Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My garden birds - II

Wicked conspiracy, that is the answer. I ended the first part of My garden birds wondering why I don't get House Crows (HC) in my garden. I started writing that as I included Large-billed Crow (or Indian Jungle Crow)(LbC) in my list. After I wrote about the LbC I realised I don't have a picture of LbC. So I removed the write up on the LbC but retained the note on HCs. Then started the wait on the terrace to get a good picture of LbC. I got more than I bargained for.
The day I decided to try for a picture I witnessed a strange phenomenon. There were about forty crows, half on the eucalyptus tree just behind my garden and the other half on another a little away. They were flying around, cawing loudly, in a circle for a few seconds and perching on the tress for some time, then again flying. This was repeating for a few mins. I took a few pictures of the birds when they were perching and tried to take some in flight. I took a crow in flight and then I got a doubt whether it was really a LbC or HC. 

The House Crow being chased around by the Large-billed Crows

I checked the picture and found that to be a HC, and there were two of them. I saw that the HCs were being chased around by the LbCs. So the whole phenomenon of the forty LbCs cawing and flying around looked like a way to keep the HCs out. The ruckus continued for almost 15 minutes. Then I saw the two harassed and dejected HCs flying away. So the question is answered, there is a wicked conspiracy among the LbCs to keep the HCs away. I have seen LbCs and HCs together. So I don't understand why the conspiracy here (And no, I don't want an answer to that next time I go up on my terrace, it is a rhetoric question). 

Large-billed Crow

I have two big bird nests on the rain tree in front of my house. I haven't seen any bird using them. But I see Large-billed  crows on that tree every day and I think those are possibly Large-billed crow nests, now abandoned. 
Large-billed Crow on the Eucalyptus tree (in between harassing the House Crow)

Visible throughout the year.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

One of the very early visitors to my birdbath, these birds can be noisy or musical based on their mood, but will always make their presence known. Usually they visit the birdbath as a couple, together with the Cinereous Tits and the Oriental White-eyes. At times the birdbath gets really busy with all these taking turns in taking dips and preening on the trees and then coming back for the next dip.
Red-whiskered Bulbul

Visible throughout the year.

White-cheeked Barbet

I first noticed this bird when I heard a constant pecking sound coming from the rain tree and thought that I might be having a Woodpecker in my garden. When searching around for the source of the sound I was surprised to see a round hole on a dry branch of the rain tree and this beauty pecking away to  round perfection. Every year after that I see a new hole on the same branch and we are on the fourth one this year, and possibly running out of space there. Their kutroos become background music in the garden through most of the day.
Towards perfect round. White-cheeked Barbet working on the 4th hole on the rain tree.

Visible throughout the year.

Ashy Drongo

During winters Ashy Drongos either join the Black Drongos or take over from them the leading of bird waves. I see more Ashy Drongos during winter and lesser Black Drongos. Their calls sound like there are two different birds calling, the musical call followed by a sound like the bird is clearing it's throat. These aggressive birds are seen chasing Shikras and even Black Kites above my terrace.

Ashy Drongo on silver oak.
Winter visitor.

Asian Koel

A lot of us have grown up responding to these very musical birds, calling back to them in the same tone and rhythm. When we call back, we find them singing back with even more vigour. I really don't know whether that extra vigour was imagined or real. At my layout gate there is a ficus tree full of berries at this time of the year and almost every day we count up to 6 Koels on the tree.

Male Asian Koel on silver oak

Female Asian Koel on silver oak
Visible throughout the year.


After I started getting a lot of small birds in my garden, one day I spotted a slightly bigger one attacking couple of birds sitting on the electric line. It was quite fast and I couldn't get a good look at it to identify it. Next day early morning at my terrace I was pleasantly surprised to see this guy sitting on the (now famous) rain tree. I spot this beautiful bird once in a while on the neem tree and the eucalyptus. I hear the Drongos imitating the Shikra call also once in a while.

Visible throughout the year.


Oriental Magpie Robin

Last winter two Oriental Magpie Robins adopted my neighbor's birdhouse as their nest. After that they were continuously in my garden whistling their high frequency, long whistles. I didn't see their chicks, but I assume that they were there and they flew away with the parents a few weeks after they were born. This winter they have come back, but they are not using the birdhouse next door. I don't know where they have nested, but I guess it is quite far away enough to be not seen very often in my garden this season.

Female Magpie Robin at my birdbath
(I have special love for pics of birds on my birdbath)

Male Magpie Robin on reed
Winter visitor.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher

I wrote about how I moved from butterflies to birds; I have a strong feeling that this was the guy who caused it. Last winter a Brown-breasted flycatcher was seen quite often in the garden, I have seen it some previous winters too, but this year it has given a slip to my garden. Not just my garden, I haven't seen this little fellow at all this winter till now.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher on a dry silver oak branch

Seen last, last winter 

Red-vented Bulbul

The otherwise common bird is not so common in my garden. If I go to the lantana bushes near the railway line just 400 metres away from my house, I see at least one of these birds every time. But they visit my garden very infrequently. I don't know whether these Red-vented and Red-whiskered Bulbuls have similar rivalry like the Crows which makes these stay away from my garden.

Red-vented Bulbul on my pomegranate tree

Vagrant visitor

Blue-capped Rock Thrush

This colourful bird has been seen earlier also in my garden, the same year when we saw the Indian Pitta for the first time. This winter Blue-capped Rock Thrush was spotted only twice in my garden; I don't know where it disappeared after that. I am still waiting for it and I need a much better picture of it.

Blue-capped Rock Thrush on my Sapota tree
Winter visitor

I have more birds in my garden. Writing my story about them, together with finding a presentable picture is turning out to be more taxing than I have expected. But I am going to be at it till I finish.
All pictures are taken by me in my garden.

First part of this blog is here - My garden birds - I

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My garden birds - I

I have a garden, in my Bangalore home, which I call my mini forest. I have a grass land too, which is my un-manicured lawn (it was never meant to be a lawn though) growing wild and up to almost knee height. This grass fosters huge amount of small insects. I have put up a birdbath inside the mini forest. With all these, together with supporting gardens of my neighbors, and trees along the streets, I get a lot of birds in my garden. These birds have become a passion to the level of obsession. With neighbors who are similarly obsessed with birds, I spend a lot of time watching and photographing them.

Some time back I had posted about the butterflies in my garden. Earlier I was behind butterflies and once while trying to photograph a butterfly, a small bird swooped down on it and caught it. While this drama was happening my focus changed from the butterfly to the bird. That was a funny way to change from lepidopterology to ornithology.

Here I present my garden birds.

Tickell's or Pale-billed flowerpecker

Tickell's flowerpecker on my lychee tree
This is the smallest bird you can find in India and is seen in the southern part of India and Srilanka. Possibly the earliest visitors to my garden were sunbirds. At some point in time pale-billed flowerpeckers joined them during their visits. But due to their tiny size and fidgety nature, I didn't manage to get a decent picture till recently. Now a days I count up to about six flowerpeckers within the foraging party.
Visible throughout the year.

Verditer Flycatcher

Verditer Flycatcher on silver oak tree

I first saw this beauty in Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. So later that year when I found it in my garden I was pleasantly surprised. But when I first spotted it this year a couple of days back, I can tell that I was sort of expecting it. First day I didn't manage to get even a record picture. Two days back one afternoon when I and B went for our afternoon bird walk we took binoculars, but not camera. We landed up at a spot where we had not spotted any birds earlier and found quite a ruckus. There it was sitting in the clear, posing for a camera which we didn't have with us. I ran back home and returned with the camera to find all others still present except for the Verditer. Luckily yesterday morning's bird watching on my terrace yielded me with a passable record shot.
Winter visitor.

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta

This colourful bird which breeds in the Himalayan foothills migrates during winter time to peninsular India and Srilanka. Since Pitta is seen only for a few days in a year in my garden, I am assuming that these birds are using this area as a stopover site before going further to their migratory destination. This winter two Pittas were spotted together for 3-4 days in the garden. Once they were seen we watched them from inside the house and didn't go out, lest we disturb them, as they were hopping around the ground foraging for food. About 3 weeks after these two went missing, we found one more very briefly. I think this was a different one which was a little late in the migration path.
Winter stopover visitor.

Loten's Sunbird

Loten's Sunbird on silver oak tree
Arguably the first bird I have noticed in my garden years back. Once I had a couple building a nest near my kitchen window and became fodder to an earlier blog here: Love story by my kitchen window. They go missing for a few months in the year and are not a constant presence like the Purple rumped sunbird or even the Purple Sunbird. 
Sporadic visitor.

Black Drongo
Black Drongo on silver oak tree

These birds have made my morning alarm redundant. Their screechy calls wake me up and possibly the whole neighborhood.  They chase a lot of the other birds and generally seem very quarrelsome. Apparently they imitate the calls of other birds and start the mixed species feeding flock. In my garden I do see them first when a bird wave visits and therefore their quarrelsomeness and general misbehavior are forgiven.
Visible throughout the year.

Ashy Prinia

Ashy Prinia
These noisy visitors are seen rarely in the garden, but they make sure that we know it loud and clear when they do. Very rarely they have been seen as part of a bird wave, but it could be that they just landed up in the garden at the same time as the others, unintentionally.
Sporadic visitor.

Black Kite

Black Kite on Eucalyptus tree
Black Kites being the most common of raptors, are abundant in my neighborhood. Till four days back I would have called Black Kite my neighborhood bird and not my garden bird. But then I saw one sitting on a coconut frond in my garden. I was concerned that the smaller birds will disappear with a raptor landing amidst them. But the other birds looked quite unconcerned and were flying around and perching quite close to the Black Kite. 
Visible throughout the year.

Spotted Dove

Spotted Dove on silver oak tree
Spotted doves watch me watching birds, standing quite close to me on the terrace, especially if I am immobile for some time. I notice them only when they fly away when I start moving. Recently they have increased in numbers and at times when I am out walking I spot one each on every terrace I pass by.
Visible throughout the year.

White Breasted Kingfisher

White-breasted Kingfisher on silver oak tree
There used to be one very small pond just outside our layout wall when I started living here. It dried up on its own or was filled up and then encroached by someone. Now there are no water bodies around. So it was a surprise to me when I found the White-breasted Kingfisher in our layout clubhouse first. Apparently it is not a surprise and these kingfishers are seen much away from water bodies. It is not a daily visitor to my garden, but it makes a pretty sight when it is seen sitting on the reed shoot which has grown above all the trees in front of the house.
Visible throughout the year.

Cinereous Tit
Cinereous Tit on the birdbath

These birds head for the birdbath straight, once in the garden. Sometimes up to three of them can be seen together dipping into the water. They announce their visit with a lot of chirping. Usually they visit with Oriental White-eyes and their flying around the birdbath and preening their feathers afterwards in the pomegranate tree are a pleasure to watch.
Visible throughout the year.

The one bird which is conspicuous by its absence is the House Crow. I have never seen one in my garden or in the neighborhood. I wonder why!

There are some more birds to cover, which I will post in another two posts.

Note: All pictures are taken by me and all birds are seen in my garden. Some pictures are not exactly from my garden, but in the neighborhood,  as the thick foliage and the forest like shade makes photography quite an impossible endeavor.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 2

We braced ourselves for the long and arduous trek. Chhiri had warned us that the trek is going to get really difficult in the afternoon. I do not know whether the my fellow trekkers wondered whether they will survive the day, I did. But I was ready to take it from moment to moment and kick the shit out the day. It was a climb from 2610 mtrs to 3480 mtrs, almost a km of vertical climb. The trek started out like the previous days, a little climb up and then a little down and then a stretch of plain. The whole day the accompanying music was of the chirping birds and the gushing of the Dudhkoshi river. 

Dudhkoshi river flowing past a resort

Most of the time we walked along the river while climbing up, down and ahead and many times crossing it over tall long steel hanging bridges. I forgot to count the number of bridges, but it felt like we were continuously moving from one mountain to another over these bridges, throughout the climb.

At times we had to wait at the end of a bridge for up to 10 mins till all the mules carrying load from the other side could cross the bridge.
Rakhi, Lakpa, Preeti and Chhiri, waiting for the mules to pass
The morning walk was a walk in the park, which made me wonder how difficult can the afternoon walk be. Oh! I was in for a rude shock. After lunch Chhiri informed us that another 40 mins more we would be walking in similar conditions. I always led the group in the morning, almost pushing the lead guide to be with me instead of waiting for the rest of the group. That gave me enough rest stops as there were points where we regrouped fully before continuing.  After that 40 mins or so The Climb started, man, was it steep! The oxygen levels had dropped and I could feel that in my lungs and sometimes in my head. The initial climb was done with gusto, without falling behind. Slowly the younger ones in the group overtook me and went ahead. The competitive streak in me shook its fist at me to climb faster, but my body wouldn't listen. I stopped after every minute to catch my breath for 30 seconds. It was more physically excruciating than anything I had ever done in my life. My calf muscles cried out loud in pain and every ounce of weight on me made its presence felt. With much difficulty I held on to my camera, resisting the temptation to throw it into the river. 
Encounters of a spiritual kind

When I started on my journey to Kathmandu I had thought that refusing to hear the concern of friends and family would be the hardest thing I would be doing. I would be proven wrong multiple times through the rest of the journey.
Not many times we were reminded of the earthquake till then. But here the small boulders were perched high on the hill as half the hill was lying down. We were asked to run across the path which was hardly walkable, as there was no guarantee that the boulders wouldn't come loose upon us while we were crossing. And run we did.

Trekking through the landslide
I climbed bistare, bistare (slowly: the only word of Nepali I learnt during my month of stay in Nepal) and I kept calculating in my head how many more hours I needed to climb like that. The lack of form of R and sprained leg and altitude sickness of P meant I wouldn't be at the end of the pack. I panicked a few times when P went ahead of me, but I claimed my middle position soon enough to relax and climb again, bistare, bistare.
We met a French couple coming down from Base camp. The girl said she has some really bad memories of this particular climb, this being the worst of all days. It soothed me. I knew if I survive this day, I do not have to worry about the rest of the climb till the Base camp. There would be the challenge of Kala Patthar, but we would face that when we reached there.
Resort where not many tourists can reach, that is the irony.
The leading trekkers were waiting when we reached a small check post and were they a little disappointed to see us approaching so soon after they stopped. They were looking for a slightly longer rest. A big map of Namche Bazaar made me feel that we are at the entrance, almost done. We haven’t had any water sources for the last 3 hours or so and I was running on a 1ltr bottle full of water and conserving to last till the next source. I finished what ever was left and filled the bottle, ate some snacks and started again. It was not that done, it was another one hour when I managed to drag myself up the last climb to our hotel for the next 2 nights. 
Since the next day was our acclimatisation day, we were looking forward to a shorter climb and then rest. With the days climb I felt I deserved 2 days of rest before I could climb further. I plonked myself next to M and N who were cheering me till then from the dining room window, that dining room which will hold us during the rocking event the next day! I joined them in waiting for P and R and cheering them when they appeared. We settled down to some hot tea and well earned rest after 7 hours of climbing. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 1

We were up and out by 5 am to catch the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. After paying for the extra luggage (khakhras and theplas and such dangerous items) we made our way to the flight. The sight of the small 15 seater flight had my tummy in a flutter. Halfway through the flight we started seeing the mighty mountains with snow capped peaks. Except for that, the flight was rather eventless and so was the landing at Lukla. Later in the trip I would learn that this is the most dangerous airport in the world. I would have looked at the flight with a little bit more respect had I known earlier.
You don't believe me? Check this out.

After landing we met our guide for the next 11 days and 124 kms, Chhiri Sherpa (ah, who could have predicted that was not to be), the “No problem” man and Lakpa Sherpa. Later I would figure out that I was in a country of  sweet “No problem” men and women. He assured us that the days trek is not too long or hard and herded us into the restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast we were raring to go and when we saw that Chhiri is not anywhere close to starting and is waiting for something or someone M told him that we are ready. Chhiri with a straight face told M, “Ok, no problem, go walk”. We burst out laughing and decided to give Chhiri the guides prerogative of guiding and leading us. Lukla being at an elevation of 2860 mtrs, we were supposed to reach a lower elevation after the days trek to Phakding at 2610 mtrs, but the trail obviously included climbing up and down.

Go through a Sthupa for some climbing luck before we start.

M, N, P, R, S at the Pasang Lamu gate to the climb.

The climb starts with an arch created to felicitate Pasang Lhamu who is the first Sherpa woman to have climbed the Everest. It felt it quite apt for the start of the climb. Once we started, the initial few minutes I tried to stay away from the mule dung which was abundant on the trail. I decided a few minutes into the walk that it is not possible at all when I saw that the dung clung onto the ground in a dry layer and at times climbing up to our nostrils. The mules kept walking the trail and we kept pressing ourselves to the mountainside so that we are not in their way. Sometimes it was load carrying Sherpas who were climbing against us and most of the time looking down as the load they were carrying tied to their head and back didn't allow them to look up. We found it a little funny to predict their route and stay away from that. R got scraped on her head once when she miscalculated.

Throughout the journey Buddhist chants accompanied us on rocks.

As promised by Chhiri, the trek was a short one, a distance of 6.2 kms. We managed that in around 3 hours and reached Phakding with a long and satisfying lunch tucked into us on the way. We were warned that the next days trek is hard and long. So we decided to chill, play cards, have an early dinner and retire early to bed.

Day 2

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Everest Base Camp Trek, Day 0

Exactly 2 weeks after the deadly earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shook Nepal, we landed in Kathmandu for our Everest Base Camp Trek. We had multiple considerations for continuing with the climb one of them being "let us go and spend some money there to get Nepal back on its feet". 

Once out of the flight the first person I saw was an African American in combat fatigue which gave me a feeling of war. Then aircraft after aircraft full of relief material being unloaded. There were no signs of a Disaster anywhere though. The incredulousness of the travellers on the normalcy of the whole situation was palpable. When the bus which was taking us to the terminal from the aircraft braked suddenly and a lot of people were thrown around in the bus, I heard a lot of people letting out big sighs as if they were holding their breath till then. People were more comfortable after that, the normalcy was broken.

When I visit another country, the difference is what I am going to thrive on as an experience. But when I landed in Nepal I knew I would be looking for similarities and that is what would be comforting for me. I was not disappointed as the first cars I saw were Ford Figos and Mahindra Scorpios. Then the people who really looked like people I have seen around while I have toured the North East of India and I see on a daily basis in Bangalore.

While waiting for P who was arriving by a later flight, I spent my time observing the people around. Two youngsters with hair cropped closely on one side of the head and growing wildly on the other (mirroring each other) came up to two middle aged women and touched their feet, the women animatedly talked to them and they were very respectfully listening, the wild hair and their obedience making a huge contrast. A Caucasian man with a hippie look was waiting for someone. I got a feeling that a guitar was going to appear on him and he would break into hard rock music and some head banging right there. Suddenly he got excited and ran towards the gate when a Caucasian girl made her exit from the gate. Then followed some PDA which everyone around happily ignored. The voyeuristic thought occurred to me that with such a huge number of casualty from the earthquake some of these people around me would have lost their loved ones. I looked around and saw a people who were as normal as I would see in any Indian airport, under normal conditions. I think it made me feel normal and hopeful for a good trip in Nepal. Nothing would have given me an indication on what would happen in 3 days time.

After collecting P when we set off driving, we looked around for spotting devastation which Indian media was reporting as wide spread. We drove for quite some distance before we could spot the tower of a temple broken and hanging. At places we could see small damages to the walls of buildings. When we talked about this our guide and driver loudly abused Indian media for giving such an impression to the outside world, later they made peace by telling may be their reporting helped in getting the support and relief from all over the world.

One difference in getting into the same hotel then and after a week would be the way in which we would end up looking for escape routes on the latter day, immediately on entering the room. This included the option of jumping out of the window with details on where we would put our leg, how we will hang on to the parapet wall and shimmy down and jump to the floor without breaking our legs. We stopped short of going out and measuring the height from which we would have to jump and honestly we didn't do a trial jump, though we were really tempted to.

After dropping the luggage at hotel, taking a few minutes rest and the trek organisers working us up a little bit about altitude sickness, we got out to Thamel to do some last minute shopping before we started the trek. The street which at other times would be teeming with trekkers was quite desolate. While we started browsing we realised what a mistake it was to shop for all that stuff in India despite the organisers warning us against that. The things available were much cheaper and except the shoes which needed to break in before the trek we could have bought almost everything in Thamel. Since the restaurants were closing early after the earthquake, we had a hurried early dinner, went back to the final packing and rest before the trek.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Xmas Wishlist

A man should not have more shoes than his wife. There should be a rule. Is it is not a rule? Then I make it a rule. This is my rule. Ha! Even if we are talking about only sports shoes. So now how do I make the rule work. There are 2 ways. Either I can throw out a few of his shoes or I can get more. Let me go with the second option to maintain domestic peace and calm.

I am not buying, this is for my list for Santa. 
Since I don't have a Christmas tree, Santa, you can leave my gifts below my neighbor's tree, clearly marking that they are for me. Don't worry I have appreciated their tree enough, they won't mind. 

Sports shoes, I obviously don't need one more, but then I have made up a rule that he can't have more than me, so please.

Anything made of crocodile skin, not the actual one, only fake, you know I am that animal loving, environment friendly type. I need to add it to my now started collection which includes green purse and tan shoes. 

A squash court, I can use a squash court only for one thing and I want it for that.

A few more strands of hair on top of my head. I know I know it is the aging thing and the hormone thing and all, but I will surely tell 'please' at the end of the list again.

A KitchenAid® stand mixer. I am planning to go to 1, M.G Road next weekend, but I thought I will just try my luck with you before that. (And see how I got that registered trademark symbol there, dang!!)

And I almost forgot, World Peace, please.

All nicely wrapped and below my neighbor's Xmas tree.
Thank you very much.

This is the tree, just in case there's any confusion!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beaded Easter Eggs

It is neither Easter nor the International Egg day (there is indeed a day like that, it is the second Friday of October every year), then why an Easter egg post? I need to complete 20 posts in 2012, that's the only reason. I am too lazy to do something new and post and the few things in my draft will take more effort to complete. One another topic I wanted to write about is just too serious for a day on which the world is supposed to end. So what is better than writing about something I have done ages back.
This must be the easiest thing you can do with beads and the final output is pretty. May be that's why I ended up making 3 otherwise it is very difficult for me to do the same thing twice. I am in a mood to assume that someone out there is actually going to do this. So I am writing this as instructions for you to do it.

How to make beaded Easter eggs
Cast of characters
You would need egg shells, seed beads, nylon thread, glue and a very thin needle.

Step 1: Do this step as and when you use the eggs, either for baking that cake or for the egg bhurji.
Make 2 holes at the 2 ends of the egg shell and get the egg out by blowing at one end. I just don't remember what I used for making the holes, but you are resourceful enough. Put the egg shell(s) in soap solution and clean thoroughly. Leave aside for drying for a couple of days.
Step 2: Create long strings of seed beads by stringing the beads into a nylon thread. I actually made a bead threader for this out of a plastic container and a broken peace of plastic rod from a hanger (see it in the cast picture). In this put the beads in the plastic container, dip the needle into it and use the plastic rod to rotate it like a top. The beads will get stringed into the needle 7-8 at a time. The only problem is if there are beads with too small a hole which doesn't go through the needle, then you have to take the beads off and discard and continue.
Step3: Apply glue on top of the dried egg shell and start pasting the bead thread. Getting the start correct is a little difficult, persevere there after that it is easy. Keep applying the glue and winding the bead thread till the whole egg is covered. Keep aside for drying for a few days.
Mine are all plain single coloured ones. Many variations are possible and your imagination is the limit.

After all the world didn't end today; I really do not know whether it is a good thing or bad.