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Friday, April 22, 2011

Adu's now officially a teen

Adu's now officially a teen. He turned 13 yesterday (April 21, 2011) and is somewhere in Dandeli experiencing the delights of the forests and the Kali river there. I'm moping because I couldn't go with him but, what the heck, he's happy.

Lots of stuff happened to me too over the last few months. I went through considerable stress and finally got out of it when I changed jobs. I'm now working for a tiny company where I'm happy to do my job and go home every evening satisfied that I've done my work.

I've got my four personal projects which went on hold early in January but I plan to restart them now.

That's it for now but reconnecting with the world is in progress. There's a little beetle that's wandered in even as I write this stuff, so I'll have to take time capturing it and sending it out the window before it causes damage to itself by trying to romance my light fixtures.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The last post for this year

This is my last post for the year 2010. So first of all, Happy New Year to everybody. I hope 2011 brings you all joy and success.

It has been a year of ups and downs for me but I've managed to pull through without too much damage. There were one or two times when I did wonder what was happening but thanks to my friends, my photography, and my bird watching jaunts, I did maintain some semblance of sanity.

Christmas Eve saw five of us making our way through a misty, freezing morning to Makalidurga. For the most part, this is a little train station near Doddaballapur just about 70 km from Bangalore City. The charming station is all that proclaims the few houses, mountains, and myriad fields that dot the landscape. On top of the hill is a fort that contains temples but my knowledge of it is limited to what I've been told and a few pieces of information from the Internet.

During the drive up, we crossed that magical line that had us suddenly breaking through the mysterious foggy scenes around us to bright, sunlit skies. A few vehicles threatened us as we stepped out of the SUV, stretched and strode across the road to examine some spider webs just off the road. The blue skies were adorned with feathery clouds that streamed across.
Uloborid spider webs glistened like little bowls of frosted glass while a Kidney Garden Spider spun its morning web, quite unconcerned that five human beings were peering at her with curiosity. Deepa made a short video of this spider's web making efforts while the rest of us reveled in the welcome sunshine.
A short drive down the road brought us past the quaint little Makalidurga railway station. However, at that moment, the lake further down interested us and we headed there in a hurry to see if we could spot any waterbirds.
Indian Robins, silverbills, pied bushchats, laughing doves (or little brown doves) greeted us. But there wasn't a single water bird to be see. It took quite a while to find even a lesser egret that flew slowly across the water and disappear over the horizon.
A pair of lapwings kept watch. As we tried to get closer to them, they scolded us with their "Did you do it?" calls and took off.

Chandu excitedly pointed out the trains passing by in the distance. His enthusiasm was quite infectious, so much so, that I, who haven't been very fascinated by trains, found myself photographing them if only to show the majestic backdrop of the mountains.

We made our way back to the SUV and drove to the station. On our way to the station, a pair of button quail burst out from the brush and sped across the road to disappear into the bushes on the other side. Anil braked hard and we went into such raptures over the quail that we didn't notice an inter-city bus that had had to brake hard behind us to avoid totaling Anil's car.

Close to the station, Deepa wandered away to photograph the station itself and the surroundings, the remaining four of us struggled with a flat tyre. It was quite disappointing to find out that there wasn't a path leading to the mountains from where we were. However, a helpful villager pointed us to the right path a short drive away from where we were and told us we could access the mountains from there.

A profusion of birds greeted us as we parked the car below a convenient tree and stepped out. In the far distance, a few trucks and buses went by, their engines a muted roar that barely reached us. The serene mountains were behind us but hunger beckoned. Anil, who had the foresight to pack a few snacks from V.B. Bakery the previous night, brought out buns which had been loaded with jam or butter and peanuts.

Happily we munched on these while a stray dog from the nearby village followed each of us expectantly.
A male Indian robin hopped around about 10 feet away picking off insects from a rock. He kept an eye on us as we circled him with our cameras. Infuriatingly, he managed to keep a little vegetation between him and our cameras before he flew off. Farther away on an electric wire, a male pied bushchat sat, quite unconcerned by the rash of clicking cameras that focused on him.

Chandu spotted a kestrel in the distance and Deepa and Prashanth attempted to get close enough to photograph it. However, the bird spotted them creeping up and took off, wheeling around in a great circle to roost again in a tree somewhere else. Chandu and I kept an eye on it and this time, I tried my luck in getting close enough but it wasn't anywhere to be seen.

A pair of shikras next made their appearance as they flew quickly overhead and disappeared in the vegetation that covered the mountainside. As we tried to find them, the kestrel emerged. How it had flown to the mountain unseen by us was beyond me but Chandu's sharp eyes saw it perched on the very top of a tree on the mountain.

By the side of the path that led across the railway line was a tree that was filled with purple rumped sunbirds. The birdsong from this tree alone kept me quite entranced for a while but the pull of the mountain was too strong. And the kestrel was a challenge as well.

Wisely perhaps Anil, Prashanth, and Deepa decided to stay behind while Chandu and I scrambled up the mountain. This was the one that faced the Makalidurga mountain and was easier to climb. Careful not to slip on the gravel and leaf litter, Chandu and I made our way to the tree where the kestrel was perched but it took off again seeing the two of us.
We climbed further up the mountain and settled on a few rocks there admiring the vista below all the while hoping futilely that the kestrel would return to its perch. Down below, the un-metaled road wound away back to the highway. In the far distance, cattle lowed as they were driven to the village and into the mountainside where they would graze. Trees to our left hid the little temple that formed the life of the handful of people there. These trees were playing host to monkeys and parakeets. We watched from our vantage point as Deepa disappeared into the cool shady environs of the temple.

As we sat there admiring the view, a small green bee-eater appeared and settled on a branch slightly below us some 25 feet away. Its chestnut coloured head gleamed iridescent in the sunshine while the beautiful blue green colours on its face seemed to glow. To our delight, it stayed there for quite a while before flying off in pursuit of some insect that only its sharp eyes could see.

Deciding to take a different path down,we set off and found ourselves trying to make our way around the summit of the mountain we were on. It was little more than a goat path but still slippery so we gingerly stepped on the sloping sides as we went on down. We reached a point just above the temple when a Sirkeer Malkoha flew past swiftly. Chandu and I watched and waited till it had settled and tried to creep up on it but the wily bird flew first into a bush where it was all but invisible and then further away to a bush. It scuttled quickly into the bush and emerged on the left where it captured something edible. It was moving too fast, but we did manage to get a glimpse of the scarlet beak and the pale blue brows just above the eyes.

As we were watching it, a raptor swooped down to our left and Chandu, being alert, spotted it as it took off again. It was a pale coloured bird and I mistakenly, and stubbornly, insisted that it was a pallid harrier. Deepa later suggested it was a falcon in pale morph.
Jubilant over having seen the Malkoha and the raptor, we quickly went down to join Deepa in the temple where she was photographing the carpenter bees. An amusing incident occurred here that I will keep for another day.

We made our way back to the car where Anil and Prashanth joined us, having exhausted all probable angles of photographing the sun birds. We had a leisurely lunch off some wonderful bisi bele bhath that Deepa had woken up very early in the morning to make. Just as we returned to the highway, Deepa spotted a bush lark on the side of the road. I was too far to get a photograph and had to be content with what I could see through the rear windshield. A short while later, having deviated to take the road to Ghati Subramanya temple, we spotted a black-shouldered kite regally resting on an electric cable. Closer to the temple, Chandu's sharp eyes spotted a shikra perched on top of a telegraph pole. With both the pole as well as the bird being the same colour, the shikra was almost invisible. How Chandu had spotted it while we were on the move still escapes me.

Here's to a lot more posts and a lot more birding in 2011. Cheers everybody.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Basic Halli

Set in Kanakapura, not too far away from Bangalore, is a little resort. To say it's a resort is a massive overstatement. A few thatch covered tents, a small tank, five bathrooms, and a kitchen; surrounded by a elephant trench. There is no electricity save for the main administration building which also serves as a kitchen. This is Basic Halli.

Halli in Kannada means village and the resort boasts of really basic amenities.
Check-in here and you're handed a mat, a blanket, a bed sheet, an air pillow, a steel plate, and a tumbler. Then you're shown your tent. Or rather it is pointed out to you.

It's the views around that are fantastic. The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is way off toward the East and elephants often come here to raid the crops. The rolling hills beckon seductively in the early morning light, their accompanying vegetation washed fresh and the earthy aromas swirl around, mixing seductively with the thousand perfumes of nature.
Birds abound. They seem to be more fearless here than in places closer to the city. Babblers often cross your path, shrieking, gossipping, and belabouring each other's opinions. Scaly breasted munias throng the lantana and the grasses with gay abandon. When we had been there, it was the breeding season for these little birds and one could watch them strip the grass and carry it off to wherever they were building their nests.

A golden oriole flew over head unmindful of the raucous cries of the parakeets that busied themselves with their breakfast of fruits. Below the trees, in the shrubs, the purple rumped sunbirds flitted from flower to flower, gathering the nectar.
Our climb up the hill was easy. A gentle, tarred slope led us upward and wound its way around the fields of raagi and jowar.
Birders are not the best of people to walk with. Every other moment is relished by standing around, the destination and time forgotten. Knowledgeable people discourse on a variety of subjects. Us lesser mortals gather around to listen. Then the walk goes on. Photographers in the group stop at every vantage point to point, shoot, examine, shake their heads over the results and move on to the next.

Our host, Anand Shankar, is a big, bearded young man. His rough exterior hides a gentle interior. He has planned, laid out, and built, with his own hands the entire resort. He is an Enfield Bullet enthusiast, so much so, that he even named his dog Bullet.

He trooped up the hills with us talking earnestly about his plans for the resort. It was almost 9 a.m. when we reached a shelf of rock closer to the top of the hill. A few enthusiastic birders continued up the hill while the rest of us threw ourselves down exhausted and hungry.

Lobo, the other partner at Basic Halli, reached the rock shelf with a basket load of Thatte Idli and vadas along with chutney. We fell to the largess with much gusto, taking care to pick up the used paper plates and stuff them into a large garbage bag which would be disposed off closer to civilisation.

All too soon the morning came to an end and we trooped back to the resort for a rest and await lunch.

Meals at Basic Halli are simple fare. Vegetarian but wholesome and delicious. They are cooked by a trio of village women.

That afternoon, there was raagi mudde, pumpkin curry, sambar, rasam, and rice. The pumpkin curry made my day. Never one to try new stuff I shied away from this unusual (for me) curry. But the rapturous cries that I heard from the others prompted me to try it out and I was hooked. I didn't get around to eating the raagi mudde though, something I've disliked since I was a child. The sticky mass is not chewable and small balls of it have to be swallowed whole with a generous laving of sambar. I've never taken to it.

Lunch over, a gentle discussion on the resort and its surroundings turned into a full-fledged but friendly argument till it was time for the group photo in which Bullet, the dog, enthusiastically joined. Licking every face he could reach and running around a top speed, Bullet managed to leap into the photograph.

If you want an overnighter holiday and don't care about your luxuries, Basic Halli is the place to go.

Details are here: Basic Halli website.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I'm back

Life has been just too hectic for me. I've taken on a new role and new responsibilities which leave me less time for anything personal. I actually gave up on the blog because some of my readers asked me to stop writing and let Adu write. However, he too is busy at his hoary old age of 12 getting around and doing things that 12-year-olds do.

I will begin posting again, but I don't know when and how I will manage the time.

I've been doing a little travelling. On January 13, 2010, I took a trip to my favourite place - B.R. Hills or to be more specific, the K.Gudi camp of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts where I did manage to shoot (with a camera of course) a lot of birds but very few animals. The most prominently featured bird during this trip was the Crested Serpent Eagle, a bird that I've shot many times before.

This was a meeting of the NTP people. All those of us who had done the Naturalist Training Program and one of our group organized a meeting that we solemnly agreed to have annually. Can't wait for the next one.

The next trip came up exactly one month later and was to do with exploring Karnataka's history rather than wildlife. Two friends and I joined a group that was going out to explore the Hoysala empire.

I shall crave your patience till I can post about that trip. I did take a lot of photographs but will hold off with most of them till I can come up with a half decent blog entry. Wildlife of note was a solitary spotted owlet that remained absolutely alert to our every movement at one of the temples that we visited.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Editor's Comment: First off, Adu wishes to apologise for the undue delay in publishing his trip report. This trip was made on April 21, 2009, Adu's 11th birthday, and he managed to finish this report only today.

Second, I am officially turning over this blog to Adu and will only assist him in publishing it as his stenographer/secretary. The photographs will remain mine but all text content and sketches are his.

NOTE: For some reason, I was unable to upload the pictures. This blog will be updated as soon as I can resolve that problem.

On my 11th birthday, we decided to go to Ranganthittu, with two grandmothers, two grandfathers and one set of parents. In the morning, I had cut the cake, received an ample sum of money, and at 9:00 a.m. was ready to get into the car. It was a hired vehicle, and it stood gleaming dully next to the house. While mamma and Ajji sat in the back, everybody else sat in front and daddy and me sat next to the driver. We started off and soon got out of the city.

"Shall we go through the NICE road?" asked the driver in Kannada. "Mmm, yes", replied daddy. "I find it much easier." "Why is it called the nice road?" I asked, intrigued. "The abbreviation of the name of the company that built this road is N-I-C-E," said daddy. "Oh!" I said.

We soon reached a place where we had to buy a ticket from a guard, who, quite, frankly, looked as though someone had whacked him on the head with an exceptionally heavy brick. "Where are you going?" he asked dully. "Ranganthittu," said the driver and daddy in unision. The next man, in contrast, was reasonably bright, and we bought another ticket. Then we sped off again only stopping to buy some chips and cool drinks. We reached Ranganthittu much later and stepped out of the car to a simply symphony of birdsong, and, looking through my new binoculars, found a red-vented bulbul. I watched him for sometime, then daddy came and I gave him the binoculars. He frowned through them and then gave them back to me. "Look at that bush," he said pointing "and tell me if it's a magpie robin or a pied wagtail." "It's a pied wagtail," I said looking at the glossy little bird fluttering around optimistically. After that I followed a noisy little Blyth's reed warbler, which chucked surprised and with some difficulty around a huge berry.

Then daddy gave an exclamation and I looked up to see a painted stork flying majestically carrying nest material in its bill.

We wandered down to the water's edge where we got a boat to ourselves. I sat down in the front and looked around. The boat rocked from side to side alarmingly as the forest guard got in. He sat in the seat behind me and with apparent ease, picked up the heavy oars and started rowing off and soon there were many birds all around. On a small isle which seemed rather overcrowded to me, paddy birds rubbed shoulders with egrets, painted storks and open billed storks, while below, on the ground, where he could not reach the nesting birds, lay, with his (or her) mouth open, the first crocodile in the wild that I had seen. With practised ease, the forest guard rattled off the names of the birds on the island and then pointed out the crocodile.

Then we went off and next came to a strip of rock on which two river terns huddled together despite the heat. White Ibises kept a respectful distance from the bigger birds among which were darters or snake birds. The forest guard was bent on calling the same bird both names. As I turned to see the birds, another one flew past our boat. "Darter or snake bird," repeated our forest guard in case we had missed the point. We returned to terra firma and had lunch.

After we had lunch, mamma asked if I wanted another boat ride. "Will it cost much?" I asked. "Mmm, no," she replied. I nodded. Ajji and Ajoba stayed behind while the rest of us went off to get a boat.

We got a boat and set off. We saw nothing quite exciting until we saw a pied kingfisher. This was a bird I had long wanted to see and saw it as soon as our guide pointed it out. It was going over the water in quick, zooming circles, occasionally veering off course. Then it suddenly stopped in midair, apparently gazing at the horizon, displaying an ability to stay in one place in the air, which I thought only hummingbirds possessed. Then, suddenly, it quite literally dropped. It dropped in a slanting line and dropped as a paper kite might drop, with a suggesting weight about it. But, somehow, it had an air of business and straightness about it it. It dived with a splash near a rock, and I flinched because I had noticed that for quite a distance around the rock, were underwater rocks, only a foot or so below the surface. It seemed to me that the kingfisher, descending from its great height, would smash into this and break its skull, not to mention its beak. However, it popped up again, apparently perfectly all right and hovered around for more fish. "Usually, you wont' see it after five o'clock," our guide told us. "Its got chicks, that's why it's so late."

We went back. The journey back home was anything but uneventful. The elements were determined to make the journey memorable one. There was a huge thunderstorm , and for the first time in my life, I felt my buttocks going to sleep. I think it was worth it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My Favourite Place to be - Finale

This is the third and last part of the series on B.R.Hills that has excerpts from Adu's diary. I got so much flak over my explanatory notes in the last two entries that I have decided that I will only introduce this update and stay silent.
Adu was thrilled over all your comments, oral and written (that I dutifully conveyed to him).
Excerpt from Adu's diary:
We went on the morning safari, but since we never saw anything, I shan't write about it. But we did go birdwatching and the first we saw was an ashy drongo. It is smaller than a crow and comes, unlike the crow, in many shades of black. It's underside is, unlike most drongos, pale grey. It has the typical forked tail and a curious glare. We heard the grey tit, a call like a sparrow's, magnified wonderfully. We saw the palebellied drongo, a drongo which is just like the ashy drongo, except for, as the name suggests, the snow white underside.
We also saw lots of grey wagtails which perched everywhere.
Then we went for the evening safari. That was when all the excitement happened. A pond on one side, and vegetation on the other. As we were going along, there was one elephant on the vegetation side. A female and she was alone. Then we saw the others, like pieces or rock moving. And then we moved forward. The elephants got together and pushed the babies behind and the elders in front, making a big, undestroyable wall in front of us. They sniffed each other, making sure there were no traitors, and their usually flapping, mobile ears had flattened themselves against their bodies.
Animal Planet had educated me well. It would not be the sort Valmik Thapar experienced, but I knew. They were going to charge. I was at the front, but I had turned fully around, kneeling on the seat. I would not have been surprised if my tongue was hanging out. Then the matriarch broke the formation. Ten tons of muscle, fat and a bone crushing trunk came running towards us faster than a chital. We zoomed down the path and waited. Then Narayan uncle looked at us and said: "The elephants or back home?" Mamma, me and daddy were all for the elephants. The Narayans were secretly hoping we would choose the elephants. Only Pappu uncle, Heena aunty, and Yash and Krusha opposed us. It was five against four. After much coaxing, Pappu uncle changed sides. 6 against 3. Yash started crying. Then daddy spoke in the way a general might a new cadet: "Yash, we're wasting time." (Editor's remark: Good lord! Do I sound like that?).

With the expression of an innocent man being led up to the gallows, Yash nodded. We went up beside the elephants. A smaller elephant, with the end of his trunk curled around some grass trumpeted and ran to us. He pushed his trunk towards us to shoo us away. The elephant trumpeted again. The Narayans leant back relaxing. They might have been sunning themselves on a beach. Then Yash started hyperventilating. "Uncle lets get home, lets get home," he whimpered. So we started. I pride myself on knowing that we went straight along the path that we were going, we would come to the camp. Then Narayan took a turn.
We went on for sometime and stopped. "Now," said Narayan uncle, "forget about sightings. Just look at the jungle. We stirred ourselves and looked about us. The beauty of it suddenly came down. No one had cut up the lantana but it grew sparsely. The canopy had grown, untamed, untouched. Untained by civilization. People describe twilight in the jungle as scary, but it wasn't. It was sleepy, peaceful. No real path. Only some dirt cut out of the flourishing vegetation. Narayan brought us back to the jeep by asking "Do you know where we are?" We nodded. "We are in the core zone," he said simply, grinning out at us, his grey eyes twinkling. I couldn't believe my ears. Centenarians have prayed for every moment of their lives just to get their wrinkled noses on the fringes of the legendary core zone. Then we saw our first bison.He was a bull. Never mind six pack abs, he had 18 pack abs. We came out of the core zone and then the third excitement of the evening came along.
A forest department vehicle had skidded and fallen into the ditch. After much unheeded shouting, the jeep was got out, it went on its way and we on ours.
In the excitement of the wildlife I have not told you what happened at the camp itself. In the first place were the pickpocket monkeys.
The pickpocket monkeys got their names because we gained their trust. We had a lot of monkeys in the camp and we fed them a few things. Bananas, bread, biscuits; everything worked. At first, we could only feed the big ones, because the little ones were either too scared or got chased away. But we soon learnt to be sneaky. One of us would feed the big ones, thus distracting them and another person would feed the little ones. The monkeys, slowly, warily became friendly. The underdogs, or rather the undermonkeys came first, until the whole troop accepted us.In their eyes we were now monkeys. I'm proud to say they trusted me first, so I saw a lot.
Another thing was the babies. They were cute, curious and extremely innovative. If you were lucky, you could catch them playing when all the tummies are full so that they could aford to be picky.
An adult would pick up a stick and finding nothing interesting about, it would fling it away. A baby would pick it up and all the babies would come over. On an impulse one baby would snatch the stick and run up a tree. The others would give shouts of apparent rage and race up the tree. And then the one with the stick would go down, where he would be rugby tackled and the next monkey who got it would again repeat the procedure until they all got tired and came to me for titbits. If they didn't find anything, they would do as their name suggests. One hand would hold the pocket open gingerly while the other hand would dig through the pocket, pulling out every last crumb.

By the end of our visit, I had become a part time member of "Tail-loss's" troop.
End Excerpt.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

My favorite place to be - Part 2

The Biligirirangan Hills, or B.R.Hills in Mysore, was where we went on a short holiday. Adu's diary offers enticing information excerpts of which I'm posting here. This is the second part of this three-part series on the B.R. Hills.
There will be some photographs merely to showcase some of the world's most beautiful animals and birds but they will not detract from Adu's verbal portrait of the forest and its denizens. I reiterate that I have not corrected any part of his diary and have only edited sections which offered too long an explanation or description. For the most part, I have been truthful to the diary itself.

Excerpt from Adu's Diary: We came back and said thank you to the naturalists and lazed around for a bit. Yash and Krusha played TT (ping pong for my American friends), I wrote while Mamma and Heena aunty swapped stories. There was a nine-year-old boy there. He was rather short, so we assumed he was five and marvelled at how he played TT.
He was one of the rangers' sons and he was dressed like Mohammed Rafi, with black shoes, a black pant, a black shirt and bright red embroidered coat. "Oi! Mohammed Rafi?" called Pappu uncle. "Aiy!" said Heena aunty to Pappu uncle while frowning. "He is dressed like Mohammed Rafi!" protested uncle. They both stared at him and called "what's your age?" The boy returned a ball with natural ease and answered, to our surprise, "nine". Mamma, Pappu uncle, and Heena aunty put their heads together to discuss the fact that he was short, Yash and Krusha continued playing, daddy went to the tent, and I continued writing. Then, when we were all togther, we went to the bonfire. End Excerpt.

Mohammed Rafi was a very famous movie singer. His melodious voice is beloved of generations of Indians. One must forgive Adu this description since he has only heard of Mohammed Rafi and listened to some songs which have been played at home. He could not have known how Mohammed Rafi could have been dressed. Rafi was known to be a very soberly dressed individual and was never known to have sported flamboyant attire like that described by Adu.
Excerpt from Adu's diary: From a little way off, we could see the bonfire, a little red, glowing coal coloured something in the bonfire area. We walked along and ate food in the Gol Ghar. I finished first, and walked to the bonfire and pulled my chair as close to the bonfire and stared at the flames. My mind went blank and stayed blank, until someone interrupted me. "What's your name?" a small voice cried in Kannada. "What's your name first?" I countered.
"Ha! The last time we went to Jungle Resorts, also we met an Aditya," he said, as if I'd been following him around for no other purpose than to keep meeting him. End Excerpt.
Adu's name is Jayaditya and he's Adu only for those who know him well. He can be a little testy at times with other children of his own age.
Excerpt from Adu's diary: We sat for a moment in silence, then they left and I sat like a rock till a big boar trotted in and stiffened when he smelt me. I walked off and dragged everybody to the bonfire. It was a cozy gathering, with my feet resting on a snoozing dog. The little boy sitting on Narayan uncle's lap and everyone else forming a semi-circle around the fire. "What's his name?" asked Heena aunty suddenly. Narayan Uncle opened his mouth to answer, but the little boy cut across him quickly. "Adarsh", he said. "He answered before Narayan could give him another name," said daddy, his face half in the shadows. In order to get his revenge, Narayan went on, looking at Adarsh fondly, "His mother and brother both stay in Mysore, but he's always here. Know why?" he ended with a mischevious twinkle in his eye. Everybody nodded their heads and asked why. "Well," said Narayan uncle, "There's a little Soliga girl here..." "When did that happen?" asked Adarsh. The two of them had a silent scuffle in the dark, then everybody got up and went to sleep. End Excerpt.
Soligas are the hunter, gatherer tribes of the B.R. Hills forest range. Expert trackers and keen observers, they are known for their skill in collecting honey which is sold through a cooperative. A large tribal village exists very close to the Jungle Lodges camp but tourists are not allowed to disturb the tribals there. A few tribals may be found early in the morning during the morning safari with the children waving madly at the passing safari jeeps. If you happen to be there, please wave back. You will be rewarded with lovely smiles.

Excerpt from Adu's diary: The next morning, we went for the safari. We saw, to my surprise, a huge tusker with even huger tusks, with pink spots all over his forehead cmoing blurred and drunkenly down his trunk. For four or five minutes, he stood quietly, his trunk half-heartedly putting food into his mouth, but more after playing around with (for a human) the knee high vegetation. He fixed his intelligent, honey coloured eyes, with their black pupils on each of us, then on the entire party.

I turned my attention away from him and to what Narayan uncle was saying. "...and when he charged me," he shook his head and went on, "it was uphill, like this only -- when I think of it -- my heart stops for a moment. Then, two other jeeps came along and deciding that there was too much noise, the elephant turned and, with a brisk, purposeful walk, he set off on his own business, thank you very much.

If Veerappan had been alive, this tusker would have been the first to go to the happy browsing grounds. End Excerpt.

For those who are unaware of Veerappan, he was the most notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler South India has ever known. In his long career as a poacher and smuggler, Veerappan was responsible for the deaths of several elephants, the denuding of the forests of highly prized sandalwood trees, and the deaths in encounters of several policemen who were sent to catch him or kill him. Veerappan was eventually shot dead in an ambush when he sought medical attention.

Excerpt from Adu's diary: That evening again, we went for the safari. The hill myna was haunting us again, but to make up for that, we saw a brown fish owl. While at Kabini, we had very nearly murdered Afsar for not showing us this bird.

The brown fish owl is a funny bird. It has deep brown feather tufts, the same color as its wings and back. Its chest and stomach are the colour of half-dried clay, with dark vertical lines. It has a white collar invaded by the regiments of streaks. The face is all grey, and two darker lines extend from the beak and slant over the eyes, giving the impression that it's frowing at you. The brown fish owl is the only owl which has bare legs. All other Indian owls have feathering up to their feet. We also saw the sparrow hawk. This one we saw was immature so its wings head and back had a deep brown and a striking pattern of grey. It took very keen eyes and constant alertness to spot it. The mature ones are with the same pattern, only the background is the blue of a sky before a storm. End Excerpt.

Still to come: Birdwatching, the elephant charge and the pickpocket monkeys.