On Saturday, the 12th of March, 2011, I went, with the Bombay Natural History Society guys, to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivali (E). The BNHS guys were Vandan Jhaveri and Asif. Around 30-odd enthusiasts had gathered for this outing. We were made to sign a declaration that we were going in of our own accord, and the SGNP people or the Government chaps would not be held responsible should we come to any harm, natural or otherwise. Our group had a few young children and even fewer senior citizens. The rest of us were between 18-55 years in age.
We went in about 8-10 km in the BNHS bus. I began conversing with my fellow travellers. Presently, we arrived at a spot where the bus stopped and we got off it. The next phase of our journey would be on foot. The walk was about an hour long. Chatting with each other diminished the feeling of boredom that we were facing, as we did not see many birds. We did, however, see some, and a complete list includes the spotted dove, a jungle crow, 4 yellow-throated sparrows, a green bee-eater, a yellow -wattled lapwing, a species of gull that I did not identify, and ... hundreds upon hundreds of black kites, making circles over the Tulsi lake. We saw, after a while, a tree that had several kites roosting upon it, and felt that that was the reason for the multitude of kites.
Among us, we had 3-4 children, several management consultants, a few doctors and engineers, some IT people, two guides (V and A) and a few others, most notably, Gary and Jane, who are in India on an assignment on behalf of their company Astra Zeneca.
Photos are taken with my new Canon, but lack the definition of a zoom. Please excuse this, and take a look:
This is an abandoned termite ant-hill. Termites are social insects, and their workers maintain a clean house. That, this isn't. Hence the word "abandoned".
The next one is the nest of harvester ants. They build these channels so beautifully, that the nest resembles a rose! These ants collect and bring food grains to store deep inside the earth. They remove the husks and take the naked grain inside. To guard the grains against damage by rains, they build these elaborate "groovy" channels which will drain the water out.
I am now going to show you a few pictures that are representatives of Nature's Art. Most are twigs or branches that are over-growing, or have grown randomly, or are broken and have intertwined themselves with nearby vegetation, esp. bamboo. Here are these: (there are four of these pics).
A nature walk is not merely a documentation of what one saw, and when one saw it. There are things that you imbibe, such as the beauty of a forest, or the calls of birds which are not visible, but whose presence has been announced. The breeze that comes in from time to time freshens up one's mind. Even the sight of a hot sun cannot but excite, as it peeps in from in between trees. The tangled vines that you see in the picture next to this is a sign of the forest being claimed by its legitimate occupants - plants.
One has to speak softly, or the birds will become silent; one has to respect the rules of greenery - avoid disturbing or mutilating trees or nests of insects and arachnids; one must remain vigilant that no one in the group throws trash or left-over wrappings from packets of sandwiches or biscuits; if one is driving a vehicle, one must remember that animals in the park have right of way; one must not drink inebriating drinks or smoke or create a fire to keep warm; in fact, there are so many rules that the mind boggles.
Our walk took us, eventually, to the Tulsi lake, and the one thing that we all noticed was a plethora of black kites dotting the sky. Our guides could not tell us why the lake was such a hot favourite for these birds. We did spot a solitary yellow-wattled lapwing, a solitary gull, a few black-shouldered kites and a few crows, but this was black-kite territory, and no mistakes about it. My camera's zoom did not permit any thing more than this rudimentary picture, but, enjoy it nonetheless. The black kites roost in some of the trees at the perimeter of the lake, and we were fortunate to see one of these. The tree was dotted with these birds.
This, then, is the photo with the kites in the sky, but believe me, there were many more kites than what you see here. I need to display some more photos. These are mostly snaps of some interesting flowers or wild bushes, and I have not identified these. Here they are:
These are some wild flowers of the "karvanda" tree.
We don't know how those green plants came to be sitting like chandeliers atop the other tree, but they sure look great.
The kusum tree with red leaves and a lovely look.
The hawkmoth butterfly caterpillar.
Makaranga plant. The exquisite bright green leaves look fantastic.
We also saw the nest of "pagoda ants". These arboreal ants build a nest stuck to the trunk of trees with specially secreted chemicals and leaves of surrounding trees. The nest has slanting slatted sides to act as protectors against the natural elements. Most of us were enchanted to see these. Take a look.
The calotis lizard held by Asif.
And that, my dear readers, is all for today. Look out for the tree-spotting blog entry next.