Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Why I write about my walks..and Lalbagh, 140419

April 16, 2019

I just got this heart-warming compliment from someone named Malu, regarding the descriptions I write (of the bird/nature walks I go on):
“So heartening to read the write up of your sunday outings. Gives people like me a vicarious pleasure in seeing these birds and animals through your words… thank you very much.”

My reply:

To you, and the many people who have written to me ( and to those who, I realize, may not have written but have still read my bird walk reports…because I recently got a query from someone asking where my writeup was !). Thank you for your kind words.

I used to see terse bird reports (not everyone has the time to write!) which went like this: “I went to X place. I saw..” followed by a very interesting list of birds. This always left me thinking about what the person did before, between, and after those bird sightings, and during them. Was there disappointment at not seeing a bird, or a thrill at seeing an unexpected one? Did they pant in the heat, shiver in the cold, or drip in the monsoon rain? That’s when I started writing “with the details”…I hope you are enjoying what I write, as much as I enjoy writing it!

Here’s the last one:

Bangalore may have entered grishma ritu, but in the open spaces, such as Lalbagh, it’s still quite pleasant in the mornings; so some of us decided to go there ahead of the usual 7.30am meeting time at the Glass House. On the lake bund, we enjoyed the blazing blooms of the Gulmohar, and watched the waterbirds going about their business of catching breakfast, and it was nice to see several Checkered Keelbacks resting in the water just at the corner of the fence and the footbridge that cuts across the lake.

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Not so pleasant was the sight of some visitors stoning these creatures, and I am afraid I gave them a piece of my mind!

The young Crested Hawk Eagle that added an unusual touch to our Lalbagh birding has, it appears, left for other destinations. Some of us had visited Lalbagh the previous day, to conduct a nature walk for schoolchildren, and since, most unusually, we did not sight a single keelback, our conclusion was that the eagle had finished them all off and departed. So it was pleasant to see that we were wrong about the “snakes in the lake”, if not about the eagle. I wonder if the Booted Eagle has also left.

Another rather disturbing sight was that of three Red-eared Sliders on the stones in the lake. Dr Suresh, of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, told me that these turtles (native to north America) are very invasive,when I had sent him a photo of one that I’d seen in the lake. Is there any way of netting and sequestering these turtles so that they do not take over the lake? Perhaps, like many lakes now have separate areas for the “visarjan” of idols, we should also have an area where people can release their unwanted pets in a humane way.

The third thing that disturbed me was that visitors seem to think that plucking flowers off trees is a very acceptable thing to do. I went up to a few people who were doing this, but all I got for my trouble was some dirty looks and a “Who are you to tell us this?” manner!

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Visitors treading on flowers that were plucked and thrown on the ground

Well…all this unpleasantness aside…it was a lovely time. There was a cool breeze across the water, and we watched a solitary Grebe, several Little Cormorants

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and Great Cormorants, and the “regular” Darter fishing in the waters; Little Egrets and Purple Swamphens waded at the water’s edge, looking for a snack. Spot-billed Ducks flaunted their colours in the morning sunlight. We went to see the Spotted Owlets, and then shared some pre-breakfast snacks, sitting on one of the lovely wrought-iron seats. Before we knew it, it was time to go the Glass House and start the walk.

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Srinivas and Prasad were there, as usual, and we moved slowly along with them as they pointed out many of the common birds of Lalbagh. A Blyth’s Reed Warbler, some Koels, and White-eyes ensured that our progress down the path towards the Arjuna tree was very, very slow! The Peepal tree had two White-cheeked Barbets going in and out of their nest-holes, and so unconcerned did they seem, that it looked as if one was peeking out from the nest, watching us! This is a new variation of the phrase, “Bird Watching”!

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The Japanese Garden area allowed us to watch several woodland birds, and some White-headed Babblers, the resident Magpie Robin and a Black-rumped Flameback slowed us up considerably.

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Meanwhile, other experienced birders and naturalists who normally participate in the Lalbagh walk, arrived too. MBK brought out information in his usual entertaining way. Prashanth did some excellent sketching, talking to the children (the summer vacation meant we had several on the walk) about the colours of birds.

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As we turned towards the ancient mango tree, we stopped to listen to the Cicadas, and Kesava spotted a Robberfly

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on a Violin-leaf Plumeria plant. Several Common Ceruleans,

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mud-puddling and nectaring on a Cycad, kept us occupied and delighted for a while, too. Several other butterflies were quite active .

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Gardenia sp.

At this point some people asked to see the Spotted Owlet, and I was contemplating taking them to my usual spot, when Srinivas took just a few steps and pointed out one sitting above the netting of the nursery!

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I took the opportunity of asking Srinivas for several plant and creeper ids on the way, and by the time we reached the old mango tree, the call of the White-breasted Iddli had become very insistent in some of us The previous day, I’d found the eatery called “Lalbagh Grand”

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( a very nice alternative to Kamath, where I have been increasingly disappointed with the food)…and off we went to refuel.

The eBird list is

here

I have put up my photos on an FB album

here

The album on Flickr is

here

And….a small thank you to Narahari for the little push that made me write this without further delay!

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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!)

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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!

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Paradise Flycatcher, White morph

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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

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S52742678

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

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S52712056

I’ve put up photos on an FB album at
https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10156406434043878&type=3

The flycatchers I’ve sighted and observed here are:

Asian Brown

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Black-naped Monarch

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Brown-breasted

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Grey-headed Canary

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Indian Paradise

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Red-breasted

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Taiga

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Tickell’s Blue

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Ultramarine

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Verditer

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White-browed Fantail

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White-throated Fantail

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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:

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

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A dead Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Munnar:

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Nilgiri Flycatcher, Munnar:

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Forest Park, 100814

Least Flycatcher, St Louis:

Least Flycatcher, St Louis, 100413

Ravugodlu: 4thSunday Bngbirds outing, 240219

February 26, 2019

We were 22 of us meeting up at the shrine at Ravugodlu,

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as the sun rose behind the hillocks of the beautiful scrub jungle. It is getting more and more difficult to find forest patches which are not walled off and where prior permission (often not given) is required. I do envy the birders and naturalists who could range freely over so many areas in the 60’s and 70’s! The population pressure is telling on the patches we have left, and I cannot blame the Karnataka Forest Department for being very wary of visitors, but definitely for students, research scholars and low-budget enthusiasts like me, the wilderness is increasingly either out of reach or inaccessible.

We started the walk with a kind of Coppersmith Barbet convocation, as large numbers of them flew in and settled on the tops of the trees nearby.

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So it was a while before we could move on. Already, before I arrived, the others had seen quite a few Indian Grey Hornbills flying past, and this continued on our walk.

Even when we were not sighting birds, the beauty of the rocky area and the path was delightful. We had been warned by a local farmer about the leopardess in the area (we had seen her pugmarks on the last 4th Sunday outing in July ’18) which had given birth to two cubs, but we saw no sign of her this time. Other footprints were there, though…the peafowl, and some other tracks which Mayur tried to identify.

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As we went on, we sighted birds like the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers and other woodland inhabitants. The Bulbuls called, as did Tailorbirds…the calls of the Warblers, our winter visitors, were harder to identify. Even the call of the Drongos sounded very different when they imitated other birds! I explained to some of the others about “birding by ear”.

One of the highlights of the walk was the sighting of a Yellow-throated Bulbul, clearly if not sharply, caught on camera by one of the group. Later, Tej was certain that he’d sighted a Black-crested Bulbul, but since none of us had seen it with him, I decided to leave that out of the bird list. My apologies to Tej for caving in on this one! Another interesting sighting was that of the rarely-seen Marshall’s Iora.

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The white in the tail that marks the Marshall’s Iora

At the pond, which still has a good amount of water, we sighted some of the waterfowl…a Little Cormorant, a Common Sandpiper, and both the Common

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as well as the White-throated Kingfisher, looking for their breakfasts. Several birds, such as Swallows, flying overhead, were also noted.

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Large Cuckooshrike

Several unusual trees and plants also caught our attention, and I must thank Subbu for pointing out some of them when I was chatting to the others about the birds. Wildlfowers are stunningly beautiful!

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Now you know why they are called Bottle Gourds!

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Cochlospermum religiosum, Buttercup tree

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Indian elm (Holoptelia integrifolia)

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The inverted parachutes of Aristolochia indica, Eshwaramooli,or Indian Birthwort; critical for the Southern Birdwing butterfly

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Gmelina asiatica,Asian Bushbeech

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A Pond Terrapin that we spotted

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Crimson Tip

We stopped at the end of the trail for our variety of snacks, and both Vidhya’s “mangai thengai pattani sundal” and the masala buttermilk I brought, went down well with an assortment of biscuits and crunchy snacks. Why can’t all the vitamins be in the tasty nachos, I wonder!

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The only child in the group, Sanchana,

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proved to be very curious about everything she saw..and she quizzed me a lot, too! I am not sure if I answered her questions to her satisfaction…but it was very nice indeed to spend time with her. I do wish more parents would bring their children along, though I know the early start is a bit tough…our wildernesses are fast disappearing into residential layouts!

We dispersed at the end of the walk with some of us stopping at the Davangere Benne Dose eatery and others at Thavaru Mane (Mother’s home)Thindi,

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and went home with our hearts…and tummies…full, to face whatever the week ahead would bring.

The eBird list, compiled by Vidhya, is at

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S53078827

Butterflies:

Blue, Pea
Blue, Tiny Grass
Cerulean, Common
Crimson-Tip
Emigrant, Common
Jezebel, Common
Leopard,Common
Orange-tip, White
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger, Striped
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Mammals:

A quick video of the participants , with each one announcing his/her name, is at


I have put up my photos on my FB album

here

and on a Flickr album,

here

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Monet-esque waterlilies in the pond

Nature Feature, Feb. ’19: Hayath and the world of many legs

February 8, 2019

For a while now, the world of insects and spiders has begun to be revealed to everyone, through the medium of photography. As the micro-sized creatures are captured through macro photography, stunningly weird-looking creatures appear on social media feeds, making us feel that these, surely, are beings from a different planet!

No, these creatures are not “out of this world” at all. It’s just that their tiny size prevents us from seeing them in detail. Another reason why we know little about them is that they are often so well camouflaged, as leaves, bark, or other natural phenomena, that we overlook them completely.

Hayath Mohammed is one young man who, even as a child, was drawn to these smaller living beings. “I would walk around in the garden and find enough to interest me and keep me occupied,” he says. He invested in a camera to be able to document what he saw.

His parents have been supportive of his interest in these many-footed creatures, he adds. Indeed, he says, “My mother likes to go birding with me, and since she has also observed the various kinds of spiders and insects, she’s very understanding about my fascination for them”.

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An Antlion, one of the creatures Hayath showed me

He joined several fora for various insects, and soon learned to distinguish bugs from beetles, hoppers from weevils, and wasps from flies. “I tend to only think of their scientific names, not their common ones, as the common names tend to be generic,” he remarks. “When I talked about a Signature Spider, for example, I would quickly be asked which kind I meant, so I quickly learnt the specific scientific names.”

During the course of our short walk together in Doresanipalya, he did bring out quite a lot of these names for the spiders. Arachnura, Argiope, Cyclosa, the names rolled off his tongue,but didn’t quite roll into my ear as easily!

On the photography front, too, Hayath says, it’s been a big ride. “I got started with a Sony point and shoot gifted by my uncle.” he says. “I used that for a while before moving to a Sony H2.”Since then,” he adds, “I’ve moved to a Canon DSLR system and then, recently, to the micro four thirds Olympus system. My current macro equipment costs around Rs 50,000 in total.” Certainly, if it should be counted as a hobby, it’s quite an expensive one!

But more than a hobby, it’s a matter of a passionate pursuit for Hayath. “Macro photography can be extremely satisfying as a genre, ” he remaks. One need not spend so much, he adds. According to him, there are several low budget options to get started:

1. Clip on lenses for smart phones
2. Reversing short focal length lenses on an existing DSLR
3. Using a Raynox DCR 250 clip-on diopter for telephoto lenses and bridge cameras.

But sooner or later, one does wind up investing larger amounts of money to get the perfect image! “Proper use of light plays an important role in making good images, as with any other genre of photography,” he is quick to point out. He uses a Rs.5 thermocole Hi board as a light diffuser with his expensive flash equipment! So the combination of expensive equipment and cheap “jugaad” works well for him.

Here is Hayath, looking around at the trees, the leaves (on, around, and under them!) with his equipment, for the various creatures that he finds so interesting, and photographs so well.

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Here is his incredibly beautiful image of a Cicada:

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Photo: Hayath Mohammed

Let’s wish Hayath every success on the path he has set himself, of documenting the small creatures of the urban jungles….. creatures that most of us never get to see at the level of detail he achieves.

Asian Waterfowl Census, Hoskote kere, 130119

January 15, 2019

It’s always a tug-of-war on the second Sunday of every month. I have learnt a lot on the Lalbagh walks, but since I am generally committed to the 3rd and 4th Sunday walks, I do like to go to other birding spots with my friends. Well, on the 13th of January, the tug was decided by the fact that the Asian Waterfowl Census, or AWC ) is on, and we could contribute data and pretend to be very scientific, while following the experts around and getting to see a lot of birds! So off we went to Hoskote kere, after MCS (Mandatory Chai Stop) on the way.

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MCS, ITI Bus Stop. Note Vidhya’s gloves!

The group was not as large as I’d expected, but this lack of numbers was more than made up for, by the number of species sighted! I am not one for numbers, but definitely, between waterfowl, winter migrants, and woodland birds, we were able to sight, and observe the behaviour of, several species of birds.

We carefully turned into the toll-avoiding opening and proceeded down the bund of the lake. We opened our account with a White-throated Kingfisher and a Common Hawk-cuckoo sitting on the wire, out in the open.

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The fog had lifted by the time we got to the temple, and the first pale rays of sunshine showed several Spot-billed Pelicans,

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Painted Storks,

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Cormorants and Grebes on the waters.

There were two scopes on hand, and this certainly helped many of my friends, who are still new to birding, to do some Spotting of their own, apart from the bills of the pelicans and the ducks! A Pied Kingfisher hovered over the water and dove in now and then, looking for a quick breakfast.

The “spotting” extended to the far side, the scope enabled us to look at a Greater Spotted Eagle, as well as three Marsh Harriers. perched on the bare trees, and occasionally sweeping over the water, alarming all the other birds. It was delightful to see a Common Kingfisher and a Wagtail apparently enjoying a boat ride. We don’t often see birds boating!

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On the far side, thanks to the scope, the indistinct blobs resolved themselves into Garganeys, Shovellers, and Pintails too.

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Capparis flowers (Caper)

We walked down to the path into the lake from the Gangamma temple,

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Gangamma, the deity at the lake.

and Grey and Purple Herons, pods of pelicans fishing, Yellow Wagtails

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living up to their name with their bobbing tails, two Wood Sandpipers having a face-off (territory? food? We didn’t know),

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some Common Sandpipers flying with their white rumps showing. A Glossy Ibis gleamed in coppery sheen in the now strong morning sunlight,

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and we were able to make out the difference between Streak-throated, Barn, and Red-rumped Swallows in a birding id practical lesson.

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Streak-throated (L) and Barn (R) Swallows.

A Sand Martin (Common, Krishna Murthy told us) also put in an appearance. Another good comaprison study was of the three Egrets…
Little, Intermediate, and Great…It was like watching the Grimmskipp page come alive! It was lovely to see the Swallows making musical scores on the wire. I believe someone did, once, set the swallows-on-the-wire to music!

We brought out our snacks and biscuits, and stoked up enough calories to let us carry on well past the usual breakfast hour.

We then walked back up the road, doing the other part of the lake adjoining the path, and were rewarded by the sight of both the Grey-bellied Cuckoo

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and the hepatic morph, which is generally female.

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I looked at a non-singing Jerdon’s Bushlark, and a Common Hoopoe (no longer common, either) A (probable) Booted Eagle gave us a fly-past finale.

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Bee covered with pollen, on Ipomoea flowers

Not having realized just how much time had gone by, we decided to go to Sendhoor Cafe in Ulsoor, and our greed was rewarded by the fact that it was noon when we reached there, and everything was sold out! We should just have eaten at one of the two darshinis at the lake! Well, we managed to eat at the Second Choice Darshini (Kadamba, opposite Frank Anthony School) and went home, very happy with our productive morning.

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Utsava murthy of Gangamma.

The eBird list, a very impressive one, put up kindly by Praveen, is at

https://ebird.org/india/view/checklist/S51618715

I’ve put up photos on an FB album at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10156336753578878&type=3

And on a Flickr album at

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You can see I really concentrated on the bird count this time as there are just a couple of wildflowers and one spider in the album..and no butterflies at all!

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Most of the participants, at the end of the census.

It’s Monday and I am already looking forward to the next weekend!

Kaikondrahalli Kere: 4th Sunday outing of Bngbirds, 231218

December 25, 2018

Email to Bngbirds:

Where is the winter in Bangalore? Alas…. it seems to last only until the sun gathers power in the mornings! But in spite of the rather strong sunshine, several of us had a very enjoyable morning at Kaikondrahalli (or Kaikondanahalli…it’s spelt both ways at the lake!) on the 4th Sunday outing, on 23rd Dec, 2018.

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KrishnaVirat, Chandu, Shubha, Subramanyam,Tarachand, Imtiaz, Mamta, Gopinath, Jagan, Rakshith, Mandar (with Srushti), Kalyani. Kaikondrahalli kere, 231218. Sushmitha and Shankar joined us later.

We started on the path watching the Spot-billed Pelicans, Little Grebes, Little and Great Cormorants, and Spot-billed Ducks doing their “ducking” as they hunted for food. A White-throated Kingfisher arrived in a flash of cobalt blue and sat quietly at the edge of the bridge. Several Black-headed Ibises flew out, perhaps in search of the next water body.

Walking along, I showed everyone the various medicinal plants and trees that have been planted along the northern edge of the lake (along Sarjapura Road). Soon, the latecomers also caught up, and we looked at Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, and Warblers flitting around the trees. The butterflies were not out, but a Bush Hopper on a (what else?) bush caught Chandu’s eye, and we looked at the small creature carefully.

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As we neared the halfway mark, Painted Storks,

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some Asian Openbills, and a large number of Grey Herons and just a lone Purple Heron caught our attention on the central island. Mamta, a very experienced birder from Bhubaneswar who is visiting her daughter, was helpful in spotting the Small Blue Kingfisher. Kalyani spotted a White-cheeked Barbet on the Ficus, but it took the rest of us several minutes to see it!

I was dismayed to see a notice proclaiming the construction of a Chamundeswari temple, asking for donations of bricks and cement,next to the fence. But I guess there is little we can do about it, as the marshy area (where we spotted a couple of Sandpipers) will be dumped on and filled up.

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Some of us actually clicked the Greater Spotted Eagle under the impression it was a Black Kite…it soon took off, mobbed by those can’t-get-along-with-any-other-bird crows. But we soon watched a reverse drama in the air, as a Black Kite chased a crow which had secured some food. In the fray, it seemed as if neither bird got to eat the morsel!

We watched a Two-tailed Spider, and observed how well-camouflaged it was against the bark:

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Drongos, as usual, swooped and called. We were delighted to see a Golden Oriole,

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and several Brahminy and Chestnut-tailed Starlings

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A few Rosy Starlings too:

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as we approached the rookery where the Cormorants nest in season.

It is very heartening to see children on the walk. Young Srushti (whose nickname is “Dolphin”!) , the daughter of Kalyani and Mandar, proved to be very knowledgeable about birds, and it was a pleasure showing her other creatures, like tent and orb web spiders. Krishna Virat, also quite experienced with birds, came along with his father, Chandu Bandi, who was a great help in spotting birds and showing them to the group.

Here are three birds in one frame, Little Egret, Spot-billed Duck, and Little Cormorant:

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Mamta and I shared our biscuits and orange segments with everyone,

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and we walked on beyond the Butterfly corner, which seems, once again, to be in sad shape. However, some Plain Tigers and Common Jezebels were found a little further on. Brahminy Kites, both adult and juvenile, soared overhead.

There was a lot of activity in the tall Eucalyptus near the rest rooms, with Warblers and White-eyes flitting around, and a Purple Sunbird flashing its metallic plumage in the sunlight.

A Praying Mantis on Mandar’s clothes delighted us for a while.

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We managed to see a Spotted Dove, and a Shikra gave us a fitting flypast to end our outing. Some of us adjourned to South Inn for a hearty breakfast

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and dispersed, well-pleased with what we had seen, and observed.

the eBird list is

here

the FB album is

here

and the Flickr album is

here

Here’s a short video of a Cormorant drying its wings while still swimming!

This was the last Bngbirds walk for 2018, and I take the opportunity of wishing everyone a very merry Christmas if they celebrate it, or a happy holiday if they don’t…and all the best for a prosperous 2019!

Cheers, Deepa.

Kidoor Bird Fest: Birding on the Border, 10,111118

November 29, 2018

Birds know no borders; the ones that we go to see in Karnataka fly off and can be seen once we cross over into Kerala!

So when the birders of Kasargod announced the second Kidoor Bird Fest, to celebrate both the first sighting of the

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
obgp by by Sarala Jeevanthi Gamage
Photo credit: Sarala Jeevanthi Gamage

and the birthday of

Dr Salim Ali, the noted ornithologist,

it was clear that this would be a productive birding weekend.

The participants and the organizers.
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The festival was a bigger event than it was in 2017, because this time, birders from all over Karnataka and Kerala attended. 65+ birders made a strong show at the fest, which was held in the hamlet of Kuntangeradka, in Kidoor.

Kidoor Post Office sign.
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The festival began with everyone gathering and registering.
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Beautiful palm-frond birds adorning the hall.
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Raju Kidoor
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and the entire team, including Maxim and Lavina
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worked very hard to make the event a success.

The birders of Kasargod, and some from Mangalore, brought the following local luminaries on the dais: Sri Pundarikaksha K L, President, and Smt Aruna Manjunatha Alva, Ward Member, both from the Grama Panchayath, Kumbla; Sri Biju P, ACF, and Sri Sunil Kumar, SFO, Social Forestry Division, Kasargod; Sri Chikkayya Rai,a practitioner of traditional herbal medicine; and Sri Radhakrishna, an eco-friendly businessman of Kidoor who eschewed plastic.

Dignitaries on podium:
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Sri Pundarikaksha inaugurated the event, and the dignitaries from the Social Forestry Division spoke about the valuable sighting of the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon in Kidoor, on 10th Nov 2016, and the decision to celebrate the birthday of Dr Salim Ali, noted ornithologist, on 11th November as well. Kidoor has proved a birding hotspot, with sightings of several birds endemic to the Western Ghats.

Sri Chikkaya Rai, Sri Radhakrishna, and Chi. Praveen (a young student who has spearheaded several ecological initiatives in his school) were felicitated.
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The local birders took the visitors for an evening walk in the nearby laterite/grassland area.

Sunlight on the grasses.
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and a pond that they are protecting for the birds.
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Participants on the evening walk.
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Children at the evening walk.
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They organized a cultural program, with many people, including these ladies who sang folk songs, taking part.
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Untiringly, they also conducted a night walk along the village roads.

Lavina, a doctoral student, explains about pond life on the night walk.
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Next morning,in the dawn light, they took the visitors on a morning walk, along a scenic trail.
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Apart from many endemic birds , several trees also endemic to the Western Ghats, butterflies, wildflowers, insects and other creatures were sighted (see photos below). The ladies were put up in the homes of the local residents, who were very hospitable.

The family who put up visitors at Kasargod, when they alighted from the overnight bus, on their way to Kidoor
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The family who put up the ladies at Kidoor
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Photo credit: Padma Ramaswamy

One of the impressive features of the fest was that not only was it conducted on a tight budget, but there was no sense of heirarchy amongst the organizers. Every one pitched in to do whatever tasks were required, whether it was setting up a screen, serving the food, or arranging the chairs in the hall. It made for a very homely, pleasant atmosphere, and the visitors also were able to do their bit. Another great feature was that no plastic was used in the course of the meals; each person washed the stainless steel plate, glass or cup that s/he used.

The meals were traditional and were delicious.

Breakfast of iddlis, sambhar and chai.
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Lunch in traditional vessels.
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After breakfast, the gathering settled down to watch some presentations on Odonates (Dragonflies and Damselflies), and Butterflies.
Murali’s presentation on butterflies:
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After this the participants were treated to lunch at the Gram Panchayat President’s home.
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Plantain leaf lunch.
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Full of the wonderful sightings they had enjoyed, and the new friendships they had formed, the birders dispersed.

The District Collector, Dr Sajith Babu, participated enthusiastically in the Fest.

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He promised to spare the laterite/grassland from human-centric “development”. This makes it possible that from next year, the Kidoor Bird Fest will become a larger, well-sponsored event, attracting birders from further afield.

Participants at the end of the fest:
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Birds and other living beings observed during the event:

Yellow-wattled Lapwing.
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Yellow-footed Green Pigeon.
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Malabar Lark.
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Flame-throated Bulbul.
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Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
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Nilgiri Flowerpecker:
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Yellow-browed Bulbul.
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Grey-necked Bunting.
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Chestnut-headed and Blyth’s Starlings:
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Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munias.
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Curved flower or Woody Chassilia.
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Porcupine quill found on the ground.
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Blue Tiger Moth.
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Memecylon flowers.
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Nag Kuda Tree (Tabernaemontana alternifolia).
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Beautiful grass.
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Beauty of the laterite rock.
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Common Sailer.
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Weaver Ants.
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Red Pierrot.
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All photographs by me, unless otherwise credited.

Shadow puppetry: Michael and Wendy Dacre at Kathalaya, 231118

November 24, 2018

Sometimes the shadow is just as interesting as the substance.

I was privileged to peep in on a shadow puppet workshop that

Michael and Wendy Dacre

conducted at Kathalaya, BTM Layout, Bangalore, on 23rd November 2018.

Nikhil from the Hindu interviews Michael and Wendy, while Geeta looks on.
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Shadow puppet theatre has long been a part of the traditional arts of many cultures,but when Wendy first got interested in it, she found that there was no tradition of it at all, in the United Kingdom. She built up her shadow puppets, and the shadow puppet theatre, from scratch, using any of a wide variety of materials to hand, and learning the ways puppets can be moved behind the screen, by experimentation. “Traditional shadow puppetry has set rules,” Wendy says, on a cloudy afternoon. “But I invented as I went along.” She did take the help of technology, she says; “If, for example, I wanted to make the silhouette of a buffalo, I would look at images on the net to be able to draw one.”

Michael and Wendy
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Wendy, therefore, describes herself as a “maker”. Whether it is the puppets themselves, or the proscenium on which they act out the story that Michael tells, they are all her own creations.

Michael takes up the story, from the viewpoint of telling the tale. “The puppets themselves don’t talk, in our shows,” he explains. It’s the audience’s minds and imagination, he says, that fills up the details: “The mind has to fill in the other things.” “I see the story in my inner mind,” he adds. Both he and Wendy sometimes improvise as they go along. The occasional tussles of each wanting to do something different, and the resulting compromises, make for interesting theatre!

What is the longest shadow puppet theatre they have staged? Michael talks of the many tales he’s picked up all over…the Icelandic and Irish mythology, the tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Old English folklore. Their story of Beowulf is about an hour long, Michael says, as is the production of “Into a New Time”. He mentions tales based on the Sargasso Sea. Though the content could be very adult, he explains, he finds that it’s the adults who are most often captivated by the simplest of tales. “It’s been 31 years of an amazing journey with the stories and Wendy’s puppets,” he says. He describes himself, smilingly, as a “wordsmith”, who spins and relates the tale that Wendy brings forth with her puppets.

The puppets can vary greatly in size. “I’ve made some giant puppets,” smiles Wendy. “For the Arthurian tale of

Gawain and the Green Knight

I made a Green Knight puppet with a giant head, with creepers and plants growing out of his face, ears and all…and the puppet had to be beheaded in the course of the story! “Velcro came in handy!” she laughs.

All the pupppets only monochrome shadows? “Oh, no, you just saw the green grass, the coloured flowers and the other things I created as the stage,” explains Wendy. “I use anything, such as glass paper, that is translucent and will let the light through. Sometimes the mixture of colours gets me interesting combination, sometimes the pigments merge into black.” She also uses coloured lights as well, to enhance the silhouettes.

How does Wendy take care of the puppets? She laughs. Her craft, she says, is very much “of the time”, and the puppets can disintegrate into their component parts or, as happened with one giant puppet, get composted! Fabric, willow, glue, ratafia…she uses materials that can decompose.

For the workshop, Wendy has brought along a puppet stage, with three panels, and specially devised lighting. She must have this, as daylight cannot be focused sharply on her little stage. She’s also created a small mobile stage that can be slung across the story-teller’s shoulders and secured at the waist, so that the story teller can move round while staging the shadow puppet show.

Jayashree demonstrates the mobile stage and shows some of the puppets:

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On their first visit to India, at the invitation of Geeta Ramanujam of Kathalaya,this couple from Devon seems very much at ease. Michael tries out a vada with chutney, and interacts with the ten women, from very diverse backgrounds, who have come to participate in the workshop. Anu, Shalini, Rakhi, Savita, Shirin, Archana, Anshul, Rohini, Pavitra and Anusha are learning a bit of this art and craft and creating their own shadow puppet theatre…an exciting prospect for them.

Participants at the workshop:

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Scenery created by the participants of the workshop:

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We wish Michael and Wendy success with their first foray into our city and country, with their spinning of tales and creation of a world of the imagination.

A moose and a billy goat, in the short demonstration before the workshop:

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Here is a video that Jayashree took, of the short demonstration:

Michael and Wendy will be staging two performances with Geeta Ramanujam on Sunday, 25 November, 2018. Here are the details and the links:

Shadow puppetry Show – Geeta Ramanujam, Michael and Wendy Dacre UK.

Kathalaya, in collaboration with Indian Music Experience (IME), presents a special shadow play by international storytellers, Raventales (UK) . Venue: IME JP nagar opp. BRIGADE MILLENIUM SCHOOL on NOV. 25th 11 to 12pm. Tickets: Rs.300

Link to the event,

here

There will be another performance at 5.30 to 7.pm at Courtyard Koota, Good Earth, Kengeri, on the same day.

Link for the tickets,

here

Or you can call 8277389840 for more details.

Official report: Butterfly Festival, Doresanipalya, 171118

November 20, 2018

I was about to write something about this event for my blog, and realized my official report for the Karnataka Forest Dept would do just as well!

The founder-members of Bangalore Butterfly Club (BBC), from Nagraj’s slide presentation:

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The Karwar Swift, not very common.
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The second Butterfly Festival at Doresanipalya Forest Research Station, celebrated on 17th November, 2018, was very successful.

These ladies, making the rangoli, brought as much of colour as the butterflies did, to the event.
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Though limitations on the space available at the venue, in terms of the hall for presentations, resulted in the event not being open to the public at large, a gathering of more than 150 people in total, with a number of casual visitors, ensured a good attendance.

The event was conducted by the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD) in association with Bangalore Butterfly Club (BBC) and National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS).

The gathering:

The flame that was lit.
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Everyone gathered in the morning and participants signed their names in the register. There was planting of some butterfly-friendly species of plants and trees, by several KFD personnel.

A KFD guard documents the occasion:
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After a delicious breakfast, the children from Janak Academy, and the participants, went on butterfly walks, conducted by various members of BBC.

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Many butterflies, and other interesting living beings and creatures, were observed.

Common Pierrot
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When everyone returned, some freshly-eclosed (just emerged from pupae) butterflies, such as Crimson Rose, Common Lime, Baronets, and others were released, to the delight of all present. This release, suggested by the outgoing APCCF, Sri Dilip Das, was spectacular, drawing exclamations from the audience.

Smt Pushpalatha B K, RFO (Utilization), sang a melodious prayer.

Sri Subba Rao, ACF,Seed Unit , was the master of ceremonies, compering the event and introducing the various guests to the audience.

Sri Jagannath, DCF, Social Forestry (Research), Bangalore, opened the proceedings by welcoming the distinguished guests on the podium: Sri Sanjay Hosur, IFS, APCCF (R&U), Sri Punati Sridhar, IFS, PCCF (HoFF), Sri Sanjai Mohan, IFS, PCCF, and MD, KFDC, Sri Jayaram, IFS, PCCF (Wildlife), and Sri Vinay Kumar from EMPRI. Dr Krushnamegh Kunte, Associate Professor, NCBS, was also on the podium.

Sri Rohit and Dr KK (Dr Krushnamegh Kunte) at the tree-planting.
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RFO, Ms Hima Bhat.
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Everyone admired the stage decoration.
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Sri Manjunath C Tambakad, IFS, CCF (Research) Bengaluru, welcomed the gathering. The other guests also spoke, stressing the need for conservation, and expressing the hope that the festival takes on a national hue from next year. He appreciated the event and expressed his hope that sensitizing the children at an early stage would lead to their playing a bigger role in conservation of forests for tomorrow.

Sri Punati Sridhar hoped that Doresanipalya would be a role model for setting up of several tree parks consisting of butterfly larval host plants across Bangalore, which would serve as a haven for butterflies. He appreciated the importance of organizing events like the butterfly festival as a step towards conservation of butterflies and bees, which, he said, were critical for pollination, and by extension, for the survival of life on earth.

Sri Sanjai Mohan expressed his hope that the Doresanipalya campus would be declared as a butterfly reserve. He emphasized that he was glad that events such as the butterfly festival were being organized with participation from public at large and passionate butterfly enthusiasts and butterfly scientist community. He expressed that this kind of participation from public was important to spread awareness about conservation of forests and its creatures

Kum Snigdha sang a beautiful song on butterflies, “Patharagitti Pakka”, on butterflies, by D R Bendre.

The guests and several of the schoolchildren also planted some plants and trees, such as Taare (Terminalia bellarica) and Kadamba (Neolomarckia kadamba)
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Sumptuous breakfast
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In the hall of the KFD office, three presentations were held: Dr Krushnamegh Kunte spoke about butterfly research and citizens’ initiatives in conservation; Sri S Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist, Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) spoke about butterfly diversity in India, and Sri Nagraj Veeraswami, a member of BBC, showed the audience the many butterflies that he has photographed in the Doresanipalya campus, with an erudite commentary by Sri Ashok Sengupta, one of the founder-members of BBC.

Simultaneously, there were three activities in the building: a display of photographs of butterflies, by various members of BBC
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a painting competition for children, with butterflies as the theme

and an origami workshop, conducted by Sri Seby Manalel and Kum Arpitha Bhat.
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The children, and some of the adults, too, enjoyed these activities. There was also a counter for playing games from “Kadoo”, where many people were seen enjoying themselves.

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Dr Krushnamegh Kunte donated some of the butterfly brochures (a guide to the butterflies of Bangalore) designed by NCBS to the KFD for their reference, and announced that NCBS would also donate the brochures to any schools that needed them.

Sri Rohit Girotra, another of the founding members of BBC, spoke about how the festival took shape, and his hopes for the future of both the event and the butterflies of Bangalore.

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The audience again gathered for the prize-giving and closing ceremonies. Dr Krushnamegh Kunte, Sri S Karthikeyan, and Sri Nagraj Veeraswami were thanked for their presentations.

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The prizes for the painting competition were distributed,

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and the certificates for the origami workshop, the photography display, and general participation were given out.

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The sound engineer did a good job, too.
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The teachers from Janak Academy expressed their appreciation of the event and the opportunity to have the students participate.

A formal vote of thanks concluded the proceedings, and the gathering adjourned for lunch, dispersing afterwards with happy memories of the festival.

Plains Cupid
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Deepa Mohan
Freelance writer and member of BBC
99800 10366

I have put up the photographs of all the events of the day on a Flickr album

here

And on an FB album, set to public viewing,

here

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Accuracy in journalism today

November 14, 2018

Journalism today is exemplified by the following apology:

“Yesterday, in an article, we stated that Mr. X is a defective in the police force. We sincerely apologize. Mr. X is a detective in the police farce.”

What brought this on? A photo of mine in the Hindu has been credited to Deepa Menon!

here

is the link to the article by Marianne de Nazareth, who has used my photo of the beautiful Sesbania grandiflora flower…

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