Sunday, December 28, 2008

Oil Scams

Found this via the web.

Very early one morning two birds are sitting at the side of a large puddle of oil. They see a worm on the other side. So, one flies over and the other one swims through -- which one gets to the worm first?

Ans: The one that swam across of course. Cause the oily bird gets the woim. :p :) :)

The Birdwatchers' Billboard

Ever wondered what Birdwatchers listen to?

1) Padosan Apni Murgi ko Rakhna Sambhaal from Jaadugar
2) Maare Hivda Mein Naache Mor from Hum Saath Saath hain
3) Teetar ke do Aage Teetar from Mera Naam Joker
4) Panchi Banu Udti Phiroon from Chori Chori
5) Panchi Nadiyaan from Refugee
6) Tota Maina ki Kahaani from Fakira
7) Kabootar Ja from Maine Pyaar Kiya
8) Do Hanson ka Jodaa from Ganga Jamuna
9) Jhoot Bole Kauva Kaate from Bobby
10)You are my Chicken Fry from Rock Dancer

(The above entry is part of an effort made by several members of the Birdwatchers’ Society. In April 2006, post a daylong camp at Uppalpadu, Guntur we came back with pelicanbeaksful of bird sightings and for a few posts, spoke of nothing but Pelicans and Herons (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 ). Enroute to camp, to fruitfully utilize travel time a list of hindi songs with bird references in them was drawn up. What started off as a game with four people soon had pretty much the entire birding group trying to hazard guesses and recall songs old and new. We’ll be back with ten more entries in the next post.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One of many circles

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Wallace Stevens gives us Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird and in the comment-space of this post, Shweta says, '
Everybody who ever sees a blackbird should give us a new way.'
So, have you ever seen a blackbird?

Friday, August 22, 2008

कार्यक्षेत्र अध्ययन

घटना १: A Shikra-like bird comes gliding by, “Arrey! Peregrine Falcon!” Mayhem breaks out। Some ten birders with scopes, binoculars and cameras with absurdly long lenses chase the bird as it wings its way to safety. Four twenty somethings stare in astonishment at the others as they recede into the distance leaving a cloud of dust billowing in their wake. The four plonk themselves on the ground. P__ opens her backpack, digs out four Twix bars and passes them around. They munch pensively and wait for the others to return with news. Suddenly a call sounds in the distance, “Arrey! Eurasian Sparrowhawk!” The four look up and spot the same bird flying past। Jumble of people, dust, cameras and binoculars returns and passes by.P__ looks at N___. N___ looks at N__. N___looks at S___. “Shikra,” they nod in agreement. Stuff empty wrappers in bags, get up, dust their jeans and saunter behind excited horde.

घटना २: A Shikra-like bird glides by and perches on a palm tree. Inmates of car number two (generally the last car, can also be numbers 4, 5, 6 etc.)* whip out their binocs and set about trying to identify the bird. Car number one zooms into sight, parks behind car number two and out emerge expensive cameras, binoculars and expert birders. “Arrey! Crested Goshawk!” Disorder reigns. Bird decides to wing its way in the blue yonder and floats about a la Shikra. Cameras click away. Snap! Snap! Snap! “Check out the barring on its body!” yells somebody. Members from Car 2 munch on a few peanut laddoos, down half a bottle of Slice and open up the Field-guide. “Eurasian Sparrow-hawk,” they murmur.

* विचार: A highly interesting state of affairs observed at birding camps. The hierarchy progresses thusly:
Car 1: The Executive/Administrative vehicle. Is usually occupied by the most solemn birders whose sole objective is to notch up the birding list and capture shots of raptors gliding in some obscure part of the horizon with their fantastic cameras. The latest news in the world of the environment and ornithology is discussed here.
Car 2: Comprises the party workers. A degree less in the feverishness that grips the first vehicle, but will ensure they overtake cars no 3 and 4 just to retain their position.
Car no 3: The Opposition: Will bird in west while the rest bird in east.
Car 4: Supplied with Biryani, loaded onto trucks and brought for birding program.:p The last vehicle in the convoy, its occupants are the small-fry to whom people rarely listen to. “Ooh! That’s an Ultramarine flycatcher!” Expert walks by and says, “No. That is an Ultramarine flycatcher.” Rest of the horde rejoices, "Yay! It’s an Ultramarine Flycatcher!” Apart from birding, occupants involve in various activities like eating junk-food, napping, singing, discussing interesting random topics like Politics and Sports, playing Dumb Charades and laughing at the most absurd jokes on the planet. Interested newbies may apply C/o Last Car of Convoy.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Happy Family and a Jinx.

“Sharada! Sharada!,” came Mum calling excitedly into our bedroom today, at the unearthly hour of eight in the morning. I opened my eyes and stared groggily at her, while the words Bulbuls, Parents, Teaching, Babies and Fly swam about in the air. That did it. I was wide awake. I rushed to get my camera and took a video of the babies making their first attempts at taking flight. Here are short clippings (all taken from behind a meshed window) from today morning:

Throughout the past month it was Mum who tracked the whole nesting process of the Red-vented Bulbuls, in between her busy schedule of running her playschool, managing a deranged family and one loony pet-labrador by the name of Alvin. It was around the first week of April that we noticed signs of nesting activity in a Christmas tree in the backyard, while taking Alvin out (aged one month then) for his daily business. Mum immediately banned the family from approaching the area and took it upon herself to protect the Bulbuls from us. I and Sai occasionally pottered about in the backyard, took cover behind bushes and photographed the birds from a safe distance. We used a camera with a 12x optical zoom, so we assure you we did this without bothering the bulbuls. While we were spared from an ambush from the protective parents whenever we went into the backyard, Alvin in all his innocence was subjected to a furious blitzkrieg whenever he went nosing about at the base of the tree. Sai succeeded in dragging away the dog from ground-zero, for he survives to this day to maul and bark at us.

That the Bulbuls had chosen our backyard for nesting, the realization that two little eggs had been laid, that they had hatched, the sight of the pink, skinny babies with bulging blue-black eyelids-their beaks agape clamouring for food were amazing moments. And today the fledglings made their first venture beyond their home. Awkward wing beats, apprehensive minutes waiting for Mom and Dad to come to their aid. While baby 1 was happily (or unfortunately ) stuck on the Parijatam tree blinking away at its predicament, baby2 was a faster learner, clambering over tree trunks and launching itself back and forth across the Parijatam and Karaunda trees.

Three summers back two Purple Sunbirds built a nest in the same Parijatam tree and bore the scorching summer heat for a single egg. Their beaks closing and opening as if they were panting in the heat. A couple of weeks later, I found them gone. The nest abandoned. I put my hand into their pendulum-shaped nest and brought out a tiny egg and held it against the sunlight. It was barren. And just a shell. At that instant I felt really bad. When the Red-vented Bulbuls started nesting in our yard I hoped the same wouldn’t happen to them. And today, with their chattering calls resounding in the backyard, (“I told you not to let them fly today! Look now! They are stuck in two different trees!”:p), it feels awesome!


So I am jinxed. A cat came and caught hold of one of the babies, right in front of my eyes, even before this post went up on Urban Babblers, while the other baby escaped to two houses away. The parents were calling away anxiously, flying after the cat. And I was the one who went poking about the bushes to see if the babies were okay, when Sai chased the prowling cat away. They got scared and scattered in two different directions. I feel horrible. :(

One Bulbul returned with fruit in its mouth to feed the fledglings and found an empty bush. I feel very (raised to the power of infinity) horrible. :(

Mum claims she saw the other baby survivor and the parents feeding it.

I don’t think I can ever again look at a Bulbul directly in its eye. Ever.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Find and keep

(This piece is also posted here)

A couple of months ago the Guardian Poetry workshop had a very interesting exercise designed by a poet called David Morley.The exercise requires us to find poetry in nature or descriptions of nature. Morley says that very often even the most prosaically intended, quasi-scientific descriptions of natural things and phenomenon in such material as field guides can be astonishingly beautiful; he is very right.

Being a birder and Indian I naturally turned to Salim Ali. My difficulty then was to choose a passage; they were all variously lovely. So I opened a page at random as suggested. I just took most of what I found and placed it in a ‘live’ context. It (the context) happened to be the intended one and one I am most familiar with.

Here’s the result-


Could it be

the unmistakable cousin of the Indian Pond Heron

Upper parts chestnut-cinnamon


Stripe down foreneck

Strike two.

Female duller

A male then.





very similar to those of a Little Green Heron

Bookmark and flip:

When surprised

on its nest

or cornered assumes

characteristic attitude of the tribe

termed the ‘on guard’.

Ocular note:

Neck stretched perpendicular,

bill pointing skyward,

the bird freezes,

astonishingly obliterated

amongst its reedy environment.

That’s a wrap.

But just to know:

Nests – in the south west monsoon

Nest – a small twig platform

Eggs – four or five


Note: Chestnut Bittern; nos: 1

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tern and tern again

We went to Kolleru in January and it was a phenomenal experience of sheer scale. I will persuade Shweta to put up a piece here that she wrote for our society’s monthly newsletter.

In the meantime, here is a video I took of a few, just a few Whiskered Terns. Why they were so fond of this little pond, we couldn’t figure out. We all posed by erm… terns and the pictures make it fondly into our scrapbooks.

As you will find out, the men in our group chatter incessantly. I will quite understand if you want to turn down the volume. In fact, please do. In case you don’t, don’t miss Arjun saying at the very end, ‘Oh, she’s taking a video, I think we should shut up…!’

The link is here