Archive for May, 2007

21
May
07

JLR – Naturalist Training Program

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Jungle Lodges and Resorts have been conducting the Naturalist Training Program since the past couple of years. We had heard about this from some people and decided to enroll for it during the May 18-20th weekend. It was a truly unique and enriching experience.

The course was conducted by Karthik, the chief naturalist at JLR. A wonderful teacher, Karthik is a walking encyclopedia on any topic related to nature. From the tiniest ant to the mightiest elephant, he would possibly know all. Anecdotes from his vast experience made all sessions very informative and interesting. Coupled with a great group (collective chaos?), there was never a dull moment during the entire course.

Field-Study KarthikWithButterfly

One of the most enlightening part of the course was a presentation on bio-diversity. Having lived in metros for most part of our lives (and having forgotten our geography lessons from school), it was fascinating to know about the vastly different habitats and the various different species supported by them. Geographically covering a small percentage of the total world land area, India still has a significant part of plant and animal life in the world. It makes us feel proud to be a part of this country and also makes us realize how quickly we are losing it.

We learnt a number of aspects of bird-watching (specially the basics) and realized some of the mistakes we have been making. Bird-watching is not about marking entries off a checklist. We typically tend to see a bird, attempt to identify it and move on to the next, losing interest in the species once we have seen it. We understood the need to focus on the unique characteristics of birds, their behavior, their habitats, their calls and songs. Our hobby has now found a new dimension.

RedRumpedSwallow TickellsBlueFlycatcher
ButterflyFromPupa

Another important lesson learnt was that nature offers a lot of beautiful sights, only if we start looking at them and observing them. Many a times we just move towards our destination without pausing to look around us. But if we just become more aware of our environs, there are so many interesting sights – butterflies fluttering around the flowers, the small ant troubling the relatively bigger termite, the wasp involved in its intricate nesting activities, the caterpillar camouflaged so perfectly on the plant, the innumerable minuscule flowers which we trample upon while walking on grass without observing their beauty. There is so much more in the world (even in our urban settings) to watch and appreciate, if only we make an effort to look around.

Along with a lot of useful information and interesting interactions, we also had tons of fun. The participants were from different walks in life, different age groups, and different stages in their education or career – the common thread amongst all being the love for nature. We also had a chance to meet Sandeep, a member of the voluntary organization Clean and Green. This group puts in a lot of effort to keep the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary clean. For those interested in knowing more, please visit cleanngreen.blogspot.com. Deepa, from whom some of us actually got to know about the course, too shared her experiences with the group. She maintains a mailing group of all the people who have taken those course and share information.

Landscape

The parting message (probably the most important) that we took away from the course was that of Conservation. With the number of resources we suck up from our planet, we have accelerated the path of extinction of many species at an alarming rate. If immediate action is not taken, we may soon lose a lot of beautiful life on our wonderful planet. Each of us, in our own small way, should support the cause of conservation. Every small step in the right direction would definitely help make a difference.

We hope all is not lost and the cloud still has a silver lining.

SilverLining

 

 

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06
May
07

Valley School

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Valley School is amongst the popular birdspots in Bangalore. It shows up in must-see bird watching lists online but there is hardly any information available. With not much forehand idea, we finally headed there Saturday morning. We probably had our best bird-watching session till date, though not the same for photography.

As soon as we took the turn from Kanakpura road towards Valley school, we were greeted with glimpes of many birds, some that we had seen before and some new. From the start of the road to the entrance of the school, we saw a bunch of them (included in the bird list) the highlights being the Bay-backed Shrike and the Jerdon’s Bushlark with its fancy flight display. And of course, like every time we again saw and heard many birds which we could not ID.

Past the security checkpoint at the entrance of the school, the drive staight down from the entrance led to a huge and beautiful Banyan tree (picture above). The place is very scenic and peaceful, absolutely no people around, all you see is lush greenery and all you hear are pleasant bird calls. We had a glimse of the female Paradise Flycatcher, which always is a pleasure to watch and had our first sighting of the Coppersmith Barbet.

Hoopoe LargeGreyBabbler

Driving down further, we came across another huge tree. There were lots of birds on the tree, scores of Mynas, Bulbuls, Barbets, Babblers and probably more. On the ground there was the Hoopoe (one of our target sightings) busy hunting for food. We took quite of few pictures of the Hoopoe before driving further. Ahead, there was a small building where a number of House/Common swifts were circling around. We noticed some nest like structure along one of the walls. Each of the swifts would fly to the place, touch this and fly away. The next would follow suit. Because of this, we managed to get our first pictures of the swift (which we have otherwise only seen in flight)

In the wooded area beyond the building, we saw the Small Minivet and the Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker (in its classic wood pecking pose). And there was our favorite bird perched on a tree branch, the Spotted Owlet. It was stuck to the tree like somebody was going to pull it away. Got some good pictures (posted at the end) of this cute bird and headed back from this area.

On the way back to the entrance, we entered the Krishnamurthy Center. Just beyond the main retreat, there was a small pond where we saw the Small Blue Kingfisher (another first sighting for us). Apparently at some distance from the pond, there is a lake, which we missed this time. Will surely visit the lake next time around when we go there.

RaptorInFlight Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker

We were very keen to sight at least one raptor, but we had no luck even this time. We did catch one raptor in flight (which was not the kite), but it was so far up in the sky, it was impossible to ID. Hope for some better luck with raptors next time.

All in all, the valley school was an immensely enjoyable experience and we hope to go there often.

Bird List

  • White Throated Fantail Flycatcher
  • Red Vented Bulbul
  • Indian Robin
  • Purple Rumped Sunbird
  • Cattle Egret
  • Bay-Backed Shrike
  • Laughing Dove
  • Black Drongo
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Jerdon’s Bushlark
  • Large Grey Babbler
  • Pied Bushchat (Male + Female)
  • White-Cheeked Barbet
  • Female Paradise Flycatcher
  • Oriental Magpie Robin
  • Coppersmith Barbet
  • Hoopoe
  • Jungle Crow
  • Common Myna
  • Jungle Myna
  • Red Whiskered Bulbul
  • House Swift
  • Greater Caucal
  • Small Minivet
  • Golden Back Woodpecker
  • Spotted Owlet
  • Green Bee-Eater
  • Grey Bellied Cuckoo
  • Purple Sunbird
  • Small Blue Kingfisher
  • Common Iora
  • Ashy Prinia
  • Great Tit
  • Raptor (in flight unidentified)
  • Red Wattled Lapwing
  • Plain Prinia

Getting There/Directions:

Get on to kanakapura road. Around 12 kms after the Banashankari bus stand and immediately after the interesection with the NICE highway (Hosur Rd – Mysore Rd) you get a yellow marker on the right directing you to Valley School. It is another 1.5 kms down this patchy road.

SpottedOwlet