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World Environment Day, 050614

Does it move?
Kill it!
Does it sting?
Squash it!
Does it grow?
Cut it down!
Done with it?
Throw it out of your window!
Need to go somewhere?
Take the car!
Have some money?
Consume more!

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Then, have plastic posters printed, saying, “World Environment Day”, with the photos of prominent pols, put it up in a public place, and feel happy that a praiseworthy effort has been taken.

Rosita called and invite me to go with her and Mark to his yoga teacher, Rama’s farmhouse in Bannerghatta, and I immediately said yes.

It was a quick visit, but it was so pleasant and enjoyable. The farmhouse is situated right behind that of Fred and Clare Pais..and I had a wonderful time looking at two feet (and a huge beak) (Loten’s Sunbird)

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The beak amongst the blooms:

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Six feet:

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Six very tiny feet with a very business-like sting:

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Tiny jasmine:

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Two feet that have difficulty, yet go everywhere:

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A place for feet to pass:

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A beautiful place for feet to tread:

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Here are Mark and Rosita, four feet, posing happily for me:

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Other photos from the visit, click on my FB album

here

Great company, the great outdoors…a great pleasure, indeed!

When I returned from Delhi by the Karnataka Exp (train no. 12628) on the 30th of May, 2014, I left behind the cordless headset that I use for my laptop, packed in a brown cardboard box, probably between the bedsheets on my berth (Bogey H-1, Coupe “G”, Berth21, A/C 1st Class). I realized this only when I was unpacking at home, and after wasting a little time trying to locate a number where I could file a report, I went back to the City Railway Station.

?

Mr Manjunath, the Addl Station Manager, was quite helpful, and directed me to the office of the Junior Engineer (Maintenance), on Platform 4 of the station. There, Mr Ramesh was also quite helpful, but told me that the contractors (two or three sets of them) who came to pick up the bedsheets would be the first people on the train. He called in a junior, who said that nothing had been reported found. I told him that the headset would not be useful for anyone else, and that I was willing to give a reward for it if found.

He then told me that it would be correct procedure for me to file a complaint at the Railway Police Station, situated on Platform 5. I went there, and wasted my time for 45 minutes with a very slow constable, Mr Venakta Murthy, who was tersely directed by the Sub-Inspector to ask me to write a complaint in the approved format in duplicate, get it signed by me, and enter the details on his file. Insterspersed wtih efforts to provide a security escort for Mr Yediyurappa who was travelling to Shimoga, the simple writing of the complaint took a lot of time, and it was made very clear to me that nothing would come of it.

I posted about my problem on FaceBook, and was given this link:

http://www.swr.indianrailways.gov.in/view_section.jsp?lang=0&id=0,7,275,398

and I called the Public Relations Officer’s no (no response). The other numbers also went without being answered. I then called the office of the Divisional Rly Manager and his secretary gave me the no. of My Jois, Complaints Officer, 8861309473. He was kind enough to call me back just now, and told me that he would make enquiries tomorrow and get back to me.

There seems, alas, to be no system of Lost Property or Lost-and-Found for the Railways. I feel that given the fact that passenger would be losing many items, such a system should be instituted at the earliest.

However, I am still hopeful that I might see my cordless headset again, and hope that Mr Jois has good news for me tomorrow!

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

I suppose by now everyone who went for the first Sunday outing to Hebbal would have come back, digested breakfast and settled down to the rest of the day…meanwhile, Garima, Jahnvi,Niket, Pradnya, and I went to Valley School to see what the morning would yield.

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Summer colours on the ground:

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In the trees:

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It turned to be a very enjoyable morning..and Valley School always shows us something unexpected. This seemed to be a morning of children! We saw a Jungle Babbler mother literally “spreading her wings” over her baby, as she also preened her baby.

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We saw many juvenile Small Green Bee-eaters. whose plumage lacked the bright sheen of the adults, or the distinctive tail. Coppersmith Barbet “children”, too, were everywhere; the crimson patch on their foreheads not developed yet.

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White-browed Bulbuls

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and Red-whiskered Bulbuls, too, seemed to be flying about with their young ones. We watched several Flamebacks.

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Birders at the Banyan tree near the sheds:

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Spotted Owlet in the Banyan tree:

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Young White-cheeked Barbets:

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The children were not only of the bird species. A few showers have had a magical effect on the landscape in the Valley School area; greenery is bursting forth everywhere, as fresh shoots push their way up through the wet. fecund soil.

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A couple of caterpillars reminded me that babies come in all shapes and sizes. I will be asking for id’s for these; but their beauty by any other name would remain as beautiful.

Here’s one, on a blade of grass:

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Here’s another, on the Calatropis (Milkweed) plant:

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I was also fortunate enough to meet Thomas Job and Ajit Ampalakkad…

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the latter immediately showed me the Indian Lavender plant,

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and proceeded through the morning, to edify me on matters botanical.

Hog-Plum tree:

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I renewed my acquaintance with several trees and plants, and “shook hands” with a few more.

Loranthus (epiphyte), aka Mistletoe:

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There was, indeed, one seed, round and a light mauve in colour, dispersed around one area; that we could not source the parent tree of,or id.

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Grasshopper with a spider sitting on its head:

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Plain Tiger:

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Common Gull:

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Young saplings of Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma) seem to be coming up in large numbers. This made me dream of the day when, festooned in flame-coloured blooms, these young trees will attract a lot of birds (though Ajit tells me that only one or two species pollinate the tree!). To dream of a Nature Future is lovely, especially when all the land nearby is getting flattened….perhaps for “Prakriti View Layout”s, or perhaps, as Niket said, a temple is going to come up. The green saplings give hope in an atmosphere of pessimism!

I watched several “ant rivers” pouring along the path as their nests must have got submerged…they were busy carrying larvae along. I watched, fascinated, as two Ant-mimicking Spiders fought each other fiercely; the contest ended abruptly, and they went their separate ways.

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A Solitary Hunter Wasp flew along…where would she make her nest and stun her prey,storing it in the nest and laying her eggs on it, so that the newly-hatched children would have fresh food to eat? We just prevented ourselves from walking into a web with a very tiny spider in it…the home was ready, the next step was procreation!

I enjoyed watching the camouflage of the Malkohas, and even of a Jumping Spider that just melted into the tree-trunk with exactly similar markings.

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I did try to catch some of it on my camera…but for the most part, I just watched, and enjoyed myself hugely.

What is the need to build a temple? The whole place, with all our fellow-citizens on this planet, seems to be a temple of Nature to me. I go there, I feel peace in my heart and mind, and come away energized…to me, all of the beautiful wilderness is a temple, and God (I am an agnostic, I don’t know if there is a God or a Goddess..or not) seems to reside in every leaf, every feather, every piece of stone.

We also met several other birders there, and it’s nice to say hello to like-minded people even if one does not exchange names. Two boys from Valley School asked us, on our way out, what we’d seen…and I was happy to see these two youngsters on their way to absorb the various wonders that Nature has in store for them. A magical place, the Valley School area…long may it last!

I’ve put up my SMS (Shamelessly Mediocre Shots) on my FB album at

https://www.facebook.com/deemopahan/media_set?set=a.10152224313113878.1073742178.587058877&type=1

You can see the riotous colours of the summer blossoms, and the many tiny and large wonders that we experienced.

Garima has shared the bird list with me on E-bird. The list is at

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S18643924

I’m not sure if this is good enough, or I need to give another link? Let me know, O ye E-bird savvy birders!

Butterflies:

Blues, Various
Cerulean, Common
Cerulean, Dark
Coster, Tawny
Crimson-tip, White
Emigrant, Common
Gull,Common
Jezebel, Common
Orange-tip, White
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose. Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Dark Blue
Tiger, Plain
Wanderer, Common
Yellow, Common Grass

Others

Ants, Bees, Beetles, Dragonflies, Grasshoppers, and Wasps.

One Rat Snake, scurrying away quickly from me. This Garden Lizard, basking in the sun.

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If my words make you decide to go into the outdoors next weekend…I am really happy!

Ladybug:

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Riotous colours of summer:

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As we went around the grassland landscape during the Volunteer Training Program, Kiran spotted this large Scorpion, and I took a short video of it as we slowly passed in our vehicle. The creature was on the banked slope of the hill, and it was both rainy and late evening.

I am not sure if this is the Emperor Scorpion, which is the largest of scorpions, but not the longest. The emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) has a dark body ranging from dark blue/green through brown to black. The large pincers are blackish-red and have a granular texture. The front part of the body, or prosoma, is made up of four sections, each with a pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are comb-like structures known as pectines – these are longer in males and can be used by man to distinguish the sexes. The tail, known as the metasoma, is long and curves back over the body. It ends in the large receptacle.

Well…it certainly was a sight to see, in the misty, rainy dusk on the grasslands of Kudremukh!

You can click

here

for the photos of the first day from the VTP, which was held at the Bhagavathi Nature Camp, about 20 km from Kalasa, Karnataka.

The residents of Casa Ansal, in J P Nagar 3rd Phase on Bannerghatta Road, have been suffering from the shifting of the trash area from the Mini-Forest area to their southern wall, where it was both an eyesore and a major health hazard.

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On the morning of the 17th of May, with the help of

The Ugly Indian

a group dedicated to clean-ups, the residents took up the cleaning of the area.

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The cleaning program was announced on the Casa Ansal FaceBook group, and several volunteers turned up to help.

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Two garbage lorries were positioned, one at the southern wall, and one at the corner of the southern and western walls.

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It was surprising to see a lot of waste that could be salvaged, such as this mass of metal wire.

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Implements such as shovels, trowels and hoes, and aids such as gloves and masks were used.

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The collected waste will be carted away to a landfill in Hoskote.

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The volunteers worked enthusiastically.

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The walls were then painted with freshly mixed whitewash, to discourage others from dumping litter there.

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It was wonderful to see some children, too, taking part.

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Even as the residents were cleaning up, they had a few people coming up and trying to dump waste in the area, and also urinating right in front of them! They went with the servants to the owners’ houses and explained that trash could not be dumped in such a haphazard way, and must be given to the trash trucks when they come every morning.

Residents hope that this is the beginning of a cleaner boundary wall to the northern side of the building. It made them think, too, of the difficulty of the task that the garbage collectors have each day, to shift the smelly and ooze-filled garbage out of the area.

Casa Ansal thanks the Ugly Indian for its guidance of the initiative.

In several years of visiting the Valley School area, I’ve passed this abandoned house so many times…but it was only yesterday, when we did “waiting” birding instead of “walking” birding, and when Mark went into the house to explore, that I also decided to walk around and in it.

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I do not know for whom this house was built. It seems a roomy, spacious house. The rooms seem to be of gracious proportions. The arches outside the house look lovely:

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In fact, with the date palms they give a slightly Islamic look:

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Were these sheds, next to the huge banyan tree, meant as outhouses? They also lie abandoned:

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I googled for information, but there is nothing about it. the best guess I can make is that this was built, like the earlier (and now demolished) Art Village, on property that belonged to the Karnataka Forest Department, and was therefore abandoned.

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The windows gape open, with a ghostly look.

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And yet, after all these years, the house looks quite inviting:

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But the only residents there today are the various insects and rodents, and the nests of the swifts in the eaves of the roof. Oh, abandoned house…what is your history? With what hopes and aspirations were you built, and with what frustrations and sorrow were you left, with the construction nearing completion, to deteriorate on your own….with such good quality of construction that today, many years later, many of the panes of glass in your windows are unbroken, and the whole aspect is not that of a ruin? What a mystery!

The Hoopoe, Valley School, 110514

The

HOOPOE

was called the “Common Hoopoe”, but alas, it is no longer that common a bird. However, we are lucky enough to be able to see them once in a while, in the outskirts of Bangalore. This morning, as 15 of us went to see what we could in the Valley School area, this beautiful bird was the last sighting before we left…a fitting finale to a very enjoyable morning.

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The scientific name of the bird(Upupa epops), like the English name is an onomatopoeic form which imitates the cry of the bird.

This colourful bird is found across Afro-Eurasia,, and the Madagascar subspecies of the Hoopoe is sometimes elevated to a full species.

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The call is typically a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop, which gives rise to its English and scientific names, although two and four syllables are also common.

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Most European and north Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter. The African populations are sedentary year-round.

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The Hoopoe has two basic requirements in its habitat; bare or lightly vegetated ground on which to forage and vertical surfaces with cavities (such as trees, cliffs or even walls, nestboxes, haystacks, and abandoned burrows) in which to nest.

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The diet of the Hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well. It is a solitary forager which typically feeds on the ground.

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The diet of the Hoopoe includes many species considered to be pests by humans; for example the pupae of the processionary moth, a damaging forest pest.

Hoopoes are distinctive birds and have made a cultural impact over much of their range. They were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, so they were “depicted on the walls of tombs and temples”. They achieved a similar standing in Minoan Crete. Theywere seen as a symbol of virtue in Persia. They were thought of as thieves across much of Europe and harbingers of war in Scandinavia. Also, in Estonian tradition the Hoopoes are strongly connected with death and the underworld, their song is seen as a forebode of death for many a people or cattle.The Hoopoe is the king of the birds in the Ancient Greek comedy The Birds by Aristophanes.

…and….The Hoopoe was chosen as the national bird of Israel in May 2008!

When we found that this bird, which has lived amongst humans for so long, was not at all disturbed by our presence, we slowly, and carefully, fanned around it, without disturbing its foraging behaviour. I took this video to show how, sometimes, a group can photograph a bird from fairly close range, without alarming or disturbing it.

We bade goodbye as as it walked along peacefully in the sunshine:

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A little later, off it flew…and we walked on with great satisfaction at having seen, and observed, this bird for a good while!

click here

for my FB album

When summer blooms…

The

GULMOHAR

is in full bloom in the heat of summer…to me, the red blooms symbolize Grishma Ritu.

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A tree from Madagascar, which has made itself part of the Indian landscape.

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An incredible fact is that in the wild, this tree is endangered!But it seems to have been introduced all over the world:

“Delonix regia is endemic to the western forests of Madagascar, but has been introduced into tropical and sub-tropical regions worldwide. In the continental United States, it grows in South Florida, Southwest Florida, the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, ranging from the low deserts of Southern Arizona (to as high as Tucson), and Southern California. It also grows in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Hawaii, Mexico (especially in the Yucatan peninsula), Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, where it is the official tree of the islands. It is much loved in the Caribbean; many Dominican & Puerto Rican paintings feature Flamboyant Trees. It can also be found in The Bahamas. The Poinciana is the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis. The island of Mauritius has widespread distribution of the Royal Poinciana where it announces the coming of the new year. The Royal Poinciana is regarded as naturalised in many of the locations where it is grown. It is a popular street tree in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. The tree is also found in India and Pakistan, where it is referred to as the Gulmohar, or Gul Mohr. In West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh it is called Krishnachura.”

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I remember an avenue on the Maidan in Kolkata being called Red Road because it was an avenue of Gulmohar trees, and approaching aircraft during the British Raj, which used the road as a runway during WW2, seeing a carpet of red…which you can see in my photograph, too!

And here are the other colours of summer flowers on our roads:

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When we went to meet Gundappa Master, at Tumkur, he told us that a

BRONZEBACK TREE SNAKE

had also been rescued from a villager’s house. The villager was very scared and worried that it was a venomous snake, and wanted to kill it, so it was taken away for release in the forest.

We only witnessed the release; we did not want to touch the snake as it was already rather distressed.

Gundappa Master opens the bag, after we reached the interior of the Devarayana Durga State Forest, well away from the road:

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He puts it on a tree:

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While giving the snake a little time to calm down, we take our shots:

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Long, slender, smooth-scales.
Head distinctly broader than neck; snout bluntly rounded.
Large eyes have round pupils.
Tail very long, thin and wire-like.
This species has a dark blue tongue.

The snake’s blue eyes mean that it is at the beginning of ecdysis…the process of shedding its old skin. At this time, the reptile’s vision is not good, and it would like to be undisturbed.

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Behavior
Diurnal. Arboreal; inhabits low bushes, thorn trees, indian date palms, and palmyra.
Feeds on frogs, garden lizards, geckos and small birds, even entering thatched houses to feed.
Extremely fast.
Notched sharply defined edges of belly scales help it climb.
Females lay 6-8 long, thin eggs in tree holes and rotting vegetation.
Nervous disposition, if cornered, some will strike repeatedly while expanding forebody to show light blue/white color at lower edge of each scale.

The blue scales showing on the back also show that it is distressed.

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In this shot, the blue scales on the back (that only show when the snake is in distress) are not showing. The snake is definitely calmer.

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Here we are, photographing it while it collects itself:

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The snake then quickly drops to the ground, once again showing the blue scales of distress:

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The snake then slithers off over the rocks, and is gone.

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Both Gundappa Master, and we (Chandu, Gopal, Yash and I) hope our release is a successful one and that this beautiful, non-venomous snake has a long life….

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