Posts Tagged ‘jlr’

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

WHITE-BELLIED WOODPECKER:

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

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Here’s the entire tree:

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the

HANUMAN LANGUR

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

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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.

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The obligatory group photos followed:

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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:

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Meanwhile, we spotted a

CHECKERED KEELBACK:

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

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

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

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The new leaves of the Peepal tree nearby were beautiful!

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

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

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This was a small eatery:

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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:

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I went over to explore the temple of Kalaseshwara,

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

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

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

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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:

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

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I enjoyed this sign:

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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

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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

TWO-TAILED SPIDER

outside my tent:

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Here she is, a little closer:

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

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

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

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

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

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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

BLACK BULBUL:

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

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So did the exoskeleton of this

CICADA:

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A

COMMON FOUR-RING

sat on the forest floor:

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A tiny mushroom bloomed delicately:

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this plant of the Oleotropus sp was fruiting:

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These fan mushrooms looked lovely, too:

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

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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)

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A pavilion marks one part of the main road:

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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!

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The roof details were sometimes lovely:

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

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

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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.

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I brought enough back to share with everyone at lunch.

We went past various signboards to landmarks:

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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:

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

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But we were committed to our program!

We found this little crab scuttling along:

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

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The kitchen staff (extra helpers had been hired)

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

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

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

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

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The devastated landscape was depressing:

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And yet, Nature is beginning to make a comeback:

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

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

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At the mining area, we saw some

CHESTNUT-HEADED BEE-EATERS

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and a

GREATER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO:

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We decided to explore this road:

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We were rewarded with several sightings; this

SAMBHAR STAG lay at his ease on the hillside:

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

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These

PAINTED BUTTON-QUAIL

delighted us as they scurried along ahead of our vehicle:

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

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Click here for my FB album of Day 4

Bhagavathi Nature Camp, Kudremukh, Karnataka, 18-240514

May 31, 2014

The

Bhagavathi Nature Camp

in Kudremukh, Karnataka, is situated about 23 km from the nearest town of Kalasa. This was our base for a week during our Volunteer Training Program, run by the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board (KEDB) and Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) along with the help of the Karnataka Forest Department personnel.

The camp comprises several tents with delta-roofs, on cement bases, which are very comfortably appointed, with 3 beds in each tent, an attached toiled (mine was a Western toilet), and hot water provided between 8am and 10am each day.

Tent

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The generator is run from 7pm to 10pm each evening, enabling visitors to charge their various gadget and camera batteries.

Here’s how the tent looks from the front, as some of us gather for a photo:

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There is a large dormitory (no separate accommodation for men and women) here. There is, however, only one toilet for 14 beds. The rates are proportionally lower:

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Here’s the entrance gate; the camp itself is at a distance of 1km from here.

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At a distance of 0.7 km from the camp and 0.3 km from the gate, is a point where BSNL mobiles work. As of now (May 2014) no other mobile networks are in operation here.

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The watch tower, about 0.5 km from the camp, is a great feature, offering good views and sometimes a great birding experience at canopy level in the large trees nearby. It is opposite the nursery maintained by the Camp.

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The classroom shamiana from the watchtower. Our classroom sessions were held in a shamiana specially put up for the occasion; though we joked that it looked like a festive wedding “pandal”, it provided the necessary space for all of us to gather, and a dark area for screening of slides. It did get a little stuffy during the very hot weather, but it was very useful indeed.

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The shamiana was powered by this generator:

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There is also a Guest House, at a different area:

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A board indicates places of interest nearby:

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Another indicates trekking “rutes”:

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Many of us used the shamiana to get our gadgets charged during the daytime (this was a special occasion, generators may not be run during the day).

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The kitchen was run full-time for us; for other visitors, meals can be ordered and paid for. The staff were very efficient and the food excellent. Here is a rainbow vegetables of fruits to feed all of us:

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Here are the cooks, who really worked hard during our stay:

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Breakfast and dinner was served in the “gol ghar” area, like other resorts in Karnataka. Lunch was served in the porch of the dormitory, and tea in the shamiana itself.

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The camp is right alongside a checkdam of the Bhadra river, and it’s a great place to cool off and have fun. We only managed this, though, after our program was over, on the last day, while we waited for transportation back to Kalasa and home!

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I have provided a checklist of birds, mammals and others seen during our stay, on my post,

here

A wonderful place to visit, especially if you have your own transportation!

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:

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Of course, that had everyone exclaiming, and pointing, and Prathap clicked them doing that, and I clicked him clicking them doing that…
i
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I found some beautiful mushrooms near Kiran’s tent:

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We went on a drive:

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

CRESTED GOSHAWK

drying its feathers:

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this

SAMBHAR

couple made a delightful picture on the grassland slopes:

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

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The rocky outcrops amongst the grass were dramatic:

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A butterfly came and sat on our van!

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

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This little

JUMPING SPIDER

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

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Here we are at Ganapathi Katte:

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We were stung to the point of madness by these

CATTLE FLIES

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

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Mating grasshoppers made a beautiful pic:

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So did a golden Dragonfly on a stick:

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Another view of the beautiful curves of this unknown wildflower:

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The buds and blooms of the

OSBECKIA STELLATA

flower,looked pretty:

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

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

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

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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!

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Volunteer Training Program(VTP) , Kudremukh, Day 2-190514 (Monday)

May 31, 2014

Here’s my account of day 2:

Monday, 190514, Day 2

Dr Ramesh, the RFO of the Kudremukh range, made a presentation which started with the general concepts of Protected Areas, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Reserves, such as Community., Tiger, Biosphere and Elephant, and then talked specifically of the Kudremukh, which he lauded as one of the best forest regions in Karnataka, as well as being grassland habitat.

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VMR gave a presentation to illustrate the value of photography in wildlife conservation:

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Post-lunch, S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist, JLR, introduced the participants to “Lesser” life forms, and showed how interesting they could be. Heavy rain repeatedly interrupted his presentation but it was still an eye-opener to the participants.

The pouring rain brought down the temperature as well as the sheets of rain, and it was beautiful to see this

BICOLORED FROG:

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This ladybird isn’t alive; she’s been predated by a spider, but what remains of her is covered by raindrops:

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I wish I had names for some of the beautiful wildflowers we saw:

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This

JUNGLE PRINIA

hid amongst the rain-dripping leaves:

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A

COMMON PIERROT

delighted us:

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A lot of

GARCINIA GUMMIGATA

trees are being planted around the camp:

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I am unable to get the id of this beautifully flowering tree:

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The rain also brought out many

LEECHES;

here’s one on Basava’s finger:

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We saw the camera traps being taken to be set up (alas, they didn’t get anything much..that’s the way it happens!)

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This

HAWK MOTH

caterpillar had come out, too:

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I wish I had names for all the wildflowers we saw. Some, like this

OSBECKIA,

were provided by friends:

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Others remained unknown:

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I can’t get an id for these fruits and trees, either:

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The ferns looked beautiful, but we learnt later that

PTERIDIUM

(commonly called Bracken)

is an invasive species and is probably harmful for the ecosystem there:

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Karthik helped a participant get a macro shot of a Skipper:

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The landscape, as we went for our walks, continued to be stunning:

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From the distant slopes, a

SAMBHAR

doe looked alertly at us:

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Underfoot, a

FUNNEL WEB SPIDER

guarded her rain-bespangled web:

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A

SLUG

meandered along:

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Since the area is politically unsettled, an Anti-Naxal Unit van was often parked in the camp:

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click here

for my FB album of Day 2.

click here

for my overall account, list of birds and others.

Off we went for a good rest, to be fresh on Day 3….

Volunteer Training Program(VTP) , Kudremukh, Day 1-180514 (Sunday)

May 27, 2014

We (the budding volunteers of the VTP) reached Kalasa in the pre-dawn light:

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The promised pickup did not materialize, so we decided to take a local bus that would go past the Bhagavathi Nature Camp (BNC):

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Quite a few of us, at the entrance to BNC…we will become friends over the week to come!

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Sequestered…this was the only mobile connectivity point, near the gate, about 1km from the camp itself, and we were rarely able to access it, and even then, we needed the BSNL connection, which most of us didn’t have 😀

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Here’s a

COMMON CROW

welcoming us:

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The men got assigned to the dormitory (there was no separate accommodation there) and the lucky girls who booked there got a free upgrade to tents!

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The pic of the tent will appear in the post about the next few days.

Here are the trekking “rutes” from the camp:

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Er, my tent was called “Mecoque” instead of “Macaque”. 😀

The food was excellent throughout…Basavanna, of Bandipur JLR, took a lot of trouble over designing the menus!

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Wild turmeric bloomed everywhere:

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The watch tower near the camp was a great source of both bird and mammal sightings, and we sneaked off there whenever we didn’t have classroom sessions!

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Here’s the view of the tree nursery (where native trees are grown for afforestation) from the tower:

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The program started off with Sarath Champati (L), Dr Ramesh, the DFO (Kudremukh range) and VMR (R)…these two were our lead trainers.

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VMR(Er, Mr Vijay Mohan Raj) was known to me on

India Nature Watch

as a great photographer, long before I realized he was in the Indian Forest Service cadre, and a deeply committed one, too!

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Here’s Sarath. I’ve wanted to attend a training program under his guidance since 2006!

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Here’s a

MOUNTAIN IMPERIAL PIGEON

which started my “lifer” (first-ever sighting) list:

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Ain’t it beautiful?

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I’ve heard of the Smokey Mountains in the US and visited them, but this was right here, as the clouds rose from the valley:

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The first day was all about introducing ourselves and settling in. Read my short account of the sessions

here

To see photos of the first day of the program,

click here

First half of the Kudremukh Batch of the Volunteer Training Program, 18-240514

May 25, 2014

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The first half of the third batch of the Volunteer Training Program, this time in the grassland/shola landscape of Kudremukh, was held from 18th to 24th May, 2014, at Bhagavathi Nature Camp, about 20 km from Kudremukh, Karnataka. The Programs are jointly organized by the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board (KEDB) and Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR).

Lead Trainer/Co-ordinator:

Sarath Champati kabiniman@yahoo.com

Visiting Faculty:

S. Karthikeyan palmfly@gmail.com, karthik@junglelodges.com

Dr H N Kumara honnavallik@gmail.com 91 94861 91438 (Google H N Kumara and “Research Gate”)

Dr K S Seshadri seshadri.ali@gmail.com 91 94810 29488

Dr N A Madhyastha na.madhyastha@gmail.com, madhyastha@hotmail.com (Poornaprajna College, Udupi)

Facilitators, Jungle Lodges and Resorts

Mr. Sanjai Mohan, IFS, M D, JLR sanvan1962@gmail.com
Mr Avatar Singh, IFS, E D, JLR.
Mr Vijay Mohan Raj, IFS, E D, JLR vijayifs@junglelodges.com, vijayifs@gmail.com
Mr Basavanna H S Basu, basavannahs@gmail.com 91 99453 55252 (Bandipur Safari Lodge)
Mr Gurudatt Rajgolkar garajgolkar@gmail.com 91 99725 22943 (K. Gudi Camp)

Facilitators, Bhagavathi Nature Camp

Ramesh L Naik rameshhlnaik25@gmail.com 91 94808 76648

Dr Ramesh Kumar, District Forest Officer, Kudremukh Range rameshifos@gmail.com 91 87628 01602

Mr Nagaraja M R, ACF Office Clerk, in charge of Bhagavathi Nature Camp and the arrangements.

All the staff and specially hired assistants of Bhagavathi Nature Camp.

Participants (in alphabetical order)

1.Anand
2.Anil
3.Deepa
4,Devesh
5.Ganesh
6.Girish
7.Kiran
8.Lakshmi Reddeppa
9.Lingesh
10.Nalini
11.Naveen
12.Prasad
13.Prashanth
14.Prathap
15.Putta
16.Ram Arvind
17.Ravi
18.Sameeksha
19.Saravanan
20.Savitha
21.Sharath
22.Sheila
23.Siddharth
24.Susmitha
25.Sriram
26.Vidisha
27.Vidya
28,Vivek
29.Yashwanth

Short Day-wise Account of the Program:

Sunday, 180514, Day 1

All the 29 members were welcomed by Mr Vijay Mohan Raj (affectionately called VMR), IFS, an Executive Director of Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) The RFO’s of the 3 ranges…Karkala, Kudremukh, and Someshwara…were introduced. He mentioned that the VTP has been conducted in 2 landscapes, Bandipur and Dandeli, earlier, and this was the 3rd landscape, in the grasslands and sholas of Kudremukh. VMR emphasized the three components of the program: excitement, learning, and inspiration. Sarath Champati, an independent wildlife consultant who is the Lead Trainer for the program, and VMR both spoke of the course content, and about the experts who would be visiting and sharing their knowledge.

The participants introduced themselves and spoke of their expectations from the program.

Monday, 190514, Day 2

Dr Ramesh, the RFO of the Kudremukh range, made a presentation which started with the general concepts of Protected Areas, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Reserves, such as Community., Tiger, Biosphere and Elephant, and then talked specifically of the Kudremukh, which he lauded as one of the best forest regions in Karnataka, as well as being grassland habitat.

Post-lunch, S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist, JLR, introduced the participants to “Lesser” life forms, and showed how interesting they could be. Heavy rain repeatedly interrupted his presentation but it was still an eye-opener to the participants.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Birds:

Barbet, White-cheeked
Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed
Bluebird, Asian Fairy
Bulbul, Black
Bulbul, Red-vented
Bulbul, Red-whiskered
Bulbul, Yellow-browed
Bulbul, White-browed
Cormorant, Little
Crow, House
Crow, Jungle (Large-billed)
Drongo, Ashy
Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed
Eagle, Crested Hawk
Eagle, Crested Serpent
Egret, Intermediate
Egret, Little
Flameback, Black-rumped
Flameback, Greater
Flowerpecker, Pale-billed
Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary
Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue
Flycatcher, White-browed Fantail
Goshawk, Crested
Hornbill, Malabar Grey
Hornbill, Malabar Pied
Kestrel, Lesser
Kingfisher, Blue-eared
Kingfisher, White-breasted
Kite, Brahminy
Kite, Black
Kite, Black-winged
Lapwing, Red-wattled
Minivet, Orange
Myna, Common
Myna, Jungle
Nuthatch, Velvet-fronted
Parakeet, Malabar
Parakeet, Rose-ringed
Pigeon, Blue Roc
Pigeon, Mountain Imperial
Pipit, Paddyfield
Prinia, Jungle
Quail, Painted Bush
Sparrow, House
Sunbird, Crimson-backed
Sunbird, Loten’s
Sunbird, Purple
Sunbird, Purple-rumped
Swallow, Red-rumped
Swift, Common
Thrush, Malabar Whistling
Wagtail, Pied
Woodpecker, Heart-spotted
Woodpecker, Rufous

Butterflies

Blues, Various
Bluebottle, Common
Cerulean, Common
Emigrant, Common
Moths, various, un id
Four-ring, Common
Lascar
Mormon, Common
Mormon, Blue
Pansy, Chocolate
Pansy, Grey
Pansy, Lemon
Pierrot, Common
Sailer, Common
Skipper, Indian
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Dark Blue
Tiger, Plain
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Bees, Beetles, Damselflies, Dragonflies Flies (especially the Cattle Flies which stung!), Grasshoppers, Wasps

Leeches

Amphibians/Reptiles

Frogs, Various
Toads, Various
Lizard, Un id
Keelback, Checkered
Snake, Bronze-backed Tree
Snake, Green Vine
Snake, Rat

Mammals

Cattle, Feral
Gaur
Mongoose, Un id
Sambhar
Squirrel, Three-striped Palm
Squirrel, Malabar Giant
VTP members (29)

Click for FB albums of the program

here for Day 1

here for Day 2

here for Day 3

here for Day 4

here for Day 5

here for Day 6

here for Day 7

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

here

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