Thursday, 26 July 2012

A beach inside the sea?

In June 2012, we took a trip to Bakkhali, which is a sea-side resort in West Bengal. The look of the sea here was different from my other visits to the sea (Goa, Pondicherry). The color of the water is grey. As I walked up to the sea side, the whole atmosphere looked grey - the grey sand, the grey sea water and the grey skies. While I was looking at the sea (my favorite pastime), I noticed something strange. While I was expecting to see the sea waves continously forming inside the entire sea, I saw some areas where there were no waves at all. I showed it to my husband, he told me it was a sandbar. I found it amazing - a beach in the middle of the sea?

Next morning when I walked up to the sea side, I saw that the land inside the sea was much bigger. I saw some people walking up to the land. This looked very interesting. After sometime, when my husband joined me at the sea-side, I asked him if we could walk up to that place. Sea had receded a lot in the morning. And the water was below our knees in our entire walk up to the land. It was quite a feeling standing on an island inside the sea.

So I checked in the wikipedia.  A sandbar or a shoal is a somwehat linear landform within or extending into a water body, typically composed of sand, silt or pebbles (Refer shoal on wikipedia)

There is a piece of land with no waves

People standing on the linear land (sandbar)

Thursday Challenge(Symmetry here)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Supreme Birds

If I have to think of a bird of India which can be considered Supreme , two names come to my mind -
  1. Sarus Crane - the Tallest Flying bird in the world
  2. Indian Peacock (male) - the Largest (or shall I say longest) Flying bird
Sarus Crane is a personal favorite of mine and I have talked about it in my earlier post (here) and some of my other favorite birds in a different post (here).

The Indian male Peacock (technically female is called a peahen) is one of the prettiest birds of our country and has the status of being our national bird too.

Talking about its size, a peacock's length from bill to tail (beginning) is 100-115cm (40"-46") and from bill to the end of it's long tail is 195-225cm (78"-90"). The metallic blue colors and the green on the body are stunning, its fan shaped crest is attractive and its long train made up of elongated upper-tail covert feathers (which bear colorful eyespots)  is very impressive. During courtship, when the male spreads the tail in a fan-shape and quivers the feathers , it is quite a sight.
One for Beauty, Two for Joy!
Thursday Challenge (here)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

We move, therefore we are!

Yesterday, I checked the theme for Photo Thursday was 'Movement'. I left my mind free to move and think.Various thoughts came to my mind. My love for the sea reminded me of the waves - the continuously forming and breaking waves. My interest in birds reminded me of the flight of the birds. When I looked at the trees, I thought about the wind. I cherished thinking about the waterfalls and even the water fountains. How about a child on a swing? The crabs on the sand leaving holes and imprints. A running deer!

 Life is all about movement. We move, therefore, we are!

Thursday Challenge here
Wave Motion
Movement into a hole

Imprints of the Movement

Monday, 9 July 2012

One year of bird-watching

Got slowly started with this hobby last year (mid-May 2011) and have now completed one year of bird-watching, which has been an enriching and fulfilling experience. I am still quite an amateur and though I feel happy to have spotted and learned about a hundred odd birds, I know it is a mere 8-10% of the total species found in India.

In this interesting journey, I have been through n number of my current favorite birds. In my trip to Goa last year, I was bowled over by the blue color in birds. I loved looking at common kingfisher and white throated kingfisher, before my heart got taken over by stork-billed kingfisher. Not only did I find the bird great in looks, I found its call very interesting. This was the first bird which got me interested in hearing birds.

In my Ranthambore trip, I fell in love with the Golden Oriole (Check here ). What endearing looks - a golden yellow and black bird with a pink beak  And that is how a male golden oriole looks like. This is when, I learned my lesson on sexual dimorphism - which is the term used to define the differences in looks/behavior between the males and females. Of course we all know about the beautiful peacocks and the drab dull peahens but I did not know that this kind of difference is quite prevalent in birds. Amusing, but it is a given fact that amongst birds, the males actually have better and striking looks while females are much duller in comparison. Though at times I like to disagree with this fact. I actually find the female house sparrow cuter than the male house sparrow. I also find the female asian koel better looking than the male.

It took me quite a while to change my loyalty from golden oriole to another blue bird, which has similarities in it colors with the blue throated kingfisher. This was the the gorgeous Indian roller (Check here). It is a good looking bird which looks even more amazingly beautiful in flight. This was when I learned about looking at birds in flight, I was fascinated to see new colors becoming visible as the wings open out. The next time I looked at myna sitting in my balcony, I knew there was more to the brown bird, there was a 'white' color, which starts showing nicely when myna takes the flight. Later on, I learned about a terrific example of a bird appearing so different in flight in comparison to what it looks when it is sitting otherwise. I am talking about the Indian Pond Heron - which looks like a pure white bird in flight, wait for it to land and it looks like a different bird has landed.

Indian Pond Heron

My knowledge of birds leaped when I visited Bharatpur in November. I found the painted storks very attractive - especially the pink color on the body looked sweet. This is where I saw bird colonies. There were trees after trees filled with painted storks. And the storks look lovely in flight. It was interesting to see the storks coming with fish in their beaks to feed their young and the baby storks (who look quite big for babies if you compare them with babies of sparrows or pigeons) getting excited and competing with their siblings for the feed. In such large colonies, I wondered if the parents ever got confused who their baby was. I mean they all look so identical, at least to us :-). While the painted storks are very beautiful, a special place in my heart was (and still is) reserved for the sarus cranes (Check here). Various things are very striking about sarus cranes - their call, their looks and above all their sheer size. Technically we do know that birds vary in size from as small as a humming bird to as tall as an ostrich but since we do not find ostriches roaming around here, I earlier had a habit of considering birds as the small creatures of God. No longer!

Painted Storks

A couple of months ago, one day I  looked out of my window to see an amazingly beautiful bird. I could not believe - it was pure white and looked like a divine beauty. A white pigeon?I thought. But it looked very special - its feet had feathers and its tail was different and it was shaking its tail. After clicking a few snaps, I browsed the internet to figure out it was an Indian fantail pigeon (female). A fantail pigeon is a breed of a fancy pigeon. It was an amazing feeling of peace, just looking at this bird. For days, I kept wondering where did this fancy bird come from.

Divine beauty

Bird-watching and learning is a continuous experience. With this hobby, the world around me has started looking so different. Monsoon has arrived and is a great respite from heat. And I also now know that is a breeding season for most of the birds. Yesterday I saw two very cute red wattled lapwing babies. I didn't have a camera or a binoculars with me at that time. At such times, my eyes click the imprints for my mind and soul to savor for a long long time.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Indian Black Ibis

On the Good Friday weekend, we visited Gajner and stayed at Gajner Palace for two nights and had a lovely stay.While winter brings a lots of migratory birds to the lake, we did spot quite a few interesting birds (resident and migratory). I particular enjoyed looking at Indian Black Ibis, as I had not seen this bird earlier. Black Ibis has a curved long bill, black body with a visible bright red patch on is head.

The Bigger Bird is the Black Ibis

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Where flowers bloom, so does hope

Came across this lovely quote by Edwin Curran

'Flowers are the music of the ground. From earth's lips spoken without so

Indeed flowers are silent beauty.

Thursday Challenge here

Friday, 24 February 2012

Yellow Rose in Wild

After having shared my views about the red roses in plastic sheets, I decided to give a good look to the roses in the wild. Found one picture perfect yellow rose. Quite pretty actually!
A yellow rose in bloom

Monday, 13 February 2012

Red is for Valentine, but roses are boring

Valentine is back again and flower shops are busy stocking flowers. No points for guessing the theme of the season, the 'red rose' again. Roses are considered classic gifts for demonstrating love, specially the red and pink ones. No doubt it is a beautiful flower, but honestly I find them attractive only in gardens, especially when they are blooming and I can see the petals clearly. What I don't find attractive is the roses at the flower shops, the buds and the partially opened ones, wrapped in plastic sheets - they look dumb and boring. If red is the color of love, why stick to roses - I find red poppies far more attractive. Recently I happened to observe a poppy plant from close and it was quite interesting to look at - the buds have these pointed hair which look strange and as the bud matures, the hair on the stems thin down. The stems are curved and twisted and straightens as the bud ripens.  Unfortunately I didn't have the camera, so no snaps here. Red carnations look good. The other flowers that I like is dahlia - it looks so un-inhibited in spreading its colorful charm.

I also want to mention this small flower called 'lantana camara', which is rather simple but cute in its looks. Looking at it makes me feel nostalgic, having seem them in plenty in local parks when I was a child. I think I had even tasted the flower at that time. Only recently, I came to know of its name. I would be happy receiving a bunch of these flowers innocently tied with a rubber band, as we used to do as kids. Or else give me potted plants with blooming dahlias, poppies but not those red roses sealed in plastic sheets - they are so boring!

Flowers in wild have the real appeal

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bar Headed Goose

Last week, we drove down to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. This place is around 15 km from Gurgaon and is a good spot for watching birds or having a picnic with family and feeling closer to nature. It is not as established a park as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary where you can hire guides and take guided rickshaw trips with rickshaw drivers helping you in spotting and identifying different birds. Here, you are on your own and you need to take the trip on foot. We spotted many birds including purple heron, spotted owlets, kingfishers, cormorants, egrets, coots, teals, shovelers, painted storks, greylag geese and bar headed geese.

The one which I really liked was the migratory bar headed goose. Not only is it interesting in its looks with black bars (stripes) on its head, it has interesting facts associated with it. Bar Heade Geese are the world's highest flying birds. These birds can fly at an altitude of 29,500 feet, nearly as high as commercial aircraft. They travel all the way from Mongolia, cross the Himalayas and reach India. They spend the winter in India and in summer, they fly back to their breeding grounds in Central Asia. They are known to be able to cross the Himalayas in one single day. Most passes in the Himalayas are at a height of more than five kilometres where the air is thin and oxygen level low. Scientists have been working on their anatomy to figure out how they sustain their oxygen levels.  The studies show that the geese have bigger wings, bigger lungs, a dense network of capillaries surrounding the flight muscle and haemoglobin that more tightly binds oxygen to the lungs work together to sustain oxygen flow throughout the bird's circulatory system, including its flight muscle.

It was nice to look at these birds, who make one of the highest and most-researched trans-mountain migrations in the world.

Bar Headed Geese

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Chapter from My Secret Diary

Excerpts from the diary of a 10 year old

It's fun going through somebody else' secret diary, isn't it? Guilty pleasures or love for reading, whatever brings you here, makes me happy. It is a step forward in my path of chasing my dream of becoming famous and subsequently rich one day. Not too many people know that I began writing when I was barely seven. Only, I did not get any readers. Unfortunately that included my subject teachers too. All that went on for one full year. And I must tell you I felt quite low about my beginning. It did not help when mom blamed it all on my handwriting sometimes and my lack of imaginative thinking at other times. That was of course as far from truth as it could have been. One fine day, accidentally I overheard a conversation between my English and Maths teacher. It helped put everything in perspective.

Scene - Two teachers giggling and gossiping in the staffroom
Maths Teacher (to English teacher)- I am better off teaching maths (giggle). It is so much easier to correct the assignments. You see all maths problems are solved in one way and have the same answer. But hats off to you for going through 48 sheets of English compositions word by word.

English Teacher (yawning)- Who told you I go through all of them? I go through a few selected ones which appear interesting like the ones which have nice titles. Even then I often focus on the opening and ending lines. The rest of the assignments (yawn), I just glance and give some grade depending on my mood at that time.

The moment of truth had dawned. The very next day, we were to submit a composition on our thoughts about any farm animal. That day I was so excited that I spent the entire evening watching TV and slept off early at night. I remembered about the assignment only in the morning and I had only ten minutes to work on it. Suddenly I remembered about a ten line essay I had submitted a few months ago on 'The Cow'. Though I was painfully aware that I had managed only a 'C' in that one but I had no choice but to re-use it. All I needed was a catchy title but believe me, coming up with an interesting title about a farm animal in that short a time was not easy. It would be great if the title involved an element of mystery or suspense, I thought. Hurriedly I settled for a new title to be - 'The Cow - A farm animal'  'Is Cow really a sacred animal?'I began the composition with 'Everybody likes to worship cow but nobody knows if it truly is a sacred animal'. No, I did not add any research facts. In fact I copied the remaining ten lines directly from the previous essay and added a sentence in the end 'I often wonder if cow is really a sacred animal. Do you?' Guess what, I got my first ever 'A' grade in an assignment.

You must be wondering about which chapter of my secret diary am I going to talk about. Well, I am going to talk about how I screwed my chances for having a grand birthday party last month. After all I was turning a double digit number. Talking about secrets, I have nothing to hide about my age. Unlike my mom whose age is her biggest secret. When I was a small kid, I asked her about her age many times directly and indirectly. But she always avoided the question or would make a funny face and say 'I am just 12'. The more she avoided the question, the more curious I became. A few months ago, one day dad was looking at his important papers and he left his drawer unlocked just to answer the doorbell. Mom was not at home. That was my short opportunity. I sneaked in quickly and checked mom's date of birth in her passport. Boy! what a revelation. For two hours I sat puzzled thinking why she bothers to hide her age when she looks so much older than her real age. But moms are moms, you know.

Today in our English class, we were taught a new word 'adulteration' and after some initial thinking I have concluded it is derived from the word 'adult'. It could be because the adults have adulterated minds - unclear, polluted and with double and sometimes triple standards. Talking about multiple standards, I am reminded of an incident which happened last month when mom scolded me badly for refusing to wear a jacket to school. I was already stuffed with a vest, inner thermal wear, a turtle neck, a full sleeve tee-shirt and a full sleeve sweater. With all the layers, my arm movement was stiffer than a robots'. 'It's December!Look at the temperature', she screamed at me. The very same evening, we were to go for a wedding. Mom wore a saree with a sleeveless blouse and refused to cover her jewellery by wearing a sweater. When Dad reminded her that it was December, she announced she was carrying a shawl. She didn't even open the shawl, forget wrapping it around and carried it folded around her arm. As soon as we reached the venue, she requested Dad to take care of the shawl as it was getting entangled in her new golden bangle. Dad was uneasy but before he could say anything mom put the shawl on his shoulder and proceeded to gossip with her friends. After a little while, Dad requested me to take care of it for sometime. I was reluctant to help but agreed on the condition that he was going to allow me to gorge on my favorite items for dinner and protect me from Mom when she would chase me with healthy vegetables. Mom has this thing about chasing us all with vegetables. For me, food means pleasure and I get it out of eating non-veg food. Left to me, I would start my day with a plate full of chicken nuggets in the morning, a chicken burger and fries for lunch and end it with a chicken sandwich for dinner. I try to reason out with her that non-veg food means no-veg but she does not seem to understand. I tried explaining to her that potato fries take care of the veggies for me, but she does not appreciate. Moms will be moms, you know.

When it was time for dinner, I stuffed my plate with chicken lollipops and chicken wings. After my stomach received the required amount of fire, I decided to switch to desserts. Just when I was finishing with my ninth ice-cream of the evening, I saw a puppy under the catering table. Did I tell you I just adore puppies? It is just coincidental that we have the same interest in life - love for non-veg food. He appeared hungry so I took another serving of chicken snacks to offer to him. After he had his fill, the puppy decided to leave and I followed him. He went and lay down next to his two siblings in a cane basket lying in a roadside corner towards the end of the street. It was a cold night. Without thinking much, I spread the shawl over them so that they could stay warm for sometime. I meant to take it back later. But soon after that Dad called me to introduce me to some relatives and when it was time to leave, I completely forgot about the shawl. So did Dad and Mom too. But that doesn't count, right?And you know what would have happened after we reached home. I must say Dad tried to put my case rather well and referred to me as a kind and considerate animal lover. But mom was really mad at him and me 'No, it was not just a piece of cloth. It was an expensive pashmina shawl..And it was my favorite. How could you two be so irresponsible? blah blah'.

My birthday falls on Christmas day and I tell you it is not really a great day for having a birthday. Mom always tries to club the christmas, new year and my birthday party into one single party. There is a secret I want to share with you. I know very well that there is no Santa Claus. But I am not telling mom and dad. Every year around mid December, I start singing Christmas carols and dropping hints about what I am expecting from Santa for Christmas. Talking about gifts, Mom always accuses of being very greedy as far as toys and gifts are concerned. And you know what, she is right. I love toys and I do not like to miss a single opportunity to have another one. Indeed I am greedy about toys, gifts and all the good things of life. Talk about greed in grown-ups. They have it too and do not even admit it. Take the case of mom's blogging. I have been closely following her behavior and reactions from the time she started blogging.  I clearly remember the day mom wrote her first post. For days she kept checking her statistics to see if someone visited. She announced to all her friends and relatives to check out her post. Every morning she would wake up and check her statistics. When her statistics improved, she was happy and was encouraged to write a few more posts. One week later she started complaining she did not get comments. She asked Dad to spread the word to his relatives and his subordinates at work. She even told dad that he should promote only those subordinates who read and commented on her posts. Comments started appearing but her happiness lasted for a few days. Then I heard her telling dad one day that she has joined some indiblogger site. For a few days, I saw her desperately look at how many votes her posts were fetching. I thought her greed was disgusting but I did not dare tell her.

Mom had stopped talking to me after the shawl incident. She even stopped chasing me with healthy stuff. But I made sure to take extra serving of veggies and gulped them down keeping a straight and smiling face. No effect. I kind of lost hope of any gifts this year - neither for Christmas, nor for my birthday.  Not that I have been happy with mom's choice of gifts in the last few years. God only knows why she wants the gifts to be practically useful. So she loves gifting clothes, board games, books and brain teasers. I tried complaining to her once but she lectured me for thirty five minutes on how we should spend money judiciously and how much thought she puts in the gifts and how thankful I should be for all those things. This year I thought I had lost chance of even the practical gifts.  I did not see mom checking the sizes of my dresses or the stock of my books. A week before the D-day,  when it was too much for me to bear, I checked with Dad . "No plans this year" he told me "mom is really upset with us both". So I told myself I was going to turn ten silently and unannounced. One of my ex class mates called up to say she planned to have all her old class friends for a sleep over on 23rd. I had a good time with my friends at her place and gossiped till 4 am in the morning. I was really tired when I returned home and practically slept through the entire day after lunch. Mom did not even wake me for the dinner. Finally at midnight, I woke up to mom and dad singing birthday song for me. I was glad that they remembered to wish me at least. Mom had made a lovely chocolate cake and I really relished it. I looked at the Christmas tree and the stockings hanging there. It did not appear filled with any toys. There weren't any  wrapped gifts under the tree either. I decided not to look at the stockings but the greed inside me pushed me to go through the motions anyway. It contained something. An envelope. I quickly took the envelope in my hand. It was sealed and signed by mom and dad wishing me Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. 'A greeting card' I told myself 'what else'. I knew mom and dad were watching me and I tried to keep a smiling face. As I opened the envelope, I found two gift vouchers and a greeting card. The first gift voucher was from KFC, worth Rs 5000. The other one was a voucher designed and signed by mom and dad saying they allocate  the ten year old i.e. me, an amount of Rs 2000 to buy any product of my choice. This was brilliant. No practical and useful gifts. And the greeting card said 'You are allowed to watch TV and play video games all day. Take your friends out to KFC for the birthday party and a tiny message in a corner in mom's handwriting - Allowed to skip vegetables for the day'. Superb!My day was made. I had a lot of fun with my friends at KFC and we had a heart full of chicken burgers, fiery grilled chicken, fries, pepsi and of course no veggies! You know it is hard to resist a place which offers fried chicken items in buckets!

I suspect that mom had won the KFC voucher in some blogging contest and once again she wore her pragmatic hat by using it for my birthday party. But when it is a gift like this, I am not complaining!

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