Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mud puddling

Mud-puddling 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.
This behavior is restricted to males in many species. In tropical India this phenomenon is mostly seen in the post-monsoon season. The groups can include several species often including members of the Papilionidae and Pieridae. Following pictures were captured from the banks of Bhavani river in South India of Common Lime Butterfly(Papilio demoleus)
Common Lime Butterfly(Papilio demoleus)
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.

Common Lime Butterfly(Papilio demoleus)

 Papilio demoleus is an aggressive and very common butterfly. It is perhaps the most widely distributed swallowtail in the world. The widespread range of Papilio demoleus indicates the butterfly's tolerance and adaptation to diverse habitats. It is to be found in savannahs, fallow lands, gardens, evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and shows a preference for stream and riverbeds.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Frost on the grass
If a solid surface is chilled below the dew point of the surrounding air and the surface itself is colder than freezing, frost will form on the surface.

In general, for frost to form the deposition surface must be colder than the surrounding air.Many plants can be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures or frost. This varies with the type of plant and tissue exposed to low temperatures.

Tender plants like the grass in the picture, die when they are exposed to frost. Cold-hardy plants, such as the plants in the higher elevations can tolerate extended periods of freezing. Eg- Rhododendron nilgiricum
Rhododendron nilgiricum in the higher elevation.

What causes such wide variations in the sensitivity of plants to cold?
As a consequence of natural selection, plants native to a particular hardiness zone are adapted to the temperature extremes that occur in their environment.
In fact, the most widely held explanation of frost damage in plants is that death is caused directly by the advanced state of cellular dehydration that results when ice forms in tissues.
According to this explanation when the concentation of water in cells falls below a critical "threshold" value, protein
molecules in the cells’ protoplasm begin to cross-link with each other, forming a stable but nonfunctional matrix. In this permanently altered state of protoplasm, metabohsm slows to a standstill and, since the cells die, the entire plant dies.
Apparently, species of plants that survive temperatures lethal to other species do so by preventing the dehydration caused by ice formation.

Finally, certain plants are cold tolerant simply because they can recover from even the extreme dehydration
that accompanies ice formation. Examples of such species is Rhododendron nilgiricum.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sonerila speices

A plant belongs to melastomaceae family. A herb sometime shrubby below, sometimes stemless, often fleshy. Leaves of some plants are marked. Most Melastomataceae usually have a foliar venation, in a reproductive biological context, the presence this gland is a unique feature.

Sonerila spp.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Vellari Combai

Vellari Combai is one of the oldest Kurumba villages in the Nilgiris. This village lays on the eastern slopes of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, north of Coimbatore hills, west of Mettupalayam town. From Kotagiri- Mettupalayam road one need to walk 1.30 hours and had to cross Chundapatty (another kurumba village) to reach this village.
There are around 20 families in this village, they are engaged in small scale agriculture, they grow jack trees, arecanut trees, coffee, coconut trees, pepper vines etc. Major portion of the landholding has been left uncultivated for more than seven years because of regular cropraiding by elephants and Indian gaur. Major portion of the landholding looks like a degraded forest now. Soil is cultivable with a color range of brown and black. As the village is on the steep slopes there are no wells so they get drinking water from the hill top through a pipe connection provided by the Hill Area Development Program. We could see that it was raining on the south east hills of the village and feel the change in the atmosphere but not even a drop fell onto these slopes. On the same day of May 2011, by 02.00 hours, as though a huge cloud which could not hold any more water, rain started and continued till 06.30 am.
Impacts of land use change in the upper region can be seen within the village and near by slopes also. Two kilometers south-east of this village there is a rock with ancient paintings, villagers call this as ezhuthupara (a rock with inscription). If traveling towards this rock we need to cross four mountain originated streams. One of them is perennial and in summer months villagers depend this stream. The first stream from the village had a massive land slide in the last year still we can see huge rocks and large amount of mud fluxed down.
Drawings on Ezhuthupara
 As I mentioned earlier this area looks exactly like a forest area. To prove this lets look at the number of bird species observed here. 39 bird species from morning to afternoon! All of them are forest birds. A pair of Great Indian Hornbill, Streak throated woodpecker, Velvet fornted Nuthatch, Malabar shama, Yellow browed bulbull, Scarlet minivet, Brown crowned pygmy woodpecker etc.
Brown Crowned Pigmy Woodpecker

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crested Serpent Eagle

Eagles, birds of prey were always an attraction to me. Their their flight, wings, wings span, keen senses especially sight, talons, beak and power to terrify other birds etc. Birds of preys are also called as raptors, which is derived from a Latin word rapere meaning to seize or take by force.
On the way a to a village called Vellari Combai, in the eastern slopes of the Nilgiri hills facing Mettupalayam.
 A Crested Serpent Eagle was looking for a prey in a moist deciduous forest. It came to a huge albesia tree where there were nests of a White cheeked Barbet and a Plum Headed Parakeet are found. Next to the albesia tree there was ficus tree which was fruiting to attract seeds carriers to disperse next generation to other regions. copper smith barbet, fairy blue bird, yellow browed bulbuls, red vented & whiskered bulbuls and brown crowned pygmy wood pecker were feasting on this five star tree. As soon as the eagle came to albesia, one of the bulbuls made alarm calls. With in a minute 3 Ashy Swallow Shrikes joined the bulbuls. I did not notice a single myna in the close vicinity but as soon as ashy swallow shrikes started the attack two jungle mynas also arrived.  Those mynas and swallows heard the alarm call gave by bulbul? I do not know how!! It was amazing to see 3 Red whiskered bulbuls, 2 Jungle Mynas, 3 Ashy Swallow Shrikes attacking a common enemy, relatively a much larger predator. Swallows were the best, they attacked like a boomerang with a shirrr... and they were really aiming at the head of the eagle but eagle hardly bothered they were attacking. But this attitude continued only till the mynas joined to party. Jungle mynas were wild in the onslaught, they crackled and  pecked with fury. I don't know by what this eagle got disturbed but  there was a change in eagle's attitude and it turned to the other direction to take off and with the next attack from myna the raptor took off.
Team work, I would call it.
Crested Serpent-eagle

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walk on the shola boundary

It was a day after the rain. One of my friends and me decided to go one of the sholas in the Nilgiris. We had to reasons for the walk. I have been telling him about the number of Blak and Orange Fly catchers   I used to see in my walks. This time it was nothing but White-Bellied Shortwing and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon. There were lots leeches creeping onto the foot and some of them almost reached my neck. So called hunting parties were busy hunting worms and insects in the early morning. We could hear Nilgiri Laughing Thrushes and Indian Scimitar Babblers presence through out the shola, but he hardly spot any one of them.
Suddenly I heard chirp from the near by kurinji bushes. Cant believe. That was a wild dream came true to us. A pair of White Bellied Shortiwings. They flew into the shola, we followed them to a safer point, where they can,t see us. They were mating and later male bird started feeding her with worms. My friend got few photos of the male bird with food on the beak. We almost spend an hour with them in between laughing thrushes and flycatchers came and gone!!
Painted Bush Quail
We came out of the shola and started walking towards east, towards the top of the mountain expecting to get at least one photo or a video clip of a N L Thrush. We were walking by the forest road. Both sides were fenced with black wattle, nothing else. I felt so sad that I made my friend to travel a lot to see these wattle trees. We walked and walked saw a small patch of shola after a point. I hear some bird coming down from the forest of our right side, they would cross the road he said. Suddenly some thing started rolling down and four of them followed. They were a group of Painted bush Quail (Perdicula erythrorhyncha). That was an amazing sight they came to the trek path and started pecking under the leaves. Male bird has red bill, black face, white throat and red leg. Their call can be written as kirkee kirkee kirkee. They were very cautious, that I guess they heard our breath, thats it they flew away in a fraction of a second with an alarming call.

Kabani River

There are three East flowing rivers in Kerala. Kabani is one of the tributaries of east flowing inter state river Kauvery. About 6 km north of Panamaram, the Kabini takes birth. It is the confluence of the Panamaram river, originating in the Western ghats near Lakkidi, 1371 mtr above sea level, and the Mananthavady river, springing from the 1500 Tondarmudi.The river originates from Pakramthalam hills at Kuttyadi-Mananthavady road. Makkiyad river and Periya river join it near Korome and Valad respectively. After flowing through Mananthavady town, Panamaram river joins Kabini near Payyampally. One branch of the Panamaram river starts from the Banasura Sagar reservoir near Padinjarethara and the other branch of the river start from Lakkidi hills. After traversing two more kilometres from the confluence of Panamaram river Kabini forms an island called Kuruva Island, spreading over 520 acres (2.1 km2) with diverse flora and fauna. Between Kabani reservoir and Kuruva island Kalindi river joins Kabini. Kalindi river originates from Brahmagiri hills which on reaching near Tirunelly temple the rivulet Papanasini joins it. The Kabini flows through Kerala only for a stretch of 8 km. It covers about 12 km along the Kerala-Karnataka border, before moving northward, at Kalvalli, towards Mysore and flows eastward to join the Kaveri River at Tirumakudal Narasipur in Karnataka, which empties into the Bay of Bengal. 
The total drainage of area of Kabani upto the point where it crosses the state boundary is 2,070 sq km of which an extant of which 1,920 sq km is within Kerala.
a leopard on the banks of River Kabani in the summer

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do you know rivers will also become older!!!

Youthful River
A river with a steep gradient that has very few tributaries and flows quickly. Its channels erode deeper rather than wider.
Mature River
A river with a gradient that is less steep than those of youthful rivers and flows more slowly. A mature river is fed by many tributaries and has more discharge than a youthful river. Its channels erode wider rather than deeper.
Old River         
             A river with a low gradient and low erosive energy. Old rivers are characterized by flood plains.

Why temperature drops with altitude?

The temperature of the troposphere generally decreases as altitude increases. The rate at which the temperature decreases, is called the environmental lapse rate (ELR). The ELR is nothing more the difference in temperature between the surface and the tropopause divided by the height. The reason for this temperature difference is the absorption of the sun's energy occurs at the ground which heats the lower levels of the atmosphere, and the radiation of heat occurs at the top of the atmosphere cooling the earth, this process maintaining the overall heat balance of the earth. The temperature drop with height  is 6.5 degrees Celsius per 1000 meters/ the temperature drop with height is 0.0065 degree Celsius per 1 meter.

Another interesting information about the increase in the altitude is that:-

Montane Wet temperate forests- the adoption of the term temperate in respect of montane conditions in the tropics was originally put forward by Humboldt in 1817 who generalized that the successive altitudinal zones of vegetation correspond to the latitudinal zones from equator to the poles. An increase of elevation, according to him, about 1,000m. On a tropical mountain would correspond to an increase of about 90 30’ of latitude, or roughly a difference of 100 m. in altitude could be equivalent to a difference of 10  latitude. According to this, an altitude of about 8000 m. correspond phytogeographycally to the poles!!

Inspite of the obvious general similarity between the physiognomy (in ecology = The apparent characteristics) of the vegetaion at different altitudes and that at latitudes of corresponding mean temperature, this concept has been held to be inappropriate as being far too simple to be general application; for, on closer scrutiny, this similarity will be found to be far from exact. The climate of the equivalent altitudinal and latitudinal zones is never the same, since in a given altitudinal zone at the equator the length of day and the seasonal changes are greatly different.
(Ref:-Nilgiris District Gazatteer) 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Banasura hills

View of the Dam from Banasura hills
Banasura hills are located in Wayanad District of Kerala in the Western Ghats. It is the catchment area of the largest earthen dam in India and the second largest in Asia, Banasura Sagar. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), a story about a seagull who flew for the love of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by many other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight by photographer Russell Munson, became a number-one bestseller. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. 

Large-eyed bronze back tree snake

Large-eyed bronze back tree snake
Large-eyed bronze back tree snake

Dendrelaphis grandoculis, Coluberidae

This endemic snake to India was crossing the road, a ghat road in the Nadugani and I was driving to Kerala. This snake is tiny, slender and slightly flattened body. This snake feeds on frogs, lizards and geckos. Occasionally eats baby snakes and small birds.


Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge