Posts Tagged ‘photography’

The Leaf-cutter Bee making a nest….

March 24, 2020

We were at the Kanakapura Police Station,

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trying to make a complaint to the traffic police (why and how is another long story!) and while Jayashree and I were waiting for Deepak to finish his work, we noticed a small insect flying into the open tube of the steel chair.

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I quickly realized that it was a

Leaf-cutter Bee

and that it was trying to make a nest in this space!

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I tried to take photos of it, and got just a couple of shots at odd intervals.You can see a fragment of a leaf being brought in every time.

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It was very tough to click because of the speed at which the insect went in…and since it came out even faster (it didn’t have the burden of the leaf!) I missed it several times. Then, I decided to take a video and got the insect leaving the hole.

You can see the bee zooming out:

Leaf-cutter Bees are mostly solitary, and build their nest cells in various cavities (the hollow arm of the chair appeared very suitable to this insect!) by cutting leaves or collecting resin and bringing them inside. They are, for the most part, above-ground nesters and more commonly attracted to artificial nests…and this one certainly was!

There is afossil record for megachilid from a Middle Eocene dicotyledonous leaf which shows definite semicircular cutouts along its margin, implying that leaf-cutting bees existed at that time.Amazing!

When Deepak came back after finishing his work, he might have felt that we were getting tired or bored…but thanks to the Leaf-cutter Bee, we never knew where the time went! Another opportunity for observing Nature at work in the most unexpected of places.

A salute to Dr Suresh

March 9, 2020

I would like to salute someone who’s been a part of my life for 40 years (yes!) now. When my daughter was 6 months old (June or July of 1979) I was visiting Bangalore, and she had dreadful, projectile diarrhoea. My friend Shantha told me about Dr H Suresh, and I went to his clinic at Jayanagar 9th Block, and he cured her. After many years, when I moved into south Bangalore, my friend Mythreyi told me about a doctor’s clinic, and lo and behold, it was Dr Suresh!

He has been in the same spot all these years. Not for him the overarching ambition of huge growth; he is, and always has been, a family physician. He does not medicate unnecessarily, or advocate unnecessary tests or surgery. When his years of experience tell him that the matter is serious, he steps back and suggests that the patient goes to a specialist This has happened to me a few times when I have taken friends to him.

Content and happy with the living he makes, he takes off on his birthday and his wedding anniversary (his wife, Manjula, is a physician too, running a clinic at their residence). He attended my father in law, being one of the very few doctors, even then (around 2002 to 2004) who would make house visits.

He has treated us, and after they moved to Bangalore, our daughter and son in law, and our grandchildren too…a family physician in the true sense of the word, because the children are the fourth generation that he is treating. Roopa has been assisting him for quite a few years now, and I trust her as much as I trust the good doctor!

His clinic is named after his daughter, and is another reason why it rang a bell when I visited after a long gap…it’s called Deepa Clinic! A rare gem in today’s world of medicine. Blr, 070320.

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Documentation photography

March 5, 2020

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

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

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

Life with K2

March 3, 2020

Peanut “brittle” is traditionally made at home in small little balls, and we call them “kadalai mittAi” (peanut sweet). K2, after he comes home from school and has his snack and milk (and finishes any leftover lunch), comes and sits up close to me on the sofa and we read a few books together. I call this “cuddly mittAi” time. When his elfin, naughty face looks at me and his eyes twinkle, he is indeed a “mittAi” and the sweetness of my love for him overwhelms me.

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Just caught K2 in time…he was putting liquid soap on to his toothbrush because the paste was over. In few years I might do that myself if he uses swear words!

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K2: When it comes to Lego, Deepamma, your grammar is very poor.
Me: Oh… Why?
K2: You keep calling them “pieces”. But when I have built them together… they are “structures” !
Me, chastened and humbled: I suppose you mean my “vocabulary” is poor, but I get the idea… Early morning Lego 101 for me!

Here he is, photo taken 16 Mar ’19…just about a year ago.

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Email to Bngbirds about Mavathur Kere, 170220

February 24, 2020

When the first report of the “phoren birds”…the European Bee-eaters that pass through our area around this time of the year….came in, I didn’t think too much about it. After all, I told myself, I have seen them in the past…glad that someone else can see them now! I fully expected that they would be gone the next day, as usually happens.

But no! This year, the Foreign Bee-eaters seemed to have decide, partially at least, to follow the example of the Spot-billed Pelicans, many of which have practically bought 3BHK apartments and settled down in Bangalore, and can be seen all year round. They (probably expert birders refer to them as EBE, at the risk of sounding as if they are whistling at a pretty girl!) decided to tarry a while. They are not precisely in Bangalore (as in, sitting on top of Vidhan Soudha), but about 40km away. Every day, I got reports reading, “We (this ‘we’ never included ‘me’!) went and they were there”. The birds seemed to fly off at 7.30am or so, meaning that birders would have to reach Mavathur lake area at least half an hour prior to that.I looked at the BMTC bus that I usually use, and put certain “shall I?” thoughts away.

But when my friend Srikanth asked me if I’d like to come along, temptation beckoned. I had gone to Jigani campus of IIMB on Sunday morning; attended to a domestic crisis in the afternoon; conducted the 3rd Sunday walk at Madivala kere in the evening, helped someone’s parent to the hospital at night,and was (am) going to leave for the Chambal Bird Survey on Monday evening. The sensible thing was to sleep well, and forget those birds.

So of course, like Eve (not EBE) and the forbidden fruit…I fell! Being me, I quickly filled up Srikanth’s car with two more passengers (why have 2 people looking at, or for, the birds, when more could do it?), Mamta (from Bhubaneswar) and Padma, we set off in the pre-dawn darkness, with Siva’s tips to guide us.

These tips being very accurate, we arrived at the Google Maps-designated “Your destination has arrived” early enough to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes, beguiled by other birds such as Little Grebes, Coots, and a little blue jewel of a Kingfisher, to the spot where we could see the two electricity pylons. And as we neared them, I did see a few silhouettes beginning to perch on the wires.

The light improved enough to see that they, were, indeed, the European Bee-eaters; these were lifers for all three of my friends. We walked over a rickety wooden bridge, and approached the “bande” or boulders.

The other three managed to climb up; alas, my dinky knee, and the thought of a long journey to Madhya Pradesh awaiting me, kept me back, particularly because of the loose small pebbles and rocks which, I was sure, would roll me down like Jack and Jill! However, I followed a broader path that skirted the boulders, and I could soon see the bee-eaters quite well, if not very close. Since I am far from being a NatGeo photographer, the sight of these colourful beauties, and a few documentation shots, sufficed me.

There were also several kinds of Swallows on the wires; and the beautiful Common Sand Martins I had been told about were there too! I watched for a while, as the birds made their own avian music notations on the wires, as well as chittering away. The Bee-eaters suddenly flew away, at about 7.20am.

Quite content, I looked over the valley, with its check dam and little temple, on the path from which a farmer was bringing his cattle to the fields for the morning’s work. I walked about, seeing several Rufous-tailed Larks, both adult and babies (Larklings? Larkettes?) and many Munias and Silverbills.

By this time, I had armed myself with a stout stick (I’d already fallen once and pulled Mamta down with me too!) and was able to negotiate the Bridge (being a keen birder, I nearly typed “birdge”!) over the River Kwai, well, the wooden slats over the ditch, and came back to the shore of the lake, along with the others.

Here, more unexpected delights awaited us. A Woolly-necked Stork stood, plumb spang in the middle of our path as did a Pond Heron. Clicking contentedly, we also sighted several waterfowl, including a group of Northern Shovellers (I’ve never seen a Southern Shoveller, do they exist?) on the water.

Back to the where the car was parked, a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher in the fields, and a Blue-faced Malkoha doing its usual skulking act in a wood-apple tree, made a fitting finale to a most enjoyable morning.

We stopped to have breakfast at the new outer space restaurant at Ravugodlu (it’s called NASA’s Davangere Benne Dose!) and filled up our inner space, and returned home by 11 am, well satisified with the morning’s outing!

I do hope that many of you will be going over to see these stunningly colourful visitors to our area before they decide to move on. My eBird list from the morning (what a haul!) is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64628920

I have put up my photos on FB at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10157323019538878&type=3

and on Flickr at

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I have included a few videos and photos in my quick-notes blogpost at

Now excuse me, while I go and pack…binoculars? check! Grimmskipp? check!

Cheers, Deepa.

Bngbirds 3rd Sunday outing: Madivala Kere, evening, 160220

February 17, 2020

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Following Deepak Jois’ suggestion that I conduct an evening walk, I met up with a reasonably large group of birders at the entrance of Madivala lake at 4.30 pm, after paying uncomplainingly for parking, entry and cameras.

I had been a little worried about the other visitors to the lake, but as it turned out, they were not a hindrance at all. From our meeting point, we could scan the lake…and the first thing that struck us was the horrific growth of the water hyacinth, which appears ready to choke off the entire water body. Boating too, has been stopped because of this. It seemed to be more of a green lawn with some stretches of water.

However, there was enough water for several birds. Purple and Grey Herons, a huge flock of Intermediate Egrets (I have not seen this large a congregation before), Purple Swamphens (no, I will not call them Grey-headed!) and Coots moved around in the vegetation. There was a lone Pelican in the water, but most of them were roosting on the island, waiting to come down to fish later, perhaps.

Moving on, we heard the calls of Barbets and Bulbuls; some of us sighted a few, too. Sunbirds flitted around on the Singapore Cherry tree, as did a solitary Pale-billed Flowerpecker (Sabyasachi told me that they are called “Tuntuni” in Bengali…I know some names like Shalik and Tiya, but this was something I learnt today).

Some Asian Openbill storks were also spotted on the island, and Job exclaimed at seeing several Northern Shovellers on the far side of the waterbody. His sharp-eyed spotting enabled all of us to enjoy a peek at these winter visitors.

Meanwhile, three majestic Marsh Harriers entertained us (and terrified the birds) throughout the walk, alternately perching on the water hyacinth or floating over the water with their whitish heads and the typical “headlights” on their wings showing, as they hunted for unwary prey.

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The light on the water turned golden as sunset approached, and it was a great time to watch the birds as they foraged for food. I enjoyed the company of several of the children. Ahana, Surya, Trayee, Vismaya…some of the names that I remember…these were some of the children whom I interacted with. Surya, in particular, seems very knowledgeable about bird names, and was often testing me to see if I knew enough! Such bright and interested minds are fun to spend time with!

We walked to the left of the entrance gate, till past 6pm. Then, as several people bid adieu, I too decided to turn back as the lake gates close at 6.15pm. We were all out of the lake, as I had said, by 6.30 pm, leaving the lake to flights of Little Egrets flying in, and bats beginning to flit about in the gloaming.

The eBird list (45+ species) is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64561731

I took few photographs as I was busy scanning the lake with my binoculars! My FB album is at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10157320888153878&type=3

and my Flickr album on

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Thanks to everyone for joining in, and letting me enjoy the golden sunset in the still-pleasant weather of a February evening!

Cheers, Deepa.

European Bee-eaters, Mavathur Kere, off Kanakapura Road, 170220

February 17, 2020

eBird list, 47 species:

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64628920

Vapour rising from the lake in the dawn light:

Rufous-tailed Lark parent and child:

Natural strobe at NASA’s restaurant on Kanakapura Road:

Dawn:

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European Bee-eaters:

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Small Blue Kingfisher:

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Rufous-tailed Larks:

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Woolly-necked Stork:

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Pond Heron:

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Brefus at NASA’s:

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Bngbirds 3rd Sunday walk, Madivala kere, 160220, evening

February 16, 2020

Following Deepak Jois’ suggestion that I conduct an evening walk, I met up with a reasonably large group of birders at the entrance of Madivala lake at 4.30 pm, after paying uncomplainingly for parking, entry and cameras.

I had been a little worried about the other visitors to the lake, but as it turned out, they were not a hindrance at all. From our meeting point, we could scan the lake…and the first thing that struck us was the horrific growth of the water hyacinth, which appears ready to choke off the entire water body. Boating too, has been stopped because of this. It seemed to be more of a green lawn with some stretches of water.

However, there was enough water for several birds. Purple and Grey Herons, a huge flock of Intermediate Egrets (I have not seen this large a congregation before), Purple Swamphens (no, I will not call them Grey-headed!) and Coots moved around in the vegetation. There was a lone Pelican in the water, but most of them were roosting on the island, waiting to come down to fish later, perhaps.

Moving on, we heard the calls of Barbets and Bulbuls; some of us sighted a few, too. Sunbirds flitted around on the Singapore Cherry tree, as did a solitary Pale-billed Flowerpecker (Sabyasachi told me that they are called “Tuntuni” in Bengali…I know some names like Shalik and Tiya, but this was something I learnt today).

Some Asian Openbill storks were also spotted on the island, and Job exclaimed at seeing several Northern Shovellers on the far side of the waterbody. His sharp-eyed spotting enabled all of us to enjoy a peek at these winter visitors.

Meanwhile, three majestic Marsh Harriers entertained us (and terrified the birds) throughout the walk, alternately perching on the water hyacinth or floating over the water with their whitish heads and the typical “headlights” on their wings showing, as they hunted for unwary prey.

The light on the water turned golden as sunset approached, and it was a great time to watch the birds as they foraged for food. I enjoyed the company of several of the children. Ahana, Surya, Trayee, Vismaya…some of the names that I remember…these were some of the children whom I interacted with. Surya, in particular, seems very knowledgeable about bird names, and was often testing me to see if I knew enough! Such bright and interested minds are fun to spend time with!

We walked to the left of the entrance gate, till past 6pm. Then, as several people bid adieu, I too decided to turn back as the lake gates close at 6.15pm. We were all out of the lake, as I had said, by 6.30 pm, leaving the lake to flights of Little Egrets flying in, and bats beginning to flit about in the gloaming.

The eBird list (45+ species) is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S64561731

I took few photographs as I was busy scanning the lake with my binoculars! My FB album is at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10157320888153878&type=3

and my Flickr album on

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Thanks to everyone for joining in, and letting me enjoy the golden sunset in the still-pleasant weather of a February evening!

Cheers, Deepa.

Flickr albums and videos of 3rd bird survey at Satpura Tiger Reserve, 04-110220

February 11, 2020

04,05,06 Feb, train to Itarsi/Sohagpur/Madhai, and morning birding at Madhai mud flats

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7th Feb, Parraspani:

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8th Feb, Parraspani and Dhargaon:

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9th Feb, Parraspani and return to Madhai:

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Praveen was sent to Podar and returned to Churna for the last night. We took 2.5 to 3 hours to get there and to return to Madhai. No phones, no food, no forest guard.

Crossing the Denwa river at Parraspani:

Nilgai family on the way back from Dhargaon to Parraspani:

Chital swimming across the river at Madhai:

Little Ringed Plover bathing, Madhai:

Birds and brains! IISc students trip to Ranganathittu, 180120

January 23, 2020

It was a new experience for me…taking 27 students of IISc(from undergrad level to Ph.D. students) along with a professor and his young daughter, to Ranganathittu, on the 18th of Jan, 2020. Arun Kaulige also guided the group. Kiran and Ambarish organized the trip extremely well.

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The group. Photo: a passing tourist!

It was a first for me as I have never before taken such a large group which does not hail from Karnataka! Naturally, since the group consisted of people who have secured admission into various programs at IISc, they were from various parts of the country.

I was also a little doubtful about our later-than-usual start…we left Bangalore at 7.15 am, stopped for breakfast at Kumbalgodu, and then proceeded to Ranganathittu…but I need not have worried.

Flycatchers of three kinds…the Tickell’s Blue, the White-breasted Fantail, and a beautiful Verditer flitted around even as we entered the sanctuary. We were able to spot both Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds.

Since almost everyone was new to birding, and the group’s budget was not very big, we decided on the short boat trip for everyone, in two boats, Arun going in one and myself in the other. However, since our boatman, Manjunath, recognized me from the Ranganathittu bird census, he kindly gave us a little extra time!

We enjoyed watching the Spot-billed Pelicans, and the Painted Storks (they are so plentiful here that it’s difficult to remember that they are near-threatened) and Openbills

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flying and perching; Several Grey Herons stood quite nonchalantly, next to rocks that, our group realized in surprised (and vocal!) dismay, were not rocks at all, but glided through the water, showing their deadly scales!

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We saw several “crocs on the rocks”, too, basking in the sunshine. Prof Chandra pointed out one saurian on the island, crunching up a fallen egg; I was able to talk about the diet of eggs and nestlings that the crocodiles enjoy, apart from fish. Manjunath gave a brief history and account of the sanctuary, which I translated for the others.

It was good to see that several Spoonbills have arrived at the sanctuary,

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and were displaying their lacy breeding plumage; Little and Great Cormorants, and one Indian Cormorant, gave diving and drying displays. River Terns made their floating, graceful forays and spectacular aerobatics as they sought fish in the water.

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Stream Glory damselflies mating

After the boat ride, we walked along the bank of the river, and the presence of several tourists did not prevent us from seeing Scaly-breasted Munias, Tricolored Munias

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and Silverbills feeding off the bamboo flowers and seeds. Rose-ringed Parakeets called from above our heads, as did White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets. Black and Brahminy Kites floated overhead, mixing with the waterfowl. Arun and I also talked about the various flora in the area

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Mucuna monosperma, Negro Bean, a native climber.

We adjourned to the canteen for lunch,

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and I then suggested that we return via Naguvanahalli, trying our luck with the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. Google maps always takes us to the “wrong” side of the river and asks us to walk through the water to the sanctuary; so I was careful to take the bus through Naguvanahalli village to the “right” side of the river. I was able to show the group the completely non-touristy landscape of the beautiful Kaveri. Clothes, cattle, vehicles, and human beings..everything was getting washed in Her waters! (Oh yes, I use a capital letter because the Kaveri is a revered, life-giving goddess to me!)

We saw a few Indian Grey Hornbills flying into the trees, and a Black-rumped Flameback rat-tatted its presence on a palm tree-trunk. A few Green Bee-eaters had the group asking me if they were the birds I had told them about. Even while I was shaking my head negatively, thankfully, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater sailed in and landed on the wire, once again riveting the eyes of the group.

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Farmer washing his cow, Naguvanahalli, 180120

I must sadly add , however, that the Bee-eater sanctuary is in a shambles (For some reason, it is marked on Google maps as a Green Bee-eater sanctuary..that is one bird which, for now at least, does not need protection.). The sign and several of the granite poles with barbed wire strung across them, have fallen to the ground. Since the floods in the monsoon of 2019, the Forest Dept seems to have made no effort to build these up properly again. Instead of the hundreds of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters I have seen here in the past, we were lucky to see just seven of them.

The group seemed to enjoy the serene environs, and many of us walked up to the waters and cooled our feet. The rustling of the leaves of the huge Peepal and other trees, the breeze along the river, and sound of the river water…I most definitely recharged my spiritual batteries in the lap of nature.

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Banks of the Kaveri, Naguvanahalli

On the way home, I decided that I would introduce the group to some of our iconic foods and beverages…so we stopped at Bidadi, and the group tasted the Karnataka filter coffee, the Bidadi thatte iddli, and the Maddur vada. The softness of the iddlis encouraged several initially reluctant people to try one!

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We drove home in the glowing, golden sunlight of the evening.

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I was very happy to have shown the students, many of whom live and work almost exclusively in the cocoon of the IISc campus, a part of the State that I live in, and love so much. I am not sure how many missed the malls and the tourist spots, though when given a choice between Srirangapatna and Naguvanahalli, the unanimous vote was for the latter!

The eBird list for Ranganathittu is at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528082

and for Naguvanahalli, at

https://ebird.org/checklist/S63528408

I have put up my photos on an FB album at

An outing for the students of IISc.

Posted by Deepa Mohan on Monday, January 20, 2020

and on Flickr at

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I will next be sending an announcement about the 4th Sunday walk this month, which is going to be on the 4th Saturday instead. Meanwhile, enjoy “Mittwoch” (in German, the middle of the week is called exactly that!) and look forward to the weekend, with Republic Day falling on Sunday!

Cheers, Deepa.