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Birding on the first day of 2017: Ramnagara

Four of us: Jayashree, Padma, Ramaswamy and I…went to

Ramnagara

for some evening birding, and to see the critically endangered

Long-billed Vultures

at the betta.

On the way, we saw three Spotted Owlets in a tree.

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The beautiful rocky outcrops welcomed us in the evening sunlight.

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Usually, the gates to the hill are closed, but on this day, they were open, and I clicked several cars coming down after the passengers had visited the rAmA temple at the top.

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We saw a couple of

Egyptian Vultures

first:

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and we were also able to locate their nest.

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and then I saw this

Short-toed Snake Eagle

perched high on the edge of the cliff.

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It then treated us to a flight display as well:

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Muniyappa, a young boy from the nearby settlement, came to join us. He was quite good at spotting birds, too.

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Jai lent him her binoculuars.

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Finally, a lone

Long-billed Vulture

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came out on to the ledge and preened itself, delighting all of us.

The sun sank behind the hills on the opposite side,

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and I captured Jai against the moon and Venus.

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We stopped at Bidadi for

thatte iddli

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on the way home, and though Jai had to do some marathon driving through the choked highway, we returned home content with our evening’s birding!

Pics on my FB album

here

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Bithi Agrawal, seen here with one of her school’s buses

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who runs the two

Foundation Schools in Whitefield and Gunjur

called me up, and as part of her dream to educate the children “outside the box”, asked me if I could take the children on a birding/nature walk at

Kaikondranahalli Kere (Lake)

on the 10th of September, 20016.

This being one of the activities I love, I agreed eagerly, and found that the school has just over a hundred children!

I immediately pressed my friends into action and it was the six of us

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L to R, Hariharan IS, Chandu Bandi, his son Krishna Virat, Aravind A M, Janhvi Vyas, and Rishov Biswas, who took the chattering band of children (there were about 80, plus 6 teachers to keep them in some semblance of order!) on the path around the lake. It was very kind of my friends to volunteer, as they always do!

We sighted a fair amount of birds, because the waterfowl are generally to be found at the lake all day, and we did have good sightings of the woodland birds, too, in the bushes around the banks.

You can see the eBird list for the morning

here

I could not concentrate on the bird photography, obviously, but here are a few birds we saw:

The

BLACK DRONGO :

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SMALL GREEN BEE-EATERS :

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SPOT-BILLED PELICAN :

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BRAHMINY KITE

(this one’s not fully grown yet)

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Nor were birds the only interesting things that we saw. Here are some “six-footers”!

This is a tiny

Parnara Swift :

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An equally tiny

DARK GRASS BLUE :

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This Dragonly is called the

COMMON PICTURE-WING :

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a GREAT EGGFLY :

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These are part of what I call “Life Under Foot” which is, often, life under an inch in size!

We saw several interesting forms of plant life, too.

Small wildflowers like this

ALDER

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Here’s a tree with beautiful star-shaped seed pods:

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Jungli Jilebi

often used as a substitute for tamarind:

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Some of the children did a great job of keeping bird lists, a good field-trip activity:

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The children all stopped at the restroom area for their snack:

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Here’s Rishov, pointing out a bird to the children, while Bith seems impressed by the dedication of my friends:

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Bithi (on the right in this photo) organized a lot of things, including having the restrooms opened up for the children.

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She also treated us to a great breakfast at

Murugan Iddli Shop

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Here’s a big thank you to Bithi, the children of the Foundation School, and my birding friends, for a very enjoyable morning!

The Mottled Wood Owl, Lalbagh 12 Aug 2016

Every now and then, the “experts” start fussing that the

Mottled Wood Owls

of Lalbagh have “disappeared”. Immediately, of course the birders and bird photographers of Bangalore are blamed (interestingly never the hundreds of walkers and visitors that go past the place where the owls are.)

So, after a couple of reports that the Owls could not be found, one of them delighted me in its usual copse behind the giant Bauhinia creeper.

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The sexes are alike, according to the Wiki entry, so I don’t know if this is a he or a she!

I took a short video as it hopped across, out of sight in the very low light.

The music is “Night Vision” which is what I needed to see the Owl in the low light…and the band playing it is Bird Creek, which, too, I thought appropriate!

Click on the name of the bird to find out more about this beautiful creature that shares one of Bangalore’s lung spaces with us!

Aradhana Academy is not on the list of “elite” schools of Bangalore. But here’s our experience.

I sent this email to Rajane Prasad, Admissions Co-ordinator, and Sister Moly, the Principal of the School.

Dear Ms Rajane:

There is a FB group called

Bangalore Schools

(closed group, you may not be able to open the link)

where parents exchange information about various schools.

Here’s what Anjana (my daughter, and Kavya’s mother) posted:

I wanted to write about my experience so far with Aradhana Academy. Some of you may already know that my family has relocated from the U.S. My daughter joined Aradhana Academy for 2nd std ICSE. I have already posted about our very positive experience with the admissions process at this school (near L&T South City). She has been feeling homesick and sad and having a difficult time adjusting to being in school again without much of a summer break, so soon after our house in the U.S. got packed up and we moved to such a different environment.

Aradhana Academy has been EXTREMELY welcoming to her and our family, meeting and talking to us multiple times, giving us special attention for everything from books, to the school van to uniforms, to make sure that not just my daughter, but my whole family is comfortable with the move. We had a chance to meet her teacher beforehand and also the teacher had designated another child in the class to be a buddy for my daughter and talked to the class about her previous school and gave her a chance to talk about what it was like there. When we met her,
she even encouraged us to maybe make a poster with pictures from her old school and home and put it up in the class so she could share it with her classmates. But it was not just special treatment for us alone, I found that everyone seemed to be very nice, gentle and accommodating to all students and parents in the process of books, uniforms etc.

On Tuesday (7th June 2016…school opened on 1st June, and the weekend was 4th and 5th June) my daughter complained of a stomach ache and I was called by the school nurse to come pick her up. They correctly identified her transition anxieties. While we were in the sick room together, Sister Moly, the principal, came to talk to us and asked me to come and meet
her about perhaps changing her section where maybe more kids would understand her American accent. She connected us up personally with other parents and teachers who had spent time in the U.S. so that my daughter might meet adults and children she could connect with. She heard her concerns regarding classmates or teachers occasionally lapsing into Kannada and reassured her that she would help with that.

On Wednesday (8th June 2016), the school called me again and said that my daughter had said she was not well again (sickness of the homesickness variety). Again, the staff and teachers were all very accommodating and reassured me that it was ok for me to take her home and let her skip classes until she adjusted. Sister Moly once again met us and took us to meet the academic coordinator to discuss if there would be another section where there might be more children who may better related to my daughter. She made sure that I saved the personal numbers of the teachers,coordinator and herself as well and they all saved my numbers for us to discuss anything at anytime. Once again, I didn’t have the sense that this was about us specifically, but that the staff and teachers would be equally attentive to any child and family who needed it.

Sister Moly talked to my daughter and asked her how she was feeling and upon hearing that she was still scared and unhappy, she suggested that she could make her feel better. She took us both to the convent area attached to the school and introduced us to the Mother Superior.
There we started at the chapel where we spent some quiet time reflecting on our transition and calming ourselves, then visiting a beautiful small vineyard to see the grapes, then saw the cows, and then the bunny hutch where my 7 year old cheered up tremendously by getting to hold baby rabbits in her hands. The principal spent nearly an hour of her time, totally unscheduled, attending to our needs in a caring and committed manner.

The principal also suggested that when we had purchased a violin and when she was ready, she could perform for the school during assembly if making music would help her feel happier. Sister Moly also suggested that they will visit us at home and bridge the gap between home and school for my daughter.

I was so blown away by the caring, compassionate and amazing response by teachers, staff and school to our unique situation and my child’s transition and adjustment stress. We expected it to be difficult and expect her to have trouble for at least a month, but I did not expect this kind of flexibility and love from the school community. I truly hope that my child can see past her grief from the move and soon appreciate and thrive in the circle of warmth that she is part of. She has Karate class today, and Roller Skating class tomorrow, and activities like Theater and Abacus. Hopefully these will keep her engaged and interested in the school this week. If anyone is looking for schools in that area, I would unhesitatingly recommend Aradhana Academy based on what I’ve experienced so far.

I added:

My experience with them as the grandmother of the child, has been very positive too. From the very first application, the response has been friendly and welcoming.

In December 2015, I approached many schools when it was clear that the family could not make a visit in March for the admission (because their documentation was getting done in the US). This was the only school which promptly said that they would set up a Skype interview for the child (class teacher, assistant teacher, principal and admissions co-ordinator here, and the child WITH her whole family in the US) and determine admission based on the interview. (Other schools that we contacted were: Ekya, Kumaran’s, Samhita,Innisfree House School, St.Paul’s, St. Marks.) The other schools did not even let me meet the principals so that I could have a word about the child and her possible difficulties in relocation.

When I’d gone to pay the registration fees, I found Sr.Moly telling some other parents: “If you want an elite school, this is not the one for you. This school was started to teach the poor children of this area, and since we take children sometimes at reduced or waived fees, depending on their financial need, you will find children from different economic backgrounds here.” And after talking about various values which we hold, she added, “But so many times, in daily life, I don’t pass the test…I fail in keeping up to the standards I should keep up to.” A Principal with such humility! These two statements impressed me a lot.

We are very happy that Kavya is in the Academy! Rarely does one find a school that truly enacts the statement of an ancient carpenter: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”

At the lake in Lalbagh, one can often find the water snakes called

Checkered Keelbacks

On one occasion, Raji and I saw one, just under the surface of the water:

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Having caught a fish too large to eat, it brought the fish out of the water in an attempt to kill the fish.

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You can see how large the fish is!

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Here it’s trying to take it back to the water, though it did not do so as long as we were there:

Another keelback comes to try its luck, is quickly repulsed and glides off:

They are very often seen in the lake:

Here’s one taking a fish into a nook in the rocks to feast:

Keelbacks’ mdiet is, obviously, the fish in the lake (and frogs too). and it was riveting to watch how these creatures eat and survive. Keelbacks, in their turn, are often prey for the birds of prey like Brahminy or Black Kites; indeed, there are two common birds of prey called the “Short-toed Snake Eagle” and the “Crested Serpent Eagle”, both known for their liking for snakes!

Mausam…monsoon…

Shy as a young bride, the monsoon hints at her presence,but does not actually come right in. I, the lover of Varsha,as enamoured as any infatuated swain, ardently wait. The grey will turn a richer hue, the clouds will boil and scud across the sky, the air will cool magically….the life-giving drops will patter upon the parched earth, and grishma ritu will lose her hold, at least for a while….

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One of the results of building flyovers to ease traffic in our city is that the spaces underneath them are often a kind of wasteland. In an effort to address this,

Jaaga DNA

the design arm of Jaaga, co-ordinated with

Brihat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP)

to create art in the spaces under the Hebbal flyover, whereby the common citizen was both represented and asked to participate. BBMP funded the project as part of a drive to clean up the space before the Karnataka global investors meet. The art project with Jaaga(there was an earlier project at Richmond Circle) was initiated and supported at the behest of JC Sarfraz Khan, by the local councillor. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has taken up completing the painting of all the pillars. Jaaga had been the facilitators for the art component and for involving community in creative ways to contribute to the art project.

“We have so many rules about what citizens and road users should not do on the roads,” says Archana Prasad of Jaaga. “We wanted to involve the road users and pedestrians in a positive way, and let them know what they can do to claim public spaces. We’ve carried out a similar initiative at Richmond Circle; we decided that citizens could be requested to ‘do’, instead of commanded to ‘don’t do’.”

The event consisted of shining lights on citizens of Bangalore, then outlining the shadows cast on the flyover pillars with masking tape, and painting them in various colors.

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Why silhouettes? “Painting a silhouette of a citizen makes it both particular and an abstraction,” explains Kamya Ramachandran, Director, Jaaga DNA. A particular person poses for the silhouette…but after that, the outline represents all or any of us.”

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On Saturday, the 26th of January, 2016, I went to Hebbal flyover to see what would happen. I was completely absorbed by the variety of people who participated in the event, with everyone willingly dipping paintbrushes and going to work on the silhouettes.

Prakash and Satish are two volunteers, who heard of the initiative through Chithra Kala Parishath (CKP) and came along to help out.

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Here are Guru Prasad and Unnikrishna, two more volunteers…one photographing the other painting!

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Babu and Mahesh are two professional house and sign painters from Madivala, who were asked to come and help mix the paints. “We like being part of the action rather than just painting for our livelihoods and then moving to the next site,” says Babu. “Now, whenever I pass this flyover, I’ll look at the outlines.”

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The members of the LGBTQ community, who were “working” the flyover stop lights, were also very keen on participating, and when it came to holding up a slate with suggestions on how to use the space, they enthusiastically provided suggestions, including practical ones like having a toilet and drinking water facilities there!

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Here are Lalitha and Archana , holding up their suggestions, written in Tamil, asking for greenery.

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Even the police officers who came to keep an eye on the proceedings became citizens first and policemen later, holding up their suggestions…for cleanliness and safety.

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The catering staff from BBMP did a great job of serving coffee, tea and biscuits to everyone.

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One man who was detailed to up the litter, but several of us helped!

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Of course, boys always innovate…these young men managed to roll up some masking tape into a ball and proceeded to have fun with it!

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Many people from the Government were there, too. The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, with his wife Meena; the Joint Commissioner, BBMP,Mr J C Sarfraz Khan, and the Councillor, Ward 7, Mr Manjunath Babu were all present, as were many members of the Coffee Board, and many pourakramikas from various Wards.

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Here’s Shaona from Jaaga, inducting a young man into the nuances of photography:

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With people like Sarah from New York (a volunteer with Jaaga) added to the mix, and one got a fairly heterogenous collection of Bangalore citizens!

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It was a very enjoyable event, though it remains to be seen how the space under the flyover can truly be claimed, when access to it is through heavy, unheeding traffic. The place is also very dusty, and needs a few amenities before it can become truly usable.

When Vaibhav called me to come and guide the residents of a gated community on a bird walk in Madivala kere, I was very happy to do so. So off we went to the kere at 4pm. I first got a photo of him with the bird board that

Brickwork India

had put up. The photos of the waterfowl are all by him and Dr Sanjeev Managoli, a paediatrician who manages to follow his passion for birds and contribute to the birding community, too.

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We met up with an assorted group of adults and children.

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Sangeeta Kulkarni, who became a friend when we were neighbours, several years ago, is fourth from right. She’s the CEO of Brickwork, and definitely I’d call this organization the custodian of the lake.

Here’s Vaibhav, explaining a few points about migratory birds:

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Here are some of the birds that we saw (very few…I was concentrating on answering questions and showing the birds, not clicking them!)

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(Spot-billed Pelican, migrant)

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Spot-billed Duck, resident)

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(Grey Heron, looking to the left, and Great Egret, looking to the right)

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(Litle Egret)

Here’s the bird doing a little “umbrella fishing”, a kind of feeding behaviour that I documented with Painted Storks in my write-up on Citizen Matters,

here

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Of course, I also told them a little about the trees and plants around such as the beautiful seed pods on the Mahogany trees:

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And the beauty of the Tabebuia avellenidae blooms,heralding the hot weather:

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The Forest Department personnel came to keep an eye on us too:

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It was growing late, the last load of tourists going boating was returning…

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And the sun was sinking low.

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So we wound up the walk and dispersed, having enjoyed a pleasant evening upon one of the few remaining lakes that our city has.

Spring in the Valley, 290315

Email to the bngbirds egroup:

Though the weather has heated up, our enthusiasm for birding still remains warm enough that 16 of us went to Valley School.

We had only seven members for the MCS;

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many others met us directly at the School

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We went down to the dry pond, and then also visited the dry (the operative word these days!) stream.

However…the Valley never disappoints us, if we look for the residents like these:

Purple Sunbird on Jacaranda

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Coppersmith Barbet

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rather than for visitors, who’ve probably all gone back to more pleasant climes by now.

Many kinds of Flycatchers (Asian Paradise, Tickell’s Blue,and the White-browed Fantail) delighted us,

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as did this Koel lady:

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So did the raptors we observed, wheeling high up in the sky…and sometimes sitting with other birds, like this Black-winged Kite with a Large Cuckoo-shrike.

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We did seem to start with a lot of Pain-In-The-Neck birding, as Ioras, White-eyes, and other tiny beauties showed that they were, truly, top-of-the-trees! But soon enough, we got Magpie Robins and Barbets that serenaded us from “lower down” in the boughs, and we walked happily along, disappointing the usual accompaniments…the dogs that always follow birders in the hope of snacks…and the occasional unwary bird on the ground!

As far as birding is concerned, having fuzzy eyes due to eye-drops is not a great thing at all! Neither is it good for bird photography, because one aims and clicks more in hope and perseverance than in real ability…and one cannot even see for sure whether the shot is in
focus or not. But frankly, even being able to discern the birds was good enough for me, and I enjoyed the morning as much as the keen-eyed Kites and Buzzards soaring overhead..or my sharp-eyed friends!

Several flowering and fruiting trees,

Combretum ovalifolium

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Terminalia bellirica:

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Sterculia colorata:

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Even common trees are so majestic when allowed to grow freely, like this Peepal:

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butterflies like the

Zebra Blue

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(sorry to include disgusting pics but this is also a reality of life…an ex-rat)

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and insects like the Solitary Hunter Wasp,

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also gave us a lot of Good Stuff to observe and remark upon. I’m trying to get names for the many flowers and seeds that I do not know.

Even the algae and the marks of the leaves in the bottom of the water trough were very artistic:

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The sun quickly got too hot for comfort, and by 10am, many of us belonged to the Reddy commuity…Reddy to go and have breakfast, that is! Alas, Adigas was jam-packed because of the combination of weekend and school holidays, and some of us came to Woody’s in J P Nagar while others, having shared some delicious snacks, proceeded home directly.

I’ve put up my i-drop shots on my FB album; to see them,

click here

and Soham has put up the eBird list, to see it,

click here

Cheers, and hoping everyone had a great weekend, too…!

Sunrise, 260315

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Bowed down with worries, some people go home
As the sun sinks to rest.
Cares fill some minds and hearts,
As they look at the sun in the west.

But when the sun rises,
The slate is clean
A fresh shining disc, in golden hues,
In the mental spaces between

Yesterday’s woes, or troubles
And what may be, today.
Hope..the shining sun through the clouds:
That’s what we live with, each day.

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