicia chinensis, were also being poached.

VMR talked about poachers-associates/ Carriers/ Middlemen and buyers, and the nomadic people..Pardhi, Bawaria, Bahelia, Banjara, Kalbelia, Kanjar, Sapera, Gujjars, Bangala…central to northern Indian tribes, called Khanabadosh, who are repeat offenders. The Bawarias rule now; they are from Panipat in Haryana.

The presentation was an eye-opener in the almost Bollywood-gangland-style operations of these poachers and criminals, and the way the Forest Department has to deal with old criminals and constantly arising new threats.

Every evening, there were informal sessions with VMR, Sarath and the participants, where a lot of information was exchanged, and a lot of bonding happened!

Finally, certificates were distributed to all the participants, who thanked both the staff and team of Bhagavathi Nature Camp and the team of KEDB and JLR for organizing and conducting the course so well. The participants dispersed with great goodwill, some of them staying back to enjoy the waters of the Bhadra river, and going down to Kalasa together and taking the overnight bus to Bangalore.

The day started with some great bird sightings from the Watch Tower, including this



I got the id of this tree, Gordonia obtusa, from Arun Kumar. Apparently it is in the tea family:


Here’s the entire tree:




in the summers develop a slightly golden coat to go with the dry brown of the sere leaves:



Back at camp, the RFO’s and Forest Department personnel of all the 3 ranges: Kudremukh, Someshwara, and Bhadra, were introduced, and they were the people who gave us our certificates.


The obligatory group photos followed:




As the van to take us back to Kalasa was only in the evening, we had time to enjoy the check dam at the Bhadra river, which flows by the Bhagavathi Nature Camp. Here’s Prasad, sketching the scene:


Meanwhile, we spotted a



but that little snake didn’t deter us from wading, swimming, and boating in the river!


We were jampacked into the JLR vehicle, on the way back to Kalasa, I snapped this lovely building:


We stopped at “Ganga Tea Point” as Basava had told me the tea was excellent there. Here’s a little shrine:


The new leaves of the Peepal tree nearby were beautiful!


I was rather sceptical about the quality of education at Kalasa:


We walked up and down the single road of Kalasa town, and these two beautiful homes caught my eye:



This was a small eatery:


I liked the photo of the Malabar Gliding Frog at a photo studio and went in to meet the proprietor, Sudarshan, who said he had little cutouts of them:


I went over to explore the temple of Kalaseshwara,


and took this flash photo of the rathas inside the shed:


The temple was at one end of the single main road of Kalasa:



Here’s the view from the temple steps down the main road:


While we waited for the Bangalore bus, we sampled the food on many of the eateries on the main road (which, along with the steep twists and turns the bus took on the return journey, made many of us sick!), and then sat chit-chatting on the steps of the temple:


Prasad wanted to be a non-conformist, and sat on the other side!


I enjoyed this sign:


We bid adieu to Kudremukh, Kalasa and the Western Ghats, and went twisting and turning on our way down to Bangalore…the end to a very instructive and interesting training program!

Click here for my FB album of Day 7

Day 6, VTP, Kudremukh: Fri, 230514

June 2, 2014

The “official” account:

Friday, 230514, Day 6

Sarath started early with a session on Mammals. touching on animal classification. After this, Dr H N Kumara made a presentation on Conservation Crises, with reference to several species which went extinct. He stopped his presentation so that Dr N A Madhyastha, who needed to drive back, could address the participants about genera conservation, with special reference to snails. The presentation was then resumed and the topic of Lion-tailed Macaques touched upon in some detail.

Sarath then showed the volunteers several videos on bird behaviour from his extensive collection. Following this, Seshadri talked about Amphibians…frogs and toads, and several others. He then led a short “Amphibian Walk” for the participants, showing them various creatures on the campus, right along the path.


Today I got a


outside my tent:


Here she is, a little closer:


Prasad showed me his sketches and I snapped some of them:




(That’s Ravi Koushik with the completed dinner!)

I caught K S Seshadri and Dr N A Madhyastha interacting with Sarath:


Dr H N Kumara talked about the Lion-tailed Macaques he’s been doing research on:


In the evening, Seshadri led us on an Amphibian Walk and we looked at various interesting frogs and toads!


Already the penultimate day drew to a close and the next day would be the last of the program….!

Click here for my FB album ofDay 6

Day 5, VTP, Kudremukh: Thu, 220514

June 2, 2014

The official account:

Thursday, 220514, Day 5

Early in the morning, the volunteers went on Foot Patrols with the Forest Guards and watchers, and returned in time for lunch to BNC. There were a few minor incidents of falls, tiredness, and an unexpected encounter with feral cattle which charged! These experiences were much livened by an artist having sketched several scenes, a poet having penned some lines about the experience…and much shared laughter.

Post-lunch, the volunteers were debriefed, and exchanged notes on what they had seen, experienced and learnt. Many felt that the Forest Department personnel should be paid regularly, appointed as permanent staff, and provided with better equipment, especially footwear. Dr. Ramesh then explained some of the restrictions under which the Forest Department works, and about the preferences of some of the FD personnel.

Since several people were tired, there were no evening sessions.


Today was a day we saw several creatures, both in the air and on the ground..and Life Under Foot (and under an inch) was very much in evidence.

I started with this



An utterly beautiful, yet tiny, beetle caught my eye:


So did the exoskeleton of this





sat on the forest floor:


A tiny mushroom bloomed delicately:


this plant of the Oleotropus sp was fruiting:


These fan mushrooms looked lovely, too:


Having finished our walk, Kiran and I took a ride with the JLR vehicle to Kalasa. On the way, we saw this lovely building:


In the Western Ghats, the architecture shades into the Kerala style, principally with sloping roofs to let the rain run off. Flat terraces on roofs are not possible.

Here’s the Kalasa grAm panchAyat office (village council)


A pavilion marks one part of the main road:


Life goes on at an easy pace in Kalasa. I didn’t notice any crowds pushing aside these cows to get into the medical clinic!


The roof details were sometimes lovely:


On the road, we met this lady and her daughter Saranya, selling fruits from their garden:


Kiran wanted me to photograph this fruit, which we could not get a name for.


I love

WATER-APPLES (called jhAmrool in Bengali)

and I bought some from the lady, but they were less juicy and more fibrous than the ones I have eaten in Kolkata.


I brought enough back to share with everyone at lunch.

We went past various signboards to landmarks:


We were happy with our ride to Kalasa and back, and Kiran and I “rescued” a tired Prasad Natarajan (the artist referred to above!), who had become dehydrated…we brought him back to the camp, happy with our good deed for the day! A power nap and a drink of watery buttermilk soon set him to rights.

Click here for my FB album of Day 5

Day 4, VTP, Kudremukh: Wed, 210514

June 2, 2014

The official account:

Wednesday, 210514, Day 4

As several ranges were out of bounds, 5 Anti-Poaching Camps (APC) were selected, with BNC as the 6th one, for the participants to stay in overnight. Women participants were assigned to the Mining Area, and the other participants were assigned through a draw of lots. The 5 ranges were: Pandaramukhi 1 and 2, Sujigudde, Ganapati Katte, and Kurinjal.

Sarath made a presentation on Tracks and Signs, showing several slides of the various tracks, and other signs, that volunteers would look for, to read the “story” of what had happened in the jungle earlier. Several mammals and reptiles were touched upon. The importance of urine and fecal matter was explained.

Post-lunch, there was a presentation on trees, explaining the key id features volunteers should look for.

Participants then left for the APC’s, spending the evening and the rest of the overnight stay getting a feel of how the forest guards, the true foot-soldiers of the wilderness, work and live.


We started the day with this jewelled web on the fence of the nursery:


There were all sorts of interesting places to go to, from the camp:


But we were committed to our program!

We found this little crab scuttling along:


When the generator was running, everyone was also running to get their gadgets charged!


The kitchen staff (extra helpers had been hired)


worked very hard on this array of vegetables and fruits to provide us good food:


We went to the Kudremukh Iron Ore Corporation Limited (KIOCL), which was an abandoned town after mining was stopped by the conservationists.


It was eerie to see such huge scale of operations having been abandoned.



The huge silo brought back memories of the “mother ship” landing, from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”:


The devastated landscape was depressing:



And yet, Nature is beginning to make a comeback:


The beauty of the rocks there was breathtaking. One of these could have been put in an art gallery, and no questions asked!


Kiran, who is quite knowledgeable about rocks, pointed out the plant fossil in between the sedimentary layers of this rock:


At the mining area, we saw some



and a



We decided to explore this road:


We were rewarded with several sightings; this

SAMBHAR STAG lay at his ease on the hillside:


The shola forests and the grasslands lay with wreaths of mist:




delighted us as they scurried along ahead of our vehicle:


I could not help clicking this tiny 8-footer inside the vehicle, too!


Click here for my FB album of Day 4

Day 3, VTP, Kudremukh: Tue, 200514

May 31, 2014

Day 3..My official account:

Tuesday, 200514, Day 3

Participants were taken on a drive to see the shola and grassland habitats, and visited Ganesh Katte, a high point amongst the hills. Post-lunch, Sarath talked about “Tools of the Trade” that a volunteer would require, such as a field notebook, a pair of binoculars, a field guide, and so on. A small explanation about binoculars was also given.

The Managing Director of JLR, Mr Sanjai Mohan, IFS, visited the camp along with Mr Avatar Singh, Executive Director. He also welcomed the participants and spoke of their privileges and responsibilities in the field. He also spoke of the history of the region, with the eventual closure of the Karnataka Iron Ore Corporation Ltd (KIOCL).

Sarath made a presentation about birds, touching on the various ways of identifying them and observing their behaviour.


The first sight that met our eyes as we came back from our walk for brefus:


Of course, that had everyone exclaiming, and pointing, and Prathap clicked them doing that, and I clicked him clicking them doing that…

I found some beautiful mushrooms near Kiran’s tent:


We went on a drive:


We went to Ganapathi Katte, and on the way, we saw this


drying its feathers:




couple made a delightful picture on the grassland slopes:


Here is the view of our camp watch tower and nursery from Ganapathi Katte point:


The rocky outcrops amongst the grass were dramatic:


A butterfly came and sat on our van!


I also caught a grasshopper who seemed to be wearing dark glasses!


This little


took a lot of jumping around by me, to get a good snap!


Here we are at Ganapathi Katte:


We were stung to the point of madness by these


but when I took a macro shot, one was so beautiful (it got blood out of Kiran’s arm!)


Mating grasshoppers made a beautiful pic:


So did a golden Dragonfly on a stick:


Another view of the beautiful curves of this unknown wildflower:


The buds and blooms of the


flower,looked pretty:


We trekked down to the place where the camera traps were being set up. The vegetation looked green and inviting:


Gurudatt (with the camera-strap; he is based at Dandeli JLR) gave us a lesson about camera-trapping:


After we returned, Mr Sanjai Mohan (MD, JLR) and Mr Avatar Singh (ED, JLR) visited us and interacted with us:


It was another productive and enjoyable day.

For my overall account,

click here </a>.

Click here for my Day 3 FB album

Here’s a leech lying (in fact, standing!) in wait for us!