Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nature Notes/Looking Back

When I look back on 2011 it makes me think about the mental nature notes that I made.... 

What a joy to see these blue-banded bees clustering for the night. Dead or leafless branches of shrubs are where they gather when they call it a day. Surely something I would have missed if I didn't blog!

I had never seen this kind of beetle before and getting a chance to photograph it recently was most satisfying.

The other day on a picnic that we had been to, I was surprised to see that these leaves still held dew. Our temperatures never go below 9* C when it's at its coldest and dew vanishes as soon as the sun is out.

And although I've photographed the Peacock Pansy butterfly several times, I can't resist another shot if it happens to choose to sit on one of my plants!

The sandy stretch of the Brahmaputra was filled with the prints of webbed feet. As the year ends I am thankful that I can connect/have connected with so many of my blogging friends. It's such a blessing to belong to this wonderful community. May our tribe increase!

This post is for Michelle's meme Nature Notes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

World Bird Wednesday/From The Archives

Today's post is a selection of some of the birds that are not from my backyard but taken in nature reserves and while on a picnic. Our backyard birds come in three basic colours: black, white, and grey!!:) This Golden Oriole was taken at a resort in the outskirts of our city. I have posted some of these photos before but that was all before I  joined Springman's meme. The photos also say...don't you think it's time you changed to a better camera? Hmm...I'm listening...I'm listening!

This Crimson Sunbird was spotted on a drumstick tree last year. We were out on a picnic near a river and was I glad I saw this!

The Indian Roller was photographed in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on one of our day trips there.

A winter scene...pigeons peck at some of the remaining grains in a rice field. After the harvest these are how the fields look in this season.

And a flock of pelicans that I photographed at the local zoo.

To see more posts, head over to World Bird Wednesday.

                                 CLICK THIS PICTURE!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish all my blog friends and visitors a Merry Christmas! May this season be filled with peace and joy for you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nature Notes/ The End Too Soon

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.~ Rabindranath Tagore

But some do not make it. Like these tiny eggs...On recent bird watching trip I was hoping to get some butterfly shots. But with the day being cloudy I only saw a few flying about as we were about to return. My friend Mitali noticed a butterfly on the ground. It looked like a Lime butterfly (one of the most commonly seen swallowtails here) but the coloration was slightly different. It was sad to see some of the eggs still attached to the body. Back home I looked up my Book of Indian Butterflies and it looked similar to the Common Yellow swallowtail. The photo below was taken with these coloured stones on the wings to hold them in place. It's a butterfly I have never seen in my yard nor photographed. Maybe on my next trip to the same place I may be able to photograph this beautiful butterfly- alive.

This post is for Michelle's Nature Notes. Click on the link and check out posts on nature by other participants.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Cattle Egret

Now that the water in the marshy patch near our house is drying up, the sight of  egrets feeding on the ground will greet us most mornings. Just like dew on the grass and the tomato re-seeders that somehow manage to make their way through the soil at this time of the year, it's a seasonal occurence. For the rest of the year it's as if the egrets understand that they remain in the outskirts of the city where the low-lying rice fields and water bodies with their innumerable flora and fauna provide enough for them. Marshy plots of land near residential areas are to be visited only in December!:) This is the fourth year that I've observed this. Maybe I'd have forgotten the month but for the photos I have taken....

 To peck or not to peck seems to be the question for these birds. In summer the colocasia grows as high as six feet and you can barely see the other side. Swarms of dragonflies hover above them and the bee-eaters and the drongos are always around to feast on them. Families of marsh mongoose are seen scurrying in all that luxuriant growth. Only small clumps of colocasia plants remain at this time of the year. 

Cattle egrets feed on grasshoppers, crickets, flies, moths, spiders, frogs, and earthworms. Wiki says that the cattle egret has attracted many common names. These mostly relate to the habit of following cattle and other large animals, and it is known as cow crane, cow bird, and cow heron, or even elephant bird, and rhinocerous egret. The cattle egret is a popular bird with cattle ranchers for its perceived role as a biocontrol of cattle parasites such as ticks and flies.

Take a look at our feathered friends from around the world by visiting Springman at World Bird Wednesday.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by. May you have a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Biodiversity on a Bush Morning Glory

The other day on a bird-watching trip I came across a few Bush Morning Glory plants. As we passed by one such bush, the insects caught my eye. A few months ago I had been thrilled to find out that it was the host plant of tortoise beetles but here was biodiversity! There were several caterpillars feeding on the leaves, blue damselflies (the ones I had never photographed before) were hovering on the plant, iridescent green polka-dotted beetles were on the underside of the leaves and I also noticed a green spider. If I had stayed there longer I might have seen more but then I saw an eagle....

Bush Morning Glory/Ipomoea carnea grows on the edge of rice fields and other low-lying areas. They grow to a height of 1.5 m. Throughout spring and summer they bloom in clusters of pink.The flowers close as the sun grows stronger just like other kinds of morning glory blooms. A native of tropical America it is widely naturalized. Its Hindi name is besharam meaning shameless due to its invasive quality. Over the years the branches spread and form a tangled mass. Then it becomes a resting/hiding place for bigger creatures such as the python (below). I took this photo at the Pobitara Wildlife Sanctuary last year where the guards showed it to me and to other park visitors. I had always meant to use this photo about how the plant's branches can be a perfect cover for animals and I'm happy to be able to include it in my post.

I am joining Michelle of Rambling Woods for her meme Nature Notes. Click on the link and see other participants' posts. It's always interesting to see what's going on around us.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birds At Deepor Beel

On Sunday, I headed off to Deepor Beel with my friend Mitali and her cousin. Deepor Beel is the largest water body in the outskirts of the city. In winter it's where all the migratory birds come.We left around 7.30 in the morning. It's an hour's drive away. As you can see from the first picture, it was foggy and the horizon could barely be seen. But there were birds galore. It was my first bird-watching trip so I was happy to see birds in great numbers. It didn't matter that I didn't get pictures of birds from colder climes, as such.

I don't know most of the names apart from the cormorant, the heron, and the eagle. Even the pylon was packed! I hope you've enjoyed the photos...despite the cloudy backdrop. I'll surely be going back to Deepor Beel. Now I'm thinking of sunny day bird pictures.....

This is my entry for World Bird Wednesday. Click on the link to see various feathered friends from across the globe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The White-breasted Water Hen

The white breasted water hen is a shy bird, ever so furtive in its movements. Years ago we could only hear them as we were surrounded by marshy land. But now that most of the rice fields have disappeared and apartments have come up, we see them in our yards now, foraging in our gardens. But they still nest in some of the marshy patches left untouched by man so far. Their call is raucous and they tend to get vocal during the breeding season around dawn and dusk.
Although the bird's colours are predominantly dark grey and white, the undertail feathers are rust brown. The beak is greenish yellow and the base is red.

I often see them pecking on the ground much like the way chickens do. Their diet includes seeds, insects and small fish. They also nibble on small snails, worms and snack on shoots and roots of marsh plants.

This is my entry for World Bird Wednesday. Click on the link and check out some of the most stunning bird photos from across the planet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Commander Butterfly

The other day I came across this butterfly on my mussaenda plant. I recognized it as the Commander as I'd seen it two years ago in my front yard. Looking up online I found out that the Commander is found in low elevations and found all over India. It's fond of damp patches and the flowers of the Aztec marigold. Male butterflies exhibit strong territorial behaviour, often perch high on trees and pounce on other butterflies. Only time will tell whether I'll be able to document such actions in future.:)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Black Drongo

The Black Drongo is a bird found in the tropics in lightly wooded habitats from south-west Iran through India and Sri Lanka to southern China and Indonesia. Like the sparrows and the crows, the drongo is a regular visitor to our gardens. The glossy black feathers of this bird also have blue metallic hues. The tail is long and forked and both sexes look similar. Juveniles are said to have dull brown feathers but I have never seen one so far.Like the bee-eaters, drongos are also fond of sitting on the power lines and preying on insects. These pictures were taken in the gardens of the local Cultural Centre where the drongos are seen in large numbers. 

Drongos are said to be fearless and aggressive. Although their length is 28 cms only they are known to attack larger birds if their young or nests are in danger. Although their call is said to be varied I often hear the sweetest ones when they perch themselves on the mango tree or on the power lines near our house.

This is my entry for World Bird Wednesday. Please click on the link to see birds of many different feathers....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Oriental Magpie Robin

Welcome to World Bird Wednesday! Today I'm posting pictures of the Oriental magpie robin/Copsychus saularis, a bird that's seen in our gardens everyday. The glossy black and white feathers and the sweetness of its call makes sure that you notice the bird! Males are black and white but the females are a dull grey. Juveniles resemble the female but they have scaly heads and upper parts. 

The Oriental magpie robins are known for their song and were once popular as cagebirds. This is the national bird of Bangladesh where it is known as the doyel.

Sizing its prey, maybe? Magpie robins usually feed on the ground, foraging for insects. Their diet also includes snails, plant matter and small lizards. They are terrestrial birds and their flight is often near the ground and for short distances.

To see more posts on the wonderful world of birds, head over to 
World Bird Wenesday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ladybird or Tortoise Beetle?

I came across this ladybird-like insect on the underside of the Ixora leaf (first photo in the collage). It looked like a ladybird but a closer inspection revealed that it was a tortoise beetle. I've photographed quite a few tortoise beetles but never like this one. To see the kinds of patterns on them you might like to visit this site.

Commonly seen ladybirds that I photographed a few months ago. To see more details of tortoise beetles check out my post here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekend Reflections/Chennai Sky

Wispy clouds reflected on the glass front at Express Avenue Mall in Chennai.

For more reflection photos head over to

My thanks to James for hosting this wonderful meme.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Blue-banded Bees

Now that I have posted about the birds, let me talk about the bees!! One of my favourite bees in the garden is the blue-banded bee. They are really tiny, about 7-15mm average and make a sound that sounds louder than most bees. Also they are hard to photograph because they are constantly moving, and never still.

The blue-banded bees are native to Australia but their close relations can be found throughout the Asia-Pacific region. They are members of the genus Amegilla. the most conspicuous thing about them is the pale blue or bright blue bands on a mainly black abdomen. Females have four bands, and males, five. These bees are buzz pollinators. They use a special technique to get pollen from flowers. They hold on to the flower and vibrate with a loud buzzing sound. The vibration causes the flower to drop the pollen on the bees' bodies. Despite the sounds they make they are not at all aggressive and will sting only if threatened.

One unique thing about these bees that I've noticed is that they cluster at night by clinging to twigs or stems. Looking up online I learnt that the males cluster on twigs but the females build nests in shallow burrows in the ground or in the soft mortar of houses. I happened to be photographing a pretty dragonfly yesterday when I noticed this bee getting ready to call it a day. Even here it was not still.

 Another bee comes to rest on the same twig. That electric blue is no longer prominent now that the wings are closed.
The cluster forms...All these images of garden wildlife has taught me a n important lesson in watering. Years ago, during hot summer evenings, I used to splash water on my plants at night too. Now I know better. How many moths, butterflies, lizards, and bees I must have disturbed then. I didn't really think about garden wildlife then, the way I do now. 
All quiet now...maybe the cluster grew larger after this shot. But I knew I had to leave them catching up on their much-needed beauty sleep:) for first light will see them heading for their immediate neighbour...the coleus in full bloom.