Monday, December 28, 2009

Birds Love the Anaar Tree!

The Anaar tree which bears the Anaar (Pomegranate) fruit is valued in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine. The fruit and its rind have nutritious values and healing properties. The pomegranate is native to the region of Persia and the Himalayan ranges of India.

The bird community seems to realize the value of the pomegranate fruit. Of all the plants and bushes in my garden, the Anaar attracts maximum number of birds at all times.
The soft spoken "white eyes" and the chirpy "bulbuls" relish the red fleshy seeds.

The squirrel, evening brown butterfly and common Castor butterfly are the other regulars I have observed at various times.

Go ahead and plant an anaar tree in your garden!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Blue Pansy

This winter we have not had many butterflies in the garden; may be because it has been a dry winter with no signs of rains coming. So I was thrilled when the blue pansy flitted about under the morning sun. First on the yellow chrysanthemums and then on the Asoka Tree.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mahagony forest in Kerala

A visit to Kerala is never complete without a peek into the deep forests the State can still be proud off. Waiting nearly two hours to get permission to drive through the Illithod Mahagony Forest was forgotten once our vehicle entered this near pristine forest. Till recently, we were told, the access to the forest was unrestricted and the area was a favourite with plastic throwing tourists. The State forest department stepped in and went a step further. They managed a court stay on the Aquaduct which was being constructed on the banks, parallel to the River Periyar. The completeion of this canal would have meant no access for the animals to the river. For now the animals are happy!

candle flowers grow wild on the roadside

entrance to the mahagony forest

canopy of mahagony leaves

an enveloping tree trunk

Periyar River (300km long) flows through the dense forest floor.

strangler figs abound (thanks to abundant bird life)

the mahagony survives and grows, unstrangled!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Urban Wildlife-Colours of autumn

I am opening this blog with a natural flower arrangement from my garden. Kanahs and roses seem to like autumn best.

The lime butterflies are common

So are the plain tigers.

The grass blue is fashionably judicious in the use of bright colours for that graceful effect.

Turn on your macro lens and whole new worlds open up, like this lady bug in mustard color with a beautiful pattern on her duppatta!

Monday, October 12, 2009

IndianWildlifeClub is a finalist in DELL-UTVi awards.

IndianWildlifeClub is a finalist in DELL-UTVi awards.

Indian Wildlife Club - Gurgaon, Haryana, an Online Community of Practice, has leveraged latest technologies and a fresh approach to spread the message of conservation and environment education. The portal enables users to share their knowledge through articles in e-zines, Blogs, discussion groups and documentaries, submit multi-media trip reports, and share their observations on interesting places/ideas, and also browse and place orders for photographs and calendars, from the online repository.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Moth on a shrivelled nest

The photograph above shows a moth resting on the shrivelled nest of an ashy prinia warbler. The leaves are of the creeper "flaming glory bower'.

I have just written a blog on the caterpillar I found on the leaves of the elephant foot yam plant.

Can some one identify whether the moth has metamorphosed from the caterpillar shown? Or are they from different species?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Instars' after the rains!

This year the rains came late and lingered till end of August. The butterflies and moth caterpillars waste no time in completing their life cycles; Here are some I managed capturing on the lens, in the beginning of September.

The above picture is that of a lime butterfly caterpillar which is probably in its third stage (instar)of moulting. The picture below is that of the same caterpillar after two more moultings. Now it is in its last 'instar' and the next stage will be the pupa and then the lime butterfly. The host plant is the Chinese Orange tree.

If the caterpillars of lime butterfly are fast eaters, they pale in comparison with the moth caterpillar's eating capacity. The picture below is that of the Elephant Yam moth caterpillar. This one could devour huge leaves of the yam plant overnight and was found hiding beneath the leaf during the day. I could not observe this caterpillar in its next stage; probably a mynah or babbler found this packaged fast food irresistible. The caterpillar disappeared sometime during the day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Education for Sustainability

The talk given by Mr.Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for HRD on 29th July
2009 at Teen Murti house, was really `Manna' to an
environmentalist's ear. The crux of his talk was that
`Environment Education' should be at the center of education,
all other knowledge can follow. All scientific data and processes are
available with nature.

"Bring science into education; all aspects of science can be learnt
from nature. Science taught in correlation with nature is understood

"Education for sustainable development in an era of climate change,
calls for a change in mindsets. The need is to reach out to communities
and have a dialogue. Teachers within the community will have knowledge
at ground level".

" Teaching of a subject must be holistic. Environmental issues can
be effectively linked to say, automobile engineering. Teaching of music
can take off from nature…."

" Communicating with nature creates a sense of preservation of
nature at the heart of education…"

"The government's aim is to connect all villages of India in the
next three years. This can lead to leapfrog in education. We must be
ready with relevant content in the meantime."

Heart of all content is nature.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solar Eclipse 2009

Here is a visual journey of the total solar eclipse in New Delhi.

The Nehruplanetarium at Teenmurti was surrounded by parked cars in hundreds well before 6 AM on 22nd July 2009. The Sun is about to rise and the video camera of an enthusiast or of some TV channel is hoping to catch it first!

Young and old alike are waiting for the solar spectacle to unfold.

At 6.40 AM this is how the sun looked to the naked eye.

But the screen put up on Teen Murti lawns showed a different picture!

The secret was to cut out all other light by looking through the unexposed portion of an X-ray film. Some school girls were seen distributing the X-ray films to those who wanted them. Many were also looking through the X-ray film spectacles sold for the purpose. I decided to put an X-ray film in front of the view finder of my digital camera. Here is what I saw.
At 6.44 AM on 22nd July 2009

At 7.19 AM on 22nd July 2009

That was truly a "once in a life-time" experience!

Monsoon Raindrops

This year Gurgaon and entire Haryana is experiencing the monsoon in "Raindrops" and not sheets of rain like it did last year.

The promising clouds disappeared as soon as a few drops fell into the earth. Even the jade plant who does not need much water to grow seemed to treasure them like jewels!

The yellow lilies I planted two years ago bloomed all on a sudden as if to welcome the rain with open arms!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Flower power to beat the heat

Temperatures are soaring from 42 degrees Celsius ( 108 degree Fahrenheit)to 46 degree Celsius(115 degree Fahrenheit) in Delhi and Chandigarh. It is a struggle to keep the garden smiling. The Mayflower bushes bloom with their smooth pink flowers.

The Zenia blooms of various shades remind us that these hardy flowers do not mind the soaring heat. But the Lily flowers bloom at 5 AM in the morning and wither away before 9 AM in the morning. Their flower petals are fragile and cannot bear the heat.

The North west monsoon seems to have given this part of the world a go-by. Ladies Fingers oblige in the kitchen garden with a good show; but the spinach, coriander, beans and others which have sprung up from the earth during the monsoon drizzle, threaten to die away if the rains refuse to come.

The tailor birds, sun birds and white eyes are getting impatient to start their nests.

We are all waiting for the rains.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fertilizers and pesticides

Fertilizers and pesticides-Are they necessary?

In my small backyard I do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Segregated kitchen waste of vegetable peels and dead leaves from the yard are composted and used as manure. Calcium for my lime trees? That comes from eggshells. Natural pesticides are used when needed. The most effective pesticide I found comes from the oil of the Neem tree (available in ready to use form).

I have uploaded some slide shows of the plant and animal life who have made my garden their home. See the link

Hope you enjoy watching them!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Red Cotton

( )

Red cotton trees line the road in front of our house. Come March/April and the trees are in bloom and the road lined with fallen red flowers. "You can make a vegetable with the petals" " Take out the red color by boiling the red flowers; best organic red color for Holi!" But one normally finds that no one picks up the flowers, they are just swept away.

Come May and the tress are full of cotton pods which open and pour out the cotton fluff all over the neighborhood. Some murmur "These cotton fluffs cause Asthma" But before the murmurs die away, the fluffs disappear and the short flowery season of the "Semul"tree is over. The trees are back to providing shade to passersby with their large branches.

Come June, and new bugs in bright red color spring from nowhere in my garden. I search their pictures on the web and realize they are "red cotton bugs".

Red cotton bugs? Is it because of their color? It seems they survive on cotton seeds. We have had a few drizzles in June and the cotton seeds on the ground must have got soggy and soft. That is the stage at which I noticed these young bugs devouring the seed. See the short clip below. So, now the web of life of Silk cotton was falling in place. Observing nature around you can be really stimulating.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hoopoe and Shikra

Birds(and animals) live a life of "high alert" at all times. This hoopoe is busy using its long pointed beak to dig out and eat juicy worms from the freshly mowed lawn. Cars and people are passing by the road nearby and my camera is not far away focusing on him. He is unperturbed. Experience tells him "not to worry".

Suddenly he freezes. I wonder why. Can you guess?. Look at the video below and I have tried to bring the action in the background through the recorded sound.

Listen through the din of cars and wind and you can hear the shrieking of a "shikra" -a raptor, who is circling above the lawn. The hoopoe knows that any movement on the lawn will attract the raptor's attention and he will swoop down for a meal.

As the shikra flies further away, the hoopoe resumes his meal.

Here is the disappointed shikra taking a break

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cat and the pigeon

Mention the domestic cat and the vision is that of a 'purring' furry creature happy to sleep on your bed, slurp milk from a bowl and eat cat food for breakfast and dinner keeping the pet food manufacturers happy.

A very different picture from that of "kitty"-the cat who roams our neighborhood. Her territory consists of the back and front yards of at a least a dozen houses in the neighborhood and loathe she will, to enter a human household.

So we are not surprised when at times we find bird feathers in the yard, remains of kitty's meal. We also know that kitty keeps in check the rodents and garden lizards.

The latest hunt of kitty surprised us though. A full grown pigeon attacked and downed in a jiffy. The pigeons usually avoid the small hedges and lawns in our garden but this one did not and paid with its life.

Kitty Claiming the prize hunt

Kitty the hunter with the pigeon she felled

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The colourful barbets are closely related to woodpeckers. They are as common in the gardens of Delhi as they are in the wooded streets of South Mumbai.

Many believe that the typical calls repeated rhythmically is an indicator that our city pollution levels are still under control in many parts which have large trees around.

In common with woodpeckers barbets feet have two toes facing forwards and two back. This feature allows them to cling easily to trees and excavate their nests.

The place to look for them in Mumbai is old fig trees. In Delhi, the coppersmith and green barbet are regular garden visitors (mostly in large public gardens).

The short video below on the “feathered heritage of India” opens with a coppersmith calling and excavating its nest on a dead tree trunk in a common park in a residential area in Delhi.

India's Feathered Heritage - These bloopers are hilarious

The photos below are of a green barbet guarding its chicks inside the tree hole nearby. Curious onlookers are still there, like the mynah, which is trying to peer in and of course my camera!