Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.

The Yellow-throated Sparrow, Mudumalai, 290220

March 2, 2020

Those who know their Indian bird lore know that the Chestnut-shouldered Petronia is the bird that inspired Dr Salim Ali to become an ornithologist. It was earlier called the Yellow-throated Sparrow, as the male shows a yellow throat in the breeding season. I caught these two males (you can see the yellow throat patch) at Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, on 29 Feb ’20.

Tusker being bathed, Mudumalai, 290220

March 2, 2020

Not all captive elephants are ill-treated. I am happy to post this video of a camp elephant at Mudumalai, luxuriating in the stream. In the second video, you can see the mahout lovingly scrubbing the ears and head of this majestic tusker!

Here the mahout lovingly scrubs the ears and head:

I would love to sink down into a stream like that and have someone bathe me! Pampering is the word for it.

Return to base

February 24, 2020

I do love travelling, but like a raagam that meanders and riffs over three octaves and finally returns to the sadjam, I love coming back to my family…the naughty but innocent faces of my grandchildren are indeed the ‘sam’ to the varying rhythms of my travels and experiences.

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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.

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:

Train travel in India…the difficulties of long-distance train timings

January 29, 2020

I want to travel by train, but Indian Railways is making it tough.

I try to travel exclusively by train in India, and let me tell you that Indian Railways is making it as difficult as possible.
Let me take my longest single journey: Bangalore to Guwahati. One train (12509, Kaziranga Express) used to leave late night from the City station and reach Guwahati after 36 hours, and I used to take it.Now, according the Railways schedule, that train starts from Cantonment Station at 2340 hrs.

The other train, 22501, New Tinsukia Exp, is only once a week, and leaves City station at ..yes…0310 hrs in the morning! This is a most inconvenient departure time for a long-distance train.

I can see no reason for these kind of odd starting station and departure timings, and it makes it near-impossible for me, an elderly woman travelling alone, to take a train.Neither can I imagine that they are convenient for any train traveller.

Another nonsensical parameter is opening bookings 120 days in advance. This means that by the time one plans one’s trip, tickets are just not available, as everyone books and cancels at the last minute if they do not want to go on the journey.

I also keep getting ads from IRCTC for tour packages …by air! (I thought I R in that acronym stood for Indian Railways).Why is Indian Railways pushing so hard for tourism by aircraft travel? Again, I can see no good reason.
The idea of train travel is to journey at leisure, and this is not suited for those who are in a hurry. It is also to reduce the carbon footprint that is caused by travel. So I would appeal to the Indian Railways to make train timings more convenient for those of us who want to use the trains and not jet-set across our country. I have leisure and want to reduce my carbon footprint, but Indian Railways is making this very difficult indeed.

Visit to Ziro Butterfly Festival, Sept 2-9, 2019

September 12, 2019

Since it was a very, very long trip…Bangalore-Guwahati-Itanagar-Ziro-Pange WLS and back…I simply can’t describe everything in detail, but the visual story of what I experienced, with captions, is in a series of albums on Flickr.

Day 1, 020919, Blr-Guwahati:

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Fisherman at Deepor Beel

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Yellow Helen at Deepor Beel

Day 2, 030919, Guwahati and Rani WLS, overnight journey to Naharlagun (Itanagar)

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Grey Pansy, Kirtti Inn

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Crimson Sunbird, Kirtti Inn

Day 3, 040919, Itanagar, journey to Ziro

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Sonku and her son Ranka

Day 4, 050919, Ziro to Pange WLS

https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157710798479712/with/48716450193/

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Tytler’s Multicolored Flat

Day 5, 060919, Pange WLS

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Bhutan Glory

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Juvenile Dark-sided Flycatcher

Day 6, 070919, Pange WLS to Ziro

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Paresh Churi’s color-pencil work of the Kaiser-e-Hind, the queen of Talle Valley

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An Apatani priest recites a prayer to save the crops from destruction by pests

Day 7, 080919, Walk in Ziro, overnight journey to Itanagar

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View of Old Ziro from Ziro Point

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Lunch at Potin, on the way to Itanagar

Day 8, 090919m Itanagar to Guwahati, and flight back to Bangalore

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Moving furniture

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Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Sri Lalit “Achar”ya, Cheetal Resort, Madhai, Madhya Pradesh, 010219

March 26, 2019

When I went for the Bird Survey at the Satpura Tiger Reserve, in Madhya Pradesh,I stayed at the

Cheetal Resort at Madhai

It was a most impressive home stay, but apart from everything else, I spotted this sign:

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Pickle and food research room! That intrigued me very much. Little did I know that I was going to get a course on Pickle Making 101 from Sri Lalit Khattar, who owns the resort!

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At lunch, Lalit ji noticed me taking a lot of interest in, and relishing, the ginger, small-mango (“midi mAvinkAi” in Kannada or “mAvadu” in Tamizh) and date pickles

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that Karthik Hegde gave me to try, and walked up, asking if I would like to know more, and see the Pickle Research room. I was delighted to agree!

A very instructive and interesting time followed as my friends Harish, Sharmila and I went with him. Here he is, with some of his pickle jars.

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Lalitji says that pickles can be made from almost any vegetable or fruit.Properly made, he adds, the pickle has as long a life as the person who’s making it, and possibly longer!

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Harish and Sharmila talk to Lalit ji

Some pickles, he says, need to be made with oil, and some without. Very few pickles need the constituent vegetable to be boiled or otherwise cooked beforehand. However, he cautions, the process must be very carefully followed.

Most Indian pickles (called “achAr” in Hindi..in Tamizh, it’s “oorugAi”, meaning, “soaked vegetables” and in Kannada the name is “uppinkAi” or “salted vegetables”) have condiments (a combination of various spices) added to them,stuffed or marinaded , to soak into the vegetable, fruit or flower, and add the unique taste. His research, he remarks, is to try various combinations of spices, and also vary the process of preparing the pickle, and to see what tastes the best, and lasts the longest.

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Lalitji shows some of the “masAlA” (condiments) made to be added to the pickles.

His oldest pickle, that he showed us, was made with lemon…35 years ago! It still smelt heavenly!

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These are pickles made with “kundru” (Coccinia grandis, the ivy gourd, or “tindOrA”) They were crunchy.

He had some very unusual pickles to show us, too. Here are pickles made from Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers. I knew that they were used to make a potent liquor, but the pickles were something new.

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He showed us a pickle made from Guava seeds, and mentioned how he’s made pickles with the seeds of the Tulsi (Basil) plant. “The cost of the seeds is about Rs.500 per kilo,” he said. “Oh, who buys it then?” I asked. “I don’t sell it!” was the reply. I make it for my own satisfaction and consumption.” Now that’s what I’d call a “consuming” passion for the pickle-making art!

Karthik Hegde, who manages the home stay, is an enthusiastic participant in the ongoing research. It was he who gave Lalit ji the recipe for the small-mango pickle…which was made perfectly, tasting absolutely authentic, from the small mangoes that grew on the trees in the homestay (which is also a farm in itself.) Here, Karthik and Lalit ji discuss the product and the process.

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Storing the pickles properly is vital to the long shelf-life of the pickle, Lalit ji is quick to emphasize. But if stored properly, he adds, metal, glass, or plastic containers, anything can be used for storage. His room bore witness to his words.

Many tart substances, such as lemon or lime juice, or tamarind, can be used as a base for pickles. These, too, should be properly processed to ensure a good shelf-life. Tamarind itself can be a pickle! So can chillies, apart from being a component of the condiment, in the form of chilli powder, or added as green chillies to give heat to the pickle. Apparently, chillies, and their varieties, are a huge subject by themselves, in this art.

Some pickles need to be kept in the sun for a few days or weeks; some need to be stirred at regular intervals. Definitely, there needs to be an investment of patience, time, and dedicated effort in making these delectable additions to our Indian meals.

A pickle can be eaten with anything; whether it’s rOtis, nAn, rice or pulAo, just with curds (yoghurt)..or sometimes, as I did lip-smackingly with the date pickles.. all by itself!

I did want to discuss some of the short-life pickles I make (such as “menthiya mAngAi” or “puLi miLagAi”) but alas, the survey that we had come to do didn’t leave much time for discussion! So I mean to have a further chat the next time I go to Madhai..and meanwhile, let me confer the title of “AchAryA” (respected teacher, and a pun on the word “achAr”) on Sri Lalit Khattar!

Long may his research on this tasty part of Indian cuisine last. I have been savouring the wonderful date pickles that he told Karthik to gift me as I left (I saw it only when I returned home!) and think of the very interesting time I had with the “AchAryA”!

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.