22 February 2015
13 October 2013
|Looking for the elusive forest birds|
• Racket tailed drongo can imitate 26 different birds.
• Hummingbirds fly at 54kmph.
Interesting creatures… their flight, sense of freedom, colors and variety has always fascinated us!
In 1933, While he was travelling from Travancore to Munnar on the old British highway, Salim Ali , a world reknown ornithologist, had to stop overnight at a Govt Bungalow at Thattekad. He was on his way to Munnar to study the endemic birds of the Malabar-Nilgiri area.
To his surprise, he counted 167 different birds in his 2 days stay at Thattekad. He remarked that this is one of the richest bird habitat’s he had seen in Peninsular India. Later he sent one of his students to study and document all these different species of Kerala. He recommended the government that a bird sanctuary be opened here, which they fortunately did almost 50 years later (sigh)!
Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad: It’s a little known place on Indian tourist map, though quite popular on the international circuit. Many foreigners travel to this place to sight hard to spot bird species.
The two rare bird sightings are:
Ceylon Frogmouth: Belongs to Sri Lanka, has the colour of dead leaves, difficult to spot.
Malabar Trogan: Extremely colorful bird, becoming rarer by the day.
Since the place was only 54 kms from Cochin, Adarsh and I drove to the sanctuary on Saturday afternoon. It was a pleasant drive through the Kerala countryside with the air getting purer and landscape getting greener as we approached the forests.
Fortunately we found a home-stay within the Sanctuary, owned by a Naturalist and Bird-watcher Vinod. He told us that the best time to watch for birds is, just before sunrise and late in the afternoon, when they forage for food. So we set out in the afternoon to watch some birds.
Around 4 pm, we left for a jungle trail and spotted many birds like :Jungle babbler, Emerald Dove, Racket tailed Drongo, Malabar Parakeet, Black Cormorant, Whistling Duck, Kingfishers: red and blue, Water Hen, Yellow Oriole, Little Tern, Coucal, Ash tail, Crested Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker.
Next day morning:It was difficult to wake up on a cool Sunday morning at 5 am, while its drizzling outside, and is nice and cozy inside the home stay room ! Dragging ourselves out and getting dressed, we picked up our binoculars and headed for a hilly trail, where we can spot the birds out for their breakfast!
A short trek into the forest led us to a hillock. As we climbed it , we were treated with a fantastic view of the hills with the mist shrouding them and sunlight breaking its way lazily through the clouds.
We spotted many a rare and endemic bird today: Crested eagle, Ceylon Frogmouth, Iora, Orange Minivet, Wagtail, Greytit, White breasted woodpecker, Ash Drongo, Jungle Myna, Common Myna, Crested Goshawk and some birds whose names I forgot! Each bird more beautiful than the other.
Another good thing was watching a Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in India! … and Parisian Peacock. Both exceptionally beautiful to look at! It’s quite a task to get a hang of how to view through a field glass and adjust the focus in a short while, as our winged friends are twitchy and disappear into the trees if you are not quick.
As it was just after the rain, we got lucky with the sightings, as many birds were drying themselves in the sunlight on the treetops.
The best time to visit this place is November-February, when msot of the migratory birds flock to this place in winters.Many birds fly in all the way from the Himalayas. Spending some time in the nature away from the daily chores and work is a great way to restart your mind and body!
After we returned from the trek, we left for a swim in the Periyar river with some Columbian tourists who were staying in the same guest house. The dip in the river was cool and refreshing. Though, as the water level was low, we couldn’t manage Kayaking
Apparently, birding/bird watching is quite popular hobby, with some enthusiasts tracking and seeing as many as 12,000 species. Some hop across continents to study / see these endemic birds.
Overall, it was quite an experience to spend the night in the forest, and the whole experience had a very calming effect. Let’s see how many species we can tick off! A weekend certainly well spent.
How to reach: 54 kms drive from Cochin crossing Kothamangalam. Bus/Taxi: best way to reach.
Where to stay: Hornbill camp, Soma bird song. Home-stays: Bird Song, Jungle bird
What to do: Bird-watching, Kayaking, Nature Trail/ Trek, Cycling, Swim!
Where we stayed: Birdsong Home-stay.
Contact: Vinod: +91 9764248274, +91 8943894087
Per day: Rs 2000 for stay + Food , Rs 750 per guided tour.
Decent place with basic amenities, friendly people and good homely Kerala food.
11 August 2013
The current winner of 2013 has been winning it for last 3 years and was quite the favorite among the locals.
Can be better:
Though the arrangements were kind of adequate. The number of people estimated to view the races is around 2-2.5 lakhs who are crowded into the stands and some are forced to sit on the damp floor (like us) and others are forced to stand Jostling into each other. It can be a problem sometimes when you are travelling with kids and women.
Since its an event of international repute, our Tourism ministry can do much more to make the experience better for the audience and also to use it to promote Tourism during this off-season !
1. Organise the stands in a better fashion.
2. Ensure proper communication about the tickets and other arrangements for the event and publicise it in India and abroad adequately.
3. Help people build some connect with the competing teams with their brief history and other details available on the internet or by distributing brochures along with the tickets.
4. For the common stands, they can charge a nominal fee and utilize the money to make the stands a little cleaner and comfortable.
17 May 2013
Gulliver's travels contains one episode where Liliput and Blufescu are at war with each other as they hold different views as to which end of an egg must be broken first - Little or Big.
Differences between Shia and Sunni :
The Shia (or Shiatul Ali) are the 'Party of Ali' or those who believed Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, as the rightful successor of the Prophet. The Sunnis did not regard him as the rightful successor.
1. Shia Muslims pray three times a day and combine Maghrib and Isha salat whereas Sunni Muslims pray five times a day.
2. Sunni Muslims fold their arms whereas Shia Muslims do not fold their arms during namaz.
3. Shia Muslims add “Khayr al amaal” whereas Sunni Muslims add “Nawm.”
4. Sunni Muslims touch their heads to the ground whereas Shia Muslims use a wooden block or tablet of clay to rest their heads during prostration.
5. Shia Muslim scholars prohibit the use of word Amen during the namaz whereas Sunni Muslims consider it as a must.
6.Shia sit comfortably on the folded feet whereas Sunni sit on twisted foot and so on.
For these differences, we blow up each other ! !
Heard somewhere: If i am asked to summarise last 2000 years in 2 words, my reply would be : Religion, Science.
While science took us to the moon, religion gave us crusades and extremism - not only in islam but in christianity, hinduism and many religions too.
DISCLAIMER: I was going through this on purely academic interest and reserve no judgement on the following. Hope no one issues a fatwa in my name.
14 October 2012
29 August 2012
Those who experience constant happiness are bored of it, those who are not happy are constantly pained by it.
We tend to measure our lives more often by things that we do not or can not have, often remembering our failures more often than our successes.
But that’s the truth of life, successes will be few and far in between and we must appreciate the journey between them.
Though when conscious, most of might brush these essential questions as imaginary hypothetical or philosophical musings.
But deep down inside, we all are trying to find out who we are, and what is the bloody purpose of this life. Does it actually mean anything, Am I supposed to accomplish something while trying to stay alive ??
Some take these questions too deeply and become either philosophers or religious or go insane. Most of us though are able to keep It below the conscious surface and pretend to ignore it.
To come over these questions is the precise reason, we have invented the religion… most of the religions in their own strange ways, try to explain these questions . Since most of the religions were invented much before we even discovered that the earth goes around the moon, these are somewhat bizarre imaginations of the men of long gone days. And with time, as these were passed on, each generation added its own imagination, and we now have to bear the burden of imaginations of about 200 generations, and in some other religions much more than that!
Very few men create their own independent identities on basis of their genius or exceptional luck. The masses however need their own bit of identity too. That’s where the religion steps in and tells them that your life is not futile and meaningless. Nothing drives human beings more than a ‘divine’ purpose. This strategy was ofcourse shamelessly during the innumerable so called holy wars in the medieval times and since we don’t tend to learn, is still being used all across the world in various forms and for more various purposes. The key strategy however tends to remain the same: exploit in name of religion.
To create an identity, we have to differentiate from others. The most striking differentiation being in the appearance. Since the Jews had long beards and hair, the Christians began to do the opposite. The tribals in the Arabian peninsula had no beards and longer moustaches. Hence the prophet ordered his men to grow beards and have shorter moustaches. The main idea was to distinguish his own followers from the others. The drive was more political and military than anything else. When Hinduism and islam threatened to engulf Sikhs into their own fold, by claiming that it was just an offshoot of their religion, the last Guru ordered Sikhs to entirely revamp their appearance. They were to sport beards , long hair and a small weapon all the time, which is characterized by the five k’s supposed to be on a Khalsa sikh all the time. Thus a religion creates some sort of identity, without which one would be as lost as being nameless. It gives an identity to even those who reject religion entirely.
And in it’s name, so many of us seek purpose and a justification to our actions. It also proves that the psychological drivers are much more powerful than the material ones, well some might argue … not always!
If one goes through all the holy books of the major religions, atleast briefly, it is absolutely stupefying how so innumerable number of wise sane people are driven into a fervor just based on the writings and the sayings of a few men, however great they might have been. The fact that their actual thoughts might have undergone infinite mutations and propaganda driven changes, goes completely unnoticed.
With the rise of science, the number of atheists is growing and at the same very time, so is the number of fanatics. Well in the end then …. Is our existence totally Sisyphean or indeed has some divine purpose ? ?