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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.


molarbear's posts said...

At last, a lovely rhyming start to a nice account that doesn't talk about how Blogger was down for ten minute on March 13th! :)

Looking forward to more pics. And..thank GOODNESS you didn't come to Suchitra Film Society in the evening, it was a real fiasco, but of course we id'd id-lies and and kaapi at the local SLV instead of watching the films that couldn't be screened!

couch potato said...

Thanks Deepa. I don't think there was a problem with blogger. There was no downtime but some other problem with the link I had posted. Perhaps my mail was redirecting the URL. At any rate, it's up now.
It would have been worth it coming to the film festival to spend time with Anush, Pallavi, Karthik (if he was there) and you.

molarbear's posts said...

That "other" couple..Obviously, I din't do a good enough job of introductions...they were Geeta and Prasanna, who took the NTP in May 2007.

The film festival in the evening was a fiasco, but all of US really had fun together, eating food in the "outstanding" SLV joint nearby. The movie, "Wild Dog Diaries", scheduled to start at 5.30pm, started past 9pm!!

Uma said...

Hi Vishwanath,

Very nice post! You are turning out to be a true shishya of Deepa's! Too bad I couldn't join you all - Deepa had told me about it... Hope there is a similar jaunt soon!


Pallavi said...

Nice rhyme Vittal! :)

It was indeed yet another enjoyable Saturday morning. I think Deepa's owl tourism is really taking off, the two Mottled Wood Owls were the icing on the cake yesterday!

couch potato said...

Thanks all.
Uma, it's easy to write when Deepa's around. She provides much of the vocabulary. ;) I'm sure she'll kill me for this.
Pallavi, you're absolutely right on the Mottled Wood Owl being the icing on the cake. I certainly wasn't expecting the orioles as well.
Having Karthik around works wonders doesn't it?

Lubna said...

Wow. Just cant say anything more, but Wow.
Oh, and another thing, or am I repeating myself again - the purple moorhens' have returned because hychnth has returned in the Lalbaugh lake/pond.... will this destory the lake again...and the other wildlife?

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.