Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tirumala after ages

Finally after multiple procrastination and delays, we made a trip to tirumala last week. I was curious and looking forward to this trip for couple of reasons. It's my trip after a 15 year period! It's my first trip after I started birding and it's happening around GBBC time, so I was hoping to catch up with some birding as well.

After doing the traditional darshan and rituals I managed to squeeze in some time to do little briding and some insect clicks

We saw a huge banyan tree where the kids were happy to play.
A bee and some wasps too turned up.

Post returning to Tirupati, I managed to volunteer to take a group of children at Regional Science Centre for a nature walk.  We spotted some orioles, ashy drongos and went around the centre. As they saw the best things were saved for the end.

At the end of the walk, we saw a group of Red Silk Cotton tree flowering in full. What a show it's for us. One by one as if someone called them by name, birds started turning up. Purple sunbirds were all over the places, Pale-billed and interestingly Thick-billed flower peckers turned up. Ashy drongos, Jerdons' Leaf bird couples. So what do you do when such opportunity turns up, we made most of it like this:

What was supposed to be a 2-3 hour thing ended up as an almost full day activity. We had a snack and sat below the tree to spot birds. While my son goes around checking all the science fun things around the center, I ended up checking the insects around.

Here are some pictures of the critters we found

A very pretty heavy-bodied jumper - jumping spider

A lynx spider

We also saw a carpenter bee lying on the ground. We picked it using the Silk cotton flowers and left it safely only to see later that the red weaver ants carrying it away !

Here are the kids and adults looking up the silk cotton tree show

We also saw Wild Almond Tree . It has lovely seed pods.

The highlight of the day for me was this stick insect  Indian Grass Mantis
We were fooled by it's appearance thinking it's a stick insect. Returning to Bangalore, iNaturalist helped us id it correctly and it also prompted me to create the missing wikipedia page for the species. It's scientific name Schizocephala translates to "split head" depicting it's head. Those lovely eyes and head makes a pretty insect.

The Regional Science Centre in Tirupati is a wonderful place for kids and adults to spend time. It's thoughtfully setup. Younger kids will love the dinosaur exhibits with sounds besides some experiments, middle school or high school kids will enjoy the exhibits for sure.

I will strongly recommend it to anyone visiting Tirupati, Its worth spending half-a-day here. The small Planetarium is nice and the entrance fee is very less. Besides, the beautiful campus set at foothills of Tirumala hills, barely 500 mts from Alipiri, attracts lot of birds, insects. The staff too are enthusiastic  that they keep organising activities and had an active club of children and adults. Overall it's a must visit place in Tirupati. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Wetland Survey Weekend

A super packed weekend with two days of lot of walking, birding, travelling! As a part of the Bangalore Lake/ Bird survey 2020, I had an opportunity to volunteer the weekend of 25/26th January for a survey.

On 25th, a group of 4 women with wonderful wit and energy joined me as we went around and did the census at Gunjur, Gunjur Palya, Mullur and Halanayakanhalli lakes. Most of them despite of being new birders showed tremendous enthusiasm in identifying the birds. Though most lakes we visited didn't had much water and heavily encroached, we went around walking a lot seeing the birds around. As usual, I didn't click many pictures. The highlight was the booted eagle chased by the Ashywoodswallows and the plovers at the Halanyakanahalli.

Despite of the little water present,a lake-bed-turned-cricket-pitch next to it,  halanayakanahalli lake had a good shore that was hosting some stints and plovers! We had tough time identifying them. Gunjur lake had little or no water, but hosted a sandpiper and the green bee-waters were present at all lakes. The lunch at Rasaganga opposite new Wipro office was good and leisurely. Appreciate the women who left their family (including kids) behind and spent a day counting birds walking in hot sun for long distances.

My initial concerns of managing their safety was put to rest as we had good time, some laughs, puns (beeater) and had a nice company! It's a good day of birding.

On 26th, I had another team as we head to Hosur road. Kailash was kind enough to drive us around. We started with the farthest and the largest lake, Muthanallur. As soon as we reached the lake, a peregine falcon flew past our car. It's an omen of a good day perhaps! I mis-identified a grey-bellied cuckoo but we were treated to a spectacle of watching 6-8 Golden orioles going around catching caterpillars and beating them on the bark and slurping them.Never seen so man orioles in one spot! A group of 6 red munias and watching red munia collect nesting material was also memorable. We had a decent outing at the lake with 70 + species. Rajesh, Rashmi who joined us were enthusiastic.

We went to Boomasandra lake next. Though it's polluted and encroached, we walked further in the east to discover some really old fig trees and lianas that reminded me of western ghats or the lianas of IISc. It's luckily in tact and I hope it can b converted into a reserve forest kind!

The Chikka Nagasandra lake had good potential, but dried up totally. There was a forest fire(shepherds) fulled by dray bamboo and industrial waste. We were shocked to see clutter of peacock feathers. Probably someone hunted and ate them! We complained this to BBMP Wildlife wing. Hope it leads to more patrolling.

We wrapped the day at what turned out to be a beautiful lake called Huskur Lake. It's setup at a fantastic location, right next to the railway track. We were thrilled to see a group of 70 Northern shovelers go in circles and land in the lake. We spotted the Greater spotted and Indian spotted eagles flying high. We also spotted the Little ringed plovers on the lake bed.

The lake had good shore lines, cultivation on the bed and beyond, islands, huge trees on the banks, thus supporting a diversity of birds. Except for a sore sight of borewell being dug at one end, we were happy to discover this lake as a part of the census.