Saturday, November 21, 2009

This morning

When you think the garden has certainly been invaded by marauding hordes, or at the very least a phalanx of goats, chances are they'll be babblers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Guttur Guttur!

Image from:

Concrete jungles make for hundreds of sightings of rock-pigeons. The look in their own eyes is also pretty much stoned.  Everyone who has ever lived in an apartment block has their own set of pigeon stories to tell. Anyone who has stared into the eyes of one will swear by the utter blankness that stares back at them. That is if they are in any state to talk after the staring bout. The existence of pigeons is a complete co-incidence. There is no way they could have evolved. Placed on earth by an alien race is more like it.

Neighbours of a dear friend staying at Hasmathpet road went ahead and painted their home a brilliant purple. The colour of a bright brinjal. Next thing we know, all the pigeons of the vicinity had chosen the terrace of that house to roost day in and out. E___ and the rest of us girls who had gotten together for lunch at her place, stood in the balcony and watched the birds taking off periodically, circling about like remote-controlled toy-planes and landing back softly. What gripped those insane people to do a "mera waala purple!" with a nerolac shade card, one shall never know. What attracted those pigeons in the first place to the mothership of pigeons is another question.

Pigeons do strange things to you. They startle you the most when you least expect it. They can do brilliant things really. One of the things about city pigeons is that they are forever sighted on window sills, water tanks or ventilators or sometimes squashed behind Split AC vents and no other kind of surface. A few years back, all of aged sixteen and entirely new to birdwatching, I and my Dad were standing outside the local WWF office waiting for someone to turn up. Casually I looked up a copper-pod tree and sighted two Rock Pigeons perching on the branches. And they seemed to be completely at ease while trying to be normal birds. I stood with my mouth hung in astonishment at the sight. What was obvious seemed like a revelation at that point.  Pigeons. can.perch.on.tree-branches. too? Wow. It was a supreme Duh moment as well as one of amazingosity.

Of course they take revenge for our complete lack of appreciation for them. The other day, S___'s dad was stomping about on the kitchen floor madly and making weird noises to scare two birds that had just begun building a nest in the ventilator. Poor uncle. He slipped in the process and sprained his back and arm.

The most recent memory is that of writing our second year exams at this college.  Damned pigeons set the world record for most number of successful mating rituals in the ventilators as we slogged away in the midday heat at various governmental systems.  Stray down-feathers would float down occasionally and settle on our answer sheets as the pigeons cooed in delight. 

And they live on. All Hail.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Filed under: Multimedia, iPhone, App Store, iPod touch

This iPhone app is truly for the birds

Peterson's famous Field Guide to Backyard Birds [App Store link] has come to the iPhone/iPod touch, and in many ways it is a natural fit with the iPhone multimedia features. The field guide, which is a 92 MB download (!), contains hundreds of bird species, as well as the sounds of their calls, and of course illustrations and information about each bird.

I gave the app a try in my Arizona backyard. First, you enter the first two digits of your zip code, then you are provided a list of birds that should be local to your area. The quail that were sitting on my back wall were on the list, as well as the pesky road runner that peeks in the window every so often. I also learned that the roadrunner is part of the cuckoo family. Who knew?

The guide has some quizzes that can test your knowledge of our feathered friends, and tests to see if you can identify bird calls. You can also zoom in on the bird illustrations to see more details.

Some users have reported bugs and crashes of the app, but in my testing it was quite stable and I can't report any problems. The developer does have a note on the App Store web page saying a new version will be coming out soon with bug fixes and new features.

I think the app needs a search mode so you can type in the name of a desired bird. The information about each bird is pretty thin, and when the lists of local birds is displayed it doesn't seem to be in any order that I can fathom. I'd also like to see the program work in landscape mode.

Even with those criticisms, I found the app useful and informative. The app is $2.99US. Birders will also want to take a look at iBird Explorer Plus [App Store link]. It is pricey at $19.99US but it has a far more expansive catalog of birds, and does allow for searches.

Friday, May 01, 2009