Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Savandurga, 081017

October 11, 2017

It was just four of us: Padma, Ramaswamy, Srini and I… who decided to go to

Savandurga

on a misty monsoon morning.

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Sign in Kannada for our destination:

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The mist in the trees…

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Which slowly cleared up:

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Our activities attracted a lot of attention!

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We did see a lot of birds…here are some.

Black Drongos

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This Ashy Prinia presented a cartoony view.

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Green Bee-eater with dragonfly catch

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Laughing Dove

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The butterflies were out in force, too!

Yellow Orange-tip

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Dark Blue Tiger

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Plain Tiger caterpillar

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Pointed Ciliate Blue

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Common Wanderer

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Dark Grass Blue

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Common Gull

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Here’s Srini, delighted with the way a butterfly trustingly climbed on to his finger (if one wipes one’s perspiration off, they are attracted to the minerals in the fluid)

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That was the Pointed Ciliate Blue again.

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Some of the insects we saw included this White-tailed Damselfly

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and this beautiful Copper Beetle (at least, that’s what I named it!)

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Wildflowers were varied and plentiful.

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Here’s a lovely Balloon Vine:

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Mexican Poppy

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Gossypium sp (Mallow)

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Waterlilies in a pond

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Even seed pods can look stunning

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Mushrooms

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Dabbaguli was one of the places we stopped at

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And just outside the town, we spotted a bonus…the Jungle Nightjar!

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Padma brought her tasty cutlets, and we feasted on them

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Later we also had some local breakfast.

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We stopped near two old temples, the Shaivite sAvaNdi veerabhadraswAmy and bhadrakAlamma temple

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and the Vaishnavite Lakshmi Narasimha temple

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Here’s narasimhA, the man-lion avatAr of Vishnu, with His consort Lakshmi, who is his laptop…

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The deities were being taken out in procession, which was a nice bonus.

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This life-like dog in a vendor’s stall nearly had me fooled.

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Part of this temple seemed lost in dreams of another time….

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Some rather risky rock-climbing was going on.

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The scenery was stunning:

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It was on the rocky outcrop in the centre that we spotted three Egyptian vultures.

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We returned home, well pleased with our morning, stopping to say “bye” to this Oriental Garden Lizard which also seemed to be having a swinging time.

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Looking forward to the next weekend outing…!

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A Mushroom..a Fun Guy!

August 29, 2017

Mushrooms or Toadstools

are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
I’ve been amazed at the variety of mushrooms that, er, mushroom during the monsoons. Here are some:

A group of mushrooms:

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Pic: Vandana Murthy

Mushrooms go by different names, such as “bolete”, “puffball”, “stinkhorn”, and “morel”, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics”.

Puffball mushroom:

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Saucer mushrooms:

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Their spores, called basidiospores, are produced on the gills and fall in a fine rain of powder from under the caps as a result.

Bracket mushrooms:

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Scalloped edges:

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Many species of mushrooms seemingly appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. This phenomenon is the source of several common expressions in the English language including “to mushroom” or “mushrooming” (expanding rapidly in size or scope) and “to pop up like a mushroom” (to appear unexpectedly and quickly). In reality all species of mushrooms take several days to form

The classic “toadstool” shape:

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Mustard-coloured:

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Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying network can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres

Bright orange:

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Greenish:

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Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese). Though neither meat nor vegetable, mushrooms are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world.[21]

Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of these are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species available at many grocers include Hericium erinaceus, shiitake, maitake (hen-of-the-woods),

Fan-shaped ones:

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Rosette-shaped:

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People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists, collecting them is known as mushroom hunting, or simply “mushrooming”.

Looking like a human brain!

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This one was more than 6 inches in diameter:

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You can see the human foot for reference:

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More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. Additionally, even edible mushrooms may produce allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, from a mild asthmatic response to severe anaphylactic shock.

Stunning lilac ones:

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Mushrooms with psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They have been used as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing, and to facilitate visionary states. One such ritual is the velada ceremony. A practitioner of traditional mushroom use is the shaman or curandera.Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers, too.

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But of course, the best use of mushrooms, for me, is as food! Here’s one of the eateries around Hessarghatta, which specializes in mushroom (khumbh) dishses:

Hotel Oyster at Hessarghatta:

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Here’s a mushroom dish at the eatery:

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A most interesting and complex organism…that’s why I say that a mushroom is an example of a “fun guy”!

Layers:

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A delicate umbrella:

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The tinies of Turahalli, 120817

August 15, 2017

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

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

Here we are, at brefus before beginning the walk:

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

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

Several tiny flowers caught our eye.

Andrographis serpyllifolia:

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Commelina sp:

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Ground Orchid, Habenaria roxburghii:

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

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We were lucky to find this Ceropagia candelarbrum:

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Tiny flowers of the Dodonea viscosa:

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Some of us took a break to look up things:

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Unknown:

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

Blister beetle (on Clerodendron flowers):

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Ants on Leucas species:

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Sarcostemma acidum:

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Crinium, or the Spider Lily:

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Stachytarpeta, the Devil’s Coach Whip:’

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Such small beauties:

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Gulaganji, or Abrus precatorius:

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The tiny flower of the Bastard Sandal:

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

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A tiny fly on the Sarcostemma plant:

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A Common Wanderer female:

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A Bagworm Moth pupa:

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

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A Plain Tiger caterpillar:

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A Geometer moth:

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A Peninsular Rock Agama coming into breeding colours:

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We did go over a few rocks:

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Eggs on the Bastard Sandal:

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A Shield or Stink Bug:

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Even the Giant Wood Spider was smaller than usual!

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The insects got tinier:

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

Atlas Moths

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

The Atlas Moth, 120817

August 15, 2017

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

The [Atlas Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacus_atlas), which is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.

The Atlas moth was held to be the largest moth in the world, before the

[Hercules Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coscinocera_hercules) relegated it to second place. However, it still remains one of the most spectacular moths one can see!

We were very lucky to see two of these moths on a nature walk at Turahalli State Forest, on 120817.

These Saturniid moths have wingspans reaching over 25 cm (9.8 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier than the males.

Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as “snake’s head moth”, referring to the apical extension of the forewing, which bears a more than passing resemblance to a snake’s head.

Here are the beautiful, feathery antennae of the moth:

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In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as “fagara”.

Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones which males detect and home in on with the help of chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae. Males may thus be attracted from several kilometres downwind! The females do not wander far from their chrysalis.

After mating, the female lays about spherical eggs,

I was equally struck by the beauty of the moth’s thorax.

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Another amazing fact…the adult moth has no mouth parts, and cannot eat! Adult Atlas m only live for a few days…finding mates and reproducing within that time. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after about two weeks. Theyfeed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus and other evergreen trees.The caterpillars are adorned with fleshy spines along their backs which are covered in a waxy white substance. After reaching a length of about 115 millimetres (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Here’s the moth whith its wings folded:

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We were extremely lucky to see not one, but two moths in the wild…it’s an experience that will stay with us for a lifetime!

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Look carefully….

August 2, 2017

Look carefully at your mother…she’s the person you will probably become.
Look carefully at your daughter…she’s the person you probably were.
And both of you, look carefully at the grand-daughter…she’s probably going to be more than both of you.

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That should actually read, “parent”, “child”, and “grandchild”.

Two Malkohas and an unknown Owl: Valley School area, 300717

August 1, 2017

The fifth Sunday of the month, when it occurs, is an occasion when the “bngbirds” umbrella birding group of Bangalore does not have an organized bird walk; it’s time for most of us to earn back some brownie points, or at least get out of the doghouse, by attending to home,families, and other social commitments.

But alas, alas, several of us don’t heed the call to redemption. When Sangita S Mani, who works for Kanha Taj Safaris, told me that she’s in town, and that though she’s been working in Madhya Pradesh for about 12 years now, she’s not birded in Bangalore…it was too good a chance to pass up! Aravind, Padma, Ramaswamy, Srini and I bore her off to the Valley School area.

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I never go to any destination with any particular bird or other sighting in mind. In general, I am content to see what comes my way. However, Sangita particularly wanted to see the Blue-faced Malkoha, and we hoped that this would not be the one day when the bird decided to skulk successfully in the foliage!

We started out with loud calls from the peafowl (though we never saw one of these birds throughout the morning), and carried on along the path,

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sighting White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, and a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite perched on a bare tree. Several birds like the Ashy Prinia, a quick-fleeing Spotted Owlet, Small Minivets

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and White-eyes

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brought us just past the last banyan tree before the abandoned building. Though our names had been the first on the school register, by this time, several others had preceded us with their cameras and binoculars, and two of them were looking into an Acacia tree just beyond the stone seat in the field. “Sirkeer Malkoha,” said one of them, and yes, there the bird was…I was seeing it at the Valley after a long gap, and for some of my friends, it was a lifer, too.

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Just a little later, as we walked along looking up at the swifts and swallows swooping above us, the Blue-faced Malkoha also granted Sangita’s wish.

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Meanwhile, we’d also sighted three flycatchers: a Tickell’s Blue singing its heart out,

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a dancing White-browed Fantail, and a Paradise Flycatcher with an almost-full tail, swishing itself rufously about, to our cries of “There it is…no, it’s moved…it went there…there it is now…oh, it’s gone!”

A White-naped Woodpecker was an uncommon sighting, as it worked its way along the bark of a bare tree.

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My friends had a great experience of a mixed hunting party, quite large, all foraging in the area near the wall, and were very happy with their observation of how the different birds fed together. In many Hindu cultures, we have the concept of the “samaaraadhana” where people belonging to all castes and communities have a meal together, and this was the birding equivalent!

The plants and six-footers caught our attention too.

Crimson Rose

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Common Gull

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Psyche….it wanders about like the spirit (in Greek) it’s named after.

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Dark Blue Tiger

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White Orange-tip

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Shield Bug

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Gram Blue on Grewia sp.

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Golden Eggs of Coreidae bug:

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Bagworm Moth pupa on spiderweb

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Moth caterpillars with egg:

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Beautiful berries

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? tiny flower

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Bauhinia purpurea

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Allmania nodiflora

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We walked into the bamboo thicket and heard another Tickell’s Blue singing; several babblers gave voice in the bushes on the way there. Raptors never fail to arrive when they can be seen for the shortest time, and a Short-toed Snake Eagle shot past the small gap between the bamboo leaves.

We decide to take a calorie break, and ate some pongal with roasted appalam. Some of us were scheduled to attend formal lunches, and I hoped to avoid the usual “brefus stop” on the way home.

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(But of course, I wanted a bit of caffeine on the way home and when we stopped at Vidyarthi Grand, the coffee somehow developed into a proper breakfast! I am certainly not fast…on either expertise with the natural world, or with avoiding food!)

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We were very like the seamen of old being led on by the Lorelei, as we walked towards where we felt the call of the White-rumped Shama was coming from. As we did so, Srini sighted an owl sitting high up on a tree; it flew away almost immediately, but we feel it was not the Brown Wood Owl, but rather, a Mottled Wood Owl (I’ve seen one often in the area behind the abandoned house, which is now walled off.)

The Shama treated us to a couple of sightings in the misty morning,

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and full of its beautiful song,

we turned back towards the main gate, and so off towards what the Sunday held for each of us. Our hearts, binoculars, memory cards were all filled with images of the morning.

The eBird list, compiled by Aravind, is

here

I have put up photos on my FB album

here </a.

(as usual, documenting the morning, not focusing on any one living creature).

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Cheers, Deepa.

Post-processing of digital images

July 29, 2017

Post-processing of photographic images: I’d divide this into two broad categories: image enhancement, and image manipulation.

The first is the tweaking of the image to better the colours, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and other effects. The second is the active addition or removal of elements/images to or from the original photograph. The end result obtained, and its success as an image, is, I find, very subjective.

In either category, unless there is a situation where post-processing is specifically forbidden, or the RAW file must be produced, it’s entirely up to the viewer’s sense of aesthetics to rate the photograph as visually appealling, or not. I find, increasingly, images being post-processed to the point where they are more digital paintings than photography.

But as I repeat…this is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and as long as there is no intent to wilfully deceive the viewer, the image enhancement or manipulation is fine. It’s only if those images (like the five-headed snake that’s been doing the rounds for years!) are created to make a false statement, that the word “photoshopped!” (with that exclamation mark at the end) takes on a perjorative meaning.

Here’s a very witty image shared by my friend Vikram Bellur about one of the effects of post-processing:

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However, I do like the fact that post-processing is now in the hands of each and every photographer, instead of some guy dipping film into a stale chemical mix at some photo lab, and delivering images that either look in the pink of health, or are depressed and blue! And if I choose not to post-process, that rests with me, too.

The Nano graveyard

July 15, 2017

We went on a nature/birding walk to Kalena Agrahara today, and skirted the lake at IDBI Bank Layout. I was amazed to see several Nano cars parked, and rusting in the monsoon weather.

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There must have been about sixty of the cars, parked all around.

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At a conservative estimate of Rs.2 lakhs per car, that’s Rs. 80 lakhs just wasting away.

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I finally found this banner, saying that these cars apparently belong to this rental initiative:

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The problem in our country seems to be, not lack of good initiatives, but keeping up with them. I have tried to call this number to find out why so many cars are rusting…and could not get through. I will try again on Monday (which should be a working day.) ┬áBut meanwhile…would it not have been better to just donate these cars rather than let such an investment waste away in this fashion?

“Oh…this is a new AirBnB effort!” said my friend Rekha-Ram Lakshmanan, from St.Louis, when he saw the cars. “No,” I riposted, “This is CarBnB!”

What a sad state of affairs. Can anyone throw any more light on this failed initiative?

The blanket comes to life, 080717

July 8, 2017

Sometimes a blanket is quiet…

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But sometimes it becomes active…

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And soon shows its face!

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Life is made up of such joyful moments. This has been his favourite game with me since he was two!

T G Halli, 260617

June 27, 2017

A last-minute decision, and six of us, including a birder from Noida, Delhi, who will be moving to Bangalore in a while…off we went, in the predawn dark, to T G Halli Reservoir.

Padma Ramaswamy, Akhilesh Sharma, G S Ramaswamy, Y S Prasanna, Sudha Mahalingam

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It’s getting harder for me to categorize these outings as birding trips, as there is always so much more to observe and enjoy. Just watching the lush greenery that has sprung up after the rains, with the waters reflecting the scudding monsoon clouds, lifts the heart and
brings such joy.

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As we descended towards the water, we were stopped, literally in our tracks, by a Pioneer bush. This was one where the leaves had all been stripped away by the caterpillars of the Pioneer butterfly,

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which had then pupated on the branches and twigs.

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Many of the butterflies had just emerged or were emerging…

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and those which had taken on their new form were flittering around the bush. We could not help watching this dance of new life for a while.

There was also a bird’s nest in the middle of the bush.

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As we walked along the banks of the reservoir, the birds did not disappoint us, either. Beautiful little Indian Silverbills made music scores on the wires.

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Spot-blilled Pelicans, which are now resident birds, floated on the surface,

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…as did Little Grebes and Common Coots. Cormorants…Little, Great, and the distinctive Indian…flew and swam around, occasionally diving beneath the surface in search of food.

Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks

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and Tawny Larks

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flitted about the landscape.

Ashy Prinias went about picking up prey and going to their nests.

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A Little Ringed Plover sat on a mud flat.

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Since it is the time of year when we can only see RBI (Resident Birds of India!), we watched two Spot-billed Ducks, and a Clamorous Reed Warbler. However, some Tawny Larks, flitting about, a Whte-browed Wagtail behaving according to its name, added to our list, as did this White-browed Bulbul.

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At one point, the sounds were much more than the actual sight of the birds! The Common Hawk Cuckoo called its complaint of “brain-feeever!”, Tailorbirds, Flowerpeckers (presumably the common Pale-billed variety) and Sunbirds added their calls, Grey Francolins and Red-wattled Lapwings (we did see some later) punctuated the general bird song with their phrases, too. We heard the trilling calls of the Green Bee-eaters long before we saw any.

Both the woodland and the water birds continued to delight us as we walked along. At two spots, active colonies of Baya Weaver nests were being constructed.

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We watched these residential layouts taking shape, and also being inspected by the prospective owners (is there a word such as “owneress”? as the inspectors were the ladies!)

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Flying between the nesting tree and the thorny date palm behind, the birds kept us quite occupied.

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It was business as usual for the contract fishermen on the lake.

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The birding was interrupted by more “buttering” (as Rohit Girotra says, if birdwatching is birding, then butterfly-watching is buttering!) as Pioneers, Crows, various Blues, Pansies, and others flew about us, mud-puddling and also basking in the weak sunshine.It’s not often that one gets to photograph the Blue butterflies with their wings open, and we made the most of the opportunity.

Forget-me-not

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Blue Pansy

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Plains Cupid

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Common Banded Awl

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Indian Skipper

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Grass Yellow

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Common Leopard

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We observed some insects, too, such as this Blister Beetle

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this Green Marsh Hawk Dragonfly

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and this Jewel Bug

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this caterpillar

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a Day-flying Handmaiden Moth

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Even the common Housefly can be beautiful up close!

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But a further treat awaited us a little further. Two juvenile Green Bee-eaters, which have, apparently, not (yet) developed any fear of humans, sat quite close to the path, and flew around us as they hawked insects from the air. Their plumage, much duller than that of the
adults, allowed them to melt into the foliage of the tree they sat in.

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We walked a little further, expecting them to fly off to a distance…but they did not. All of us had goofy smiles on our faces as they flew about our heads, and landed on twigs quite close to us!

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Here’s a full-frame shot of one of them.

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If only all birds,and indeed, all wild creatures, could be (safely)thus free of the fear of humans…well, for a little while, we were in that Utopia!

Just when we thought of turning back, a nice “zebra-backed” Hoopoe, foraging along the ground,

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kept us there for a while longer…

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Reluctantly, we turned back on the path, heading back towards the chores and commitments that awaited us back home.

The wildflowers were lovely too. The Water Hyacinth, an ornamental which is now choking up our waterways as an invasive pest, still has lovely flowers:

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The Cleome had begun to blossom:

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Commelina flowers made bright sparkles underfoot.

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But the scenes. of the cloudy, cool morning on the reservoir will surely be in our mind’s eyes, recharging our souls and getting us through the stresses and strains of our mundane weekdays…We wished every devout Muslim citizen Id Mubarak, as we went home.

Oh…the food? Since we were in a rush, we did not stop for the usual post-trip brefus, but we did have fun eating Padma’s sandwiches, and some of the sweets I’d brought from the wedding I attended on Sunday.

The eBird list (and an impressive one it is, too, for a “summer” outing!) is

here

and I’ve put up my photographs of the trip on an FB album

here

Birders:

Akhilesh
Padma/Ramaswamy
Prasanna
Sudha (from NOIDA)
and I

Butterflies:

Awl, Common Banded
Blues, various (the experts are still disagreeing over the up-wing photos of some of those I clicked, so I will stop with that, instead of going into Gram, Grass, Pea and so on!)
Baronet
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Cupid, Plains
Emigrant, Common
Emigrant, Mottled
Forget-me-not
Gull, Common
Jezebel, Common
Leopard, Common
Lime,Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Blue
Pansy, Chocolate
Pansy, Lemon
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Sunbeam, Indian
Skipper, Indian
Tiger, Plain
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Already looking forward to the next weekend and what it may bring,

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