Life hack – Ornithology!

Reviving Ornithology as a hobby has been the most positive life-hacks of recent timesfor us.

We have been on Bird watching trips almost every weekend in the past month – this not only takes us away from the computer and the dreadful chair but also make all three of us indulge in the same activity together. We have also made a several new acquaintances – none of them from IT all of them into birds…

Yeah – I have been posting pictures on my site on an almost daily basis, which is much more than what I have been posting here, in fact there is not much to write about… or is it that people tend to write more when they are troubled?

Commercial projects are steady, personal projects… I am working on tweaking the Oriental Bird Images code to make it more useful and also coding one other Nagpur related project… more on that later.

Aasim in Delhi – Pt II

The latest is that Aasim got his return ticket postpone to Friday – He is throughly enjoying himself again today after a brief boredom spell induced by tiredness yesterday. Yeah we are missing him… a lot…

His comment on his first experience of seeing a movie in a theatre – “The print was good, so was the sound BUT there is no interactivity or bonus material!!” :D

Aasim in Delhi!!

Aasim had been wanting to travel alone in an airplane for sometime now – so we sent him to New Delhi today morning. Swati’s cousin called a while back to say that Aasim had arrived safely. Though Aasim was wee bit apprehensive at the airport he never let it show through, except asking once “What if the airplane crashes?”

This marks a first step for him in accompanying us to all the places we go for business meets – he can join us, flying down all on his own, once our meetings are done with!

47.6°C

Yes! thats how hot it was yesterday afternoon! it missed breaking a 51 year old record by a mere .2°C and what did we do yesterday?

We went for a bird walk! but it was indeed worth it because I could get a picture of a Small Minivet Pair in the same frame, I also got a picture of a Common Kingfisher pair and a Pied Kingfisher – thats a good catch for any bird walk. The backlog for resizing and uploading pictures is getting to be too huge I am not sure what I am going to do…. perhaps just start uploading full size pictures and let Coppermine (well actually GD) do the rest.

Sometime last week we acquired a Sony DCR-HC42E Handycam. It is a good entry level handycam and Swati has already shot some very good footage around the garden, now search is on for a cheap and flexible Home Video Editing program.

After some deliberation, reading and asking around I decided not to mess around with the Water chemistry in my proposed aquarium. The tap water has a pH of 7.5+ so I will get fishes accordingly and modify the aquarium to an African Lake type rather than Amazon Stream. For the fishes I am narrowing down on some hardy mouth breeding Cichlids.

A shocking thing that I discovered – my studio skills are rusting :(

An acquaintance couple wanted some pictures of themselves using the minimal style I have used in the past. It took me quite some time to get the settings right much to my frustration and embarrassment. Bird photography is very rewarding and technically different from Studio work – this was an expected out come but I do intend to remedy it.

11 Years is longer than 10

Yes, but I would still like to talk about the 8th, 9th and 10th!!

Everything still holds true everything is still the same – about the only thing that we did somewhat differently was buy a gift for both of us rather than gifts for each others. Also no flowers this year, instead I have managed to nurture an orchid for an entire year, to flower despite the blazing summer heat!! Oh well! in retrospect those flowers, like our marriage, just bloomed almost on their own :)

Kanha 2

One line summary – We had a lot of fun and spotted a lot of animal and birds and did not spot the Tiger even once!

However if you are still inclined….. do read on…

This time the journey was waaay better than last time, yeah! first time is always disappointing in retrospect ;) To begin with we traveled in luxury – it was an AC Qualis and not really stuffed to the gills, the roads were also much better than the last year and we reached Kanha from Nagpur in 4¾ hours rather than the 6½ it took last time. We stayed at the same place as before. Uncle Stephens was very glad to see us and we got the compliment that we were looking much healthier and younger than last year. Which made us realise as to how much we have changed our lifestyle in past 12 months. This time we also met Mr Chaddha the owner of the resort and he was most happy when I told that 2 things brought us back to Kanha were Uncle Stephens and the birds. We made it very clear to everyone that Tiger had to be incidental and if at all – we want to see it from the Open Gypsy rather than from the elephant.

I agree that Tiger, majestic as it is, has got a mystic charm about it which anyone finds difficult to resist once in the heartland of the king… and to a degree we did succumb for a while when there were reports that a Tigress with three cubs has been spotted.

This did not deter us or divert us from things things at hand for long. The driver of our Gypsy was the same from last year and knew what we wanted. The park guide was a young man named Shail Gope, he was very very good and knowledgeable – during the course of our conversation we learnt that he has worked for almost two years with Valmik Thapar when he made the famous “Land of the Tiger” documentary for BBC – and yes I verified his name in the credits on the VCD we have.

Just an aside for people down south – You cannot enter the Kanha Park unless you have a park guide with you, you cannot take your vehicle anywhere but on the paths which have been clearly demarcated, you cannot get down from the vehicle and the park timing are very restricted and they are strict about it. Summer time the park timings are from 5:30 am to 11 am and 5:00pm to 6:30pm. This in no way restricts the pleasure if you know where to go and what to see.

This time we saw the Gaur (Indian Bison) in abundance, not just juveniles but complete family herds and full grown males – in fact at one time a full grown male made a mock charge at our Gypsy – I say a mock charge because it stopped the last moment a few feet away as soon as I got the camera ready…

So other than not spotting the tiger what were the highlights of the visit?

We spotted the Indian Sloth Bear not once but twice in a row!
We witnessed a pack of Dhols (Indian Wild Dogs) chasing a herd of Chital deers.
We saw Wild Boars
We saw the Chital deer, the Sambar deer and the somewhat rarer Barasingha deer.

But then we went inside the park only 2 times of the potential 5 times we could have – rest of the times we went for walks in the jungle buffer area escorted by Uncle Stephens. Though this area is outside the core park area it still is the territory of Tigers and Leopards in fact Uncle told us that there is one male Leopard whom he regularly meets just about 100 meters from the resort, and we did see Bear pug marks in the sand as we walked.

The main objective of these walks was bird watching and it was a stupendous success, we managed to spot 96 varieties of birds in just about 6 hours of cumulative trekking. The area along the dried river bed which was a 5 min walk from our resort is a paradise for bird watchers. There is a very helpful checklist of birds from Kanha which has been compiled by Eric D’Cuhna and we kept it handy and ticked off birds as we spotted them..

However the most magical moment was not the birds – Last day just before we came back myself and Swati ventured out alone on a walk – some distance down the river bed we stepped into a clump of grass beneath a shadow of tree, with a soft whir we were engulfed in a cloud of shimmering, iridescent blue – Butterflies!!! we had walked into the last of the blues which are found in huge numbers in the area. We stood still for almost a minute as dozens of them flew all around us before settling down – showing just the drab brown of the outer wing.

We were very tempted to extend our stay for one more day but instead we decided that we will be back in Kanha in June – in fact we will be there on 10th, 11th and 12th of June – It is a part of the bet we have with Arjun (Dhanwatey) and his wife. Bets aside – we do plan to go to Kanha more often…

Some important lessons learned about photography in the wild.

#1 You never change lenses when out in the field.
#2 400mm is too big for most animals.
#3 400mm is not adequate for most birds.
#4 A Video Cam can capture moments which a still camera can never do.

So a tentative plan is to acquire a second, second hand Nikon DSLR body (the cheapest we can find) and a good 300mm tele this combined with the 2X TC20e teleconvertor that I already have will be a decent bird cam and the 70-200mm VR would be the animal cam. Plus we also intend to shop around for a reasonably versatile Handycam. Swati wants to revive what she had once upon a time studied – making Short Films….

Pictures of the visit?

Yes indeed! there are 300+, some of them really very good bird pictures, but it will take a long time for me to put them all up. Once again, subscribing to the RSS feed from my site is the best way to keep abreast – In case you need instructions on how to subscribe to an RSS feed view the above URL in a browser and follow instructions.

P.S. For Tiger lovers – Arjun and family went for all 5 safari trips and spotted the Tiger on two of them….

[update]
Forgot to write – we were offered a Jungle Cat (Kitten) to raise and if possible re-release, unfortunately had to turn down the offer due to Swati’s allergies. May be some day we will be able to do it considering that the homeopathy treatment is working wonders for Swati
[/update]

Leaving for Kanha!

We leave for Kanha in about an hours time – tentative return is for Saturday evening. The only thing which is firmly decided is that we are NOT chasing the Tiger in lieu of overlooking all the other wonderful flora and fauna all around.

The omens are all pointing towards a very successful trip – It rained yesterday night so temperatures will be more bearable, then as I open the door today morning there was an Indian Pitta – sitting barely 10 feet away and for once I had my camera with the right lens – shot about 16 pictures 10 of them are of displayable quality – It is a beautiful bird indeed, our resident mongoose family also seems to be celebrating the rains and are frolicking all over the front yard, got some cute pics of those as well.

Just a small list

Lots of things happened in the week just past! We returned from Bangkok Swati has written about the very successful trip already so I will skip it.

The most significant for me was that yesterday my Thallium Heart Scan was done and the results pronounced that my heart was healthy. Now just to get that Lipid profile to normal. Wanted to write about the Thallium test in details as this was the first time I was interfaced with any of the hi-tech machines but other things always take precedence.

It also has been very very busy on the work front – an amusing quote from a prospective client (who is also a developer) which is about 80% true “Damn! you guys are so specialised that you just do the M in MVC!”

We finally took the plunge and have gone in for our first decent sized aquarium with all the accessories. It will be modeled after the amazonian river water to keep Neon, Cardinal, Glow-light and and Black Neon tetras – this means that the water will have to be made very soft and slightly acidic. Getting the water that way is going to be a slight challenge but I guess we will manage fine. I am sure that like most aquarist this will be just the first in a series of aquariums. I see adding at least a couple more in next 12 months.

Today early morning we went for a dual purpose field trip with some members of BNHS, Napgur. First we met up with a group of aero modellers who have been flying remote controlled aircrafts for past 20 years and were enthralled by their flying skills. Aasim is totally in love with the aircrafts, more relevant for me was the fact that several members affirmed that the small and cheap battery powered models do indeed work and thus one need not spend too much to start now.

We later continued to trip as a bird walk and spotted two birds which I have not seen in Nagpur before – The yellow wattled lapwing and the collared dove, yes there are pictures and I will be posting them at my site soon. Subscribe to the RSS if you want to be updated about the postings, in fact at least for the next month I would be posting a few pictures daily. As a side note – my site saw the highest ever traffic in April conclusively proving that just Bodyscapes are not the most interesting of my works and yes Bodyscapes will indeed be back by next month end.