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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lal Bagh with Karthik

A mottled wood owl sat on an old, old tree

Looked down on Adu, Deepa, and me
And asked, "what have you come to see?"
Startled by our silent awe, he spread his wings
And said "wait till the Golden Oriole sings"
For then the light will be right
And these crows just might
Leave me alone to roost in peace
Until such time that I please.

This Saturday again, saw us in Lal Bagh, Bangalore's beautiful botanical gardens. Girish had joined us too. An itinerant, Girish is an avid hiker and leans towards conservation so much that he might just fall over one of these days. Deepa, of course, had her car, her partner in crime (read Anush) and her conversation. Lal Bagh held its promise of an exciting morning made so much more exciting by Karthik promising to be there. And he was.

Karthik is a walking encyclopaedia. Trees, bees and whatever else anyone might want to consider. You might want to leave politics out of it.

The parakeets were there in plenty. One of them, a rather tailless male provided momentary amusement but our attention was quickly drawn to the golden oriole that flitted through the branches of the Peepul tree.

I couldn't quite understand why several birds seem to favour the peepul when it had so little to offer. Karthik had an immediate explanation. The flowers of the Peepul, he says, attract a number of insects which provide a feast of sorts for the birds.

For avid and expert birders like Adarsh, Anjali, Nisarg, and Pallavi, it seemed pretty easy to spot green leaf warblers and Tickell's flowerpeckers flitting among the leaves in the nearby bushes. I needed Karthik's help, of course.

Karthik being there helped in more ways than merely birding. The man is simply amazing the way he remembers the names of plants. His knowledge goes beyond merely naming them. He knows exactly how the various animals depend on them.

With such a large group, Karthik, Adarsh, Nisarg, Anjali and another couple, Deepa, Anush, Girish, Adu and me, it was only natural that some splits should occur. Deepa, of course, had to wander off to investigate strange looking trees with even stranger looking fruit. Her logic is that trees stay right there unlike birds.

Mantid young, like all young, are cute. They held the attention of a small group while Karthik pointed out to Pritam, Pallavi, Adu and me how they moved so quickly through the leaves. In fact, he failed to catch any of them. The rest of us were more scared of squishing them. Adu did try - to catch them, not squish them.

Deepa's group, meanwhile, very excitedly called us (on Karthik's cellphone) to tell us that a mottled wood owl had been spotted attempting his morning snooze on the top of a tall tree.

He sat there regally glaring down at us as we had the affrontery to point our noisy cameras and take pictures. Deepa again wandered off, ostensibly in search of some new tree that the authorities had probably planted in secret and found two more mottled wood owls. These were a young sub-adult and an adult. The adult appeared nervous and took off briefly disappearing from sight only to return when we least expected it. The youngster braved it out, preferring to face us and a murder of crows which were probably haggling with it for the best spot on the tree.

There was some more excitement when while examining some hatched eggs stuck on a tree, Karthik conjured up a bug and allowed us to handle it for a while before returning it to its perch on the tree.

Once again, it was the turn of my old friends the spotted owlets and we returned to the Japanese pond to spy on them.

The owlet obliged us by regally acknowledging our presence and condescending to fly out of the hollow in the tree to a nearby perch from where it defecated and returned to its hollow to keep watch over us.

The morning seemed to end all to soon. Deepa's car decided to get into the act to delay our breakfast but she did have a solution. However, that must be another story, told over steaming hot cups of coffee and a breakfast of rice dumplings and coconut sauce. Idli and chutney for the uninitiated.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The ones that were left

There were three pictures that refused to be uploaded when I updated this blog the last time. So I thought I would make a new post out of them.
While initially confused over the identity of this bird (by the length of the beak shown in the book) we have now confirmed that it is a female purple-rumped sunbird. [Thanks to Deponti for getting this bird identified].
This lily and its reflection attracted my attention and I couldn't help marvelling that such a lovely flower needs muck to grow in.
Remember the moorhen from my last post? This is the fellow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Feathered fiends

Feathered fiends is right. And I'm sure there are hordes of photographers who'll agree with me. Tickell's Flowerpeckers rarely stop moving, sunbirds don't either, Ashy Prinias find the thickest clump of vegetation and only provide tantalizing glimpses. I could go on.
Owls are lovely birds. Owlets even more so. I chanced upon this spotted owlet when out birding at Lal Bagh in Bangalore with Deepa, Anush and Pallavi. It's a distinct pleasure when birding with Deepa. She's a storehouse of knowledge, especially on trees, bees, birds and, people. One can never tire of her conversation.

Deepa had led us past the little pond abutting the lake and down to where the old oaks groan in the wind and there, with a rather professorial look on its face, was this spotted owlet. I had fallen in love with these pint-sized beauties when M.B. Krishna first showed them to me on the Bangalore University campus and years later, after I had acquired my camera, I longed to photograph at least one owl and particularly these little ones. This is my first, decent, owl picture.

Parakeets are a pleasure. Their charm, I think, lies in the fact that they are curious, noisy and beautiful. But nary a second will they wait for the amateur photographer like me. This one peered down at me while I peered up at him. Tit for tat, I should think.

Lesser egrets have yellow feet but as Deepa sagely observed, "how are you going to see their feet?" This bird was hunkered down on a lily pad next to a lotus. Deepa has a better picture on her flickr page where she caught this one lunging for some prey in the water.

Ducks are cute. Ducklings can be absolute charmers. This bedraggled butler looked straight into my lens and seemed to say "Yerrsss? Can I help you?" in such portentious tones that I just had to photograph it. Pallavi was absolutely taken in with them and sat for quite a while watching them while ignoring the rest of us quite efficiently as we scrambled to watch the moorhen's antics in the pond which was filled with lovely lilies. The ducklings scrambled for the water ignoring the moorhen which looked suitably affronted and then stalked away walking comfortably on the lily pads.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Just hanging in there

Yes sir, fair takes my heart away when I see those wee critters just hanging in there. My state these last few weeks. I didn't want to post but there were compensations. I'm not going into my sob stories or for that matter any stories. My heart just missed a few beats when suddenly, out of the blue, I won the third place in a photography contest organized by Pixetra and IIPM. The Amaze photo contest. Of course, the dragon fly wasn't the entry. Perhaps I should have chanced it and sent this one instead but, then again, who knows.
Deponti was there for moral support and does that woman really support. She's like the proverbial pillar when you need one. Don't ask me which proverb and which pillar. I can't for the life of me remember.
So, I'm hanging in there, friend. And foe, just in case de foe remembers to read this and de fine me. Oh! God! I'm losing my mind over puns and pun dits. There I go again.
Sethu, the inspiration behind photography was there too to egg me on to more mischief and Deponti didn't help one bit. She actually contributed along with Anush, her favorite comrade in arms.
Just one final word before I go down. I wasn't expecting it. Every one of the pictures that had been entered had so much class I wondered why I was still sitting there. If it wasn't for the fact that Sudhir Shivram was there to talk about photography, I probably wouldn't have dared to show my face. But there it was. I was a trifle disappointed that Sudhir wasn't talking about his pictures but about the basics of photography and how to buy a camera instead. Not my cup of pilter caapi.
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