Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scaly-breasted Munia

I have been observing two pairs of Scaly-breasted Munias or Spotted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) for the last two months. This is a sparrow-sized bird native to tropical Asia extending from India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia and the Philippines. The adult has a stubby dark bill, brown upper parts and darker brown head. The underparts are white with black scale markings and the sexes are similar.
On 20th of June 2012 I saw these two pairs in the campus and they were busy collecting grass blades, very small dry leaves. Towards the finale of the construction, they brought a few tiny, pretty grass flowers also. The nest was about 2 meters above the ground and was inside the bushes. Both male and female were active in the process of building the nest. There was a clump of bamboo near the nest. As they flew back with materials for the nest, they perched a while on the bamboo-clump and made sure that no predators are around (this is what I thought they did!) and they flew into the bushes...
Yesterday (22nd of August 2012) around 5 pm I saw two birds looked like munia on the bamboo where my old friends used to come out of the nest and sit. suddenly, ornithologist in me woke up (!) and wondered what are they? In about five minutes, to end my imagination and curiosity one munia flew in from the blue and started feeding the new birds with a small insect, then came the other one too with a subdued song and insect between beaks!! This continued for more than an hour. Yes, they were the immature chicks of my friends. Chicks had pale brown upper parts, lacked the darker head and with uniform buff underparts.
Scaly-breasted Munia (adults)-
Photo Sangeetha Ramakrishnan

Scaly-breasted Munia (immature)

Scaly-breasted Munia (immature)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stratus clouds in Nilgiri valleys

Stratus clouds seen in one of the valleys of NBR (Photo P.A. Vinayan)

Clouds form in a valley mostly related to the temperature inversion. Mountain areas often produce morning valley fog after a clear night where air near the damp ground has cooled by radiation. As the cool air is heavier it stays in the valleys, leaving the tops in clear warmer air. The sun will normally destroy this effect within a few hours of rising.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) bloooms


Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) is a shrub that used to grow abundantly in the shola grasslands of the Western Ghats. An unphilosophical claim is often made that the 'blue mountains' of 'nilgiris' descend their name from the richness of this plant received on these terrains. I saw bees burst with happiness and pollen. They are so happy because, they get huge quantity of scrumptious nectar from these lurid purple flowers.
Neelakurinji that blossoms gregariously only once in 12 years so now this can't be a gregarious flowering! This is August 2012, last gregarious flowering happened in 2006 so... I don't know..
Blue mountains- Photo Vinayan. P. A.

Orographic clouds

Classic orographic cloud

On July 11 of 2012, I was traveling towards Kochin through the Palghat gap of the Western Ghats. I saw this wonderful phenomena that the clouds are being attracted and trapped by mountains. Orographic clouds form when humid air blows over the top of the mountain. The air must rise to go over the mountain range. When the air rises it reaches its lifting condensation level and clouds form. This happen when the air temperature at the peak is colder than the dew point of the air then the moisture in the air condenses into visible clouds when the air rises around and above the peak. The lifting condensation level (LCL) is the point where the water vapor begins to condense and is visible as clouds.

Thanks to John Walton, who helped me in the identification of the cloud. He is a  Professor, Dept. Civil Engineering  University of Texas.

John Walton's website

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bee and Resin

Euaspis carbonaria (A Megachilid - Leaf cutting Bee)
Among the social insects, many bees, especially in the tropics, collect and use resins as a nest-building material (Roubik 1989). In tropical regions where resinous plants are more abundant, bees simply exploit this commonly available resource for structural benefits.This is most likely the case in colonies of some ants and honey bees where a few individuals collect and return to the nest with loads of resin to use in the nest interior.
The bee in the picture was shot while collecting resin from a canarium strictum tree from the forest in May 2012.