Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Outings in the times of COVID

July 10, 2020

How I go on nature/bird outings: I go with just two or three friends, all of whom are (so far) healthy. We wear our masks, and sit one person to an open window.

We choose locations where we are not likely to find any other people.

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Champakadhama Temple at Bannerghatta.

Here’s the rushing stream of the Suvarnamukhi, just upstream of T K Falls:

Here is the cascade at Thotti Kallu Falls:

Don’t do it if you are not comfortable with the idea! However, my visits to the Bannerghatta biosphere (Gulakmale, T K Falls area) have been extremely productive in terms of many kinds of life forms, including birds.

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Lesser Grass Blue

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A Carpenter Bee with its wing stuck on a thorn (I released it gently.)

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My friend Biju with a beautiful tree

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Ancient inscription stones (probably dating back to the 9th century).

Here’s a Sirkeer Malkoha which the three of us (Biju, Prem and I) found foraging on the ground this morning, while exploring the general area. It then hopped on to a small tree, and stayed for a little while, delighting us before it flew off.

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Bannerghatta biosphere, several visits.

How snails reproduce

June 27, 2020

I had never given a thought to how snails reproduce, until I saw this at Jakkur Lake today (Sat, 270620)

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I then started reading a bit about snail reproduction, and found

this link

very informative.

Here it is:

survival through time are the characteristics of their reproduction process.

The first thing you should know about these terrestrial gastropod mollusks is that most are hermaphrodites. Hermaphrodite is called any organism that has male and female reproductive organs and therefore can produce both eggs and spermatozoa. It is like if the snails were male and female at the same time.

There are, however, exceptions. The snails of the family Pomatiidae differ from their relatives because they have separated genders, that is to say, each snail is either a male or is a female according to the reproductive organs that it possesses. It is relatively easy to recognize the gender since the species present sexual dimorphism: the shell of males is smaller than females.

Most terrestrial gastropods are hermaphrodites, but some snails do not have this attribute, specifically some freshwater snails like the Apple Snails and periwinkles. These two types of snails still have separate male and female individuals.

The reproductive system ends in an external opening located in the lower part of the body near the head, called the genital pore. Individuals reach sexual maturity at different ages, according to their species and their particular conditions. Once they are sexually mature, their sex organs acquire the necessary conditions to reproduce, but they can begin to mate later. Usually, land snails reach maturity between 6 weeks and five years of age. Some mature sooner or later if the conditions of their external environment are favorable or not to their development.

Courtship: what to do to get noticed?
When a snail is already mature can begin mating, that is clear, but how do they approximate each other?

Before the intercourse, both approach to start the courtship process consisting of a series of movements and attitudes that will finish or not in the mating. The entire process can last as little as 2 hours or as long as 12 hours. To find a partner, they primarily rely on their sense of smell and touch, as their visual capacity is poorly developed and devoid of hearing. They can recognize chemicals in the air that communicate the receptivity of some other snail nearby.

During the process, both land snails get closer, acknowledging each other and “testing the odds.” As they approach, they begin to interact in a more physical way and can touch each other with the help of their tentacles. Some move in circles and can bite the area of ​​the genital pore.

In the final stage of courtship and before mating, some species use a unique weapon: the “love darts.” No, it is not a metaphor, it is a structure of calcium or chitin that only sexually mature snails have, and usually that have mated more than once. Seen in detail, they indeed resemble pointed darts.

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When both are close enough and touch their genitals, they shoot their love darts. Darts are not fired away but are a contact shot. Usually, the two snails shoot the structures, and they pierce the skin of the other so that they are united. The dangerous thing about this is that sometimes darts can damage an internal organ or go through the body and exit on the other side.

The function of love darts is not transferring sperm but is a form of sexual selection, and observations concluded that garden snails (Helix aspersa) could increase their reproductive success. The mucus that covers a dart contains a type of hormones capable of increasing the chances of success to have offspring.

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Mating
After the snails shoot their “love darts,” copulation follows. The transfer of sperm through the penis may be reciprocal or unilateral; this means that either both transfer it, or just one of the snails. It depends on the species. Others prefer to self-fertilize, so they do not need another individual to lay eggs.

After fertilization, the eggs go through a process of growth inside the snail, until they are ready to be delivered. After that, both snails lay their eggs and bury them in separate places inside a small hole made in the topsoil in a cool place. The mating process of snails allows them to deliver eggs at a consistent rate.

It will typically take a snail egg two to four weeks to develop. (1) As soon as they hatch, they will immediately move into a survival mode, because their shells still are soft. Their first reaction as soon as they hatch is to find sources of calcium either eating the remainings of their egg or eating other eggs that have not hatched to get the extra nutrients.

In conclusion, the mating process of snails starts when reaching sexual maturity, followed by finding the right partner, copulating, locating and creating a place to deliver the eggs, hatching of the eggs and ending with the develop of small snails.

Fascinating, indeed!

The Bagworm Moth

June 24, 2020

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The Bagworm Moth is great housekeeper.
It combines the roles of larva and sweeper.
It makes its surroundings free
Of all kinds of debris
It is definitely (than a housemaid) much cheaper!

Pupal stage:

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Sometimes looks like this too:

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(inspired by a post on my butterfly group!)

Prey species at Bhootanahalli, 140620

June 15, 2020

A few of us

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had gone to Bhootanahalli Pond (in the Bannerghatta biosphere, on the Bannerghatta-Kaggalipura road)and after watching the Baya Weaver nest construction, made the gentle ascent up the hill to the Bhavani temple, on Sunday, 14 Jun ’20.

On the path, looking out over a distant slope to the east, we were amazed to find first a Gaur,

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then the even more surprising sight of a Nilgai, a Chital and a Blackbuck all sitting/grazing together

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and then a large herd of Chital, stags, does and fawns, crossing the hillside, on a clearing.

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It took us a while to realize that there were also some man-made structures (like a water trough) there, and we deduced that there is some kind of reserve area there. Could we have some more information about this please, and know what other mammals have been released there? Have only prey species been introduced?

I must say, that most of us thoroughly enjoyed the sight of these unexpected mammals, and one little boy was asking if we might be able to see tigers and leopards as well!

The photos of the animals are on my FB album (they were quite far away, so excuse the grainy photos)

here

and on Flickr

here

Looking forward to learning more about the animals introduced here!

Begur Lake, a triumph of rejuvenation! 060620

June 8, 2020

The last couple of occasions I had visited Begur Lake, it was under renovation, and we were a little concerned about how the job would be carried out.

Well, on Saturday the 6th, a few of us

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decided to visit the lake, as Dhanapal has been getting such excellent images from there; and we were very happy that we did; the birds (and other living beings) are back at, and in, the lake.

The onset of the monsoon meant that we walked on to the lake bund. Following Dhanapal’s directions, we walked along the eastern bund instead of the western one near which the Panchalingeswara temple stands. We found several stands of reeds and almost immediately, our attention was riveted by the variety of birds that we found. Coots, Grebes, Egrets (all sizes), Herons (both the common colours of grey and purple) all went about their business of securing breakfast in their different ways, ducking in the water, or wading along the shoreline.

In a while, we could discern even more activity in the reeds. Streaked Weavers were building their nests, carrying long reed-leaves to one stand and expertly weaving them in;

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In this connection, I would like to add two excellent videos Ashwin has made, of Streaked Weavers feeding their young:

and

Pond Herons in fine breeding plumage

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stood stock-still while their sharp eyes scanned the water; and a few Yellow bitterns, which are rather difficult to sight as a rule, were quite clearly visible as, clutching the reeds with both feet, they darted their beaks into the muddy ground for insects, snails or a small fish.

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The typical spider-like movement of these birds, along the reeds instead of over the ground, made them easy to identify, and tell apart from the Pond Herons.

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For many of us, this was a “lifer” (a bird being seen for the first time) and the binoculars and the cameras were very busy indeed!

One surprising fact was that there were far more Brahminy Kites than Black Kites, in a city where the reverse is often true. We enjoyed their soaring, and their swoops into the water to catch fish, the attempts being successful occasionally.

Cormorants, Little, Indian and Great, were in plenty, and flew in and out of the lake, stippling the water as they landed or took off. Overhead, too, they formed skeins as they disappeared into the brightening sky, perhaps bound for other water bodies. Several Darters added their zigzag snake-necks to our bird count.

Several Spot-billed Pelicans were found in the far reaches, while a few swam lazily around nearer to where we stood. We found only a few Spot-billed Ducks, and some Lesser Whistling Ducks, far away. Meanwhile, Ashy and Plain Prinias, and one single Clamorous Reed Warbler, delighted us at the front of our birding stage. Both the Bronze-winged

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and the Pheasant-tailed Jacanas wandered around, the males of the latter in their spectacular “comma-tail” breeeding plumage. For some reason, there were only two Painted Storks, one of which struggled (successfully!) with a very large fish, as we looked on.

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Purple Swamphens

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and Common Moorhens added both colour and black-and-red, and we saw the Pied, White-breasted and the Small Blue Kingfisher. Red-rumped Swallows collected mud for their nests, from the shore.

Indeed, I would say that Begur lake is an ideal spot for bird watching and bird photography. One does not need to walk far; the light of the morning sun falls on the birds; one can watch the behaviour of the birds at leisure, rather than just sighting them and moving on. The first frenzy of the cameras gives way to the calm use of the binoculars!

Nor were birds the only thing that caught our attention, Starting with a gleaming Jewel Bug at the entrance, many handsome six footers welcomed us to the lake. Pentatomid bugs, Net-winged Beetles,

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different kinds of bees and wasps nectaring and gathering pollen

and several spiders which were ready to catch any unwary ones,

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Lynx spider killing a bee which came to nectar in the Dhatura flower.

dragonflies

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Ruddy Marsh Skimmer

and damselflies

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…there was no dearth of six- and eight-legged creatures. Several butterflies woke up

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Lesser Grass Blue

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Mating Mottled Emigrants

and flitted around as the sunlight warmed up; we saw Emigrants, Common and Crimson Roses, some Blues, Tawny Costers…and so the list went.

The lake itself was redolent with the peace of the morning. Scudding grey and white moisture-bearing clouds, across patches of freshly-washed blue skies;

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the reflection of those clouds, along with the old Panchalingeswara temple and the multicoloured buildings of Begur, in the waters of the lake; the fresh monsoon breeze and the gentle monsoon sunshine..it was utterly delightful to be out in the open air, enjoying all of this.

Alas, some trash has also made an appearance at the lake, as has some stagnant areas with stinking algae,

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but with the easing of the lockdown, I hope that the lake will be better maintained.

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Mexican Poppy

We shared our snacks (having removed our masks for a bit, in case you were wondering) and munched contentedly with the ease of undemanding camaraderie, and went homes with our spirits lifted and our memories, and memory cards, filled up!

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I have posted my photos on Flickr

here

and on FB at

here

The eBird list is
here

Looking forward to more outings with all of us having our good health intact,

Deepa.

About Prasad Natarajan

May 10, 2020

When I first met Prasad, he had a pad and pencil; and since then, I have rarely seen him without something to do with his artistic endeavours.

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Prasad with his father, Sri Natarajan

In today’s competitive world, it is not easy to leave a full-time job to become a professional artist; it takes a leap of both courage and faith, both of which Prasad showed.

He reads widely, studies the work of several artists around the world, and has developed his own unique style, working in many media. His canvases sell very well indeed, with their mix of talent, technique and expressed passion.

One of the reasons why he is an unusual artist is that rather than nurture just his own talent (and that of his son), he has, from the beginning, been what I call an “umbrella artist”– gathered together other artists, and worked hard to provide the struggling creators a platform where their talents can be showcased. To organize a show is not easy, and he has taken on this daunting task several times, in a pioneering effort to highlight wildlife art.

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The first wildlife art exhibition on 27 Sept ’18. Prahlad, Sudha, Prasad, Nidhi, Sreelata.

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Prasad’s family. His wife Asha, son Dhritiman and daughter Parineeta.

He has cannily harnessed social media to build up a circle of friends and connoisseurs worldwide. He has not hesitated to help upcoming youngsters, in a field where competition can be fierce. He has his pulse of the purchasing public, introducing innovations like a show of miniatures where the prices were pegged at Rs. 5000.

He’s conducted workshops and teaching session for many children and adults, giving of his time and effort very generously. He has overcome obstacles in his life with determination…and a cheerful smile.

It’s been my privilege to be his friend, and I wish him, his art, and Art for Wildlife and Nature, the very best in the years ahead.

The Black-winged Kite

May 7, 2020

Black-winged Kite, Srikanth G, 070520

Photo: Srikanth Govindaraju

Black-winged Kite!
Beautiful sight!
Once-in-a-while you greet me.
Small and grey,
Bird of prey
You look happy to meet me!

Ruby-eyed bird,
Who’s sharp of sight,
See-ing you.. Is sheer delight!
Small and grey,Bird of prey,
May you always greet me!

Read more about the Black-winged Kite

here

Birding, now….

April 2, 2020

Gone are the days of birding travel.
The virus has made all my plans unravel.
From planning to see the Myzornis,
My birding world has shrunk to this:
How can I catch the Tailorbird,
Which whips in and out, and is only heard
Upon the terrace that I keep looking at? Why
Should these birds be so wary and shy?
Such a fleeting glimpse of the yellow White-eye…
What makes it so keen to zip and fly?
Why can’t it wait and pose for me
And let me take a photo…or three?
I have forgotten the forests, the deer and leopards
And even the various, colourful birds.
Mountain streams and riverside breeze,
Coastal stickiness and Himalayan freeze.
Life for me is the Barbet in the Bangalore sun.
Sighting a Koel is quite a lot of fun.
It’s the terrace that exerts a recurring pull,
For a sight of the Sunbird or the Bulbul.
Overhead, the v-shaped tails of the Black Kite.
The fluttering Pigeons, blue, grey and white.
I can’t even hear the Crows, of late,
Or see their throats of dull grey slate.
Birding is also memories: I go to my Flickr
And wish my broadband speed was quicker.
I visit, once again, birds all over the world:
Fieldfares, Bluebirds, Toucans, with their feathers unfurled.
I close my laptop and arise from my sofa,
And dream of the day when again I will go far
Looking for my beloved, favourite birds,
Which will then be real, not just photos and words!

grey-headed kingfisher

Grey-headed Kingfisher from Tanzania.

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.

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.