The Rose of Winter

These gorgeous flowers resembling roses are called Camellias.

Native to Japan and China they represent faithfulness and longevity.

CamelliaCamellia japonica

the bud
                                                                                the bud

These wonderful flowers were  spotted at the JW Marriott Resort  gardens in Mussoorrie.

Looking deceptively like roses they are close cousins of the plants ( Camellia sinensis)  of the favourite Indian beverage Tea. 

red wood rose
                                                          Blood  red flowers in bloom 

As there are numerous hybrids of these beautiful flowers please correct me if I have identified them incorrectly.

There is a lot of information on Wikipedia about these flowers which were introduced in America from China and are now the state flowers of the state of Alabama in USA.

TEAR DROPS OF JOY

Fuschia (fyus-chia) is an attractive  colour which is similar to Magenta.

These lovely pendulous flowers in the driveway of JW MARRIOTT, Mussoorie bear the name  Fuchsia  ( mark the correct spelling) and adorn  the colour Fuschia  as well.

Growing profusely in the shade I call these magnificent flowers TEAR DROPS OF JOY.

chandelier of fucshia
                                           Drooping  flowers  of Fuchsia look like little bells

The flower is called Fuchsia ( fook-sia) in honour of the 16th Century German Botanist Fuchs.  ( sorry, but  that was the name of the scientist) It is rare for the scientific and common name to be same, this lovely flower shares this honour. Scientific name is Fuchsia hybridia.( there are however over a hundred species and the last name could change).

Do observe the colour of the stems as they turn Fuschia as well.

fucshia deep purple JW
                                       Fuchsia  with deep purple petals

This is obviously another species of this wonderful flower within the lovely garden of Prateek’s home and part of the Brentwood Sanctuary, Mussoorie.

Please do read my previous posts ( THE WALNUT TRAIL, THE SECRET TRAP, THE CORN VILLAGE( http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com) and THE MUSHROOM TRAIL ) to connect the dots.

The buds look like a Lady’s Ear Drop, which is also another common  name for these stunning flowers.

The petals and  sepals seem to be in conflict as one gazes downwards and the other reaches out to the Sun.

fucshia white centre
                                              Fuchsia with white petals

These gorgeous flowers are native to Central America and cannot bear the harsh summer heat of the plains of India. Hence they are relatively rare to see in this country.

They however love the Himalayan mountain air and were adorning the gardens of the Hotel  like little chandeliers.

They also bear an edible berry ( the fruit of the Fuchsia) .  Do try it and let me know how it tastes.

fuschia purple centre
                                           Fuchsia with fuchsia  coloured  petals

Bearing testimony to the phrase  ” LOOKS ARE DECEPTIVE”, a species of this gorgeous looking flower is an invasive weed in many parts of Australia, New Zealand and many Islands of the INDIAN OCEAN.

Fortunately they brought me only  TEARS OF JOY.

THE MUSHROOM TRAIL

Very often Nature casts a spell and leaves a message or a sign.

The featured image is of toadstool mushrooms in the  lush gardens of the JW Marriott Walnut Grove & Spa, Mussoorie.

It was probably the first picture I  took in this beautiful Resort  overlooking a stunning Himalayan Range.

It was also a sign by Mother Nature for what was to follow.

The following  picture is of  a signboard in the enchanting  Jabarkhet Nature Reserve, Mussoorie.

( though I took this picture I realized the significance only after I began writing this article)

mushroom trail
                                                             The Mushroom Trail

The J. Nature Reserve is part  of a privately owned  gorgeous enchanting forest .

The Nature trek  around FLAG HILL ( Jaburkhet Reserve is located on the Flag Hill)   was one of several  memorable trips organized by JW MARRIOTT under the umbrella WALNUT TRAIL .

( do check my previous post titled  THE SECRET TRAP)

This mushroom resembling a Garden Umbrella was discretely camouflaged under some dried leaves . Am positive that even our cheerful group leader  Aditya  ( hope you read this post)  missed this specimen of the Fungi family.

frilled mushroom
                                                             Frilled mushroom

As the J.Nature Reserve conscientiously guards the forests from intrusion the undergrowth in the forest has flourished.

 Deadwood is neither collected or  tampered with and therein lies the secret of the abundance of Fungi ( mushrooms) .

The lifeless  stump of a tree had given birth  to an unusual and attractive colony of mushrooms.

tree of mushrooms
                                                           Tree of  Mushrooms

The shaded mountainside preserves moisture which provides a perfect home for Moss.

Moss in turn holds the topsoil of the mountain and is a reservoir for water as well.

This unique and magnificent species of Fungi thrives in this delicately balanced ecosystem.

mushroom forest
                                            A Mushroom Forest

Such glorious  rare sights can be witnessed only in forests which are untouched by domesticated animals like cows and goats.

Bracket mushrooms adorn the mountainside . Homes for elves and  fairies?

two together
                                                 Two together

The largest and definitely  the God Father of mushrooms photographed by me in this enchanting forest of the Himalayas.

bracket mushroom
                                                             Bracket Mushroom

The tiny toadstools under the Walnut tree in the gardens of the JW Marriott Resort was my sign that I would shortly be on a Mushroom trail.

Is it not ironical  that I noticed the signboard read “Mushroom Trail”  only whilst writing this article.

I guess Nature has its ways? ( hope the nature loving and wonderful staff of  JW Marriot  would discover the toadstools in their garden after reading this post  )

THE PERFECT TRAP

The luxurious  JW Marriot Hotel  at Mussoorie has studied nature beautifully.

They organized an enchanting  trip called Walnut trail.

Pictures that follow are part of this splendid trail.

What a delightful sight as the mountain spring gurgles down the mountainside.

Waterfall below the walnut tree
                                             Waterfall under the walnut tree

The gorgeous  violet and yellow wildflowers  sway with  the gentle cool breeze and the sunlight filters through the undergrowth around the mountain stream.

A gentle movement and a glimmer in the sunlight reveals another  marvel of nature.

wildflowers sway
                                            wildflowers sway in the breeze

Strategically placed between two species of wildflowers  is  a perfectly made spider’s web.

The rays of the sun reflect off each strand, revealing a marvelous trap setup for insects that would approach the flowers.

the spider
the spider

A spider  patiently awaits it’s prey and sits  right in the centre of this circular web.

the beautiful trap
                                                               Perfection in nature 

The Spider has chosen a perfect location to weave a geometrically perfect web.

What can we learn from the Spider? Do comment.

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 .

????????????????????????????????????
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.

????????????????????????????????????
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?

A DATE WITH THE SUN

A forest is a world of  magical splendour.

Nature can fire your imagination as the forests often Eclipse even the Mighty Sun.

The trees stretch out their arms and  turn themselves  into shades of black .

The lakes, mountains and the golden grasslands transform into shades of black as well.

A cloak of darkness creeps upon this Enchanting Forest.

sun date and lake
                                                   The date palm tree attempts to date the Sun

Within seconds the sun is eclipsed and a halo forms around the Crown of the Palm Tree.

The forest plunges into darkness and all turns BLACK.

The sun eclipsed by the Date palm tree
                                                The sun eclipsed by the Date Palm Tree

Other trees struggle to reach  out to the Sun and numbers seem to be on their side.

sun and palm
                                                             A tussle for the sun ensues

The bigger denser trees seem to be stronger and the tussle seems to be going their way as the others recede.

the halo
                                                                                               The Halo 

The Sun has however chosen  the Palm Tree and balance is gradually  restored.

Enchanted
                                                                        Order is restored 

Notice the glint in the eye of the Palm tree.

The forest will change colour once again.

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 ?