Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Trip that Wasnt

During this time of year, we take our annual vacation to a forest somewhere. The trend so far has been to go steadily North-wards.

Since our last trip was to Madhya Pradesh, perhaps we could east this time round? We considered the NorthEast, Kaziranga/Sunderbans etc. The plan was rejected even before it had formed. Marxists/Naxals and what not said Mom, too dangerous.

What about the West? Gujarat - Lets see the lions before they all disappear. There was general agreement. All seemed fine and we began the usual extensive ground work that goes into each vacation. Few military expeditions can match my Mom in attention to detail. :)

When all seemed to be ok, we saw a Discovery channel documentary about the Gir Lions. We were most disappointed to say the least. The Gir forest was far from inspiring, being dry and arid. The Lions looked defeated and tired. Compared to their African relatives, ( who always look Majestic and well groomed ) they looked like Third World Lions.

Doubt began to loom large; would we see such sad, unhappy lions having gone all the way to Gujarat? Plan B needed to be in place. How about Corbett?, said Dad.

And why not? So Corbett it was. As is the usual procedure, I scanned Flickr and blogs for trip reports from Corbett. The Web was unable to yield any photos / trip reports of Tiger sightings. The landscape of corbett was lovely beyond question. Many birds could be seen there, but apparently when it came to the mammals, the photos were of chittal and a few misty swamp deer.

Lets combine Corbett with something else, said Mom. Bharatpur in Rajasthan, was the natural choice. We had heard that scarcity of water last year had left many visitors to Bharatpur disappointed. Surely this year, with all the rain and flooding everywhere, Bharatpur too would have got its share? Reports from Bharatpur indicated that the water situation was far from rosy. But while the migratory birds had not arrived in their usual numbers, it was visitable.

While looking through flickr I chanced upon some wonderful photos of Gir Lions. Seen through the lens of Discovery, they looked sad, unfed and unhappy. However here, they seemed in good cheer, not as enormous as their African cousins, but still retaining some princely glory.

We decided not to be biased by the Discovery video and included Gir in our plans yet again. Its final said Mom, Bharatpur and Gir it is. Out came the maps and railway timetables, nearest airports were found and convenient trains were located.
The hotels were decided in both Gir and Bharatpur.

When all seemed ready, we found out that we were landing in Gujarat on election day. This was a big no-no. Our other problem came from the sheer difficulty of getting to Gir. The nearest airport to Gir didnt seem to have any flights landing there, from any where. The only option was to take a over night train from Ahmedabad.

It seems that Gujarat is not too keen on promoting its wildlife destinations, despite the fact that they have the only Asiatic lion species on the planet. And lets not forget the Wild Asses of Kutch. Though asses, wild or other wise can be found anywhere in our country, particularly in our Govts.

So where are we going finally, you ask? We're going to Bharatpur and Ranthambore. Both in Rajasthan - the land where the tourist is king. (With a few stops in nearby cities - Cant leave Rajasthan without shopping !!)

The Gujarat Govt can learn a thing or two from Rajasthan, they even have a train nick-named the Ranthambore Express that allows one to reach the park with minimum inconvenience.

Hopefully we'll have a successful trip, photos and a detailed trip report will follow on our return.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hebbal Lake

Lemon Pansy Butterfly

This was our second trip to Hebbal Lake, the first one ending in disaster as Keshav and I discovered that the lake was closed for de-silting. This time around, I decided to ensure that the lake was reopened by checking on Flickr if any photos had been taken of it recently.

I did eventually, after sifting through a ton of sad photos (of some company trip), find some lovely shots of the lake and tempted Keshav and my parents with them.

Pink ProfusionRed and Green

I will not try to describe the route to the Lake, shall wait for Keshav to add that. People following my directions may never be seen again.

First Impressions: The Hebbal Lake-Park gate is hard to spot, so we drove slowly. There seems to be no designated parking area. The area outside the gate is used by various food vendors, the garbage heaps demarcate each stall. We parked under a tree at the right side of the gate beyond all the small garbage heaps.

It reminded me a great deal of the Madivala Lake, except here, the park is a lot bigger. There was no laughter club here and place was pretty much deserted.

Great EggFly Male
Koel - Female

From the gate, we walked through the park (left side path), where the shrub like vegetation dotted with small trees is a haven for Prinias, Sun Birds, Flower peckers, barbets and Bulbuls.

SunBird Female

Following the path on the fringes of the lake, we saw a fair number of Parakeets at breakfast. They were unafraid and busy munching.

HL-Rose Ringed Parakeet Male
Rose Ringed Parakeet Male

The water birds however were easily spooked and would fly away even if we approached the side of the lake. We saw Coots for the first time here, and I got my first shots of a Purple Heron. Sadly the Pied Kingfisher eluded us yet again, and we only saw the White Breasted Kingfisher. There were a few White Ibis sitting rather far away in the trees.

The dense shrubbery at the end of the path, near the bamboo thicket yielded a Long Tailed Shrike and a Pied Crested Cuckoo. An Indian Cuckoo was also seen at a distance and id-ed with the help of my bad photos of it. We also spotted a water snake swimming away from the lake bank.

Pied Crested Cuckoo

Long Tailed Shrike
Purple Moor Hen

Saw the Wagtails here as well - Large Pied Wagtail pair and a lone Grey/Yellow wagtail.

HL-Little LizardHL-PurpleHeron Flight
Purple Heron

Returning to the gate, we walked to the right side path which leads to a small rickety watch tower over looking the lake(more of a platform than a tower). Keshav bravely tested it to see if it would take his weight. (FYI : it did indeed take his weight – it did groan a bit though).

Hebbal Lake has a loo with running water (permanently running – might I add, the tap does not close).

I am glad that the de-silting exercise seems to have not disturbed the birdlife too greatly. I do wish the hawkers at the gate would dispose of their garbage a lot better.

Where to have breakfast: We had the breakfast buffet at South Indies – Indranagar. Read the review here

Monday, November 5, 2007


Manchinbele Landscape - Rocks

Having heard and read so much about and after seeing the excellent photos that Manchinbele seemed to yield. I decided that I must see this place for myself.

Fortunately, Keshav was ahead of me on this. He visited it with friends, scouted out the location of the weaver birds nesting area and photographed a Red Munia (Avadavat). Obviously, having seen his photos, wild horses could not have stopped me from going there myself.

Birds can be sighted all along the road. Almost immediately we saw an Indian Roller and Indian Robin (Male). It is difficult to stop to take photos since the narrow road is frequented by huge recklessly driven trucks and BMTC buses.

It took quite a while to reach the dam, the road at first is carpeted with potholes and finally deteriorates to only potholes, with a bit of road in between.

The dam is quite lovely to see, with bluer skies, it would have made a more picturesque site. The terrain is dry with thorny shrubs and grasses and quite a few wildflowers were in bloom.



Our first stop was the lake. A Pariah Kite was kind enough to pose for over 20 min at ground level. Also saw a Pied Kingfisher for the first time, it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. A Red wattled lapwing also was cooperative. There were also a large number of Large Pied wagtails.

Red Wattled Lapwing
Red Wattled Lapwing

Pariah Kite
Pariah Kite

There is a rocky out crop near the lake on the side of the road. We parked there; the rocks harbour a number of lizards and rock agama. Click on the picture to view a bigger size.

Rock Agama
Rock Agama
Lizard -id?
Id help pls.

A large number of sunbirds can be found here, as fearless, as they are small. This was my first sighting of a purple sunbird male in Eclipse (non breeding) plumage.
Observe the stripe down the front of the neck.

Our second stop was the weaver colony, further along the road to our right. The gregarious birds were busy in nest construction and constantly fought among themselves. They were oblivious to our presence. Sadly we didnt see the Red Munia again. Perhaps a question of timing.

Weaver Bird - Baya
Male at Nest.

There were a large number of butterflies all around, and one particular plant near the weaver colony had a great many red black bugs - one in each flower.

Butterfly Conference
Plain Tigers in conference
ButterFly - Peacock Pansy
Peacock Pansy
RedBlack Bug - ID ?
ID help pls
Peacock Pansy Peeking

On the drive back, we saw several bee eaters, bush chats, plain prinias and one Barn swallow ( sitting on the road). Also saw a little brown dove and a Brahmini Kite.

Getting there:
We had set out on the road to mysore, on a mildly overcast day at 5:45am and quickly reached Kengeri. There after, we took the road to the Great Banyan Tree. Many confusing (for me) turns later we could see the dam. There after, there is just one very bad road.

Things to remember:
1. Fill fuel enough for a round trip. Not too many petrol pumps along the way
You'll need A/C on for the drive back
2. Take water and stuff to eat ( dont litter pls )
Small Shops can be found at the Great Banyan tree but nothing beyond that.
3. Its very sunny there and there is no shade. Take sunglasses, hat, sunscreen
4. If you cant read kannada make sure you know the way, else you may get lost
5. Go in a group if you plan to stay there for later in the day.
Place didnt look too safe to me
6. Take spare batteries and memory cards, photo opportunities are many.
I needed 2 cards.
7. There is NO MOBILE NETWORK beyond the dam.
8. Go very early. The distances may be short but unless you're in a four wheel drive, you'll be taking a long time to get there.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Katapadi III - Life in the undergrowth

Butterfly - Papilio Polytes Romulus female
Butterfly - Papilio Polytes Romulus female

Also called Common Mormon. It mimics the Crimson Rose. An interesting read about the mimicry of this butterfly can be found here .

In addition to all the birds, I was surprised by the varieties of butterflies that visited our back yard. Sadly most were extremely restless and hardly sat.


A group of shiny blue and red butterflies always fluttered at tree top level and never came lower than the high branches. A large black and yellow bird wing also wandered around, never sat anywhere.

Also seen was a large black butterfly with bluish tinge on the upper side of its wings. I've also seen it near Indranagar park.

The cooperative ones, that did sit still, have my gratitude.

Chocolate Pansy Butterfly
ButterFly - Chocolate Pansy

ButterFly - Common Snow flat
ButterFly - Common Snow flat

lizard - id ?

Found this little spirited guy while waiting for some bablers to settle down. There were 2 of them. Only this guy was bold enough to pose. No idea of the species.

We also visited some rice fields at a neighbour's house and there I saw a few dragonflies, by the river side.


ButterFly - Common Jezebel

I have a habit of looking into any passing well. And I've noticed that most wells I've peeped into usually has a resident tortoise-like creature. Any help in id-ing this would be greatly appreciated.
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