Nature Trails

Why birdwatchers watch birds... and other birding thoughts

Posted by Padmaja Parulkar on May 24, 2012

 
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"There is talk of a lion loose in Langata, so let us stick together in a group and not stray,” warns Fleur at the start of a birding trail in Ngong Racecourse that will eventually lead into Ngong Forest. Once in a while,Nairobi wakes up to an event of a lion or a hippopotamus dropping by the township causing panic (in the neighbourhood) and amusement (to people in other areas). As an aside, listen to this: the civic authorities in their wisdom put up cages at various places in the neighbourhood to catch the cat, but reported that while no cat was found entrapped, they did bait a few hyenas!) Given that the Nairobi National Park is close to the City Centre, as the pied crow flies, it should be newsthat these episodes do not occur often. But nothing can deter the ragtag bunch of birdwatchers of the Wednesday Birder's Club or keep them from their weekly date with birds. 

What draws birdwatchers to field trips, come rain or riots, week after week over months and years, to more or less the same places? Doesn't it get monotonous viewing the same garden variety of birds of bulbuls and weavers, or that after a few outings even the uncommon birds become commonplace? Mountaineer George Mallory's classic reply on climbing mountains applies to birdwatching, too. He is known to have said: "Why climb a mountain... because it is there." Birdwatchers watch birds because they are there - all around - in our backyard, in neglected niches of our neighbourhood and in urban forests.  People go on African safaris or Indian jungles to see large mammals - the Big Five, the cats, the elephants, the hippopotamuses - but few have the patience to sweep in the smaller avifaunal species that are transitory, hyperactive and that do not wait out our cursory observation skills. That is precisely why birdwatching and its related nature-watch component of observing butterflies and insects becomes a more subtle and sublime venture. It calls for marshalling of almost all sensory faculties to the point of utter concentration bordering on meditation.

Imagine an amorphous painting with hidden images – an illusionary art – which a child has to figure out? The child spots a dog here, a car there, and suddenly million things stare at him and the painting comes alive with all its differential aspects standing out vividly. Birdwatching is something similar. The monochromatic leaves of trees of the woods assume varied shapes and characteristics and become separate species; birds blended in trees and shrubs break free becoming visible entities; and butterflies cleave from self-same-coloured flowers to fill up bare spaces. The singular green of the trees, brown of the soil and blue ofthe sky disperse into multicolour mobile mites that, at first, seem obscure.

And that brings me to the magician birder, Kevin. In my previous blog, I focused on the leading lady of the Wednesday club, Fleur, but Kevin is another of those ardent bird lovers who can unravel images and forms from illusory nature. Without binoculars Kevin spots a fish eagle almost two kilometers across the wetland that we have trouble focussing through binoculars; the white shirt front is unmistakable and though the face is obscure, the upright stance is a dead giveaway.   I have never understood how truly passionate birders are also good imitators of bird calls. Kevin takes us to see the Narina trogon in its territory inside the Ngong forest, but we are a big group treading noisily over dry leaves and twigs, a loud threat for the shy bird. Kevin imitates its call and though it does not make an appearance it responds!

He herds us next to see the nest of an African Crowned eagle. I had seen the female crowned eagle sitting by its unwieldy and twiggy nest that was empty, two years back, and after that was going there only today. Meanwhile, the birders had been checking on it on their intermittent sorties. Imagine the exhilaration of seeing a fledgling sitting like aking comfortably on its home perch; the mother was obviously away hunting for a baboon or a small antelope for the young one.  Kevin fills the gaps for me in the life of this particular eagle. It is a privilege to get a window into the isolated world of a giant aviator predator that resides far from the madding crowd of humans and to witness individual stories unfold.  

A fluty call greets us persistently as we walk back by the edge of the forest; this is the yellow-breasted apalis marking its territory. The apalis descends down from trees to a low perch when it makes that call so that it carries far. You realize then that birding is not about simply identifying birds by their appearance- that is but a first fledgling step. Birdwatching is about observing bird behaviour to understand their nature, their language -  their calls and songs, and their needs. It is befriending them to get to know them intimately, to empathize with them and love them, but from a distance. After all, all creatures, big and small, are but a part of the whole, an indispensable ingredient of the world wide web.



Chick of  an African Crowned Eagle in its nest in Ngong Forest








Also read:  http://padmaja-earthletters.blogspot.com/2012/02/wednesday-birders-club.html



My (Padmaja Parulkar) blog

http://padmaja-earthletters.blogspot.in/

on travel, ecology and environment seeks to marry my two passions of nature and creative writing. Through these earth-letters I share my personal experiences relating to Earth and its natural beauty, among other things.



Little Known Destinations

nice place

Posted by bharat singh on April 26, 2012

 
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Kausauli is an excellent place.  It is situated in Himachal Pradesh.   4000ft from sea level, best place for picnic and bird watching........must see.   

Wildlife

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanag in SRI LANKA

Posted by Chamara Samitha Nanayakkara on April 24, 2012

 
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File:Pinnawala 02.jpgPinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanagenursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located atPinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawalla is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala.

The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

The Millennium Elephant Foundation is a separate registered private charity organization which is a retirement home for 7 elephants and a tourist attraction.

Eco-tour

Environment and Community Development

Posted by Remmy Raphael on March 23, 2012

 
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Environment and Community Development  

    Much is heard about the development of the Third World, however reality seldom matches the encouraging political discourses. 

 NGERIV emerged from a bottom down approach, where solutions are discussed and implemented at the local level, aiming to help the community as a whole. The main projects are located in Bwawani village and neighbouring villages, near Morogoro in Tanzania.

   The current situation in most rural areas in Tanzania makes development hard to achieve. Economic hardship, lack of knowledge and other structural difficulties lead families to act inneficiently and unaware of alternatives. This reality ensures the permanence of poverty and environmental depletion.

NGERIV aims to tackle the existing problems through collective community effort. It aims to empower individuals with the necessary capabilities to improve their livelihoods. Our area of intervention can be divided into three reciprocally inter-related areas:

  • Education;
  • Alternative means of income;
  • Environmental sustainability.
  • Visit our website:www.ngerengereriver.webs.com

Bird Sanctuaries

Thol Lake

Posted by Deep on March 05, 2012

 
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   Thol lake is  near to Ahmadabad. It was amazing to watch birds and beauty of Nature. You can see all pictures of that visit on my Facebook page 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.215254758546947.54755.100001872734767&type=3&l=db8aa62bd2

Man Animal Conflict

Leoperd killed in conflict

Posted by Pratheush k Muraleedharan on February 29, 2012

 
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Leopards straying into in villages nestling along the forest fringes in the State, attacking people and their cattle have become a matter of serious concern.

The killing of a healthy female leopard that had strayed into the small hamlet of Angamoozhy in the Ranni forest division by an unruly mob on Tuesday was the latest in the series of human-leopard conflict in the State.

Three weeks ago, a five-year old boy was fatally dragged by a leopard from the company of his father and brother at Athirappally in Ernakulam district. The boy’s body was found, later, in the surrounding area and the leopard was not traced.

In another tragic incident, a four-year old boy was killed by a leopard on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Idukki district a year ago.

Killing of a Tiger by the villagers was also reported from the Munnar Forest division when the animal attacked a woman worker a year ago.

As many as four leopards were fatally trapped by humans in Idukki in 2011, according to Mr M.N. Jayachandran, secretary of Society for Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals in Idukki.

Animal-lovers’ concern

Tuesday’s killing of a female leopard had evoked concern and criticism from animal-lovers across the State.

The ferocious animal that had killed two domesticated dogs in the village went into hiding in the bushes adjoining a rubber plantation closeby a school. The entire village, including the local panchayat president and a former District Panchayat member, thronged the spot.

The animal that came out after a five-hour wait inside the bush was more or less overpowered by a man from Kollam, Kuttan alias Vettu Kuttan, who claimed to be an expert in trapping of leopards. However the leopard was suffocated to death when 50 to 100 enthusiastic people swooped on the animal, thrusted their weight on it, plugging its mouth and nostrils, later, leaving the nearly 50 Forest department and Police personnel mere mute spectators of the tragic episode.

The violent mob even blocked the vehicle of the Divisional Forest Officer, R. Kamalahar, and other Forest personnel, when he had directed the Range Officer to register case in connection with the killing of the wild animal.

A local granite quarry group had even granted Rs 50,000 to Vettu Kuttan and another group from Ernakulam had announced cash worth Rs 1 lakh to him in recognition of his ‘valour’, later.

Mr M.S. Rajendran, former District Panchayat member, told The Hindu that incidents of leopards attacking cattle and people were on the rise in Angamoozhy, Seethathode and Chittar villages. The local people were left with little option other than taking their own measures for protecting themselves from the wild animal attacks as the Forest department failed to ensure their safety, he said.

Dr Gopakumar, veterinary surgeon, said the leopard was a healthy one and the death was due to suffocation.

Interlinking of Rivers

Panel on linking of rivers

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 28, 2012

 
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The Supreme Court on Mondaydirected the Centre to constitute a ‘special committee' forthwith for inter-linking of rivers for the benefit of the entire nation.

It said: “The NCAER report clearly opines that the interlinking of river projects will prove fruitful for the nation as a whole and would serve a greater purpose by allowing higher returns from the agricultural sector for the benefit of the entire economy. This would also result in providing varied benefits like control of floods, providing water to [the] drought-prone States, providing water to a larger part of agricultural land and even power generation. Besides … benefits to the country, it will help the countries like Nepal etc., uplifting India's international role. Importantly, they also point to a very important facet of interlinking of rivers, i.e., it may result in reduction of some diseases due to the supply of safe drinking water, and thus serve a greater purpose for humanity.”

Read more at
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2937800.ece

Wildlife

baiju krishnan

Posted by baiju krishnan on February 22, 2012

 
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APPLICATION OF GENETIC TECHNIQUES IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

                                  The use of molecular genetic techniques in conservation biology and wildlife management has become increasingly important during the last decade.  This is mainly catalyzed by the development of the Polymerase chain Reaction (PCR) which requires only minute amounts of DNA for genetic analysis and the possible sources of DNA can be hair, scale ,feaces, feather, urine, buccal cells, egg shells and even foot prints.  Thus it is no longer necessary to obtain blood or tissue samples to study population genetics in animals.  Analyzing ad comparing , the genetic make up of plants and animals, not only improves assessments made using traditional methods, but also yields information otherwise inaccessible.  Even though molecular techniques are too labour intensive and expensive for regular use, they have been made more widely available in recent years due to retirements in laboratory techniques, improvements in computer power and lower equipment cost.  The major challenge for the developing nations to conduct genetic research is of economical one, while for under developed nations is the non availability of technology.

 Techniques
  
      Deoxy Ribo Nucleic acid(DNA) is the principal constitute of genes, and is found in the cells of living organisms including components of blood, skin , hair, nails etc.  DNA molecules are made up of a linear sequences of compounds called nucleotides, and form a long, continuous strand inside a structure called chromosome.  The unique sequence of the nucleotide in a chromosome determines the hereditary characteristics of an individual from its species, sex and to traits such as eye colour.  Each gene occupies a particular location on the DNA strand  making it possible to compare the same gene in a number of different samples.

    Many genetic techniques involve a process in which short segments of a DNA strand are replicated to produce a sufficient quantity of material for analysis.  These segments can then be examined for differences in size between individuals or for differences in the actual nucleotide sequence of the segments.  In contrast, other techniques cut DNA into segments using enzymes and certain of these segments are radio actively tagged to create a visual pattern on x-ray film.  DNA finger printing is the most popularly known of these techniques.  The finger print of one individual can be compared with other fingerprints to determine if two or more samples originated from the same individuals or to identify close relatives such as parent and sibling.

Applications

    Molecular genetics provides powerful tools for wildlife conservation and can similarly play an important role in wildlife management.  First an understanding of genetic population structure of a particular species may aid in the identification of management units and the development of management strategies.  The practical application would be the ability to determine the geographical sources of individuals during certain time periods or in certain locations.  It is a powerful tool in all demographic surveys as well as experiments .  Habitat fragmentation is a threat to survival of wildlife populations in human dominated landscapes.  Connectivity among populations is distinct fragments may play an important role in population dynamics and resistance.  New genetic techniques are used to assess the connectivity in spatially structured and population of threatened species

 Cloning and Biodiversity conservation: 
                         Nuclear transfer technology, popularly known as cloning , where new      “ true to type” individuals are created in the laboratory from the nuclear DNA of other individuals.  Reproductive cloning or the production of offspring by nuclear transfer is often regarded as having potential for conserving endangered species of wildlife.  Factor that govern the desirability, feasibility and practicality of cloning vary among different class of vertebrates, depend upon the peculiarities of the biological systems, the type of species under threat and even the chances  of obtaining suitable funding since the research is very expensive.  Cloning is one of the several ways of increasing the number of individuals within a population.  When populations of free living species are found to be in decline, conservation biology begins to seek methods of showing or reversing the threatening process, many such threats exists including habitat loss through human activity, hunting or over fishing, effects of pollution on fertility and fecundity, predation by introduced species or indeed poor diet through loss of prey species.  In  a few cases these threats can be allevated but this may require the development of nation and international policies that support the conservation goals.  Reproductive technologies may then provide support the conservation goals.  Reproductive technlogies may the provide support usually by assisting genetic management.  An important common aim of conservation breeding programmes with or without the use of assisted reproduction, is the avoidance of inbreeding depression.
    Nuclear Transfer Technology can play  a significant role in the conservation of species, which are on the edge of extinction.  Now captive breeding techniques are adopted for saving such species . For example the population of Mauritius Kestrel declined to about nine individuals in the early 1970’s , four were reintroduced to the island of Mauritius later, and the population is now estimated as 700-800.  In such cases we can seek the help of nuclear transfer technology.  However the population of the species facing extinction is very less and they possess minimal genetic variation.  it is therefore desirable to avoid further loss of diversity.  A subsequent generation resulting from natural breeding or artificial insemination would contain some, but no all of genetic variability of its parents.  Loss would occur if any of the individuals failed to breed, which is a strong possibility with small populations.  If cloning is guaranteed to be 100% successful, a good strategy might be to clone every individual, then allow the off spring to mature and breed naturally.  The probability of losing genetic diversity would then  be reduced especially if each parent gives rise to more than two identical copies of itself.  Thus an interesting and novel theoretical principle in animal conservation emerges; where individuals are effectively induced to reproduce asexually something similar to some plants there by improving the long term fitness of the species through the retention of genetic diversity.



Concept of Environmental Genomics
           Environmental genomics bridges the gap between genetics, physiology and ecology.   It involves utilization of abroad range of modern molecular techniques such as gene arrays and single nucleotide polymorphins (SNP) screen to monitor variation in gene structure and expression.  It can pinpoint potentially novel interactions between environmental stresses and expression of specific human, animal and plant genes.  Environmental  genomics is the application of the knowledge gained on gene identification, structure and expression to environmental protection and management.  It can demonstrate deleterious effects at molecular level before organisms level effects are shown.

Importance of Environmental Genomics.:
                Genomics build upon and enhance traditional approaches to environmental toxicology determination.  It is a key objective for environmental science for improved understanding, identification and prevention of  environmental problems.  It can provide the next generation tools to help protect and manage the environment.  It would be very critical in examining biotechnology’s potential impact on the environment.

Biotechnology and Tree improvement:
                Tree improvement and forest biotechnology offer related scientific means to increase forest productivity , achieve sustained timber yields and perhaps enhance forest biodiversity and conservation of multiple values.  Tree improvement provides classical approaches to achieve better timber production.  It has achieved sustainable gain through generation of tree selection and breeding .  Tree important seeks to identify and improves several important tree attributes including growth rates, disease and pest resistance, adaptability to climatic changes, tree form and wood fiber quality, straightness and taper

Conclusion
  The practical application of bio techniques has many difficulties.  Current success rates with nuclear transfer in mammals are very low.  More over 20 to 1000 nuclear transfers would need to be performed to achieve one viable off spring.  There are so many issues like legal, moral and technical in conducting genetic researches.  Sophisticated labs doing genetic research are less in number and the coordination is also less.  But the potential of genetic techniques in wildlife conservation and management shall not be ignored.  They can help many species to keep their foot prints on this green earth.
(Author was a Research scholar in Bio Inorganic Chemistry at Dept. of Chemistry, University of kerala  and now working as Forest Range Officer, Kerala)

Bio-Diversity

Melissa officinalis-Leman Balm

Posted by Sheikh GULZAAR on February 20, 2012

 
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National Parks

My great experience at GIR national park

Posted by abhishek meshram on February 18, 2012

 
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Once in a lifetime  experience at GIR national park

Last month I was in Gujarat with my uncle to meet my brother who is in Jamnagar, Gujarat. it was our once in a year off. So we decided to see tourist spots in Gujarat. We visited various spots but the highlightd was GIR national park. I am not being able to upload photos sorry!!!


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