Sunday, September 27, 2009

Urban wildlife

Featured in IATB #110.
Yess! Finally, some rain! The skies have turned cloudy, and we have begun to get some serious showers. Its been one extended and long summer, here in Madras, with no respite as the south-west monsoon completely passed us by. Oh, for a good north-east monsoon now!

So besides navaratri kolus, sundal and payasam, its also been some rain, wind, thunder and lightning, this last fortnight..

There have also been rambles around Madras - taking kids to Pallikaranai marsh, walking around Guindy National Park, checking out tree saplings at the PWD park.

The rains have made the PWD park thick with undergrowth. The grounds are buzzing with busy little pollinators - bees, butterflies and even this moth that I found.

Crimson-speckled Flunkey (Utetheisa pulchella), a rather pretty moth, dont you think?

At Pallikaranai, we saw all the usual suspects. We had gone with a group of rather small kids, who were unamused at the smell, garbage and general unsalubrious conditions! Hopefully, by the time they grow up, Pallikaranai will be well restored.

Also, the new bird in town seems to have become a permanent resident! These Fulvous whistling ducks that created quite a stir in July when they were first spotted, continue to hang on in the marsh, and Mr Ramanan got some good pictures of them.

On to GNP then.

We saw common crows and blue tigers in plenty. A group of leopards as well. Emigrants, grass yellows and emigrants.

Over the last couple of GNP visits, I've found it a lovely walk for butterflies, bugs and flora...but I dont find the birds there. The white-browed bulbul was calling away, but I did not see it.
We saw parakeets and red-whiskered bulbuls, some palm swifts and mynahs.

And we saw this "butterfly grave". A whole host of common emigrants maybe, all caught in a spider's web. All that was left were their pretty wings.

As Kamraj, the forest officer explained, the spiders would have sucked out the juices from their bodies, even as they struggled to free themselves form the sticky webs.

There was a kind of sympathetic silence for the butterflies, but this is just another moment in the web of life is it not?
I end with this beautiful picture of the Indian roller bird, caught in flight by Mr Ramanan, during his Vedanthangal visit, recently.
The Indian roller - Photo by Mr Ramanan

Pallikaranai is the marshy wetland now very much a part of the city, encroached upon by development, and spoiled by garbage disposal.

Guindy National Park, is an urban wildlife reserve, a somewhat unique concept in the region.

Vedanthangal is a bird park to the south of the city, with nesting water birds.

The PWD park mentioned in this post is along the banks of the Adyar estuary where Nizhal is attempting to develop a tree park with native species of trees and where volunteers take turns to monitor the saplings, and plant even more!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reading, learning, birding, blogging - I and the Bird #109

I and the Bird is a carnival celebrating the interaction of human and avian, an ongoing exploration of the endless fascination with birdlife all around the world. It is also a biweekly showcase of the best bird writing on the web published on alternating Thursday.

Its my pleasure to host this fortnight's IATB.

IATB I was to host
For which I received many a post.
With virtual wonder I did embark
to mountains, deserts and nature parks.
I share with you now all that I learned
As from one blog to another I turned.

Close to home, on the outskirts of Bangalore
T&S discovered a treasure.
Streaked Weavers they found
And their joys knew no bound.
They clicked away at leisure,
for all our viewing pleasure.

Ashwin, further north, was wandering the deserts of Thar
Looking for Raptors and Agamids near and far.
Falcons and eagles a plenty he did find
Uromastyx hardwickii, they did not mind.

A pair of Black Drongos, Ameen did see
As he drove along Ranthambore in his Gypsy.
They screamed and duelled and rolled about,
Is this war or love? Read and find out!

Over the oceans, to a place called Mull
Where Ian
Saw Dunlins,
Sanderlings and plovers,
Godwits and even an Otter!

Across the Atlantic, GrrlScientist's in NYC,
Birding and educating,
Travelling and teaching.
Check out her mystery bird from South Dakota,
Of which I had no inkling, not even an iota.

Larry is in California
Writing about Athene cunicularia.
This Burrowing Owl
Has him concerned
Can we give homes to these fowls?

Connie in nearby Colorado
Had a sunny interlude with a Junco.
While it bathed in the sun
She had so much fun
That she has written all about it!

Up at the Idaho Bird Observatory,
Rob tells this story.
Hawk trapping -
netting and banding
attracted to lures.
And then came the Peregrine
In a stoop, dive-bombing,
Putting a jetplane to shame!

The Peregrine was also spied in Arctic bay
By Clare on a snow day.
The latter definitely not craven.

Ravens, though common in the concrete jungles of Mumbai,
Is not among Sunita’s favourites which fly.
She prefers Oriole and Weaver
Bulbul and Flycatcher
And even that thieving parakeet is better!

Amila, these days is making excuses.
The dSLR that he uses
Is attracted to dragonflies and spiders
Butterflies and grasshoppers.
Between Macros and Skywatches
Frogs and such obsessions,
There is no digiscoping,
And acute paucity of birding!

But Nate loves his mudflats, shorebirds and digiscoping.
On the shores of Jordan lake in NC, he was hoping
to sight a Ruff.
But though the going was not tough,
the American Golden Plover was real enough!

Rooster Sunny was not amused
To see a Sharp Shinned Hawk peruse
Summer Foovay’s chicken and hens
Early one morning, out in the pen.

Down in Bukit Tinggi in Malaysia
A cicada of the genus Dundubia,
BESG found, clamped in the bill of a Trogon.
It sucked on the plant sap
and urinated from the back
before ending up as bird food and a goner.

Science on Tap has two book reviews
And here I am giving you a clue.
Alex and Wesley evoke many smiles and tears
The parrot and owl, such lovely creatures.

Duncan went to Peach Flat Phoenix
To see if Latham’s Snipe he could fix.
There was a first sighting of the season,
But to visit, an even better reason
Were the Flame Robins, spectacular in pics.

Jo at J M Oudesluys
Sketches all the birdies
This time its Ovenbirds she spied
And drew, as her they eyed.

At Potter County, the grosbeaks blushed
Chickadees roamed
and the yellow rumped was actually a Cape May Warbler!
And Mike was amply rewarded
as Ruffed Grouse his path crossed,
and a hen allowed him to photograph her!

Felled by disease and diclofenac.
More scavengers we need
And for this I do plead
Lets rehabilitate
Before its too late.

Liza Lee Miller at Egret's Nest
also wishes these scavengers all the best.
So please drop by and see.

And so I round-up my verse
Which I hope was better, not worse!
And see you next time
In a different clime
At Foovay's Cauldron, a blog so diverse!

IATB 110 to be hosted by Summer Foovay at Foovay's Cauldron on October 1st 2009. Come join the celebrations!

{All Photos are from the respective blogs..}

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A belated salute to the vulture

Sept 5th was Vulture Awareness Day, worldwide. I missed that date, but better late than never.

My previous posts on the vulture highlighted the crisis that this scavenger species face in India. A depressing situation to say the least. And to think that at one point in time not so long ago, there were plenty of them even in the cities!

Egyptian vulture seen at Bharatpur - Photo by Carthic
Egyptian vulture seen at Bharatpur - Photo by Carthic
Egyptian vulture seen at Bharatpur - Photo by Sripad

Why the worry, they are just scavengers aren't they?

Well yes, of the most efficient type. They feed on dead carcasses, and rid us of carrion and rotting meat. Their stomachs have some kind of special chemicals that do not make them sick when they feed on putrid meat.

Just imagine, if our garbage collectors did not visit even for a couple of days. Now that's the situation - piles of uneaten, rotting meat, spread of disease and the growth of feral dogs and rabies.

The BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) gives the whole background and status of vultures in India and Vulture Rescue works throughout Asia to help this species.

An Action Plan for Vulture Conservation was announced by the Central Government in 2006. Captive breeding centres in some zoos, Non-diclofenac carcasses in special feeding sites, are being attempted along with the ban on diclofenac.

There's been some success reported in the captive breeding programmes.

The Reconciliation Ecology blog has a nicely written opinion piece on the success of the condor programme in the US, and what lessons we in India can lean from this.

I only hope that these pictures I have posted of vultures are not my last sighting of them.