CARELESS WHISPERS

Green Bee Eater . Merops orientalis

These chestnut headed bee eaters were busy whispering amongst themselves . See how the male has cocked his head so as to pay more  attention to the lady.

The tree has shed all its leaves  in this  dry deciduous forest .

what honey
                                                                            what honey

A  Safari Jeep and the driver are captured in the frame  repeatedly showing how close they were to these birds.

But the birds pay scant attention to them  and are busy whispering amongst themeselve on this relatively low perch.

the leafless tree
                                                         the leafless tree

The green bee eaters feed primarily on insects as you could probably guess from their name.

closer look
                                                             closer look

They have a tell-tale flight patterns and a unique way of spreading their wings like little fans.

It is hard to tell the male from the female in this species as their plummage is virtually identical .

However when perched together the larger male is clearly discernible.

out on a limb
                                                out on a limb

A 1000 YEAR OLD PENTHOUSE

The Qutab Minar ( Minar is a tower in Hindi)  is the symbol Of New Delhi and marks the Rise and Fall of dynasties and empires over 11 centuries.

As I was arching my neck and attempting to frame ( photographers will get it)  the magnificent Qutab Minar , the corners of my eyes detect  specks of green on this  gateway to the Iron Pillar ( 2nd Century BC) .

The Qutab Minar
The Qutab Minar seen through the Gateway

On a closer look , the specks of green turn into parakeets adorning the beautiful stone carvings.

The family
The family    of    Parakeets

Am overawed and pleasantly surprised, they are none other than   Alexandrine Parakeets.  Psittacula eupatria.

The red shoulder patch reveals the identity of the largest bird in the family of  Parakeets .

The male is distinctively  identified by its  red nape and black ring around the neck .

This couple had found a gorgeous 1100 year old Penthouse .

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Settling in their Penthouse

An alert female member of the Alexandrine parakeet looks at all from the rooftop perch  of the Penthouse.

Do notice the black ring and red nape are absent. It is also distinctively smaller than the male.

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The distinctive red shoulder patch

I understand from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandrine_parakeet) that this native  Parakeet gets its name from the great Greek Emperor Alexander the Great.

This elderly  and very cross looking   lady member of the family of Alexandrines inhabiting the Qutab Minar complex paces up and down the carved ledge.

She seems to be upset with the incessant  cacophony of squeaking and squawking  created by the youngsters in the family.

on the ledge

Suddenly she turns a full 90 degrees  and peers  right into the eye of the camera.

Who are you talking to ?
Who are you taking pictures of  ?

This plump lady on the contrary loves the camera and poses in front the ancient stone flowers,

It seems to be a foodie, has dipped into the cookie jar too, check out the tell tale remnants around the large red beak.

The distinctive yellow tipped red beaks are a unique characteristic of this beautiful and very talkative Parakeet.

Reading the scriptures
Reading the scriptures Am I

Do watch out for the red patch on the shoulder to identify the Alexandrine Parakeet.

Apparently they were taken from North West India to Europe in 326 BC by the Emperor Alexander.

The Iron or Ashok Pillar standing witness  in the courtyard of the Penthouse also dates back to  the same period  over 2000 years ago.

I loved the history lesson taught by the Alexandrine Parakeets. Did you too?

OGLING IN THE FOREST

Whenever I see the THICK KNEE am reminded of the fairy tale RED RIDING HOOD and her remarks “what big eyes you have grandmother”. ( authors are permitted to spice up the story by giving the originals  a little twist  )

A  nocturnal  bird it prefers to hang around bushes , shrubs and trees during the day.

Thick Knee, Indian Stone Curlew, Burhinus indicus ( scientific) 

This one was spotted Ogling at the lake under a TREE.

framed
                                                                                         framed

A combination of large goggle eyes and the above mentioned habit of hanging around gives the appearance of this bird OGLING.

A resident bird to the dry deciduous forests of India it can be spotted even in the stunted forests of Delhi. I did see one in Asola Forest Reserve in New Delhi.

The little knot around the knee give it another uncomplimentary name, THICK KNEE.

goggle eyes
                                                             Goggle eyes

Sleeping or preening itself , Goggle eyes also has a large characteristic beak.

It is also called Indian Stone Curlew because of the characteristic wailing sound associated with Curlews.

Almost all pictures in  books and sources on the net show the plumage as brown or shades thereof.

However the pictures I have taken near a lake in Rajasthan show up the THICK KNEE more greyish or STONE coloured.

Asleep
                                                                            Asleep

The THICK knee or Stone Curlew  finds a place in many stories,  poems and even a movie.

Similar birds can be Spotted in Europe ( Eurasian Stone Curlew) and Africa as well.

PINNOCHIO IN INDIA

It is wonderful to visit wetlands and water bodies during the winters in India. Immigrant birds mingle with the resident birds enhancing  the visual delight of all wetlands.

Numerous species of birds migrate to the more comfortable and sunny climate of the Indian subcontinent. In terms of temperature, winters in most parts of Northern India are like European Summers.

Thus while many in Europe and North America moan about the end of summers, In India winters is time to sunbathe and  celebrate. The Tiger parks  also reopen their doors in October.

The birds recognize this and leave their cold and inhospitable homes in the North and flock to the warmer climate of the South.

Pinnochio follows  this annual routine as well. What else could I christen this rare and elegant GODWIT.

Jangral ( Hindi) , Black tailed Godwit ( english) ,   limosa limosa ( scientific) 

A rust coloured neck  indicates it has adorned it’s breeding plumage.

Reflections
Reflections

The extra long bills help the Godwit ( my Pinnochio) probe for food in the mud. They also have long and elegant legs to wade deep into the water.

This particular bird was caught with it’s mouth wide open.

The feathers of its tail are black ( see the picture below)  and therefore named BLACK TAILED GODWIT.

breakfast
Time for breakfast

Observe the difference in  colour around the neck when compared to  the GODWIT in the first photograph.

The awesome nose ( sorry bill) of Pinnochio ( Godwit) looks even longer in the picture.

Unfortunately the numbers of this gracious bird are fast dwindling and it is now classified as NEAR THREATENED by the IUCN.

pinnochio
Pinnochio and it’s reflection

Picture were taken in South East Rajasthan.

BLOOD RED RUBIES

Black-Shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) hides amidst a thorny bush near Sajjangarh, Udaipur.

Will leave you and the Kite by yourselves and say nothing.

 Waiting to Ambush
Waiting to Ambush
????????????????????????????????????
All Attention
We come in the crosshair
It hones onto us.
We are dismissed
Looks away. We are dismissed

I was very fortunate to capture these images.

WILD ALIENS AND A WINGED BEAUTY

Nashik is now  famous  for Vineyards ( located within a radius of 60 kms) and Wineries of several famous Indian Wines.

A small village-town DINDORI  (15 kms from Nashik )  is the gateway to WINE COUNTRY and absolutely stunning landscapes.

There is a bird sanctuary about 60 kms from Nashik as well, unfortunately could not go.

I discovered a  winged beauty on the hillside of the vineyards of PAUSE WINES.

Wildflowers follow no rules. This merry lavender coloured bush has  chosen a mango tree as backdrop and overlooks  the vineyards.

Merry in a Vineyard
                                              Merry Solitude in a Vineyard

The bouquet of Lavender buds hides the most gorgeous shaped Violet flowers.

The invasive Lantana ( orange flowers) is in the background.

Grapes are my favourite colour
                                            Grapes are my favourite colour

The Winged beauty looks like a Peacock in Flight. ( wordpress has automatically turned the direction of the picture, however it fits my post) 

I am yet to trace the name of this mysterious flower. Please help.

Winged beauty in isolation
                                                     Winged beauty in isolation

Nashik is also home to numerous fruit orchards.

The drive from Nashik to Pune reveals yet another surprise.

These lovely beautiful Pomegranates literally kiss the earth and all eyes are on them.

Weighed down by Pomegrantes
                                                Weighed down by Pomegranates

However, Aliens are creeping and hugging the earth in the form of these tiny nearly invisible wild creepers.

Watch the undergrowth
Watch the undergrowth

These beautiful violet flowers with  pincers reminds me of WILD ALIENS ( remember the movie ALIEN) .

pincers
                                                                                 Pincers

As i have close look at the pictures, I observe an Insect trap.Have a look  below the flowers , a thorny green apparatus .( Bottom left of picture) .

I think they are carnivorous plants.

An alien Insect trap
                                                         A blurred  Alien Insect trap

Sorry photograph is blurred ( is the alien shaking my  hand ??) , failed to observe the trap  totally while taking this picture.

The Pomegranates and the beauty of the Violet Wild flowers had me deceived.

Is it merely an overactive Imagination at work ?

MAHABALESHWAR, JAMBUDVIPA

Mahabaleshwar is an alias for Lord Shiva ( He has over 1008  mindbogling   names) . Lord Shiva not only lends his name to this town but blesses it with unparalleled Natural beauty.

There is always an interesting story behind name of towns in India, Mahabaleshwar is no different. To know the story,  do read http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com at a later date, as  this post is about the magnificence of Nature.

Amazing Mahabaleshwar is nestled in the Western Ghats at a height of about 4500 ft (1450 m).

Western Ghats are  HOT SPOTS  and home to a vast  and diverse array of species  like the Shekru or the Giant Indian Squirrel ( Ratufa indica) and the beautiful Canonball trees.

A  beautiful  expressway  links Mumbai ( 250 kms)  and Pune ( 120 kms  to this wonderful town on the Western Ghats.

The approach  to Mahabaleshwar is literally through these enormous and magnificent FICUS  trees . The aerial roots form an arch resembling a doorway  over the road near the township of WAI ( 30 kms short of Mahabaleshwar)

An avenue of aerial roots
A canopy  of aerial roots

The hills of Mahabaleshwar are home to one of the few moist  EVERGREEN forests of India.

Blessed with more than a fair share of the monsoons, it is indeed a wonderful  place to visit round the year.

The mountains turn lush green and the Krsna River ( do read BIRTH OF A RIVER) charged afresh by  the Monsoons  gushes down  to the parched lands of the Deccan Plateau.

the river and the green mountains
the river and the green mountains

The hills of Mahabaleshwar are home to a diverse range of Flora  ( close to 6000 species) . The monsoons are a wonderful time to visit the region as numerous wildflowers ( do  read post titled THE BLUSHING DAMSEL) carpet the area with their blossoms.

The Kaas Plateau ( about 40 km away) is also called the Valley of the Flowers of this region.

Fortunately the rains keep away hordes of tourists leaving you to soak in  the glory ( pun intended)  of Nature in solitude.

lush green mountains
lush green mountains

Coming from Delhi where the temperatures cross a dizzy 42 C with ease, we experienced with glee the glory of bountiful Monsoons in this  wonderful town.

Behold the wonder of the Western ghats at Mahabaleshwar.

rolling hills
rolling hills

Wonderful Waterfalls burst forth from the mountains adding  to the scenic beauty of the region.

This tiny town is the catchment area  for  no less than 5 Rivers.

waterfall
Waterfall

The clouds descend to kiss the earth over  Lake Veena, Mahabaleshwar.

A vast lake it extends upto the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary.

the peshwa built lake
Lake Veena named after the musical instrument played by Lord Shiva

The weather changes miraculously as the mist and the clouds  play hide and seek .

This photograph was taken within seconds of the one above. The clouds and mist had gone in a flash.

the peshwa lake minus the mist and clouds
The Lake created by the Peshwas

The high levels of moisture in the air are perfect for EPIPHYTES which covert  rooftops  into Gardens.

grass on roofs
grass on roofs

The Le Meridien Spa & Resort Hotel is a Botanists delight as it is located within a forest of Jamun trees , all of which are covered with orchids and moss ( Epiphytes) .

The sprawling estate of the Hotel is  home like much of the region to numerous medicinal plants  and the reclusive Shekru as well.

ephiphytes
Jamun trees, epiphytes and Mist.

The Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas thus the genetic lineage of the plants  goes  back to a time now forgotten.They were the original Inhabitants of the land we today called India, then called JAMBUDVIPA.( the island of Jamuns) 

Many sacred forests still survive in the Western Ghats ,  protecting a genetic pool created before the TIME OF MEN on this planet.

I  will be coming back to meet Shekru  whom I dearly missed and unveil some of these original greybeards of JAMBUDVIPA.