Bridled Tern

This was the most sighted bird during our pelagic trip in the Arabian Sea in April this year. It was lovely to see them in large numbers and also see them fishing. They would just hover a little above the water and fish. At time, they cam quite close to the boat. Actually fishing boats are an important source of food for these birds in the sea. When fishermen just throw away the unwanted fish back into the sea, these birds come and feed on them. For me, this was the first time I was seeing this bird and it was simply amazing to see them in large numbers. On the last day of our expedition, we saw more than 300 of these Bridled Terns congregating in the afternoon. It was a sight to remember.

Bridled Tern

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A walk along the mangroves

To get to the estuary, we had to pass by a house. We thought it might be a good idea to actually dump our bags and get into the water. I had never done that before but was looking forward to it. We had to walk along the beautiful mangrove habitat which was thrilling. But we really had to watch out while walking so that we don’t place our legs on something and get hurt. We also had to be careful about not walking into the shallow region which I did anyway. Walking along the mangroves, we kept looking out for birds. There were a lot of them including the Common Redshank, Western Reef Egret, Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstone and many more. We spent more than an hour birding there. The tide was low, so we were able to walk around happily but when the tide is high the entire area is under water.

Ruddy Turnstone

The gorgeous – Greater Sand Plover

And the estuary meets the Arabian sea

Western Reef Egret

Common Redshank

Black crowned Night Heron

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Sighting the Arctic Skua in the Arabian Sea

During my last pelagic birding trip in the Arabian Sea (April first week), we had some great sightings of the Arctic Skua (Parasitic Skua). We did birding in the Mulki Coast of Karnataka and the Kannur Coast of Kerala. The sighting in Mulki was a very brief one just to be able to confirm the sighting but we had some amazing sightings at Kannur. At times, the bird flew quite close to us giving us a very beautiful view of the bird. One of the very interesting behaviour we observed was the Arctic Skuas chasing the Greater Crested Terns for food. It was an action to watch. Whenever we found a flock of Greater Crested Terns, a skua would come and chase them to get the fish they had caught. Once the chase got so intense that the skua would manage to get the fish from the tern, but the fish just slipped from the skua’s beak and the tern managed to come back and pick up the dropping fish. It was amazing to see all of this action in the air.

Arctic Skua

A record shot of Arctic Skua chasing Greater Crested Tern

Two Arctic Skuas chasing a Greater Crested Tern

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The Sankey Road story

The Sankey Road tree cutting by BBMP was the most awful news to start my day. The BBMP had auctioned the trees in the midnight for a 4-digit number and had begun chopping trees immediately. The residents had actually waited on the road until midnight seeing to it that the auction didn’t happen. But when the people retired for the night, the BBMP went ahead with the auction secretly. A few people came out in the night protesting the illegal nature in which the tree cutting had begun. When the people asked for the order, the officials said that it was on its way. But the tree cutting was in process. The local TV channel, TV9 captured it which people saw first thing in the night. There were not many people in the night who turned up to protest. And this time BBMP has police protection. There was a strong police force overseeing the tree-cutting process.

I got to know most of this in the morning. Thanks to Twitter, lot of people tweeted about the tree cutting on Sankey road and requested people to join the protest. Huge trees were being brought down. People hugged trees but there is little one can do when the police force is bigger than the no of people protesting. The protesters were asked why only a few were protesting which meant the rest were okay with tree-felling and road-widening. Since some of the protesters were not residents of the area, they were asked why they had come to protest since they don’t even live in Malleshwaram. People protesting tried various means to mobilise people. I kept following all of this from my cosy computer chair, but when I heard about protesters being arrested on false charges I couldn’t take it. The mails had started coming in through various forums that protesters were being arrested and that it would be helpful if more people could join the protesters. The protesters who were arrested were done by slapping false charges of disrupting the work of a officer on duty. The women who were arrested by also handled very badly. Victoria, a protester was literally dragged by the women cops and in the process she was hurt badly. I was anyway planning to join the protest in the evening. So when I reached Sankey road by 6.30, a stay order was already issued on the tree-felling process until Monday. A candle-light vigil protest was being planned.

pic by Lakshmi Sharath

pic by Lakshmi Sharath

The stretch looked awful. Huge trees were pulled down using rope and the stretch is full of broken branches and . So BBMP has plans to pull down 9 trees. And I think 6-7 are already down(if I am not wrong). These are huge trees and apparently the trees less than 10yrs old aren’t even counted. Come to think of it, nothing has changed since 5yrs. The same old road-widening programme, the same old dirty way of pulling down trees in the night, no public-consultation whatsoever – very sad. Just that apparently the current count for the number of roads to be widened is 216. I don’t know when will BBMP ever get it that road-widening is not going to solve the problem. And what about trees worth lakhs being auctioned for a few thousands. Now is that the real idea behind auction?

Now we as people living in this beautiful city also need to take up some responsibility. I think most of us feel that we don’t belong to this city, so we don’t have to care about whatever happens. It is really sad to see that not many residents turned up to save the trees. Even today most people were happy walking around the lake. The campaign can only be effective when people turn up in large nos. It is shameful that we had to let cops treat us so harshly. I thought the cops were there to protect the citizens. If we had participated in large nos., there is very little that they can do. Infact, a lot of people passing by the road didn’t seem keen on take a look on what was happening. Some people did seem curious but moved on after trying to shake hands with the protesters. We need to realise that we are part of the problem.

Now, we need to wait and see what happens on Monday. I really hope people turn up in large numbers to protect those trees.

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Yet another massacre of trees

A lot of travel has been taking me to NH17 more regularly. What was once a 2-lane highway is getting converted into a 4-lane highway. What was once one of the best highways is a nightmare today. The speeding private buses were always scary in that part of the state. The highway was once lined with trees all the way from Mangalore to Kundapur and today the highway widening is just pulling them all down. It is really depressing. More over the trees which are being chopped are mostly huge Banyan trees which are anywhere not less than 100 years old. I am not really aware of any opposition to such a massive chopping of trees. It really hurts when such old trees are uprooted and are lying on the road. The entire stretch is so damn sunny and I don’t think people realise that bit. Considering the hot coastal weather, I think walking on the road is going to be nightmare. And no people, Trees don’t grow in 2 years.


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Coastal birding in Mulky(Udupi)

We (Ashwini & I) confirmed our landing in Udupi with a “Present sir” message to the organiser. It was going to be a Pelagic trip, i,e hiring a boat and going into the sea looking for the returning migrants. I was suffering from dry cough, but couldn’t resist the temptation of birding from a boat. Shivashankar had done all the research and had mailed a few of us asking if we were interested and what can one do but jump at it when such offers are made.

The best part about landing at Udupi is that you get lovely breakfast very early in the morning (esp the Mangalore buns). After having breakfast, we took a private bus to Mulki town where all of us had decided to meet. A tea to start with and we headed straight to the shore where the boat was waiting for us. 6 of us on a boat with all the birdwatching gear (read bird guides, spotting scopes, binocs, and cameras). The tide was quite high. We had gotten on to the boat from the Shambhavi river banks. Our idea was to cover about 10Kms from the shore and try to spot the pelagics. The boat ride itself is an experience. I have done birding from a boat at Fort Kochi before but this one seemed slightly scary. Add to it, I can’t swim. There is a point where the river meets the sea and man, it is scary. The boat was literally in the air for a few seconds and I really thought my life had come to an end. The sea waves were scary. Really.

Anyway, after all this adventure we passed through a small island patch where we saw a lot of Sanderlings. The day looked promising. Since then we saw a lot of gulls, Greater Crested Terns, Brahminy Kites, Caspian Terns etc. Since all of them were in flight, we did get to see some good gymnastics by these birds like diving to catch a prey. We had already approached the Kaapu and decided to explore the 2 rocky islands in the sea. The first one was quite a small one where we didn’t see any birds and the second one was at the farthest end and all we got to see were the Rock Pigeons. Infact we were surprised to see Rock Pigeons so far away from the shore. Then there were Dragonflies and a few other interesting things which we kept watching in the absence of birds. We decided to head back to the shore from there.

It was quite a long journey back to the shore and there was complete silence on the boat. It was sunny and it is quite tiring too sitting in the hot sun. As we were approaching the shore, we saw a Sandpipers and Whimbrels on the other end of the Mulky shore. But the fun had just begun. Shiva saw the Dolphin fluke and all of us got excited. In about 15 mins, we saw atleast 5 Indian Hump-backed Dolphins swimming around us.Their fluke would just appear for a few seconds and then disappear. After tracking them for a while, we decided to head back. On our way back, we saw the Pallas’s Gull, Caspian Terns, Brown-headed Gull where we had seen the Sandlerings in the morning. After spending some time there, we finally landed on the shore. Thankfully, the tide was low and getting back to the shore was smooth. Infact as we were entering the river, we saw a huge male Western Marsh Harrier flying past and I was bold enough to stand and look through my binocs.

After some lunch at Mulky, we again got back to the shore but the other side this time. After a lot of walking in the hot sun, we managed to reach the patch where we had seen the Sanderling and the Gulls and the terns. There was a small hut set up an elevated plywood setup. Ashwini and I just took an afternoon nap there. If not for my cold, it would have been one of my best afternoon naps. Cool breeze from the sea and the share, what more does one want. We saw a lot of Redshanks,Terns, Gulls, White-bellied Sea-Eagle chasing away all of them in the afternoon. We walked along the shore and saw this huge congregation of Sanderlings on a patch. We watched them for quite some time. There were Grey herons including one of them trying to consume a snake, Ruddy Turnstones which were literally turning every stone possible, Lesser Sand Plovers, Greater Sand Plavers, Whimbrels etc. We saw them till the evening in the “Golden” evening light and also saw the water level rising. We headed back to Udupi to feed ourselves at Woodlands Hotel and couldn’t stop myself from feeding on Gudbud Ice-cream even with all the cough.

The pelagic birding had ended without any pelagics actually. Probably we were still early for it, but then it was really a fun birding trip and a completely different experience. Next time again, I would jump back at the offer. I have a lot of photographs(not necessarily great), will put them up soon.

Date: 29/01/2011

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Running the half marathon

I am kinda thrilled that I could finish the half marathon at the Kaveri Trail Marathon this year. Sometime last year in September, I had decided to give 10K a shot at the same marathon. I trained for more than a month to finally do a 10K. That seemed like an achievement. New shoes and new gear. After that, I stopped training due to lack of interest and other activities occupying the time. I started training again for Sunfeast 10K in May. It was an easy thing to do now, but my stamina had really screwed up. I did finish it in 65mins but it wasn’t better than my previous 10K run. Soon after Sunfeast 10K, I decided to give half marathon a try. I registered myself for the half marathon and started running as and when I felt like it. It used to be mostly 5K-10K run in the evenings at the Krishna Rao Park in Basavanagudi. But running a kilometer in a loop can get boring after a while. You need something to keep you going which is when I thought listening to music would help. It did help. I loved training while listening to music. It was mostly Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Rolling Stones playing for an hour which really kept me going even on those boring not-so-motivating days. On weekends (mostly sundays), I started running in Lalbagh. A run around the lake would be nearly 1.8Kms. On my first running day itself, I finished 10 rounds around the lake. I was mighty thrilled. It really boosted my confidence to do the half marathon. All runs at Lalbagh have been 18-20kms. The last long run before the marathon was 22Kms.

The trail of Kaveri Trail Marathon is a village road along the cauvery canal. It is beautiful but can get very humid. I was just hoping that it doesn’t rain which would make me very difficult to run with my glasses on. Since I had done 10K last year at the same marathon, I wasn’t nervous. We started at 6.45am, a perfect time. The trail wasn’t blocked for villagers to move around. So we had to avoid cows, bullock carts, motor bikes, trucks while running. There were large stones all along, so we had to be careful about them too. I just ran without looking around much and of course, with music on. It prevents all the other distractions. I did stop the music for a while and loved the quiet surrounding but still having music on helped me. I still grab a sugar drink wherever I could and walked a few seconds where I found it tiring. The first 10.5K was really a breeze but the next 10K was difficult. The sunlight was hard too. But I did complete it. It took me about 2hrs14mins to complete the 21Kms half marathon. I was really thrilled to have completed it. Now I haven’t run after that marathon which is not a good thing. I need to get on to the trail again.

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Bagworm Moth case

I was just hiking up the hill when I noticed something strange structure on a plant. It seemed like some sort of a bundle made of sticks. I wondered if somebody had tied something which was very unlikely but still it doesn’t stop you from. A friend said “Bagworm” but I conveniently ignored it for the first time thinking she was referring to something but only when I saw it again it struck me that it is indeed some worm. I am amazed by its casing. We looked at it closely and and the casing made of strics was cylindrical. It was sealed from outside and the worms are inside it. Whatte engineering !

Bagworm moths (Psychidae)

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