Bird Watching




-Suhas Kumar



The nest-box that I built

Looked like a miniature hut

I was doubtful - any bird would ever like it, but

After the summer and after a few showers

when grasses turned green and trees came alive

and a zephyr blew from the east

I got a surprise

I saw one fine morning two brahminy starling arrive

They were on the nest box, into the nest box

sitting inside and peeking trough two holes

like an excited young couple exploring their new home.

The joy I felt today, I had never felt before

even when watching tigers in the jungle galore


The nest box still dangles from the dead zizyphus tree in my garden where I had hung it about 5 months back, but sans a tenant. Many birds – babblers, coppersmith, koel, crow-pheasant, common myna, sun-bird, magpie robin, Indian robin, ashy wren warbler, brahminy starling and others – visit my garden but none of these birds did display any interest in my nest box till the last Tuesday. That day, after morning walk, just as I was entering my compound, I gave a furtive glance towards the nest - as I did every day hoping to find some activity there - my heart missed a beat and then swelled with happiness to find a pair of brahminy starlings inspecting the nest box. The box swayed and circled as the birds sat on it, yet the birds entered the nest, turned around and peeked through the two holes for some time, hopped in and out several times as if they were testing how good this nest would be for their family.  I ran to fetch my camera and within seconds captured both still and video shots of the nest inspection exercise. They flew off suddenly, but I was so happy that the nest I built was evaluated and also for capturing some rare moments on film.


Worried that the birds may be apprehensive of a swaying and gyrating nest and they might not come back, I stabilized it in a fork of the tree with a piece of wire.  I hoped that the birds would return but apparently they were a tough client and went away to inspect few other nest-boxes. I am still hopeful.



Morning, the birds briefly visited the nest. At around 6.30 PM, not two but three brahminy starlings came this time and sat on the zizyphus tree and one of them entered the nest. I am certain that the third one was a consultant.



No sign of birds in the morning.



8.45 A.M - female came, I saw her depositing a small twig inside the nest-box as if making a reservation as we do on buses and trains by spreading our hanky on the seat. She, perhaps, felt my prying eyes on her – off she flew. 7.05 PM -No sign of birds in the evening today.


No sign of birds, I inspected the nest-box today and found a furrow at the joint in the middle of the slanting roof through which rain water dripped into the interior. I decided to repair it and pasted a plastic sheet over the roof, hoping that the birds would return.




Burning Issues

Tiger Debacle-Part I

Tiger Debacle-Part I

-Suhas Kumar



To all who matter

In a recent high level meeting held in New Delhi, where the fate of tigers in India was discussed, several causes were enumerated by the managers and experts for the present tiger crisis - poaching, accidents and diseases, human- tiger conflict, territorial fights, old age and so on; the officials maintained that out of 52 tiger deaths in the country this year only 15 were confirmed cases of poaching and out of these 15 cases only 5 occurred within protected areas. But despite this knowledge nobody in the meeting talked about finding out the ecological reasons for extirpation of  tigers, nobody spoke for protecting dispersal areas, potential habitats and corridors, nobody voiced concern for inculcating a sense of responsibility among officers who look after the territorial forest habitats outside protected areas(PAs) and are custodians of the corridors, and nobody talked about equipping the officers in-charge of non-PA forests (territorial forest divisions) adequately to combat wildlife crime  and to enrich  wildlife habitats in the forests under their charge.

"Little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and this observation is amply reflected in the reports that we read in newspapers and watch on TV screens - most reports and interviews sound ostentatious and little informed on the issues of wildlife conservation in our country.

Through this write-up, I wish to dispel the half-truths that surround the tiger crisis. In my view, the reason for disappearance of a species is manifold - and in most cases it is a combination of unsuitable biological causes, fast changing ecological conditions and man-made decimating factors like poaching and habitat loss. When an endangered species suddenly vanishes the experts tend to blame it on ‘poaching' alone, and nobody cares to find out the ‘other reasons'.

The roots of the debacle of tiger conservation was sown long back when powers that be failed to implement the conservation strategies that the GOI has most thoughtfully enunciated in 1983 and 1989; I am referring to the "National Wildlife Action Plan, 1983" and the strategic document prepared by WII- "Planning a Protected Area Network for India" 1988-89.

The major constraint that our country has faced eternally has been acute dependence of forest side people on forest resources. And this reality compelled our conservation strategists and planners to opt for creation of smaller protected areas in India, which by no means are adequate for conserving long ranging large mammals like tigers and elephants. To overcome this shortcoming, the planner's envisaged creation of a closely-knit network of PAs connected through viable forested corridors. But, unfortunately, little attention was ever paid to securing dispersal areas and reviving weak links of remaining corridors. Forestside people are perpetually angry as PAs have curtailed and banned their access to forest resources on which they have been dependent for their daily needs and for livelihoods. As PAs became inaccessible to people they turned to the reserved and the protected forests adjacent to protected areas more heavily, further degrading them. As a result dependence of people on non-PA forests has become so acute today that governments find it difficult to declare buffer zones around Tiger reserves. Over the years the smaller PAs and tiger reserves have turned into islands surrounded by degraded and deeply fragmented forests, agriculture fields, villages and townships and necklaces of hotels around popular tiger reserves that cut off movement of tiger to other possible habitats (which now are difficult to find beyond PAs), in some cases the habitats were further impacted by polluting, disturbing and resource degrading industries.

Ecology of small populations in fragmented landscapes:

Wildlife conservation through in-situ conservation areas (PAs) alone has been a serious flaw in our conservation strategy for ecological boundaries of most large and long ranging species extend beyond protected areas. The territorial forests surrounding these PAs are managed for production of timber and are heavily used by local people who suffer grazing and nistar rights within these forests. There was never an attempt to seriously try and inculcate a system of management that could take care of peoples' needs as well as the ecological needs of wild animals dispersing from natal areas (PAs) in search of new habitats. Even in some exceptional tiger reserves where the buffer area is managed by field directors no effort was ever made to manage buffers to achieve its twin objectives - i. cushioning core areas from resource use by local people by managing buffer forests for sustainable production of small timber, fodder, firewood and non-timber produce and ii. protecting and enriching degraded habitats for wild animals in the buffer areas.

Any ecologist or wildlife scientist would affirm that species vanish at greater pace on an island a patch of habitat that has lost connectivity with other similar patches in the landscape). They will also tell you how smaller and isolated but well connected populations of a species form 'metapopulations' that could survive for a very long time provided they remain connected in a way that genetic interaction among these populations is possible and also that the areas surrounding natal areas (undisturbed habitats where wild animals breed) have potential habitats for dispersing individuals to occupy and also infuse new vigour that might rescue doomed populations. Unfortunately, there are very few metapopulations left today, what we have in case of tigers are small and almost isolated population in some of the well managed sanctuaries and tiger reserves. These small isolated populations are bound to perish in not so distant future for want of connectivity between habitats and a dearth of unoccupied suitable habitats. Outside, in most non -PA forest, prey base is sparse or absent, water is scarce and cover deficient, - tigers shun such areas. Any effort that concentrates only on protecting tigers in tiger reserves cannot help tiger survive in the long run.

 -To be Contd


Did You Know ?

Gardening for wildlife-Red Pierrot

Gardening for wildlife-Red Pierrot Butterfly

-Susan Sharma


A succulent plant called “Kalanchoe” is a favorite with most gardeners.  It does not call for any extra care, needs little water and not much sun.  So what if the blooms appear only during spring, the rest of the year, the succulent leaves look pretty in a pot.



That the “kalanchoe” is a host plant for a flitting small butterfly called “red pierrot” is a fact I learnt from discussions in a yahoo group on butterflies







This bit of knowledge cleared another puzzle for me.  I had photographed a chrysalis or pupa sitting on the kalanchoe leaf sometime back.  I have been wondering what will come out of that pupa.  But could not follow that through. 




Now it all fell in place.  The pupa was that of the red pierrot who I had noticed flitting about once in a while in my garden.  I had witnessed the web of life, which connected the butterfly and its host plant! 




If I had no sense of humor….

If I had no sense of humor….

-Susan Sharma


“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide” is a quote by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.


People of all ages and cultures respond to humour.  Just like people of all ages and cultures respond to nature and wildlife.  So it was just fitting that the British Council organized an exhibition and talk on “Cartoons for Climate” on 15th january, 2010.  The exhibition had more than 50 entries selected from over 5000 entries received from all over India. The themes were,

  Drought and water shortage,   Deforestation and rain forest destruction,   Melting of the ice caps,   Role of industry in polluting the  atmosphere,  Devastation of our seas and
     disappearance of marine life,  Climate change in an urban environment.



The polar bear reaching out for her mobile , to register for ballet classes, and her angst at dropping the mobile- very much summed up the mood of the youngsters who participated in the contest from all over India.  Their cartoons need to be seen and the unheard voices heard.





Ajit Ninan, Cartoonist from the Times of India,  drawing an on the spot cartoon.



Visit the link below to see more cartoons and vote for your favourites!








CANON WILD CLICKS (Corbett National Park, April 2-4, 2010)

Are you interested in nature and wildlife photography? Have you sent entries to a photography contest and kept wondering why your photograph was not shortlisted? Do you always wonder what was missing in your photograph while entering a contest?

Canon in association with Nature Wanderers announces the launch of Canon Wild Clicks – India’s first LIVE photography contest in Corbett National Park (April 2-4, 2010) that aims to give a platform to amateur and hobbyist photographers to showcase their skills and mettle in a unique competition that will ensure an equal level play field for all participants.
With a cap on equipments being used, participants will be put in identical situations and shooting conditions in a defined time frame thus putting all participants on an equal platform. The winners will be chosen on the spot and will be rewarded instantaneously!

The contest will be judged by leading wildlife film-maker, photographer and conservationist – Mike Pandey who would also be having an interactive session with participants in Delhi.

The event is also supported by Earth Matters Foundation which is India’s leading NGO dedicated to environment and wildlife conservation under the guidance of Mike Pandey.

Prize Distribution Ceremony - Prizes over INR 100,000/- to be given!
Winning photographs to be showcased at Canon Image Lounges and the Kunzum Art Gallery and to be published in leading publications

Registrations are open till March 15, 2010
Visit for contest details


World House Sparrowday

Why celebrate a house sparrow day?  Because, the lowly but sturdy sparrows are a good indicator of bio diversity and their decline in urban areas is proof that we have succumbed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, not only in agricultural fields which are around us but also in the small kitchen gardens next to our homes.

20th March 2010 was celebrated as the first Worldhousesparrowday.  Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit unveiled a nest box for sparrows made by "NatureForever" while Mr. Asad Rahmani of BNHS looked on.

That the Chief Minister of Delhi spared time for the cause is proof that organic gardens in and around our homes must show the way for sparrows.  The CM herself has converted the compound of her bungalow to a "Green Canopy" open to public for nature trails. Fruit bats outside the CM's house kept a cacophony going at the inaugural function held at her residence.

Write-up about fruit bats at the interpretation Centre at 3, Motilal Nehru Place

Mrs. Barrack Obama hosting organic lunches for children from produce of her kitchen garden made news recently.  Realization is dawning worldwide that we need to say no to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to protect ourselves, if not the sparrows.  Sparrows are but an indicator of what is in store for our future generations.

The vermi compost pit Sheila Dixit's organic garden Ms Lima Rosalind explaining the digital kiosk at the interpretation centre to a visitor.

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Ikebana-Harmony in Nature

Ikebana-Harmony in Nature

- Susan Sharma

 Japanese Ikebana (literally 'flowers kept alive') is a lot more complex than putting beautiful flowers together..

More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together.

Ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line and form.  Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The main rule is that all the elements used in construction must be organic, be they branches, leaves, grasses, or flowers. 

The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth and man;   in others  sun, moon and love.



The spiritual aspect of ikebana is considered very important to its practitioners. Silence is a must during practices of ikebana. It is a time to appreciate things in nature, which people often overlook because of their busy lives. One becomes more patient and tolerant of differences, not only in nature, but also in general. Ikebana can inspire one to identify with beauty in all art forms. This is also the time when one feels closeness to nature which provides relaxation for the mind, body, and soul.

Given below is a slideshow of some wonderful flower arrangements in the Ikebana style which were exhibited in Gurgaon in January 2010.  Most of us  connect to nature in our own way-for some it is through visiting National Parks, for others it is birdwatching or macro photography to reveal the insect kingdom.  For many women it is through gardening and for the artistically inclined, Ikebana is a great way!

If you are unable to view the embedded images given below, please click on this link

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