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A flower that tricks the tricksters! Ceropegias.... endangered plants
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Ceropegia candelabrum, Turahalli, Karnataka,280718


We have all heard of carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap, that trap and devour insects. But less known is the fact that some plants of the Ceropegia species, actually deceive and entrap insects, for pollination!

Here's how the Ceropegia flowers work, and it's quite complicated.

Spiders and other insect predators often trap and eat honeybees, and there are some flies that love to eat these honeybees, too. The flies are able to smell the scent of the dying honeybees, and congregate to feed off the bees even as the predators are eating them. Since they are, in this sense, robbing the predators, they are called "kleptoparasites"

Ceropegias take advantage of this liking of the flies. They produce a fragrance that is remarkably similar to the "alarm pheromones" (the mixture of about 33 substances emitted from the glands of the bees under attack). This fools the flies into entering the flowers...and they find themselves falling into the flowers, to the pollen chamber (the pot-shaped area at the bottom of the flower).

Now, the flies, notorious thieves themselves, find that they have been doubly deceived. Not only are there no flies to eat, but also, there is no nectar in the pollen chamber of the flowers, to reward them. The Ceropegias are known as "deceptive flowers," allowing themselves to be pollinated by the insects they attract without rewarding them with food.

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Ceropegia hirsuta, Panarpani, Madhya Pradesh, 080917

In addition to this trick, there is also the ensuing imprisonment, as the plants trap the flies in their flowers for around 24 hours. This ensures that the flies -- searching for both food and a way out -- do all the work when it comes to pollination. As a result of this activity combined with food deprivation, the flies are quite weak when they are finally allowed to fly away. As hungry as they are, they are magically drawn to the alluring, deceptive scent of neighbouring flowers, where they end up back at square one.

The deceit of the Ceropegias was discovered by Annemarie Heiduk, a doctoral researcher in biology at the University of Bayreuth. Scientists from Bayreuth, Salzburg, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, London, and Pietermaritzburg helped her gather the evidence. The international team has now presented its research findings in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

You can read in more detail about this fascinating process,

here

But the plant itself is sometimes subject to being eaten by the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Here a Plain Tiger caterpillar on the flower of one Ceropegia:


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Here is a photo that I took of a true carnivorous plant, called the Sundew flower, which digests the insects caught in the sticky "dew" of its flowers.

Drosera burmanii, Panarpani,080917

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Just another example of the wonders of the world we live in!

Sounds...
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My walk home from my daughter's, in terms of sounds:
the burbling, liquid sound of the Red-whiskered Bulbul and a couple of Tailorbirds, then the harsh cawing of crows.
The rasping of two coconut brooms that a pourakramika uses to clean leaf litter and trash.
The clank of the bucket and mug, that maid wields to wash the pavement in front of the house.
The echoing call of "soppu!" from a pushcart vendor.
Cars, two-wheelers and the whine of autos as I cross the main road.
Snatches of conversation as I pass people, some of it very intriguing.
The monsoon wind soughing through the branches of a large Gulmohar tree.
The Venkatesha Suprabhatam from the phone of one walker who has apparently not heard of earphones.
The "ha-ha-ha" of the Laughter Club.
The honking horns of impatient motorists rushing to work.
Mukesh's "chal ri sajni" from an open window.
A program on Ambabai, on Amurthavarshini channel, in my own ears.
My own footsteps as I climb the four floors.
Finally, the key in my front door...

4th Sunday outing, Bngbirds: Muthanallur Kere, 220718
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Our group, the Usual Gang of Suspects, at MCS or Mandatory Chai Stop. The group always has different people, so this is a good way of introducing ourselves to each other!

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The assembled group except for MBK.

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Anil, Anindita, Divya, Regin, Arpita,Sushma, Imtiaz (hidden),Siri, Sanjay, Suhasini, Padma,Prathap, Ramaswamy, Gopinath, Raju, Harish, Ganesha, Priyaranjan, Subramanya, Sahas, Vijay, Arnab, Srini, Deepak. MBK is missing. Muthanallur lake,220718

With MBK, who was photographing me photographing the group!

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Email to bngbirds egroup:

Dear Shyam, Sorry that you had to miss a very pleasant morning, and one where two of the most experienced birders of Bangalore were present! It was very nice to have Dr M B Krishna and Dr S Subramanya, who shared some of their encyclopaedic knowledge with us.

Suhasini with MBK and Subbu

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All of us met at the Shani temple at Muthanallur,

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but when we started walking on the lake bund, it was apparent that because of the proliferation of water hyacinth, this part of the lake was completely choked and we could not see much. So we all piled into our cars and went to the Muthanallur bus stop, and from there to the path that leads past a pig farm to the shore of the lake.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

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The lake was brimming; this is, surely, the fullest that I have seen this waterbody.

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The path that we usually walked on was completely under water, so we took the higher path. This, too, was very overgrown after the rains, and we did not cover more than half the distance we usually cover in drier seasons. However enough interesting beings kept us occupied.

Pied Kingfisher

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Having started with Coppersmith Barbets and White-throated Kingfishers near the temple, we looked at Little Grebes, Little and Great Cormorants, Coots and an occasional Egret and Pond Heron. Black Kites and Brahminy Kites soared over the water, effortlessly riding on the monsoon wind. We heard the Common Iora before some of us spotted it. Some Purple Swamphens, Common Moorhens, and an Indian Cormorant added to our list. We watched Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers, too.

Sunbird's nest

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Oriental Darter

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Nor was there a lack of other creatures to observe. Today certainly seemed to be Spider Day! Wood Spiders, Orb Weavers, Tent Spiders, Signature Spiders, Comb-footed Spiders, Social Spiders...what a variety of them we were privileged to see this morning!

Butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, too, dotted our walk and it was nice to see ants farming hoppers on the Milkweed plants. Siri was the only child on the walk, but she was most interested in everything, even though a snail shell had her drawing back in disgust!

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Green Lynx Spider with fly kill.

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A variety of wild plants were all around us. I showed them the Abutilon, the Devil's Coach Whip, the Coat Button flowers, and the heart-shaped mark on the seeds of the Balloon Vine, that gives it the scientific name "cardiospermum" (cardio=heart, spermum=seed).Evolvulus, Justicia, Richardia, Senna, bloomed everywhere.The water hyacinth led the list of invasive plants, with Parthenium, Lantana, Eupatorium there too. We looked at the monocultures of Acacia and Eucalyptus.

Returning, we paused at the Adi Parasakhti temple that has been recently built, next to the huge old Mahua tree, which was fruiting.

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MBK aaked an intriguing question about why the tree dropped all its seeds near itself rather than trying to disperse it far and wide. (Want to know the answer? Email him!) We shared the variety of snacks that we brought, and having restored our tissues, walked back to our waiting commitments elsewhere and the routine of our weekday lives.

Some of us stopped for breakfast at South Inn, on Sarjapura Road, as we returned that way.


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Replete, and charged up with the easy companionship of a morning spent in Nature, we wended our way homewards.

Many thanks to Deepak, who came along in spite of running a fever the previous day. As one of us had locked the key inside the car, he stayed until the issue was sorted out (Gautam went to the village and got a mechanic from a garage, who opened the car in a few minutes!), before leaving.

Small Salmon Arab.

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MBK made the point that the walk must start later to allow students to join in. However, on my own walks, I ensure that college students and young women are provided safe transportation, and have many of them on walks that start sharp at 6.30am. It just takes a little extra effort to accommodate people in cars; and it results in everyone meeting new people and bonds the group together!



So please, if you have any difficulty with transportation on the 3rd and 4th Sunday walks, do ask on the group if someone is coming from your area; people are generally happy to share a ride, and people like me, who do not have a car, or have trouble with the low frequency and late start of public transport on a Sunday, can still enjoy these outings.

I have put up an album of my photos on FB,

here

and on Flickr,

here


I have taken a short video of the group while we took a snack break:



Shyam and others, wishing you a good time for the rest of the Sunday, (I mean the siesta as well as the time left!) and a productive week ahead.

Cheers, Deepa.

Blue Mormon, Common Mormon
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The Common Mormon does not have blue
Whether it's the UP or UN you view.
The female Common Mormon can pose
An appearance like the Crimson Rose.
But if the UP of the Blue Mormon you view
And look at that pattern of blue
The larger size will make you stare
As this beauty floats through the air.
These differences are, I tell you, true
Between the Mormon, Common and the Mormon, Blue!

Blue Mormon

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Common Mormon

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Common Mormon female mimicking Crimson Rose

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Do's and don'ts for photographers on nature/wilderness group walks
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I just read Janaki Lenin's well-written list of do's and don'ts on nature/wilderness walks.

Since so many of the participants are photographers, I'd like to add my own list of do's and don'ts for them. This list does not list the obvious points of ethical photography, though those must be followed too...it deals with how people should do photography while in a group.

Do not stray away from the group in pursuit of the photograph. Group leaders often find it hard to trace errant members, and even in scrub jungle, which looks tame and domesticated, it is easy to get lost, particulary on cloudy days when the cardinal directions are not clear.

If you find something interesting, do (quietly) let the others (or at least your neighbours) know about it. Clicking away in silence while others wonder what you have in your viewfinder...is not A Good Thing

When you find something interesting, and step up to take your photograph, remember to check if you are getting in anyone else's way. Many people wind up taking photographs of the backs of eager beavers who have stepped into the frame, intent on their own photography.

If you have a good zoom on your camera, do allow others to go closer.

Do not, in your eagerness to get closer, chase the subject away, so that others in the group get neither a good look nor a photograph.

Remember that others with smaller cameras and lenses, and mobile cameras too, are as much photographers as the ones with the bazooka lenses.

Silence your camera shutter sound. It's very impressive to hear the machine-gun sounds of a burst of shots, but it can chase away an alert animal or bird. It can also spoil someone else's video.

Do not keep interrupting the walk to show others your shots from this, or other, walks. Chimping (the process of looking at one's shots) can be done after the walk (or by yourself, if you want to check on something.). Showing other people your shots is fine if they have, for some other reason, missed seeing the subject, and want to see it.

Do take some shots yourself, and as fast as you can, allow others to get to your particular point, so that they, too, can take their images.

I once heard someone say, "I am glad I got the shot, and I am even more glad no one else got it." If this is your point of view, then nature walks in groups are not for you. To get unique shots, go by yourself. You may get those shots, but I assure you, you will miss out on the camaraderie, the multiple opportunities, and the safety benefits that group walks have to offer.

Turahalli, 010718
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The monsoons are when the peacocks, dance, and this morning, at Turahalli Reserve Forest, we were delighted to watch this.



Lists sent to Ms Dipika, DCF, Turahalli:

Bird list:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46912817

(47 species)

Butterflies:

Baronet
Blue, Babul
Blue, Lime
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Tiny Grass
Castor, Common
Cerulean, Common
Coster, Tawny
Crow, Common
Cupid, Small
Dart, Oriental Grass
Emigrant, Common
Gull, Common
Lime, Common
Leopard, Common
Mormon, Common
Pansy, Yellow
Pioneer
Rose, Common
Rose, Crimson
Tiger, Blue
Tiger, Plain
Tiger,Striped
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass

Insects:

Ants, Processional
Bee, Carpenter
Bee, Honey
Beetle,Bombardier
Beetle, Net-winged
Caterpillars of various moths and Common Rose
Centipede
Dragonfly, various
Grasshopper, various
Katydid
Mantis, Praying
Millipede
Plant Hopper
Praying Mantis
Spider, Funnel Web
Spider, Orb Weaver
Spider, Giant Wood
Spider, Jumping
Spider, Social
Spider, Tent Web
Spider, Wolf
Wasp, Paper
Wasp, Spider
Wasp, Scoliid

Wildflowers

Acacia sp
Aristolochia indica seen in a lot of places (this is an endangered plant)
Catunaregam spinosa
Commelina sp
Clerodendron sp
Cyanotis sp
Evolvulus sp
Grewia sp
Fungi and Mushrooms, various kinds
Mimosa pudica
Passiflora sp
Stachytarpeta
Toddelia asiatica
Tridax sp

here

Visit to FES for Grow-Trees, Kollimapalli, Karnataka, 230618
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I got a call from my friend Srinvasa Shenoy, aka Srini, asking whether I would be interested in a visit to a site where afforestation is being done, near the Karnataka/Andhra Pradesh border, in a small village called Kollimapalli.

Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at

Bhairasagara lake

which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to

Bagepalli

where we met Avinash Chowdary of

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)

Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to

Grow Trees

and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.

We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:

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Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.

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The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.

However"The objective," says Srini, "is not about planting trees only - rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level."

Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :

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It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.

FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time - but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. - who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were Chalapathi (also a committee member) and Nagaraj; Sunil was the representative from Azim Premji University.

Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are 'prohibited' zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.

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The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.

Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for 'cattle ponds' at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.

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Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.

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After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!

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We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

Lynx Spider

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Small Salmon Arab

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Robberfly

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Sirkeer Malkoha

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Oriental Garden Lizard male

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Oriental Garden Lizard female

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Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:

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Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)

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As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.

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In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.


Bird lists:

For Bhairasagara, click

here

For Kollimapalli, click

here

For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click

here

On watching the butterfly migration....
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They fly, severally, across my path

Fluttering on their way.

"Godspeed, you little butterflies,"

Is all that I can say.

How far they come, these little ones

Creatures of light and air

With so many obstacles to face,

Who knows how each will fare?

Will this Crow make it across?

Will that Tiger survive?

Flying over in their hundreds,

How many will live, and thrive?

How many will fall, becoming the food

Of predators, swift and alert?

How many will survive attacks

And flit on, torn and hurt?

I do not how many will make it

But each one flying is a lovely sight.

I pray that these brave little beauties

Are able to survive the flight!


Friendship
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To someone called "Sugar".

A friend.
Someone with whom I can talk.
Talk...about anything;
From the most mundane of everyday details
To the most existential questions.
I can talk; I can listen.
I can respect the deep wellspring of wisdom
And experience beyond anything I have known
That produces the words I listen to.
The conversation flows along
Like a gentle stream;
Taking in, here a little rivulet,
There a little trickle
Of associated thoughts.
The most profound ideas
Are simply expressed.
I do not know how the time passes.
When the conversation is over,
I feel a deep sense of contentment
And well-being.
Our conversations may go on
Or cease; but our friendship will endure.
Thank you, my friend, for the thoughts, the words,
The affection, the time, and the grace.
Neither age nor gender governs our bond.
I know your friendship to be a precious thing
In my life.

Small-scale warfare....Valley area, 050518
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On our way back from our nature/birding outing, I suddenly caught sight of a beetle and a snail, on a tiny twig. Seeing these two together isn't very common, so I decided to photograph the scene.



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I then realized that what was going on was an attack, and a major war! The beetle, like all ground beetles, likes a snail diet, and was attacking this one.




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This was an amazing drama that we watched for a while. The beetle was attacking the snail, which produced the froth in self-defence.

Whenever the beetle approached the snail, it would get caught in the froth and would go off with a little bit in its mouth.

You can see this here:








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The snail obviously had nowhere to go, given its speed of locomotion, and its postition at the end of the twig. It had to fight.








Having got just a mouthful of froth for its efforts, off the beetle would go, up the twig, try to get rid of it, and return to the fray,er, froth!


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Such miniature fights-to-the-death happen all the time, around us...in the parks, in our own gardens. All it needs for some dramatically interesting moments is a little observation!

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