Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Chasing Ice"

Published on Dec 14, 2012
On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice is about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest 
below water.

The Blackbucks at GNP and Tal Chappar

My good naturalist friend Bhanu was at Taal Chappar, Rajasthan recently, and as I plan to go there in January, I have been following her closely!

These pictures below were just so magical, that I had to share them here, so I can revisit them whenever I want to.  It looked like a scene from some fantasy movie with a pair of mythical creatures,  and if I blinked they would be gone.

These are the beautiful blackbucks that the Bishnoi protect and why not. 
These were larger and with more widespread horns than the ones I had seen at GNP, and Bhanu informed me that the two were different subspecies.

North-western Blackbuck - subspecies (Antilope cervicapra rajputanae) found in northern India, from Rajasthan upto Punjab.
South-eastern Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra cervicapra).

I look forward to seeing these beautiful creatures on the lovely grasslands of Tal Chappar. Thank you Bhanu!

The Indian roller

Coracias benghalensis - Photo by Mr Ramanan

A bird I never tire of seeing.  Its brilliant blue colourations even more striking in flight, with colours that would do a Kancheepuram silk weaver proud!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Black tailed Godwits of Mangalajodi

Jan 12th 2014.

To the north of Chilika is a freshwater wetland - Mangalajodi.  A remarkable success story of conservation
The slideshow below, put out by the local NGO says it all.

We travelled from Barkul up north on the state roads of Orissa, and we could see evidence of the destruction of the cyclone Phaillin - trees fallen, boards knocked down and even electricity poles still on their side.

The driver told us that several areas here were without power for a couple of months. 

And life goes on.

We turned off the main road, into a smaller village road,  quiet and dusty.  Nothing much going on.  The local kids eyed us curiously.

We arrived at the Eco Tourism Centre, and waited thre until it was time to leave for the evening boat safari.  We had a hot, delicious lunch there, though I now don't recollect whether we came back for it, or left only after lunch.

We gorged on these sour-sweet star fruits that Sameer obliged us by climbing the wall and pulling down with the help of the family that lived there!

Aditya in the meantime was befriended by this little flea-bitten cheerful pup, whom all the members fed with biscuits and chapatis, at the end of which he was so full he just rolled over and went to sleep!
Opposite the Ecotourism centre was this "marriage" between the banyan - boro in oriya, and Peepul - oshtho.
a fallen tree
We walked through an orchard next door, where the barbets and drongos called, wheeled and flitted from one tree to another
 We climbed a nearby hill and had a lovely view of the area.

This calote eyed us beadily, refusing to give up his sun perch or be bothered by us.
 We moved along to the waterways and swamps. 

What a wonderful day it was. moving silently among the reeds paddled by the locals who were expert in spotting and identifying birds, I had many lifers -
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Yellow bittern
  • Plaintive Cuckoo
  • Jack Snipe
  • Ruddy breasted Crake
  • Bailon's Crake
And many familiar ones as well - purple herons, stilts, swamphens, sandpipers, egrets, terns, pintails, kingfishers, citrine wagtails, glossy ibis, pond herons, OBS, cormorants.

And the not so common ones - comb ducks, ruddy shelducks

But for me, I will always remember Mangalajodi for those Godwits Limosa limosa, they are winter visitors to the Indian subcontinent, supposedly near threatened, and vulnerable, but they were everywhere!

After the initial excitement of seeing them, they then became like crows and pigeons!  Flying, wading, roosting, squabbling, we saw them in all poses, up close and in singles, flying in huge formations in the sky, landing noisily in the canals.

These birds are monogamous, and even when they migrate across continents they arrive as pairs.  Reportedly, a strong case for "divorce" is if your partner does not show up at the migration ground in time!!

I wonder if all these "singles" are divorcees?! flocks on the ground....

...doing sorties in the air.. their black tails showing us how they are different from the bar-tailed godwits.

Seen in the duller winter plumage

A jacana up close - kept a nervous eye on us

The shelducks were distinct and plump,  their ruddy feathers further brunished by the sun

Mixed flocks of ducks, godwits, and other waders

Egrets would fly by, always looking like they were in slow motion replay!

The buffaloes moved around clumsily, and would sometimes break into a lumbering run causing much noise and splash

Fishing nets were cast, and the poles gave these whiskered terns a nice perch

Looked like the Godwit was asking the Pintails for directions!

It really was quite idyllic.  And as we floated along, I daydreamed and felt like a lotus eater!

We got off for a bit on one of the bunds and walked on it for a while, from where we spotted the comb ducks

A grey lapwing skulked in a corner

While the OBS looked like it had found something interesting
The evening excitement was the Jack Snipe hidden among the reeds and a Bluethroat, just as we were about to leave, by the roadside.  A Ruddy breasted Crake scurried into the reeds and we almost missed the Bluethroat.  There were a pair of them.  "Did you see them?", was the stage whisper that went up, and there was a huddle on the bund road, as necks craned to search for this exotic pair of migrant visitors.

Most of us did, and we were a bunch of happy campers that evening back at Panthaniwas.

The group count for birds was some 130 species, I had seen about 81 of them.  I went to see Chilika, but discovered Mangalajodi.