Friday, December 31, 2010

Calender 2011

Calender 2011- (Picture drawn by Ajith, a student of Govt.Tribal Residential School Geddesal)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shola forests and black wattle of Avalanche

Aradu kuttan

We (Me and Kuttannan) went to Avalanche in November for a short filming. Avalanche named after an `avalanche’- a landslide, in 1823. We stayed in a Avalanche mund (toda village). It was a nice stay every morning I saw Nilgiri laughing thrushes coming through bushes and laughed at me (they came very close that I could not film them!). Grasses were carrying water droplets, waiting just to be absorbed by sun.
Our friends have got lots of buffalos, the famous and scared, toda buffalos. Every day I saw buffalos leaving mund by 06.30 hrs to graze in the hill slopes, and they came back themselves by evening. Evening sunlight filtering through buffalos' white (toda buffalos are not black) crest hair was a different view of sunset for me. Toda houses' roof was thatched with grass (I ve posted one photo of a toda temple in one of the previous posts). Relationship with forest is starts when a child is born, it follows in marriage and death in toda.
Black wattle in flowering 
One of the elders in the village mantioned that Avalanche was full of shola trees, rhododendrons, orchids, epiphytes and small wetlands. Rattan, a plant group belongs to palm was abundent in the near by sholas, which they used to construct temples. But now due to the invasion of Black wattle they have to go to the distant forests.

Black wattle
Black wattle Acacia mearnsii (a fast-growing leguminous tree native to Australia) had reached almost everywhere. Kuttan is a nursery expert and he says that the germination rate of Black. The invasiveness of this tree species is due to its ability to produce large numbers of long-lived seeds and the development of a large crown which shades other vegetation. Acacia mearnsii competes with and replaces most of the indigenous vegetation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tired Bees Make Poor Dancers

We all struggle to communicate after a sleepless night, let alone pull off our best dance moves, and it seems that honeybees are no different.

Read more about bees' struggle from this link:-

Grass lands

We were trying to shoot grass with lots dew (I would call paradigms of sun) in the higher regions of Nilgiris. I tried to recall my memories about grass harvesting paddy, climbing a bamboo ladder, smell of extracting lemon grass oil and lot (don't know names) and decided to find little more about grass and grasslands.

Grasslands go by many names. In the southern part of India, they are known as Pul veli (Tamil), Pul hiro (Toda), Pul medu (Malayalam) and Ullu matta (Baduga)... In the U.S. Midwest, they're known as prairies. In South America, they're called pampas. Central Eurasian grasslands are referred to as steppes, while in Africa they're named savannas.
What they all have in common is grass as their naturally dominant vegetation. 

This miraculous plant covers a quarter of all the land of the earth, Grass lands exists where ever there is a little rain but not enough to sustain a forest.

When rainy season arrives, our grasslands become coated with flowers, some of which can survive well into winter with the help of underground storage organs and thick stem bases.

Grasslands are of vital importance for raising livestock for human consumption and for milk and other dairy products. My old house's roof was covered with grass, now some of the Toda houses' and all the Toda temples' roofing is done with grass (a special grass!).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tropical cyclone names

Met Office
During the Second World War names were used by USA Air Force and Navy meteorologists monitoring Pacific tropical storms. By the mid-1960s names were used for all tropical storms except those in the North Indian Ocean. The names currently in use and those to be used in future years are listed below. Various meteorological organisations have responsibility for names and employ different conventions.

Northern hemisphere index

  • Western north Pacific - West of 180 °E
  • Philippines - 5-25 °N 115-135 °E
  • Central North Pacific - 140-180 °W
  • Eastern North Pacific - East of 140 °W
  • Atlantic
  • North Indian

Credits to Metoffice.UK, if you are more interested please visit their website:

Jal Bearing Down on Southeastern India

Tropical Cyclone Jal is bearing down on southeastern India, endangering residents and visitors over the next day or two as it spreads flooding rainfall and damaging winds across the region. The intensity of Tropical Cyclone Jal is currently the equivalent to that of a tropical storm with sustained winds near 60 mph. Landfall will be near the state border between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. International Expert Meteorologist Jim Andrews warned this past Thursday that "the city of Chennai could be hit directly." Jal will come onshore with flooding rain and damaging winds. An inundating storm surge will also pose a serious danger. Locations along the immediate coastline in the path of Jal have already received heavy rainfall, with more on the way. Resultant flooding will be the biggest impact of Jal. More than 25 people have already died due to flooding from downpours ahead of Jal's landfall, and more than 70,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. The harvesting of crops has been affected by Jal with more than 300,000 acres of cropland being doused by heavy rain. After making landfall, Jal will continue to track into the interior of south-central India Sunday night. The higher terrain of this region will cause Jal to weaken in terms of its damaging winds. Heavy rain triggering flooding and mudslides will remain a concern.

-By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
 Nov 7, 2010; 10:30 AM ET

 Content contributed by Eric Leister and Meghan Evans, meteorologists
Satellite Image of India on Sunday (Courtesy of India Meteorological Department)

Read more about tropical cyclone formation from:

Neighborhood Geography with Young Children

“Where’s my new preschool?” “What does ‘prairie’ mean?” Children’s natural curiosity about places is the basis for learning about geography. The Illinois Early Learning Standards call for children to express beginning geographic thinking and to locate objects and places in familiar environments. These tips can help children in your program meet these benchmarks!

Lots of educational materials can be found from the following website:-

Illinois State Board of Education

Common blue bottle

Sitting by a forest stream can't be compared with anything.
We can put small pebbles in the water and see how many droplets go up,
How many jumps one stone can do once its free from our hands,
Make models of our dream,
Can draw anything with fine sand on the banks of a river,

We can swim,
You can drink(if you trust others) water while swimming or
Sit and move our eyes as the ripples come and go...
The river has a beginning, an end, it always lives in the present, it has a variety of characteristics and indeed a sense or purpose too. From looking at the river from the perspective of its characteristics we find it has a particular chemical composition, it has an origin, it houses lot of aquatic composition, and plants, the water is used for a wide variety of purpose and the like. If the river is unaware of its variety of characteristics, it becomes ignorant and simply flows off.
I was sitting by a forest stream in western slopes of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve) looking around to do what next? (no I was trying to find my own identity(!!!) like our river flowing without the true knowledge of its own identity will surely reach the sea) Graphium sarpedon, the common bluebottle is a species of swallowtail butterfly came here to see what aquatic composition this river has got to attract female butterflies to him.  Another stakeholder of the river.

I will do anything for ----
I pulled out basic information of why this butterfly is visiting riverbank. 'His' visit is called mud-puddling- it is the phenomenon mostly seen in butterflies and involves their aggregation on substrates like wet soil, dung and carrion to obtain nutrients such as salts and amino acids. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are diverse in their strategies to gather liquid nutrients. Typically, mud-puddling behavior takes place on wet soil. But even sweat on human skin may be attractive to butterflies.This behaviour is restricted to males in many species. Males seem to benefit from the sodium uptake through mud-puddling behaviour with an increase in reproductive success. The collected sodium and amino acids are often transferred to the female with the spermatophore during mating as a nuptial gift. This nutrition also enhances the survival rate of the eggs.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

a tree..

cycas circinalis
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.  Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see nature at all.  But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself”
-  William Blake, 1799, The Letters

Remote sensing

We were talking about Geography, Maps and remote sensing in a Govt. Tribal Residential School where Keystone Foundation is having Conservation Education Programs.
Suddenly when we talked about remote sensing the situation became very perplexed (one of my ability)!!
We did not carry our computer, set of maps, globe nothing, there was there to help :(

By the time our audience became very curious (which was rarely seen) to know what is this 'remote sensing'
We were looking around to find a way to explain how to address their wounder...
looking around and round we saw a small hill behind the school, asked teacher can we take children for 2 hours to that hill!!!!(teacher's expression)
It hardly took for us to climb 1000 meters. Most of them were barefoot ecologists, we were carrying no water no snacks, one camera, one binocular, note books, sketch pens and pencils and an interest to know 'remote sensing'
This is what had happened after the trek... 
Seeing school from hilltop
Sobha (barefoot cartographer) is drawing map
Geddesal school through my camera

Geddesal school through Sobha's eyes- 'Remote sensing'!(red rectangular shapes are school buildings, green rectangulars are paddy fields, mushroom shaped greens are eucalyptus plantation..

inviting bees

inviting bees...
As a part of the conservation education program in the Nilgiris, Keystone Foundation have few nurseries of forest plants. Geddesal Govt.Tribal Residential School has one of such nurseries. Last week we had a drawing session on 'conservation activities in your school'...
One of the students Ajith came with a picture, which shows the topography of the area, what they do in restoration and the expected result or the dream!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A tribal village in Kerala won Conservation Award 2010

Bridge to Kumpalappara

Keystone Foundation has instituted a Village Conservation Award which will be given out annually to an adivasi village within the region of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The award carries a prize of Rupees One Lakh, as first prize and Rupees fifty thousand as consolation prize, which can be used for the village needs. The award money can be used for the building of environment friendly structures and is not to be used for individual or private gains.
Quantitative and qualitative evidence must be built around numbers of people benefiting from or making use of the successful implementation of the initiative and extent of restored habitats or landscapes.
Kumpalapra, a village from Nilambur region of Kerala submitted an application and said that they follow an Eco-friendly life. This village is 3 kilometers inside the forest from the forest boundary. There are thirteen Kaatunaicka families in this village. All of them are forest gatherers with- no ration card, no electricity, no public water supply(of course, there is a beautiful stream), not even a single well, no concrete houses, no livestock (couple of dogs), no gas connection(collects fire wood to cook and fire to see if there is an elephant), no library, but there is school (a peripatetic school)... this was the situation of the village and the presentation they gave in front of the juries...
Read more about this from this link:
They said- "we will not so any sort of planting in side our forest, but to see the elephant at night we collect lots of wood (daily 15+ kilograms), we want to stop this by setting up a solar lighting system(they will never get electricity connection since they are inside the forest). So if we get this prize amount and will be used to set up a solar lighting system..."
Bare foot conservationists of Kumpalappara

Friday, October 29, 2010


Nilgiri eastern slopes

I was coming back from Sathyamangalam on bike. As I climbed up to 1200 mtrs I could see a sea of cloud in the valley. I always wondered how clouds are formed and how they move with so much water...
Answer for my own doubts...
Ocean heat energy drives atmospheric circulation and weather patterns. As sea surface temperature increases, so does evaporation- the process through which oceans, release heat. The warmer an ocean, the more vapor there is in the air above it. The more vapor in the, the more rainfall (or snowfall) it generates. Cooler temperature yield less vapor, which can lead to droughts.

Weather forecasters rely on daily sea surface temperature to anticipate the behaviors of cyclones, which include tropical storms and hurricanes. These powerful storms draw energy from warm waters. Storm activity mixes surface and subsurface waters, drawing nutrients to the surface.

Geography Awareness Week 2010

Geography Awareness Week 2010 November 14-20: Fresh Water
Water is one of the defining issues of the 21st century. Of all the water on the planet, less than 1% is available for human use. Will we have enough to support a growing global population, and how will a changing climate affect access to freshwater around the world? Discover the fascinating geography of Earth's most precious natural resource through activities, multimedia, quizzes, and more this Geography Awareness Week—and learn what you can to do help, both globally and locally.
Launched in 1987 by presidential proclamation, Geography Awareness Week is an annual opportunity for families and schools to engage in fun, educational experiences that draw attention to Geo-Literacy and the importance of geographic understanding in ensuring our nation's economic competitiveness, national security, environmental sustainability, and the livability of our communities in the 21st century.

foxtail orchid

One of the beauties  of monsoon found near Appankappu Village Conservation Center (Appankappu, a village in the western slopes of the Nigiri Biosphere Reserve). Rhynchostylis retusa,  Foxtail Orchid is an exotic blooming orchid, belonging to Vanda alliance. Vanda is a genus in the orchid family (Orchidaceae).The name "Vanda" is derived from the Sanskrit name for the species Vanda tessellata. These mostly epiphytic, but sometimes lithophytic or terrestrial orchids. One among the first orchid blooms during monsoon in the Western Ghats. This one is the state flower for Arunachal Pradesh and Assam both. Must for all the girls taking part in 'BIhu' dance, a folk dance from Assam related to the festival of Bihu.

Apis florea

We saw this honey bee colony when the village elder of Punanjanur took children to forest to share her experiences in the forest. Apis florea, is one of the small, wild honey bees of southern and southeastern Asia. The exposed single combs are on a small rock cliffs. Nest of A. florea consists of a single comb and upper part expands to form a crest and there they store honey.

Madamma is living in Punanjanur, Karnataka. She is one of the elder who take children to show how the life in the forest is. She is collecting wild honey and medicinal plants for subsistence use for many years.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Nilgiris

The most extensive eastern spurhill of the Western Ghats, the Nilgirs, is high steep plateau, rising from the edge of the Mysore plateau in the north and extending south up to Bhavani with its eastern end spproaching the Biligiri rangans, a part of the Eastern Ghats, north of Moyar. The southern edge of the Nilgiris along the Attapapady plateau rises up into Kunda Hills. The Silent Valley and Attapady forests are on the south-west corner and extensive forests draining in to Chaliyar cover most of the western slopes. The Nilgiri mountains are mostly in Tamil Nadu and only the south-western and western slopes are in Kerala.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ants and Larvae

Some larvae, especially those of the Lycaenidae, form mutual associations with ants. They communicate with the ants using vibrations that are transmitted through the substrate as well as using chemical signals. The ants provide some degree of protection to these larvae and they in turn gather honeydew secretions.

This relationship is known as symbiosis. The relation between two different species of organisms that are interdependent; each gains benefits from the other.


The peach tree (Prunus persica) is a species of Prunus native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC and were a favoured fruit of kings and emperors. Recently, the history of cultivation of peaches in China has been extensively reviewed citing numerous original manuscripts dating back to 1100 B.C. The peach was brought to India and Western Asia in ancient times.

Story: The peach often plays an important part in Chinese tradition and is symbolic of long life. One example is in the peach-gathering story of Zhang Daoling, who some say is the true founder of Taoism. Elder Zhang Guo, one of the Chinese Eight Immortals, is often depicted carrying a Peach of Immortality. Peach blossoms are highly prized in Chinese culture and because they appear before a single leaf has sprouted, the ancient Chinese believed the peach to possess more vitality than any other tree. When early rulers of China visited their territories they were preceded by sorcerers armed with peach rods to protect them from spectral evils. On the last day of the year local magistrates would cut peach wood branches and place them over their doors to protect against evil influences.

Bee colony

a colony generally contains one queen bee,
a fertile female; seasonally up to a few thousand drone bees or fertile males; and
a large seasonally variable population of sterile female worker bees.


What is a bee?

Social living
Produces honey
Live in combs
Six legs
Four wings

Conservation Education Network

CONSERVATION EDUCATION NETWORK Third Annual Retreat, Kotagiri, Nilgiris.

A net work of conservation educators was created in 2008; ATREE took the initiative to start this group. The first meeting of the group was at Navadarshanam Trust Ganganahally hamlet Gumalapuram Village in Krishnagiri Dist T.N. Main functions of Conservation Education group is to link up for ideas, resources, sharing and help likeminded people. The members of the group are working in various parts of India. ATREE Bangalore, NCF Mysore, Kalpavriksh, Pune,Zoo outreach Coimbatore, SACON Coimbatore, Samrakshan Mizoram, Keystone Foundation,Kotagiri and MAN Mysore etc are few examples of the member organizations. The second retreat was held in Auroville in 2009.

The third retreat of the Conservation Network is held in Keystone Foundation form October 20-22, 2010. Introduction to Keystone Foundation & Overview of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) was given by Pratim Roy, Director Keystone Foundation. Bee Buzz – Life and Times of the Honey Bee a power point presentation by Robert Leo(Programme Coordinator, Keystone Foundation) was a new experience to all the participants of the retreat. Meeting with the Barefoot Communicators (indigenous elders taking children to forest and share their learning) from various parts of NBR was something new to the group members and gave new strategies of communicating ecological importance. Nimesh from Samrakshan Mizoram led a discussion on Communication Strategies for various target groups and situations. Visit to the Bee Museum, Ooty opened new windows of conveying relationships in environment and intensified importance of a small insect like honey bee in human existence.
Elements towards Ecologies of Knowledges – talk and interaction with Dr. A.R. Vasavi,
National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore was focused on the key interlinks between conservation, education and the rural context. Ajilebottu painting on bags and arakol dance were the finale to the third retreat.