Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

The Scorpion, Kudremukh, Karnataka, 210514

May 25, 2014

As we went around the grassland landscape during the Volunteer Training Program, Kiran spotted this large Scorpion, and I took a short video of it as we slowly passed in our vehicle. The creature was on the banked slope of the hill, and it was both rainy and late evening.

I am not sure if this is the Emperor Scorpion, which is the largest of scorpions, but not the longest. The emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) has a dark body ranging from dark blue/green through brown to black. The large pincers are blackish-red and have a granular texture. The front part of the body, or prosoma, is made up of four sections, each with a pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are comb-like structures known as pectines – these are longer in males and can be used by man to distinguish the sexes. The tail, known as the metasoma, is long and curves back over the body. It ends in the large receptacle.

Well…it certainly was a sight to see, in the misty, rainy dusk on the grasslands of Kudremukh!

You can click


for the photos of the first day from the VTP, which was held at the Bhagavathi Nature Camp, about 20 km from Kalasa, Karnataka.

“Field Notes”: Guided Walk in Forest Park, 201013

October 23, 2013

On Sunday, the 20th of Oct, I went on

a walking tour of the nature reserve areas of Forest Park


Peter Van Linn

of Forest Park. Here he is, with Bob Duffy of the St.Louis Beacon:


Here we are, heading out on the path:


We walked through the prairie grasses:


Peter talked to us about native and exotic plants and trees, the re-routing of the Des Peres river underground, the inter-connection of the various man-made water bodies in the park. I learnt something I did not know before…that all the water bodies in the Park contain tap water…the Des Peres river flows underground right through the park, and does not surface at all!

However, converting the habitat was one of the efforts undertaken by Forest Park Forever. Through controlled burns such as the one

the controlled burn of 2011 referred to here in The Beacon

he said that they were trying to convert this particular area into a prairie/savannah, but thanks to earlier-planted trees, and resurgence of plants, pines such as this beautiful one


were very common.

He told us how bare, or even dead, trees, support wildlife. This picture of a leafless tree with many


on it


and this, of a


pecking at the trunk of a tree, illustrated his point:


Here’s some dead wood in a picture I like:


Does this look like a bird walk? Because of the presence of Jocelyn Clogston (who took me to Rockwoods Reservation the first time) and her friend, Tom Bailey, who pointed out quite a lot of birds, it did, indeed, become one, too!

We saw this


eating its breakfast:


Tom pointed out this beautiful


waiting patiently for prey:





delighted us with another one, swooping along, catching insects:


The usual


did a fly-past for us:


I got an


duller at this time of year, having lost the bright yellow of summer..




sat high on a tree:


Even the Robins and the Starlings are looking different now:


Tom showed me several Yellow-rumped Warblers, but I couldn’t photograph them.

Here you can see the various kinds of land: prairie, shading into savannah,shading into woodland (it’s not thick enough to call a forest)


I was still riveted by sights such as these:

this (thanks to help from Fran Fulton)



at the outset of the walk;



on a

CHICORY flower:


and this



Tom told me that this

WOOLLY BEAR (Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar)


was supposed to presage the severity of the winter to come, by the width of its brown band!

These aphids on the milkweed seed-pods

I walked back, enjoying the fall colors:



I peeped in on the

Orphan Car Show

(Apparently,Packard, Hudson, and Studebaker automobiles are considered glass and steel “orphans” because they are no longer in production.)


Let me close with the Halloween display at the Visitors’ Center:


and the


that bloom in the fall:


It was a very enjoyable morning.

Windmills, bell, and votzit…

October 3, 2012

On our trip to Daroji/Hampi, we took the Chitradurga/Hospet route, and near Chitradurga, we saw the majestic sight of the windmills turning:

Harvesting the wind
The windmills turn
A permanent source of power
That we must learn
To harness and use…
And shake loose
The stranglehold
Of rock-oil juice.
May windmills increase many fold…

In Hampi,while having dinner at Hotel Varsha, I explored the place and found a very knowledgeable numismatist, Mr V S Kotreshi

and since I was intereted in the things he had in his shop, he demonstrated this “singing bowl” to me:

Man-made wonders are sometimes as amazing as Nature’s miracles!

OK, votzit? Answer will be provided soon. No one has got it on Facebook yet…


Paradise Lost…

May 1, 2011

I was musing on humankind’s relationship with Nature, and it struck me forcibly that humankind’s need to dominate the environment is the source of much of the problems our planet faces now. Ohter animals, and humanity, in days gone by, were part of the environment, and accepted it as such; they have (had) no need to tame what was around them. But humankind…has become different. We need to tame the trees to manageable proportions, we need to tame plants to give us food, we need to tame animals to do our work for us…and we need to tame the forces of Nature to do our bidding, too. Development, to us, is not the sustainable path of use that can be cyclically replenished, but the “let’s take more” model that lands us in difficulties. We don’t want certain animals, and birds, and insects, and organisms, near us, or in us…. we work to eliminate them. We want others for our own short-term needs (or just desires)..and in the process, almost eliminate them. We want ONE thing and don’t seem to count the cost of getting it by eliminating others. We build a pyramidal model of dependence, and are surprised that it is not sustainable.

I think the Biblical “Loss of Eden” refers not to any physical casting out from a beautiful garden, but to the loss that our own lack of understanding of who we are, and what we are part of. Our greed, and our need to dominate what is, ultimately, indomitable…is what is causing much of the major problems we see Earth facing today.

Why I like Trees

February 3, 2009

From the Oikos calendar for this month:

Old Growth Trees – are mammoth trees with towering height, impressive trunk & massive branches. They can date back to even 500 – 1000 years. Their size & spread make us feel tiny. Imagine limitless services offered by these giants during their lifetime! They support diversity of species from its roots to the leaves. Every canopy layer is special with different micro-climate & function. Mosses, mushrooms, orchids, parasites, climbers, sometimes even a small tree find home here, giving food & shelter to innumerable animal diversity from ants, insects, honey bees, birds, snakes, & mammals.

Every species has carved a niche for itself making it a very functional small ecosystem. The ground level buttress roots and lower branches support insect diversity like ants and termites. Middle level braches carry ‘epiphytes’ like orchids or parasites attracting many birds like the leafbirds or flowerpeckers. Upper level braches support beehives. Holes in the old boles are used by nocturnal animals like civets and birds like qwls. Top canopy serves as roosting sites for several kinds of birds. Leaves are eaten by caterpillars which eventually emerge as beautiful moths or butterflies, which visit nectar-filled flowers along with bees. Fruits offer a treat to bats and birds. And so it goes…

Apart from all this, with emergence of their first leaves, the trees have been absorbing CO2 & giving us our life – The Oxygen. Important services offered by these spirits are immeasurable & we humans owe them much more respect & care !

But I also love the fact that trees act as purifiers in our urban landscape. They give much-wanted shade. To every member of the BBMP who says that they are going to cut down large trees to widen the roads, and replace them by planting saplings elsewhere, I say that saplings cannot, right now, take the place of full-grown trees in the benefits they confer. And I want every official to try walking and cycling first through one of the treeless, wide roads, and then through a leafy, tree-filled avenue, and see the difference for themselves. On long journeys, even car rides are different when they are through tree-lined old roads, and when they are through the new sun-baked stretches of new highways.

The trees at Valley School are mostly young trees. Another problem is that a photo of a majestic old tree never seems to convey the awe-inspiring size of it in the image. So…here is the sun setting through some of the younger trees in one of my favourite spots…

I also refer everyone to

this compilation


this one

well, they don’t list the non-flowering but shade- and oxygen-giving trees….

Examination subject

July 22, 2008

I am not kidding, people are taking a comprehensive exam on this topic:

29th July 2008: Comprehensive Exam: Molecular Ecology of thePrimitively Eusocial Wasp Ropalidia marginata: Metapopulation Structure,Genetic Relatedness and Queen Succession

And here I am, leading a blithe life…does eusocial mean being friendly in all the European countries?

This post is for you, premkudva. I don’t think we belong on this planet of “human doings”.

Someone’s slogan…

November 23, 2007

From the tagline of Radhika Singh on INW:

“Modern technology
Owes ecology
An apology.”

What a pithy, witty way to put it!

Two film festivals

October 7, 2006

Went to two film festivals; the first, “Aranyam” was a first-time effort by ActNow, a magazine for socially committed people. Like  all first-time efforts, it was a bit chaotic..none of the films scheduled for screening the first day were shown; Sandesh Kadur’s “Sahaydris: Mountains of the Monsoon”, a very beautiful film, was shown instead. The panel discussion later, with Dr Suresh Heblikar, Sandesh and others, was also not riveting… Poor ActNow, the Bangalore bundh also threw a spanner in their works the next day! I was deeply disturbed by the PETA film shown earlier, which in gut-wrenching, graphic detail, showed how animals are butchered while hung upside down —and alive….for commerce. Even dogs and cats are killed like this. I was thankful that I have given up leather long ago.

Yesterday, went for the evening screenings of “Vatavaran”, organized by Centre for Media Studies. Found that most of the audience were from journalism schools, and seemed intent on the film and its making, not its content.The first movie, by Nina Subramani, was on the ecological damage perpetrated by many corporates. I found it disturbing that Nina was asked if she got the “other side” of the story, that is, the officials’ viewpoint. She replied, “As far as I am concerned, there is NO other side.” I found this a little disturbing..surely, to balance things out, one must get the “other” point of view, too (sometimes that point of view is so absurd that it can actually bolster up one’s argument!)

The second film was on one of my pet subjects, Urban Cycling! But it was all taken in Ahmedabad, and I wanted to get up say, I have been cycling here for the past three years, and things have only become more unsafe for cyclists in Bangalore….but there was NO discussion after that movie, or after the third film, which was on the killing of whale sharks in India’s western coasts (this movie apparently resulted in whale sharks being put on the endangered list).

I came away with the feeling that we HAVE laws to protect the environment and animals in India…but they are never enforced….contrary to Nina’s feeling of hope, I left with a feeling of melancholy. These film festivals do their best, but it is so little in a sea of “so much to be done”. However, each of us can do what we can…not use leather, use the cycle, keep signing petitions…and faintly,  hope that there will be some change in the sea of apathy that surrounds us.