Insects

A walk along the banks of Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 29, 2015

 
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I watch with interest the large number of morning walkers on the walking path so well carved out along the cleaned part of the Ulsoor lake.  Some are engaged in conversation, most glued to the earphone, some exercising, some playing ball in a clear strip.   Cormorants splash around in the clean part of the lake, obviously there are fish in the water.   Their splashes arouse the curiosity of walkers who are new to the area.  Mobile phones go clicking.   Pariah kites circle around.  A single Brahminy kite stands out.  The number of Brahminy kites seems to have gone down.  I could spot only one in about ten days' time.

This blog is for all of those who do not have time/inclination to watch the lovely butterflies and other insects they pass by every day.  These insects are becoming rarer by the day and we in India are lucky that spraying of insecticides is not that widespread yet so as to kill them off for ever from our parts. Safety tests done in labs before marketing insecticides don't account for the long term poison accumulation that kills bees, and possibly many other beneficial insects.   By disregarding the threat of chemicals to tiny creatures, scientists warn, may be endangering larger ones like ourselves. 

I call them Gems, because they are priceless in today's world.  Here are a few I could manage clicking.


Tailed Jay

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/sp/569/Graphium-agamemnon



Common Castor

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/#!/sp/765/Ariadne-merione



Plain Tiger

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/#!/sp/744/Danaus-chrysippus



Silk cotton Bug

And now,  the Glaring Gaps of the Lake!

To reach the walking path I had to walk along a stinking sewer which borders the Lake for almost 1000 meters.   Sewage water kept spewing in from other parts of the lake as well. 


The stinking sewer whose water goes into the lake



The pretty water Lilies blooming in the enclosed part of the lake did not prevent the steps of the step well getting strewn about with polythene bags and styrofoam glasses.   (Double click on the picture to see a larger image)

Marketed in the US under the name Styrofoam, EPS Expandable Polystyrene Foam (EPS) was invented by Dow Chemical scientist Otis Ray McIntire in 1941.  There are two main issues that polystyrene causes for marine (read lake) animals - mechanical and chemical.

"The [mechanical root] is very straight-forward," says scientists.   Oftentimes, we find polystyrene foam lodged in the intestines that causes blockages that can be lethal. If you think about how we worry about a mild blockage from eating the wrong thing, imagine eating a ball of Styrofoam. That's what some of these animals are doing."

Chemically, absorbent properties make EPS even more dangerous. "Polystyrene foams essentially act like little pollutant sponges, picking up and concentrating some of the nastiest contaminants in the water"   That's not just bad for the fish and the cormorants. It could be bad for humans.

My earlier article on Ulsoor lake "Bringing back nature into the city of Bangalore"

can be read at the link


http://www.indianwildlifeclub.com/ezine/view/details.aspx?aid=830

Eco-tour

Maredemilli eco -tourism

Posted by K.Vinai Bhushan on August 28, 2015

 
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I   visited  Maredumilli forest in april 3rdweek 2014 ,which is 80 km from historic town rajahumdry – andrapradesh. Theforest was very green even in hot summer. Falls were running with good amountof water. Thick forest with some good number of animals in cluding big cats.The pplace wa very cool and rainy. We have visited some water falls, coffeeplantations and a river. We tasted the local famous bamboo biryani too.  The accomidation facilities are good and atreasonable fares.  Visit www.vanavihari.com.


Regards

   



Little Known Destinations

Maredumilli forest

Posted by K.Vinai Bhushan on August 24, 2015

 
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I   visited  Maredumilli forest in april 3rdweek 2014 ,which is 80 km from historic town rajahumdry – andrapradesh. The forest was very green even in hot summer. Falls were running with good amountof water. Thick forest with some good number of animals in cluding big cats.The pplace wa very cool and rainy. We have visited some water falls, coffeeplantations and a river. We tasted the local famous bamboo biryani too.  The accomidation facilities are good and atreasonable fares. the coordinator is very good and cooperative. Visitwww.vanavihari.com.

Travel

Mowgli Land - Pench Wilderness

Posted by Uday on August 22, 2015

 
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Less known as tiger reserves since quiet late the park in India was made famous by the legendary Rudyard Kipling. It is said a British Officer (Lt.Moor) discovered Mowgli living among the wolves near the village of Sant Vavadi. The news got to Col.Sleeman and then to Kipling.

Using his imagination he carved playful but adventurous life of the child and his wild entourage of the Seoni Hills. The vivid spins of imagination and entailing story that emerged made the Jungle Book immortal. The escapades enthrall and enliven the minds of young and old. The Seoni Hills mostly under serve biotic stress harbor enchanting wildlife in small area untouched by the mauradaurs of the wild.


This is now known as Pench Tiger Reserve and National Park all over the world. Ensconced in Seoni and Chhindwara District of Madhya Pradesh in Central India the tiger-land is one of the choicest place to get to see the tiger in its natural home. A part of the  reserve is under Maharashtra Forests but most of the tourism is in the belt that lies in Madhya Pradesh.


The park is about eighty km from Nagpur Airport while the distance from Jabalpur Airport is about 200 km. The distance from Kanha National Park is about 150 km. The long drives to the reserve takes a turn at Khawasa Township on the border to the two states. From here it is a ten km drive to Turia Gate of the reserve.

Both the long drives to the tiger reserve cut across some of the finest reserve forests creating a picturesque spectacle. The road to Turia Gate offers a chance to see the Indian wolf for those lucky enough. The big cats are encountered everywhere in the dense canopy besides the other animals. The reserve is home to many other mammals and antelopes like the Nilgai, four horned  deer and Indian Gazelle.


Tourists on tiger safari preen their eyes and alert their sensory apparatus to get a sight of the sloth bear,leopard and the wild dog. The majestic gaur is striking in appearance due to its massive musculature and sheer grace. The coarse feeder thrives in the park thanks to excellent conservation efforts. Wild boar, spotted deer,sambar and langur are a common sight.       
Pench River intersects the reserve and is dammed at Totlah Doh. This has created a large reservoir now frequented by various species of water birds. Hence the reserve is a good place to see both the wetland and forest species in Central India. The river is a perpetual source of water and hence acts as the lifeline of the park.  

The ecosystem comprises of low lying mountains, dense mixed forests, grasslands, water bodies and rivers. These elements form an excellent habitat for the tigers and major mammals. Small nocturnal mammals can be seen on the night safari in the buffer zone of the park. Animals such as civets, mongoose, wolf, leopard, porcupine, pangolin, ratel and many more. The night safari is available throughout the year and can be booked on the MP Online Portal.

There are many resort hotels for accommodation in the buffer zone of the park near the Turia Village. The hotels at Pench National Park range from budget to star category offering accommodation at different tariff to suit the visitors.  

The main tourism zone of the park is open from  1st October to end of June while the night safari is available throughout the year.  Tourists visiting the park must carry warm clothed during the winter along with good set of binoculars and some bird books.

Since the gate entry is limited to set number of vehicles one should always book in advance before arrival.        

Bird Watching

Searching for Winged Wonders in Northern India

Posted by Uday on August 21, 2015

 
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Grill and Grime sets the pace for birding in Northern India. The race begins from the T3 Airport where avid birders from far away lands arrive. The trip begins as we move towards Agra on the way to Bharatpur and Chambal River Sanctuary. The mini bus rattles along past a quagmire of  human dwellings tortuously placed in a juxtaposition. Soon we we begin rolling past the green fields and small hamlets. But not for long, for at Mathura Township we turn in the direction of Bharatpur the avian paradise like non else where.  


A fifty km drive further on will lead us to Bharatpur. The road riddled with pot holes - as treacherous as they can be  - wades across a picturesque countryside. The yellow lined mustard fields are the hall mark of this drive. The quaint hamlets are as striking as they can be. The colorful courtyards, veranda all painted in Rajasthani motifs impress my foreign visitors.   


At Bharatpur we are greeted by Mr. Singh - the robust and cheerful owner of the Sunbird Lodge. The day begins with the search for avian in the fields near by the Sanctuary Gate. The search is for Indian Courser but we also come across lot of grassland birds.


The whole day is spent in the sanctuary on foot we we come across scores of avian species. We visit extensive wetlands, mounds and dikes. The small patches of forests also yield many delights. We also visit Bund Baretha which is about fifty km from the park. Here we score for some water birds, pipits and buntings. This is where we  come across Indian Skimmer whence they come to nest.   


From Bharatpur we head to Dhaulpur and visit the Chambal River Sanctuary. This is an exciting destination, and boating in one of the most unpolluted river is an experience. We come across many birds besides the marsh crocodile, gharial and river dolphin. The long stretch of river accords an exciting boat ride in between low lying sandy hills and shores. Jackals, foxes, hyenas and wolves are often encountered in the shores with luck.


Some of the birds we come across are prinias, buntings, gulls, storks, ducks, sand grouses, falcons, eagles, owls and warblers to name a few.  


We head back to Agra and then move towards Nainital. On the way we look for Sarus Cranes as well as species on the Ganges River Banks. Nainital is a hill resort but badly urbanized hence we chose Sat Taal And Pangot up hill each at a distance of about fourteen km from the township. Sat Tal at 1400 MSL is crowded but the natural beauty of remaining forests and lakes also offers magnificent bird watching opportunity. At Sat Taal we look for Forktails, thrushes, flycatchers, minla, leiothrix, golden robin, buntings, woodpeckers and more. A two day birding yields a checklist of more than fifty exciting species.      


We climb higher to 2100 MSL in the Himalayan Foothills two reach snow covered Pangot. Our target species here are the Kokals Pheasant, Chir Pheasant, Himalayan and Eurasian Vultures, Bearded Eagle, buntings, thrushes, tits and many more. A two day stay accords sightings of unique birds which are altitude migrants.    

     

The drive to Corbett Tiger Reserve is a pleasant eighty km via Kaladungi the home town of legendary Jim Corbett. The avi fauna begins to change as we descend towards the plains.  The fantastic tiger landscape has more than five hundred avian species to sight. We stay at the Dhikala Complex while in the park and look for tigers and other mammals besides avian species.


The foothills are frequented by species from the plains as well as the altitude migrants from the Himalayan Landscape. We search for the Siberian ruby throat, paradise flycatchers, Niltavas, flycatchers, wren warblers, laughing thrushes, bulbuls, nuthatches, woodpeckers and many more.


We than move to outskirts of Corbett to search for more species. The trip is full of excitement a midst tigers and elephants. We visit Mohaan, Lal Dang, river banks of Kosi, Kumeria and Sita Vani for some amazing discoveries.


The fortnight long trip ended as we headed back to New Delhi. Happy that the extensive birding tour package  organized by India Footprints was a great success. All around the tour we were assisted by local guides very familiar with the regions. We stayed at the finest lodges with great service, food and friendly staff.


Every year as winter sets in I look forward to exciting ornithological trips in India as tour leader and birder.      

Travel

Magical Wildlife of Bandhavgarh

Posted by Uday on August 19, 2015

 
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A four hour drive through picturesque Umaria Forests takes one to Bandhavgarh after landing at Jabalpur Airport. Albeit one comes across lot of denuded patches the remaining low lying hills with good forest cover create a pleasing picture. Once teeming with wilderness and forests the region has lost its sheen. Like every where else the reserve forests are slowly turning into green deserts. The wildlife is badly decimated thanks to indiscriminate poaching which still goes on sporadically. 


The long continues stretch takes an abrupt turn at Shahpura township. This place hosts the famous Ghagua Fossil National Park. The plant fossil date back to 60 million years whence the tectonic plates became active. Another fifty km of drive takes you to Umaria rail head. Close to Bandhavgarh National Park the forests appear some distance from here. A good thirty two kilometer drive takes you to the Tala Gate. This is a premium tourism zone in the land of the tiger. The tiger landscape stretches to about 1100 sq.km an area under the Project Tiger.    


Bandhavgarh is one of the most picturesque park in India. Small as compared to many it contains high density of tigers. It is also an excellent breeding ground for the big cats and other mammals. The stunning biodiversity encompasses all forms of wildlife from microbes to giant gaurs. The Indian bison as they are called had become locally extinct some years back due to disease prevalence.     


Translocation of gaurs from nearby Kanha National Park is a major success story. The park is home to other mammals like the sambar, leopard, barking deer, sloth bear, spotted deer, four horned deer, langur, rhesus macaque, wild boar, dhole and many small nocturnal ones.  


Excellent bird life prevails especially the forest species. Unfortunately bird watching is much neglected under the shadow of the majestic tiger. Reptiles, insects and many other forms of diverse life thrives in this magnificent ecosystem.


Bandhavgarh is home to some ancient relics of civilizations dating back to two thousand years. The fort complex is magnificent, a visit offers sight of Vishnu Idols in stone in zoomorphic forms. The large reservoirs, fort in ruins, Hindu temples and intervening forests and grasslands all create exotic ambiance. The low lying Bandhavgarh Mountain offers a view of the park. A panoramic grandeur which leaves the visitors spellbound. Midway up the ascent is Sesh Shaiyya esoteric and remote the pool is surrounded by ferns and grasses with springs. The dense canopy and the grove accord amazing serenity to the visitors. The reclining Vishnu is carved out of an igneous rock and is twenty feet long.   


Jungle roads enable the tourists to cover a large cross section of the forests. This is the tiger safari that lets you seen the beast in the wild. A drive yields much more deer, wild boar and langur the ubiquitous fauna of the reserve. Three species of antelope can be seen here namely Nilgai, Four horned Deer and the Indian Gazelle.


For the more attentive plethora of avian species mesmerizes with their startling colors. More than two hundred and fifty species inhabit this National Park many of which are migrant.


The park is open throughout now but during the monsoon only buffer zone safaris are available. Post monsoon all the three core zones are open for tourism. While photographers tolerate the intense heat of the summers, International visitors keep to the cooler months. Hence October to March are busy months here. Visitors should avoid festival days in order to gain a positive experience of the resort.            


During holiday periods the hotels in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve are nearly full. All type of accommodations are available near the Tala Gate. The park permits are also booked fully hence one should reserve much in advance for the busy period. Early Booking is possible on Internet at MP Online Portal.   


About three day safari offers holistic experience of the wildlife heaven. Winter clothes are required as it gets very cold. In summers khakis will do. Carry binoculars, good cameras and bird books for better understanding of this magnificent ecosystem. 

Bio-Diversity

A walk along a Buxa riverbed

Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 17, 2015

 
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The dry bed of the Jayanti River, which cuts through the heart of Buxa Tiger Reserve in North Bengal, presents an extremely appealing sight to the naturalist.
DSCN3524
Steep hills, clothed in green, present an enchanting backdrop.
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The golden rays of the morning sun illuminate a landscape unmatched in beauty.
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Lucky is he who gets to live here.
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The streambeds tell us many a story of who has gone before us, and how long ago.
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May they continue to live in these bountiful hills for many a decade to come.
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And walk these endless paths forever.

DSCN3462To save which, from threats like these, should be every person’s duty.
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Anthropomorphism

Tiger Death Statistics

Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 16, 2015

 
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Recently, several articles were brought out highlighting the loss of 41 tigers from India’s forests over the first 7 months of 2015. A variety of causes were responsible for these deaths, ranging from infighting, to poisoning and killing for skin and bones by professional poachers.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/flora-fauna/india-loses-41-tigers-in-7-months/articleshow/48446348.cms
However, what does this say about the efficacy of India’s tiger conservation programme? Wildlife scientists have always held that tiger populations experience high turnovers-they are prolific breeders, but also die young. This may be borne out by the reasonably high number of annual tiger deaths recorded over the past few years-61(2014), 76(2013), 89(2012), 56(2011) and 53(2010). Intensive monitoring of tiger populations actually tells us that the recorded death figures are actually a fraction of the total number of deaths. If populations are adequately from adverse factors such as habitat loss, poaching and conflict, then the naturally high rate of reproduction will ensure that tiger populations continue to thrive.
Which is  what brings us to the next question- how indicative are these deaths of the effects  human-induced adversities on tiger populations ? The likely answer is- that they present a highly incomplete picture. For instance, only 3 seizures of tiger parts have been made from poachers this year; the figure was 12 in 2014. However, independent investigations indicate that only a small percentage of seizures come to light.

A tiger skin being seized from poachers.  Credit : Telegraph IndiaA tiger skin being seized from poachers.
Credit : Telegraph India

. Official investigations into such deaths are also marked by a lack of transparency. Officials are usually very keen to make it look like as if every instance of tiger death is a result of natural causes, which often causes many instances of tiger poisoning to be swept under the carpet. Many carcasses are recovered in an advanced state of decomposition; which, coupled with a shortage of adequately trained vets, means that the actual causes of death are determined in only a very small number of cases. Details of investigations into tiger deaths are still awaited in as many as 33 of the aforementioned 41 cases.

An investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.  Credit : The HinduAn investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
Credit : The Hindu

Wild tigers continue to be threatened by innumerable factors ; but tiger death statistics alone cant quantify these threats.

Insects

Where benign insects control harmful pests.

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 11, 2015

 
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Where benign insects control harmful pests.

Much of the destruction that we see on the farm is the result of unwanted and exorbitantly expensive chemical inputs. Take the case of chemical pesticides. It was in late 1970s that David Pimental of the Cornell University had said in his landmark paper that 99.9 per cent chemical pesticides go into environment and only 0.01 per cent of the pesticides sprayed reach the target pest. Despite this warning, agricultural scientists continued to advocate the use of chemical pesticides. While the industry gained immensely, farmers as well as the gullible consumers suffered. This makes me wonder whether there is a way out. Can the Indian farmer ever emerge out of the chakravyuah?  

.....Last week, I visited Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and nondescript villages in Jind ditrict of Haryana. Farmers and village women in these villages have gone a step ahead. Not only they don't spray chemical pesticides on cotton, they don't even use bio-pesticides. They have allowed the insect equilibrium to prevail to such an extent that the harmful insects are taken care of by the beneficial insects. 

Meena Malik is a 23 year-old graduate, who along with some 30 women of the nearby villages, partakes in a mahila keet pathshala (women insect school) every week. Once in a week, they spread across cotton fields in small groups early in the morning, each carrying a magnifying glass and with a notebook in hand. They identify the beneficial insects, which are mostly non-vegetarian, and count its population on a few plants. Similarly, they look for the harmful insects, mostly vegetarian feeding on the plant foliage and fruits, and based on their observations make a note of the insect diversity that exists in the crop fields.

Read More at
   

Anthropomorphism

Excelling the PAIN

Posted by Amina Bibi on August 01, 2015

 
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The monsoon rain started during November, 2014 – the initial rains were good. When the rain poured non-stop for a fortnight destroyed vegetable cultivation. So it happened to the kitchen garden of my neighbor too. The entire kitchen garden with Amaranthus, Okra, cluster beans, beans and gourds could not withstand the water stagnation. The papaya tree laden with fifty big papayas and fifty small papayas could no more stand straight. The tree fall with the fruit bearing tip broken. They were about to severe the entire tree, I happen to watch it over from my windows and stopped it. I immediately rushed to the plant and asked to find supportive poles and make the papaya plant straight as much as possible.

February 2015 gave me a surprise with three tine buds from the node little lower than the broken edge of the papaya tree. I was so excited and felt very much encouraged, as the tree spoke me to EXCEL THE PAIN. It became a non-voluntary action to see the plant every day in the morning. In the month of April, buds turned into branches but there were heavy infestations of Papaya Mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus). I asked them to remove the infected leaves often. They turned frustrated asking me is the bug coming to your house. Then I explained about the mealybug and could be controlled by manual removal of the leaves, luckily there were no infestation of the bug in any of the other plants nearby.


Now during July, I was amazed to see the papaya tree with three branches, all the three loaded with papayas big and small. What made me wonder is, “the plant which could not bear the load of a single plant is now capable of its triple bearing – from many nodes there are two, three or five papayas”. What a lesson the MIRACLE papaya tree taught me - ENDURE THE PAIN, WORK HARD and BE SINCERE, withstand all the odd situations and one day surprising results turn all the agony into glee.

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