Bird Watching

Dancing Jungle babblers

The Dancing Babblers

 -Suhas Kumar

 One of my favourite pastimes is to spy on the birds in my small but lush garden. And on several occasions I have come across some very interesting activities and antics of birds. I am going to tell you about a pair of jungle babblers. This pair of babblers gave me some amusing peek into their world and it was so absorbing and entertaining that I didn't notice that I was getting late for other urgent things awaiting my attention.


(Photo of jungle babblers-Aditya Singh)

 September, 20, 2009- It is around 4 O'clock in the afternoon and as we usually do on a holiday, my camera and me are busy scanning the trees and bushes for some action, when my eyes catch two babblers sitting on the fence of my garden beyond the same lifeless ber tree. They are hopping and babbling, suddenly one of them takes off and sits about 5 feet away from its partner and then both of them begin a frenzied dance – shivering and trembling frantically, picking their sides, partially spreading their wings and closing them instantly - their dance is fast and furious and both birds are dancing in unison as if they are responding to a crescendo from Mozart, though there is no other music except their occasional harsh babble.

 I know it is an act of getting rid of fleas and mites but preening can take such frenetic from, I never knew before today. This dance continues for almost two minutes and then one of them is on the ground, down at the foot of the ber tree and hops to the clay pot that I keep filled with water for the likes of them. This is apparently time to take wet bath – the babbler sits on the rim, waits and then plunges into the pot, comes out and shakes off the water from its wings. This dipping and drying continues for several minutes and then its partner comes down too, they take turns at the bathtub. After a few minutes both of them fly off to sit quite high up in the jamun tree and frolicking from branch to branch they start an unending babble that only the babblers understand. As they vanish behind the leaves, I hurry after my already overdue appointment, happy, as I always become after such encounters for my camera remember to capture these moments and eternize them.

Burning Issues

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary-Today

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary-Today

 -Anirban Dasgupta

The UNESCO World Heritage Site status... A sanctuary that receives more than 300 species of birds, including the Siberian crane… …and many more ‘sweet nothings’ sound exciting and romantic…the thought of losing your heart in the midst of numerous colourful birds surrounding the green forest ….far from the madding crowd and chirping avians with their melodious tunes filling you ears have attracted number of tourists to the small village of Rajasthan – Bharatpur.

But reverse the coin for some little reality check and you are going to be hit by a shocker. A ‘dream’ trip to Bharatpur and all you will get is the sense of being cheated and ridiculed by all those nice websites and RTDC campaigns. Otiose ….a wasteland, patches of dead and half dead bushes - that’s Bharatpur bird sanctuary for you. The huge lake that used to attract thousands of migratory birds had dried up completely since at least last ten years. Any given the day of the year you will find more species of birds while having a casual morning walk in Delhi’s Okhla bird sanctuary or Gurgaon’s Sultanpur bird sanctuary…and, of course, avians are not to be blamed for this fiasco.


The inefficient administration is solely responsible for this ‘national tragedy’. In the last ten/twelve years the forest administration have failed to manage/ save a single lake and bring about some water line from any nearby sources. Even an amateur wild life lover knows that Migratory birds, especially from Siberia, have an amazing sense of location and memory…every year they fly thousands of miles across the globe to come to a particular location at a particular time and the habit goes on from generation to generation. But once they abandon a location no magic can bring them back and surely our Bharatpur forest department staff doesn’t seem to realize that. Thus, even after getting ample opportunities they surely did nothing to protect the sanctuary.


And on top of it, year after year they are making a mockery of the tourists (both Indian and Foreign), bird watchers and nature lovers by not disclosing the reality. This should be as serious an offence as deliberate cheating of human sentiments. No one can object to promoting a place for the right subject and Bharatpur today is nothing but a reasonably good picnic spot away from the polluted city environment. But, instead of working on damage control, the concerned forest department is busy en-cashing a fast diminishing commodity- baffled tourists. Be it some bunch of greedy Rickshaw pullers, some untrained so called guides trying desperately to prove their skills by pointing towards a lonely “ Jackal”, some frustrated forest staff trying to fetch some twenty rupees extra from you to ‘book’ your cycle next day… much ado about nothing…And yet drama unfolded to its final scene when we discovered the Forest Director is roaming in the dust in the early morning neatly dressed with polished shoes and a binocular in hand trying to ‘ create’ a sense of anticipation- of birds that flew away a long time back.


Recently, Billy Arjan Singh has breathed his last in his Tiger Den at Dudhwa. He died fighting his lifelong battle against the poachers and corrupt forest officials. He wanted his last rituals to be conducted in the land of Tigers only. We need many more ‘Billys’ to save this planet from dying like the lake in Bharatpur. Or else the day is not far when we all will hover around the world, like the Director of Bharatpur to look for a patch of wilderness and no binocular would help us trace one. I wonder what our armchair conservationists are doing now!

- Anirban Dasgupta 5th Jan, 2009


The Unique Rock formations of Hyderabad

The unique rock formations of Hyderabad

-Geeta Verghese

Hyderabad has changed so much in the past two decades that it bears no resemblance to the laid back city of the eighties, when even the rickshaw drivers with their polite and courteous manners bore the stamp of a bygone era of the Nizams. Sometime in the early nineties, a friend had mentioned to me that a German lady Frauke Quader had started a Society to ‘Save the Rocks’, which were facing the onslaught from the construction boom. It was then that I began noticing these unique rock formations, which attract one’s attention as the train approaches Hyderabad. Huge boulders, the tip of one balancing on the tip of another, part of nature’s ballet formed to the beat of centuries of thunderstorms.

So when I recently found myself spending a weekend in Hyderabad, I contacted the society in the hope that I could be a part of one of their walks. Thanks to Ms Quader’s efforts we were able to arrange a trip with a doctor couple from Mumbai who were in the city for a conference and our guides for the afternoon were Dr Hina Gokhale and her husband, scientists from DRDO. They had chosen a spot on the outskirts of Hyderabad near the Delhi Public School. All around were the new high-rise buildings, which have become the footprints for an ever-expanding metropolis.


The Gokhales took us by a winding route to a spot where we could spot a rock formation, which comprised of a rocky hillock with huge boulders stacked one above the other like a club sandwich. We began our climb asking passersby the direction to the dargah. Finally we reached the 400 year-old dargah of a sufi saint who had come from Iran. As was customary, there was a family, which by tradition tended to the place, preserving its ambience. From this place we were able to spot our destination, the cluster of rocks, which could serve as a vantage point to survey the surroundings.

The next two hours just sped by when we began scrambling over those rocks. We edged our bodies through tunnels formed by the boulders, looking up at slivers of sunlight that came through the gaps, with cries of “Wow, just look at that.” Sometimes those tunnels came to intersections where, taken up with the atmosphere of the place, the silence and the beam of sunlight illuminating the spot we felt tempted to sit there cross-legged in a Buddha pose. Whenever we came out into the open we could survey the scene around us. Hina pointed out adjacent rock formations that had been reduced to rubble by building contractors, which looked bald and pathetic. Climbing down we found ourselves suddenly in an enclosure surrounded by those mighty rocks. There was a small temple with a lingam and some carvings, which looked ancient. There was something about this whole place, which gave it a spiritual feel. A little further we came across a cave formed by the boulders. A board proclaimed that a Jain Baba had resided there for some weeks a few decades before.

At this point, exhausted but exhilarated we took a break and while having some oranges, Hina told us that the rock formations on the Deccan Plateau were unique in the world. These were formed when molten rock spewed out of the earth’s innards in prehistoric times and that was the reason for such unusual forms, almost as if droplets had frozen and were then shaped into such a variety of forms by subsequent erosion. She also pointed out that our flora and fauna could through proper conservation measures be brought back from the brink of extinction but these rock formations once gone are gone forever. The society had managed to have about 26 rock formations declared as heritage sites, which would be preserved but the rocks which had given us such pleasure that afternoon were not part of these and were probably already on death’s row waiting to be reduced to rubble to end up as granite for another high-rise building. The sun was setting as we traced our way back to the parking lot, hoping that the presence of the dargah and the temple would be the lifeline that could save this rock formation from extinction.


 Photos Anita Satyajit from the website


Story Of The Month

Genetically Altered

Genetic Alterations

-Ron Patterson


“Scientists from Monsanto, Rutgers University, and Scotts Company (the world's largest maker of lawn products, including a wide variety of fertilizers, pesticides) are on the verge of a grass that is Round-Up (glyphosate) resistant, low water needs and low or little mowing required.

The one problem................

Scotts grows this in there test fields, but can't sell it, because they can't safely kill it off.

Can you imagine something like this becoming an invasive plant?

Vegetables like store bought tomatoes are created to last longer on the shelf.

Crops are injected with chemicals so they become resistant to other chemicals.

Did you know that commercial growers can grow beans, corn and potatoes, etc. that are resistant to Round-Up?

This is in the food we eat.

Crops are genetically altered to produce more, but often at a cost of flavor and nutrition.

Many of you gardeners are familiar with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis ) a natural bacterium .

A popular insecticide for many organic gardeners.

It is genetically engineered into the crops to protect against insects throughout the lifespan of the plants.

It has allowed growers to avoid applying large quantities of potentially toxic insecticides.

However, the widespread use of Bt has prompted concerns that insects might someday become resistant to this important treatment.

This is a valid concern that has engaged agricultural researchers before Bt crops reached the marketplace.

Not to mention, we again consume the bacterium.

I like some of the flowers, but not thrilled that we may lose our native plants in the process.

If these permanently altered DNA lab plants cross pollinate with our native plants, this can happen.

I am not crazy about consuming bacterias, but like the idea of less pesticides being used.

I'm not jumping for joy, that something may jump species or that insects may become super bugs.

Are we helping to feed a hungry world or is it all about the mighty dollar?

About 50% of major crops like corn, beans, canola and potatoes have been genetically altered and mixed with non altered crops before they hit the shelves, and there is no law or requirements to inform us consumers about this.

Are genetic alterations curing diseases or making them?

What happens to our wildlife and natural world?

Is this a program that should be more carefully controlled?

Again, growers and producers aren't required to inform us on these matters.

Are genetic alterations something that can surreptitiously be used as a kind of warfare?

Are we playing god?

It isn't an exact science, and there are several arguments pro and con.

Courtesy Ron Patterson


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