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05 February 2008 @ 11:08 am
Like I wrote before, the weather at Point Reyes was like four seasons in one day! The beautiful play of light at various times of the day was just beautiful. Here are some photographs from the day.

The Drakes Beach. A much bigger version behind the cut.

More photographs from Point ReyesCollapse )

04 February 2008 @ 11:29 am
Yesterday, I had an appointment with the Elephant seals at Point Reyes. These huge pinnipeds were actually much smaller than I had imagined them to be but it was awesome to see these fascinating creatures. Rain was predicted through the day but I took the gamble and headed out to Point Reyes. There was wind and rain and sometimes clear blue skies. At Point Reyes itself it was a beautiful day of clear blue skies with menacing rain clouds out in the Pacific. And the weather would change so often that it was weird. It would rain hard, then settle to a gentle drizzle, then the winds would kick in and there would be brilliant sunshine cutting through the copious cloud cover.

We first arrived at Drakes Beach and there was a signboard warning us of not getting too close to the seals but there weren't any that were visible. Just then we saw something out in the waves hitting on an unusually placed rock in the middle of the beach and the rock moved... Elephant Seal! The seal, perhaps a male, was moving north and he was using the edge of the water to drag himself along the shore. Apparently, aggressive males can move quickly enough to outrun humans over short distances but this one wasn't even interested in look at us.

We then moved over to the Chimney area, where there's an overlook to watch the breeding colony. That place had a lot more seals and young pups. A bunch of volunteers there had their scopes set on the main action - one on the young pups, one of the HUGE beach master (the male that "owns" and controls the beach) and the younger male who had challenged and been chased away! And though we had some good looks at the seals, it was virtually useless for good photographs.

I really wanted at least a couple of photographs of the seal, so we headed back to Drakes beach and from one of the high vista points, I scanned the seashore for the seals. About a mile north, there seemed to be one lying on the beach, but it looked so similar to a rock that I wasn't sure. I decided to give it a shot anyways and walked up along the beautiful Point Reyes coastline towards the seal. And like I had guessed, there were two young males on the beach! There were a bunch of volunteers there who told us to keep good distance from the seals because some of the seals were getting scared and moving back to the water when humans approached them. However, the distance they asked us to keep was well within the range of my cameras... so I did manage to photograph them. The seals were curious but didn't care about our presence as they enjoyed a beautiful day on the beach...

A youg male yawning...

Ten more photographs of the SealsCollapse )

02 February 2008 @ 01:34 pm
I realized that when I'm out looking for animals, I click much less - a lot of time is spent finding, stalking and playing games with the animals before I get something. Death Valley is picturesque at every corner and traveling in the desert for the first time meant looking at a lot of new things. I did not see any animals, save for a bunch of ravens, sparrows and the odd desert rabbit but the place is stunningly beautiful and... quiet. I love such places.

While we were driving from Stovepipe Wells to Scotty's Castle, I was beginning to get a feeling that I'm not going to have a single good animal photograph on the trip and as I looked out of the window I saw a strange cloud formation. Did it really look like a crocodile behind the mountains or was I hallucinating? Anyway... tell me what you see in the photograph below. :)

Croc in the Valley!

Bigger croc image + a lot more...Collapse )

26 January 2008 @ 08:44 pm
There were just a little too many landscape shots on this trip than I'm usually accustomed to. However, these are just very very average photographs compared to what I've seen people do with landscapes of death valley - it takes a lot of visits, the right conditions and the right time of the year. On the last evening of the trip at the Panamint inn on the western edge of the park, I was astonished to see the restaurant walls adorned with such stunning photographs of death valley that it made me feel that I should go there many times to see all the beauty that is hidden there. Meanwhile, this is how I saw Death Valley when I went there...

Six photographs from Death ValleyCollapse )

21 January 2008 @ 06:01 pm
I made a trip to the Death Valley national park over the weekend. It was my first time in a desert and that place is beautiful in its own unique way. Too bad I didn't read up much about the place before I went there, but I'm glad I could make that trip. I should write more about it when I get some time...

Four photographs from the park...Collapse )

13 January 2008 @ 07:10 pm
It's the end of yet another lazy weekend. I finished the book I was reading, cleaned up the house, did laundry and even had some time to get out for a bit of birding and photography. I headed out to the Shoreline lake in Mountain View this afternoon to catch some sun after a week of stormy weather. There are two trails about half a mile apart from each other - one in Palo Alto called the Charleston Slough and the other in Shoreline lake in Mountain View. I've noticed that the birds - sparrows and ducks - in the Charleston Slough area are very shy and just scoot as soon as they've seen us whereas the birds in the Shoreline lake don't care how close you are to them. Today, the ducks, coots and sparrows were so close that I could really reach out and catch them. It was a little too close for photography but being able to watch them from so close is more fun than photography itself!

Shoreline lake and some birdsCollapse )

31 December 2007 @ 06:30 pm
So, the most of the Saturday was spent walking on a trail along the Coyote creek just south of where I live. Vivek, Prasad and I were doing a bird count for the county and like always I had my camera in my backpack just in case I had a need to use it. For the first hour or so, I didn't even bother pulling out my camera, but when I had my first lifer, I just had to pull it out to get a shot and like it always happens, the camera never went back into the backpack!

I think I'm finally getting used to the extra weight, speed and control of the D300 and I certainly improved my ratio of the good shots to the bad ones. It was cold, windy and drizzling at times and those are about the conditions that this camera seems to pull away from the other ones. Over the day, I managed to get several life birds and got lucky with a few as well. So, here are my last photographs of the fantastic 2007.

8 photographsCollapse )

15 December 2007 @ 09:03 pm
This afternoon I headed out for a walk in the Palo Alto baylands. Birdwatching or photography was not on the menu, but just a long nice walk in the cool afternoon breeze. It was a wonderful way to end a long week and interestingly I had some lifers for my bird list. Anyway, I did manage to snap a couple of birds as well.

Sparrows and DucksCollapse )

01 December 2007 @ 11:57 am
I woke up yesterday with a nasty cold and decided I'll get to office when it got better, but it only got worse during the day and I ended up having to skip work and stay at home. Anyway, it did get a little better towards the evening and I was able to go to a bookstore and pick up a couple of books for the weekend.

I was going through some of the photographs I had taken last December around Bangalore and found them interesting, so here they are:

A frog and a squirrelCollapse )

25 November 2007 @ 08:44 am
We went to Point Reyes yesterday afternoon for a quick trip. It was already late in the afternoon and I wasn't expecting to see too much of wildlife activity around there at that time. At the first turnout, I pulled over to pull out my camera from the boot and noticed a small plump bird sitting on a fence. Raptors usually sit out on open perches like that and the size looked good for a Kestrel, or a Merlin! It was rather far away and I really couldn't make out much even with my camera. So, the stalking began and with each zooming car along the highway the chances of getting close to the bird were going away. Thankfully, I did manage to get close enough and guess what? California Quail! I've been looking for these little rascals for a long time and they always show themselves when my camera is packed up or there's no way to get a photograph of them.

As we drove along, I saw something that looked like a medium-sized cat, but looking against the sun meant that I could only see the silhouette and it could have very well been a stone with some shrubs around it. Unfortunately the traffic was so bad, like it usually is on all weekends, that we couldn't stop or turn around to check it out. Point Reyes has a population of non-native deer and there are plans to exterminate them. However, we humans seem to love our laws of Physics, especially the one talking about every action having an equal and opposite reaction and there have been strong protests from animal rights activists against the program. Anyway, the most common deer species around there are the Fallow Deer and I parked in a turn out trying to get some shots at it. I think these deer are used to getting guns pointed at them because when I pulled up my camera, they seemed to dash away in the opposite direction as fast as they could!

The final animal of the trip was a bit of a surprise. You don't get to see them during the daytime but I guess it was out because the winter nights were getting a little too cold. Anyway, I was so close to it that if it had wished to come at me, I'd be wounded badly but he went about his business and I kept that low-profile non-threatening approach which made him go out his business of digging out rodents.

The photographs...Collapse )

23 November 2007 @ 12:46 pm
I've never tried to seriously photograph a Corvid. They are so common that it rarely makes people go after it for a photograph. Even yesterday when an American crow landed right next to me (in the hope of getting something to eat perhaps) I wasn't too keen on taking a photograph. Anyway, I did manage to get a bunch of photographs and they are a little surprising indeed.

Three images of the CrowCollapse )

23 November 2007 @ 12:15 pm
Thanksgiving day was spent hiking and wandering in Yosemite. I've been lucky with Blue Grouse before and yesterday was the best of the sightings. I first noticed two of them right next to the road and since the birds were on the passenger side I had to drive slowly around them and park in the next turnout. It was freezing outside and Yosemite roads see a lot of a traffic, especially on a big weekend, and it was only a matter of time before the next car zoomed past the birds sending them into hiding. Getting close enough without scaring them is half the job in taking a forest bird photograph. The other half is spotting them! It was fun stalking them. First I had to sit on the ground far away from them while they looked at me and became aware of an alien in their country. Then I had move sideways without making eye contact and moving as slowly as possible without any quick movements. And then when I was close enough, it was time to gain their confidence once more so that I can lift my camera and take their photographs. It took minutes to even get to them and I was just hoping no car comes by on that very busy road up to one of Yosemite's most famous vantage points. However, I managed to take a bunch of photographs till the next car came by sending the birds flying down the mountain just as I had expected!

Four photographs of the Blue GrouseCollapse )

Oh, before I forget, this bird is now called the Sooty Grouse because the "Blue Grouse" was split into two species, Dusky Grouse and Sooty Grouse, last year.

18 November 2007 @ 04:05 pm
Just because I was at home all weekend, I had some time to look back at some of the photographs that I took earlier in the year. I'm not sure if I'm posted them before, but here they are:

Fair game? River tern fight. One tern caught a fish for its chick and the other snatched it. It's not easy fishing in these crocodile infested waters, but the terns must fish to live on.

Tern portrait and an ElephantCollapse )

10 November 2007 @ 03:47 pm
Is it just me, or the birds? I noticed that a majority of my favorite bird photographs feature birds looking left. I have quite a few photographs of birds looking right, but they don't seem to be as appealing to me as the ones looking left. For example, if I have photographed a bird looking in both directions I seem to favor the one looking left. Also, whenever I draw something, I usually draw them facing left. Weird, but maybe there's a reason for it or is it just that I noticed it today?

I have three more photographs that I took over the week and all feature birds, as usual, looking left. Featuring in this post are a Snowy Egret, a Song Sparrow and a Turkey vulture. Be warned that the vulture has blood on its face and beak.

The photographsCollapse )

03 November 2007 @ 08:43 pm
I made a quick trip to the Palo Alto baylands this afternoon. The weather was great and I needed a nice long walk along the shores as well. The usual birds were there in attendance, but nothing new to me as far as my bird list was concerned. However, I did get some interesting photographs.

The fisherbirds...Collapse )

27 September 2007 @ 08:56 am
It was a packed weekend. The Saturday was spent out in the sea and around it and on Sunday it was the high Sierra! The colors in Yosemite are changing and the seasonal waterfalls are now just a trickle. The Tioga pass road will be closed in a month and will remain inaccessible through the heavy winter and that meant I just had to drive up that road. It was an exciting trip and I managed to add a few more species to the my wildlife list, some excepted and some unexpected.

Here are are some photographs from the quick trip.

More photographs...Collapse )

25 September 2007 @ 07:12 pm
I had the opportunity to get back to Monterey over the weekend and this time it was out to sea to in the hope to watch some whales. It was supposed to rain that day and for once the weather guys got it right and it rained all the way during the drive from San Jose to Monterey and it rained when got on to the boat. The sky was gray and the waters seemed not all that still unlike last time. So, we traveled for more than an hour into the ocean, some fourteen miles from land and still there was no signs of those elusive mammals. And then we caught the distinctive sight of presence of whales - gulls and other sea birds hovering around close to the surface waiting to pick leftovers of a successful whale hunt. An association of Humpbacked Whales. Three of them.

It wasn't as spectacular as the last time when the whales put on a show, but seeing and hearing them again in the wild was exciting. However, we did see another type of whales after a while...

Photographs and more...Collapse )

16 September 2007 @ 08:17 pm
So, a bunch of friends from work and I decided to head south on CA-1 towards Monterey and Big Sur. There was always time for birds and I did manage to photograph a few of them.

The birds... and a SquirrelCollapse )

09 September 2007 @ 07:16 pm
Finally, I got some time to head out to one of my favourite places around here - twice in two days! The first trip was mostly a photography one and I managed to get some of the usual ones there and today morning was all about biking around the deserted and extensive trails! The biking trip was mostly to see other parts of the preserve which I've not had time to see so far and scout for places to visit the next time I head out with my binoculars and camera gear. Hours of cycling can be tedious and I think I should have remembered to leave my bag at home because the back really hurts when you're riding for a long time on a road bike.

+4 photographs of birdsCollapse )

07 September 2007 @ 03:25 pm
I realized I had more interesting mammals from the Vienna zoo. Here's a bat, a Coypu and a porcupine on the tree!

photographsCollapse )

04 September 2007 @ 09:21 pm
It's been more than a month since I went to Tiergarten Schönbrunn(the Vienna Zoo), but I never had the time to actually go back and take a look at the images. Here are some of my favourites - because I have just hoping to catch some of them in the wild, but I at least got to see them in the zoo. So, that means the next time I'm in the Indian jungles, I have a slightly better idea of what they really look like... :)

Five images from the zooCollapse )

09 August 2007 @ 04:33 pm
The general belief is that spiders are vicious loners. At least the most famous and notorious ones are definitely loners, but while talking to some friends recently, I heard about some spiders that are not loners and actually live in large groups, hunt and share food cooperatively! And following an interesting post of a picture of a social spider colony on a nature forum, a bunch of us set out this morning to actually track down a spider web in the outskirts of Bangalore. That's as good a bet as finding a needle in a haystack.

After an hour of the mad Bangalore traffic we landed on a narrow muddy road leading to a small patch of forest. I can't remember having been to a place so deseretd and so close to Bangalore in the recent past. There was just one farmer ploughing his fields on his tractor and he was rather curious as to what the three of us were doing in no-man's land. As we were driving through the Eucalyptus grove next to the fields, we managed to catch sight of a small white web on the ground and off we went to investigate. There are other spiders which build similar webs but they are loners as well and fairly large and all of us had seen quite a few of those. So, looking close we first saw one tiny spider at the entrance of the funnel-like web and soon we saw dozens (hundreds?) of spiders inside the web. Isn't that great? We actually managed to find that needle-in-a-haystack!

Too bad that I missed my macro lens for the close-ups, but the telephoto lens managed fairly decent documentation shots of the spiders.

Warning: Images of Spiders insideCollapse )

08 August 2007 @ 12:31 am
Ah! I've been super busy since I got back from Europe. Back in India, I went on a driving trip of sorts over the weekend, but with parents, so that meant speed restrictions and music restrictions as usual -- but was fun. The rivers in the monsoons can be awfully powerful even if they look to be quite placid. My swimming's a bit rusty, but I think it does not matter if you have no gills.

So, about the Europe trip. And here's the summary: First two days in Dresden. Third day on a wonderful train journey from Dresden to Vienna through the Czech Republic. Days four and five in Vienna. Day six was the train journey back to Dresden. Day seven was a cloudy, rainy day in Dresden and a perfect setting to do some sketching and reading about art after all those inspirational visits to those spectacular galleries. And day eight was the most boring one - full day travel to get back home. So, I've stopped telling people I went to Europe, instead I tell them that I went to Vienna and Dresden. And the funny look on their faces: Dresden? What's that!?

Anyway, Vienna is a very very beautiful city. I'm not much of a city photographer or even a city lover, but I did walk around that city with the camera around my neck and clicked a few shots. Like always, photographs are just a very poor substitute to the experience of actually being out there - be it in the wild or in a city.

Here are some photographs that I managed to take in the end.

St Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom)

MoreCollapse )

A little while after I got into serious wildlife-ing and birding I began to notice a strange pattern with respect to distribution of wet-zone (rain forest) birds. There were some species found only in the western ghats close the western coast of the peninsular India and over a thousand kilometers away in the North East Indian hills. It didn't seem all that strange at first, birds have wings after all and are known to embark upon long-distance migrations. And then, I heard about the distribution of the King Cobra -- again found only in the western ghats, the Himalayan foothills and North East India and beyond. That seemed strange because of the large distance between the two places. Just how did the distribution happen?

Apparently, I was not the first to notice that. That question has baffled biologists for centuries and there have been some excellent hypotheses put forth to explain the strange distribution. And with my limited knowledge about wildlife and biology, I had a handful of species belonging to this category, but there were hundreds who had this strange distribution pattern. After some reading and talking to some excellent people in this field, here are some of my findings.

Maps and modelsCollapse )

14 July 2007 @ 12:46 am

Vast areas of Mizoram is bamboo forest, some natural and some degraded (meaning originally not a bamboo forest). Dampa tiger reserve is a 500 sq. KM forest and is a beautiful little place tucked away in a corner of the vast Indian sub-continent and not many people even know about it. A small fraction of the park is motorable and most of the accessibility through the park is through steep and narrow paths like in the above photograph. It can get rather eerie in there because the canopy blocks away most of the light and it is perpetually dark. And with the wind, the bamboos squeak and whistle adding sound effects to an already mysterious looking place. We were on the constant look-out for wildlife -- after all that was the aim of the trip and we did see some of them and it's amazing how well they blend into the forest. However, the dream of seeing a clouded leopard or a bear or even a tiger was not to happen, but I can only imagine how exciting it would have been to see one of those in this wonderful setting.

03 July 2007 @ 01:23 am
While I was walking along in Nameri, I found this tusker in one of the islands on the Jiya-Bhoreli river and was surprised. I had never seen a tusker like this guy before... The tusks seem to be heading backwards like in saber-toothed tiger. The closest predecessors of elephants which had backward pointing tusks seem to be back from the Oligocene(Paleomastodon) to the late tertiary(Gompotherium) times! Very interesting indeed, but I guess it's a common thing for modern elephants to sometimes have weird tusks because of various constraints. Need to find out a bit more about this.

01 July 2007 @ 11:45 pm
Colourful little guys. Hardly get a glimpse of their beauty when they do their usual fly-bys.

29 May 2007 @ 09:31 am

It's like comparing a Formula 1 car to a solar-powered cross-country voyager.

The Peregrine Falcon is probably the fastest moving bird ever. An amazingly quick flier and known to stoop at speeds in excess of 300 km/h! This bird is not all about speed, it can spot a pigeon five miles away and can bring down prey much larger than itself. A fantastic hunter. Whenever I come across this bird, I always watch in awe of what it can do - moving quickly in one direction, a master flip and moving as quickly in another direction. Truly a master of the air. Our air crafts need to go through a few hundred years of evolution to get to what the Peregrine can do I guess.

And then there is the vulture. Slow and calm, it is the master of the economy flight. The sit on high ridges, dive down and use their long and broad wings to get lift, and then use the thermals to soar high into the air. Almost effortless. Its flight is perhaps not as long distance as some of the albatrosses but the vultures hold the height record. Believe it or not, a Ruppell's Griffon was sighted at eleven thousand meters above sea level on the African plains once! It is as if the vultures fly for fun. Their landing is even better, they dive down and then gradually move upwards till they reach their favourite perching spot and time it so well that when they reach their perch they are almost stationary. Just amazing.

So, last weekend when I was watching these vultures putting on an air show, a Peregrine falcon showed up. It began patrolling the area and was very keen on some of the swifts and martins that were hawking insects in the air. And then something amazing happened. From what I could see, one vulture was moving towards a group of soaring vultures (thermals?) and the Falcon was flying quickly towards the vulture in the opposite direction. When they were just a few feet away from each other, they suddenly turned in opposite directions and the vulture stooped down and the falcon upwards avoiding a possible mid-air collision. I really do not know if it was as close as it seemed to be from the ground, but an amazing sight indeed.

+1 An image of the falcon in flightCollapse )

Sorry for the abuse of the word 'amazing' - it truly was er... amazing! :)

27 May 2007 @ 12:03 pm
A coworker, Suneeth, wanted to see the critically endangered Indian Vulture and so we headed out to the last place to see them in these parts - Ramnagara. As always, the vultures were perched precariously on the rock face and it was great seeing eight individuals of this vanishing species.

The weather was wonderful and the lighting almost surreal. As we walked around on the small hillocks, we noticed another bird make it's appearance. It's not too common and people hardly see it, but looks like it has become a regular one on my birdlists - the Peregrine Falcon. More on that later though.

Two photographs of RamnagaraCollapse )

27 May 2007 @ 11:46 am
When I was trekking in Nameri, I accidentally brushed past a flower and it fell off the plant. And just when I was wondering how weak the attachment of the flower to the plant was, the fallen "flower" began to move!

Look carefully...Collapse )

25 May 2007 @ 07:01 pm
Early last week, I spent a couple of days in the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in a quest to find and photograph an enigmatic bird species - the Broad-tailed Grassbird. It is a sparrow-sized Passerine which lives in mountain grasslands and is rarely seen or heard since it is very secretive and moves around in the grass like a rodent. At least, that's what many believe, but it is more or less a mystery.

Just before the monsoons hit the western ghats, these birds breed and that's the best time to actually see them. The males come out and sit on open perches and sing away, claiming territory and showing domination. Dr. Subramanya, who had seen these birds last year in the Brahmagiri mountains wanted someone to go with him to take photographs of this elusive species and somehow, I got the opportunity to travel with him. Shyamal, another expert in ornithology and entomology, was joining us as well. So, on Monday morning we set out to Brahmagiri on a little expedition to find a little a bird.

More text and pictures of the Grasslands and the birdCollapse )

17 May 2007 @ 02:52 pm

Light tries to make its way through the thick ceiling of mist. It's an eerie shade of green everywhere with the sweet smell of moisture. The moss and lichen on the branches of trees, several hundred feet tall, portray a picture of forgotten tranquillity. It is an old forest, untouched by the keening winds of change, it has remained that way, seemingly forever. Strange creatures live in this place, many not described by science yet and many more not even seen by man perhaps. A road was once cut through the jungle, keeping an impending war in mind. Strange then that this road is considered paradise by many who've tread upon it. The wall of seemingly impenetrable vegetation on either side of the road is only broken at strategic places, as if a maze has been cut through a hedge - ancient routes of the pachyderms. Elephants have used these paths for countless generations as they moved on to higher altitudes during the summer in search of food and water. Nature's own musicians are at work in the hours of daylight. They whistle, whine, cry, chatter and squeal. Surely a cacophony? No, it is a grand musical ensemble of the finest quality. Every time I've heard of Arunachal Pradesh, my mind painted a picture of a land that is beautiful, mysterious, with trees and spectacular birds. And when I finally had the chance to be there, I was standing there in awe. My poor mind had failed miserably in its illustrations, for the place was beyond my wildest imaginations.

      Here is the entire story. Warning: Very very long and lots of photographsCollapse )

Here's another link to the same write-up: http://www.yathin.com/trips/ne/mar2007/arunachal/

25 April 2007 @ 09:40 pm
There aren't many known places in the world to see this bird. Apparently, it was once very common but now down to a few hundred individuals. Guwahati, the capital of the North-Eastern state of Assam has one of the best known places to see this mysterious bird - it's garbage dump. The fish market at Ulbari is that place. We were on our way to the Guwahati airport contemplating on a stop at the market to see this bird, but it looked like time was not on our side. So, we just decided to go on and scan the skies along the highway and if we were lucky, we'd catch a glimpse of the bird soaring.

Just as we entered Guwahati, the driver calmly told us to look at a large bird flying around and see if that was what we were looking for. He was right! We got out of the car and saw that there were many more and they seemed to be landing at a site a little off the highway. We decided to try and go for it and a little while later, we were on a muddy road with tons of garbage on either side. A little later we came across a group of Great Adjutants on a mound of garbage. As soon as we opened the doors, we were swarmed by flies and the smell of the place was revolting. The rolled-up windows had saved us from the filth for so long, but not anymore. For a moment, the place and the smell was forgotten for less than twenty feet away from us were a dozen of these five-foot storks. These were the largest wild birds I'd seen and to see them from that close was just fantastic. With the midday sun and haze and a sprinkling of cloud cover, it meant that we had ever-changing light conditions. It was tricky, but the camera did it's job with a burst of photographs but the clock was ticking faster than ever and we had to leave...

Photographs of the Adjutant StorkCollapse )

02 April 2007 @ 08:56 pm
We landed at Guwahati and heard that there was a general strike in some places and that meant we could not drive up to the Arunachal Pradesh mountains on that day. We decided to spend the night in Assam at the Nameri tiger reserve and then move into Arunachal the following day. The state of Assam is having some insurgency problems and the general strikes there are taken very seriously by many of the locals. Nameri is about four hours drive from the Guwahati airport and we were supposed to drive through some of the affected areas. A couple of hours later, we were at a small town where the cops stopped us. Apparently, the general strike was most intense in a stretch of road from that point and they said that we would have to go with a police escort. Soon we were driving behind a car full of armed policemen through deserted-looking towns, villages and highways.

Thankfully, the day ended peacefully and we were all set to head out to Arunachal Pradesh. The pothole-riddled roads were not exactly a pleasure to be travelling on, but soon the agriculture lands gave way to the northern forests of Assam. Soon, we were in Arunachal - we just needed to cross one bridge and we'd be in the home range of the world's newest species of bird and hundreds of other beauties.

More...Collapse )

01 April 2007 @ 04:55 pm
Two fantastic weeks in a remote corner of India. What can I say about that? It's been the trip of my life so far. Travelling with four awesome (and crazy) birders can be a little overwhelming since it's discovery at every step. At times, it was even a little embarrassing, but that's what I expected when I signed up to go with two top birders who've been birding for decades, a professional bird tour guide and an ornithologist. The untouched forests and the high himalayan passes were like travelling back in time to see the joy in nature.

I think I should write more about it in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, here's the cutest little creature I saw in the trip.

The little fluffy fur ball...Collapse )

10 March 2007 @ 10:02 am
The wildlife in our gardens is often overlooked for the more exciting wild wildlife. The wildlife in the cities is restricted from the small to the really small animals and they are easily mistaken for something else.

Ants are the terrors of the insect world and most avoid them at all cost. So, looking like an ant can often save an insect from predation. Not just that, the ant-like appearance can help an insect go unnoticed amongst other ants and some insects take advantage of that to eat the ants which give them protection! Here's an Ant Mantis - a species of Praying Mantis which looks like an ant and acts like one except that it could catch and eat up a passing ant.

18 February 2007 @ 06:48 pm
Did a little bit of birding this morning at Hessarghatta. The plan was to go see and photograph a rare species of Pipit which another team had spotted during the Bangalore Bird Race. We were unlucky with the bird, but we decided to drive around a bit on the slushy lake bed in search of other subjects to shoot.

Shooting raptors is tough work. They are brilliantly camouflaged when perched and fly away as soon as we get within shooting range. An innovative way to shoot them is to use the car as a moving hide and my friend has perfected the art of doing it. And Kestrels (a type of Falcon) are notorious for being shy and wary of humans. Just look what it did as soon as we got close to it!

Common Kestrel. Isn't she a beauty?

Another raptor and a Stick MantisCollapse )

14 February 2007 @ 01:20 am

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Current Mood: sadsad
29 January 2007 @ 07:22 pm
Big cats in Southern India come either in spots or stripes. While I've seen the striped kind several times, the spotted kind have always eluded me. Until now, that is. We thought we were done for the evening - the day's catch included several herds of elephants, gaur, several birds and a really friendly mongoose. At sharp six, as if we had an appointment with his highness, we met him at a crossing. He was surprised by our presence, but was arrogant enough to stand his ground and look into our eyes - exactly what we wanted! He did that for a brief couple of seconds and walked away, calmly and with total disdain, across the road and into the forests on the other side. I managed a photograph of him though and I should say I've been very lucky to get a crisp and clear image considering the fact that I had a non-VR lens and the light was fading quickly. :)

The LeopardCollapse )

21 January 2007 @ 05:29 pm
My feet struggle to find a good hold. Inches away is a cliff, several hundred meters deep. The scenery is breath-taking but I can't get any closer. My heart races. Somewhere along the slopes in the distance could be wild goat, the Goral. My eyes scan the slopes, with my mind trying hard to crack the camouflage puzzle. The cool wind slices through the many layers of wool. I'm dizzy, and with fatigue catching up, I cannot continue. Not with heavy camera gear on my back. I see no Goral. Maybe I'll see a clouded leopard instead? And before I pass out with foolish anticipation, I sit for a breather. It's now quiet, with only my panting breaking the delightful midday silence. There's a speckle on the blue sky and it's getting bigger. An eagle is soaring and it's moving towards me. Quickly. And then it dives and disappears into the forest below.

Lots More + 35 pics.Collapse )

For Sudhir's version of the trip and better photographs, here's a link to his report

06 January 2007 @ 09:48 pm

Blue Mountain National Park is a remote forest on the Myanmar-India border. The place is so remote that the only way to access the place is by a long and difficult hike in a forest path. The rest house, which is dilapidated by the way is on a peak 1900 meters high and birding/photography is mostly done on the forest path to and from the guesthouse to the National Park gate. So, that means a daily trek of several kilometers and a climb/descent of at least 400-500 meters along steep cliffs which can make anyone go dizzy. And with all the heavy camera gear, you're worried about taking that fatal fall more than anything else.

So, on this cold morning, I was walking down from the rest house to go to a forest patch which had flowering trees (and that means birds!) Along the way, there was a place to sit which overlooked all the mountains around and more importantly a flowering trees in some distance. This is that place - peaceful and quiet and isolated and stunningly beautiful.

06 January 2007 @ 09:19 pm
Last month, while travelling in the remote Indian state of Mizoram I was surprised at how remote this place was yet so modern! Sounds contradictory, so I will need more than one post to prove that. First, there are hardly any fuel stations there and we saw none during the long drive through the length of the state on a major highway, which, by the way, is not too wide. There's hardly any traffic there and the majority of the vehicles we saw on the highway were not the usual internal-combustion engine powered vehicles, but something else. No, they were not horse-drawn chariots or bullock-carts.

The vehicle was so popular that every house seemed to own one and each was an eco-engineering masterpiece. Somehow it reminded me of the Flintstones era... ;)

More + PicturesCollapse )

27 December 2006 @ 09:02 pm
For me, the image of Kaziranga has always been an endless expanse of tall elephant grass as far as the eye can see, under grey rain-laden skies, with rhinos and elephants. It was how I imagined it to be, more beautiful perhaps. The vast oasis, speckled with trees and puddles of muddy water - remnants of the annual monsoon flood - is a biodiversity hotspot. The eerie silence of the place is only broken by the territorial call of a Pallas's Fish Eagle, a shy hog deer crosses the road ahead as it moves from one pasture to another, a Brown Fish Owl is roosting peacefully by the roadside and suddenly we see it, the Great Indian Rhinoceros. It was close to us, so close that it made our guide a little uncomfortable. It was a wonderful specimen, a large male with his beautiful horn and armoured coat. He took a minute to investigate, as he tested the air for our scent. He soon got back to finishing off his green-grass supper - we were no threat to him, not us, not a bunch of puny men with cameras around their necks and junk food in their blood.

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27 December 2006 @ 03:02 pm
Minutes before landing, the scenery changes dramatically from the verdant hills of Meghalaya to the flood plains of Assam. Countless temporary alluvial islands and a large braided river system announce the presence of the Brahmaputra. From the high Himalayas, the Brahmaputra flows much of it's length in Tibet as Tsangpo, before entering India at it's Eastern frontier in Arunachal Pradesh and flows the length of Assam as the Brahmaputra and enters Bangladesh as Padma, where it joins up with the Ganga to form the world's largest delta before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The river system is looks so enormous and the land so barren with silt, it can make you
wonder if there are any people living there at all. Yet, it is along this very river that we will find the some of the densest populations of mankind. Half a billion people live in the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin and more than a hundred million in the delta alone. No wonder then, that when the river floods, which it does almost every year, so much is lost in life and property.

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18 December 2006 @ 08:14 pm

Sunrise in Blue Mountain, Mizoram. Below the clouds flows a river - international boundary of India and Myanmar.

I'm back. Saw the big five of Kaziranga: Rhinoceros, Elephant, Wild Buffalo, Swamp Deer and Tiger. Trekked in the foothills of Karbi-Anglong in search of India's apes. Crossed the mighty Brahmaputra to see the very rare and very beautiful Golden Langur. Ventured into the state of Mizoram in search of elusive birds and mammals. Crossed a river on a boat-bridge. Walked close to the international borders of two countries. Took roads which are only used a few times a year and inaccessible during the rains. Walked along steep cliffs, inches away from a fatal fall. Saw the snake which people fear most - the King Cobra. Saw creatures of the night, rare and mysterious and beautiful - leopard cat, civets and martens. Saw beautiful birds found nowhere else in the world. Spent time in front of fire on a freezing night watching shooting stars. Experienced night - no power, no civilization, no water, no sound.

Stories. Pictures. Places. Culture. An unforgettable journey it was.
Current Mood: calmcalm
23 November 2006 @ 10:34 pm
The bird survey thing went well last week. While I was not birding, I managed to take a few snaps and they include several first time photographs!! That's exciting. Few more bird species on my list now.

Blue-bearded Bee-eater. The largest bee-eater in the world.

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07 November 2006 @ 07:29 pm
The tropical jungles are full of deceit: Prey hiding from predators, predators hiding for prey. While camouflage plays an important role for survival, so does aposematism in some cases. One question that I've never really found a good answer to is the camouflage capabilities of an elephant. The big bulls have no natural enemies and the others live in family groups. Their food is sedentary. They don't need to hide from anyone and yet, they blend so well in the jungles. Here's an example:

+1 Out of the WaterCollapse )

30 October 2006 @ 11:34 am
Hornbills are interesting birds. Apparently, in the wildlife sanctuary where I went last week, they had not seen them for over a couple of months and the first morning in the park we saw not one, not two but at least fifteen to twenty of them. They are usually very shy and hate humans approaching them and fly away as soon as they see us, but this group we saw seemed to be rather bold. Maybe it's because there were so many of them, they felt a lot more secure!

A male Malabar Pied Hornbill

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27 October 2006 @ 02:06 pm
There's something about this animal that makes it a favourite for a lot of people around the world. It's silent, shy and secretive and lurks in the shadows and creeps up to ambush it's quarry. Yet, many believe that it's the craftiest wild creature when it comes to improvising a scheme for food. It has played hero and villain in hundreds of folklore and myths and real life dramas. Unfortunately, its home is an ever-shrinking island of trees and grass.

Over the last few days a bunch of us were guests in the abode of this majestic creature. Two young tigers decided to grant audience for a few minutes. Photographs were clicked and history has been made.

The princesses of the jungle!Collapse )