The sacred grove at Oorani is the last stand of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests — a postage stamp-sized green patch in the middle of insipid featureless coastal plain dotted with coconut plantations. It does not exactly draw your attention. That, however, would be a huge miss.
While the glens and vales of the Nilgiris cope with a torrent of tourists, the resident and endemic birds have the hills to themselves. There's no better time to observe them nesting and bringing up their families. Without moving a muscle, just to prove that lazy birding does have its rewards.
Many birders shun Ranganathittu for the artifice of its environs and the easy photographic pickings. But the birds seem at home here, and that matters! Here's a photo-essay from a recent visit when the Eurasian Spoonbills had just started to fledge and the Asian Openbill Storks were nesting
Visiting the same location time and again has been the secret of this year's winter birding escapades. It's March but the migrants are still here. Among this week's surprises was a flock of Garganey, wintering ducks from Europe that I have observed at Kaikondrahalli for the first time
Hailing from a family known as the 'beautiful squirrels', the Hoary-bellied Squirrel is handsome enough despite the plainness of its coat. To see this mammal in the wild, head for the forests of northeast India
Honorary Ogre Anand Yegnaswami is mystified by the phenomenon of soaring after watching raptors do their thing
A Black Eagle on outstretched wings Our recent trip to Dandeli with the Ogres got me acquainted with a majestic flyer. We were walking up the Nagzari trail, which leads to a waterfall of the same name, when a raptor appeared overhead. “Black Eagle!” exclaimed Bijoy. What followed was one of the closest and memorable up-close experiences with the bird. We strained our necks trying to keep our eyes on the raptor, which played hide-and-seek as it circled high above the tall trees of the Nagzari Valley. Our irises followed the Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) wherever it went, held together as though by an invisible glue. And then it perched upon a tree with regal poise. We were indeed fortunate to have observed this bird of prey from so close. I felt a tingling sensation, awestruck by the bird’s aerial performance against the azure backdrop. I asked Sahastra: “Why do they fly around in circles?”
“Thermals,” he said, and went ahead to explain about the air columns that are formed by the uneven heating of the ground. I wondered: I have been looking at these birds soaring high in the sky for aeons, yet never did it occur to me to delve into the science behind their flight.
Watching a raptor, like this Black Eagle, negotiate thermals is an education in itself For me large birds circling above had come to signify death – I had come to assume that the birds circled above because they had spotted some carrion below. Such an assumption was excusable during the days when I had not claimed an interest in birding, but not anymore for I have understood that the soaring flight is yet another classic example of how our avian friends have adopted a natural phenomenon to their advantage. This short tête-à-tête with Sahastra gave me an important insight – what would have been a fleeting glance turned out to be a marveling experience and the reason for it was “interest”. Reminded me of the story … → Read more →
Married to foaming mountain streams, the Plumbeous Water Redstart is a constant companion to the trekker in the Himalaya. As cattle egrets are to grazing bovids, mynahs to figs, and flowerpeckers to Singapore cherries, Plumbeous Water Redstarts (Rhyacornis fuliginosa) are married to Himalayan streams.
The Indian Cork Tree’s expended blossoms infuse rare magic into the morning after a stormy monsoon night I stay on the coast in Pondicherry. My sense of infinity is linked to the sea. It is not confined to poignant gazing at the horizon but often it attains a physical dimension — like infinite solar energy, pumping up infinite moisture-soaked clouds and, eventually, the infinite deluge. Often this happens during the Diwali holidays. Not surprisingly, the question on the returning monsoon is my favorite weapon to stump a studious class X smart-ass. Luckily, the second flush of the Indian Cork Tree (Millingtonia hortensis) coincides with the monsoon here. Sometimes, the rains pause to take a breath. One such pause was on the morning after Diwali when I took the above pictures. Five days later… Three hundred kilometres away in Bangalore, the city’s tireless chronicler, Peter Colaco, wrote of the Cork Tree:
It was late in the year, most of the flowering trees had no blossoms. Clinging to the sides of the bowl were tall, stately trees with hanging sprays of white-scented flowers. The botanical name is Millingtonia hortensis and people call it the Cork Tree. But its Kannada name most accurately describes it: ‘akasha mallige’, sky jasmine.