Grey Bellied Cuckoo

The grey-bellied cuckoo (Cacomantis passerinus) is a cuckoo with widespread occurrence throughout Asia.

It comes here in the Northern India at the time of outset of the summers. It is a small sized cuckoo. During this time of year another cuckoo known as the Jacobin Cuckoo also arrives.

Grey Bellied Cuckoo pic by Ranjit

Unlike Jacobin Cuckoo which migrates here in summers from Africa, Grey Bellied Cuckoo is short distance migrant.

It comes here for breeding. It is a brood parasite. It lays its eggs by replacing the eggs in the nests of babblers who then raise its brood. This strategy is just akin to the Koel using Crows to raise its chicks.

Of all the predators Man is super predator!!!

Darwin, the father of evolution, had postulated that the species evolve constantly to adjust to the changing environment and climatic changes but this change is gradual in nature and takes place over thousands of years. But man is proving him wrong.

Being an expert killer backed by technical advanced equipment, man is bringing rapid changes which are perceptible within much shorter time. Man is super predator and its peculiar hunting preferences are forcing many species particularly of fish and large sized land animals to evolve at a rapid pace than the nature would have done.

There are stories of attacks by sharks on people venturing into sea and of being killed by lions or other carnivorous animals but they fade away when compared to the man. Scientists at the Victoria university at British Columbia in Canada who are studying the changes and the harm being brought upon the fauna by the man has termed the man as “Super Predator

In general the man hunts the largest of the animals. For examples adults of lions and tigers to flaunt them as the trophies of their valour and skill as opposed to the hunting animals who generally go far the weakest and younger prey.

Thus the man depletes the mature “reproduction capital” instead of the “reproductive interest” of the hunted species. For example, fish is caught in the nets and nets are so constructed as to retain the larger fish and filter out the smaller ones.

This is causing the the fish to mate early and produce the smaller broods. The size is diminishing. This is because the fish is also evolving techniques to survive and producing fish of smaller varieties which can pass through the larger net openings.

Man has hunted the sea creatures 14 times more than the sea predators and 9 times more than the land animals. Man is going for the bigger animals like sharks, tuna fish and marlin. This is changing the ecosystem at a much faster pace than nature.

Over Killing of the land predators has resulted in the increase of herbivore population. This increase is putting pressure on many resources and robbing the food from insects and birds which we cherish. And also resulting in producing the disease prone herbivorous animals.

Some Shots From the Nature

Nature never tires of giving us surprises. It is the end of March and the weather is taking a turn for the hot and sultry weather. Presently, the trees which have shed their old leaves are supporting fresh green and brown leaves.

A few days ago, the process to shed the inefficient leaves aided by strong winds was in full progress. The roads and avenues were littered with falling dead leaves which were swept here and there by strong breeze. I remembered Kabir whenever I watched this phenomena.

Kabir was a great saint of India. He engaged in a dialogue with the God on a friendly and equal footing as opposed to so many of us who are so awed by the God and always beg for the blessings which He showers without asking. On seeing the dead leaves falling and flying away from the tree which once was adorned by them Kabir sang the song as follows:

Patta Tuta Dal Se Le Gayi Pawan Udaye
Ab Ke Bichade Kab Milenge Door Padenge Jaye
Kabir Aap Thagiye Or Na Thagiye Koi
Aap Thage Sukh Upaje Aur Thage Dukh Hoye

Which can be loosely translated as under.

It is all metaphorical. The dead leave is like a human soul who has separated and drifted away from the the creator. It can be said when these twain shall meet again. The soul will mingle with the creator and shall be released from the cyclic birth and death. So it is not good thing to fall in love of material things but introspect oneself.

Anyway the wise sage things which are easier said than done. But simple conclusion is that we should strive to become better humans. This is the lesson which nature wants to convey to us through several cues daily. Even in the time of so much rough weather, it treats us with good views.

It looks out of this world

Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun is about one and half kilometer from the place I live. I regularly go up to the gate of the institute during my morning walk. Many a times, I extend my walk to the inside the Institute. It was established in the year 1906.

Nowadays it conducts trainings for the candidates selected for Indian Forest Service, for the forest rangers, M.Sc courses. The institute itself is situated in a very big campus which have trees of every kind found in India.

Institute is situated in the middle and building is majestic. Despite being so old it mesmerizes the beholder. It houses the laboratories, museum which contains specimen of wood of trees, non woody products, the bugs which thrive on the trees and is divided into 5 modules. Guides are also available if one wants.

This is about the buildings but the real beauty is outside where sprawling green grass lawns, water brooks, the mighty trees, bamboos of umpteen variety can be seen. As everyone knows, the work of growing the trees is a very painstaking one, it must have taken years for many trees to reach their majestic heights and beauty.

As you walk through the jungles and woods, you feel transported to an altogether different world. A world that is so peaceful and serene and you are compelled to praise the God who has created it all.

The varieties of the trees are numerous ranging in size from few centimeters to hundreds of feet. In the morning time one forgets that he is in this world but feels that he is in heaven. There is no pollution. The air is fresh. Yonder the blue Mussoorie hills form the backdrop. When sky is not overcast, it is so blue.

I remember the dialogues between two brothers in the movie Slumdog Millionaire after being thrown from the train near Agra. When dust thins before them and the visage of Taj Mahal looms before them. Younger one says “is this the heaven? ” Elder one tells that No, we are not dead it is real. Similar experience is felt if you leave your thoughts that encumber you behind. If you get a chance visit this place and feel for yourself.

I visited the place after many days and took some snaps. Due to the clouds and early morning, the pictures are a bit hazy as if one is seeing them in the dream.

It was a Sunny Morning in Dehradun

I am a regular morning walker and usually out at around 15 minutes to Six in the morning. Usually I am alone for most of the time when out but sometimes some of my colleagues come across and we talk about the olden times.

It is the early September. The monsoon rains which usually abate in this month have not receded. The monsoon has played truant in its regular months of July and August but has picked up now in September when it was time to go away. The children shall sing now “rain rain go away”.

Usually after mid September there are scattered showers and season begins to cool here in contrast to Mumbai where rains extend till the end of September followed by the torrid months of heat, called second summer, till December.

Generally, the sky is overcast here these days. Although clouds are not threatening of black sort. So the mornings are generally cloudy. But today, it was all clear and blue skies began showing up in the West.

In the East, when I was just out, Sun was not up yet but had begun knocking at the door of night. In the dawn, the things have begun to take shape as if precipitating from the pitch black solution of the night which erases all the distinctions between things. While the day separates the entities into different individuals, night merges them all into one black thick solution.

Silhouettes looked beautiful like the drawings of a painter. And why not, the greatest of all painters is at work. But with a difference albeit. He never cares for praise or criticism. He does not stand any scrutiny.

The contours of the things have begun to take shape. There is a tinge of crimson in the East. Then the sun has risen. After many days, it is the bright morning resplendent in the glory of sun. The sun light has first dawned on the pinnacle branches of mighty trees and darkness which was spread over there has jumped down to make way and welcomed the Sun. The scene was stunning. I can say that still this place is very beautiful.

Nature Works on Molecular Level

Human beings are trying to shrink the data storage space. In fact, technology is making exponential strides in this field. Only within the last decade, we have graduated from spooled data storage to blue ray DVD to solid state storage devices which can hold many layer of data.

Solid State Storage

Not only it is matter of storage, but very fast retrieval of the data that is taking place. Look at Google Search, it fetches so many webpages within milli seconds. But still, the efforts are on to still go to more more and micro sizes.

When we read, our imagination begins to conjure the physical attributes. For example, if the story is talking about an encounter of someone with a tiger, our mind starts enacting the fuzzy scene. So the writings contain the cues packed in a small space.

Rest is done by our imagination. Visual aids go one step further and eliminate the need for imagination and thus force on our mind the scene as conjured by the maker of the visual. Otherwise from written story, everyone will come out with their own scene based on their experiences.

That is why original creativity is going down with these advancements. We are flooded with so much information that we do not require to think ourselves. Now the focus is on the intelligent choice from among the so many choices available.

In the olden times, the Kings usually erected pillars or tablets in their kingdoms. These usually exalted some great victories and virtues of the Kings. Some of them went further and put religious sermons on the display. It is another matter that most of the populace at that was illiterate. Examples are pillars erected in India by Asoka the Great.

Ashoka Pillar at Vaishali

Similarly, there is the Prism of Sennacherib inscribed in about 700 BC, describes in characters of the Assyrian language some historical events during the reign of King Sennacherib. This king of Assyria, fought so many battles. The Prism contains about 20,000 characters, weighs about 50 kg, and has survived almost intact for about 2700 years. It is great wonder.

Prism of Sennacherib

But now compare our feats with nature. A single DNA molecule of the bacterium E-coli contains all the encoded information necessary to specify the cell’s structure and functions. No storage devise made by us even remotely come close to it.

Bacterial DNA

The bacterial DNA contains about 4.6 million characters (nucleotides) and weighs less than 1/10000000000 grams only. Other remarkable property of it is that it has undergone only relatively minor changes during the past several million years.

But nature never boasts. It does not care whether we praise it or criticize it when we are not happy. It is just like God Shiva who is never angry with anyone and who is attached unnecessarily to anything.

It is Green All Around

The effect of Spring season is different on different species of trees. Some are in great hurry and begin to change their habits at the earliest. Some are very patient and wait on and begin to sprout the beautiful transparent light colored leaves when the leaves of the early starters have already become dull and dark green.

Banyan trees are different. I saw them shed copious quantities of the dry leaves daily with the help of strong breeze. When they became almost skeletons, new copper colored leaves come out all over the tree. The trees look to be made of copper.

There are other trees which do not bring out leaves at all but flowers. Very beautiful golden color bunches hang from the skeleton of branches. The flowers can be seen against the azure skies as backdrop. Another category brings forth both leaves as well as flowers.

What do these trees ask from us? Except a little care when they are small and tender, not to be tinkered with unnecessarily. They give us everything without asking.

First of all, all the carbon dioxide which animals generate daily through there metabolism and other means of comfort like factories, electric appliances etc, is taken over by these trees and plants. They eat it and convert it into glucose and higher carbohydrates and release oxygen.

These are the things which animals survive on. Thus we see that animals and plants are dependent on one another. So if we release carbon dioxide which exceeds what is required by plants then we have carbon dioxide that causes problems like breathing discomfort and acts as a trap for heat which is generated on the Earth and causes heating. To obviate this we have to have more plants.

Today I took some more photos. Please look closely.

Bootstrapping the Life

God’s creations are not comprehensive. His ways are an enigma for us to understand. Even a tiny event taking place in the nature is beyond our understanding. How the life is sparked in the body made of flesh. I think many times that if we assemble all the organs into a human body, can it come to life by itself?

An analogy can be drawn from the modern day computers. A computer is assembled from the hardware like CPU, mother board, storage media, multimedia. Even after assembling the hardware, it is just a lifeless piece without any use until it is booted.

Booting involves a small program called “Bootstrap” which makes the machine to come to life and starts the vital functions like loading the operating system which readies the computer for doing useful work.

Similarly, there must be something, some spark of energy which the God must be infusing in the lifeless body and bringing it into the action. The body becomes ready for performing various functions.

A computer can be rebooted if there is some hitch in the programs. This can occur so many times in the life of a computer. But in case of living beings since the time of booting till the end of life, this happens only once.

It is rightly said that there are dissolves in the reel life but the real life goes on.

Travels along Morni Hills Road

Morni is a hill station about 55 kilometers away from Chandigarh. Morni in local language is referred to peahen. The name is derived from the name of girl of a local ruler. There were many small princely states all over Shavlik hills. The rulers were mostly Rajput many of whom owed allegiance to Mughals.  Morni hills were ruled by Rajput from Sirmaur which is near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh. The place is situated in Shavlik hills and can be reached through a road from Panchkula. The map of the road is given below:

The road is serpentine because hilly area begins just after crossing the Panchkula and after a continuous climb for about 20 kilometers from Panchkula, the path begins to descend. I have gone up to point where this descent begins.

There are hills covered with wild shrubs and trees including teak. When you begin the journey towards Morni from Panchkula there are hills covered with thorny acacia trees. Hordes of monkeys roam along the road. All day they are there squatting on edges of road and climbing on the adjacent trees. People who came to visit Shiva temple near Berwala, gave them banana and other eatables. This causes the menace to normal visitor who is afraid to get down.

On the way, is Gauri Shankar temple which is seldom open. It seems more of a private property of some Guru who enjoy immense clout over politicians rather than a public place as the temples are generally opened to public. After about 8 kilometers there is small bridge on a seasonal branch of Ghaggar river which is dry in the summers. There is a place with dense trees and foliage along the river which is marked as a bird sanctuary. But you have to be very patience for sighting the birds.

There are few fields where farmers can be seen working. The area beyond Panchkula suddenly takes on an idyllic character. Hills along gorges seem like walls of brown mud completely devoid of greenery except the exposed roots of some trees at the top. In these walls, one can see parrots clinging  on to the holes which they must have dug for raising their nests.

One can also come across, the men and women sitting in the cars stopped at different spots engaged in cavorting activities from the city giving slip to their legal partners. Groups of young boys and girls can be seen drinking and making merry. Due to the drunken driving in the hills many a times fatal accidents have been reported.

There are Gray langurs, also called Hanuman langurs or Hanuman monkeys hiding in the bushes and occasionally coming into open on the road or to cross the road. They seem to be shy of humans and avoid humans unlike the monkeys. There are many birds and trees which bear flowers and adorn the landscape.

Birds


Trees


Animals

Owl on the wall

I regularly go out for morning walks. Since there is no park near, you have to walk cautiously to avoid being hit by speeding vehicles which continuously pass on the road. So the fun of the morning walk is marred but one has to live life compromising since we are not kings. I found the recourse to going out into the chunk of fields which are still intact despite the greedy eyes of the builders for acquiring the piece of land for any price and turn the land into concrete jungle.

Secondly, i go to walk into the river bed of Ghaggar river which in winter and summer is dry and occupied by tall grass and thorny shrubs. Many beautiful birds inhabit the water and the grasses. There are water wading birds. There are ubiquitous wattled lapwings which makes alarm calls at your approach and begin flying and circling over you. There are green parrot like birds which are very fast.

Anyway, since it has become unbearably hot it is not possible to go out unless you go before the sunrise. So these days, I walk inside our society along the path adjacent to the boundary wall. It is about half a kilometer in perimeter. Here you are distracted by the people who come from all the sides.

One day while walking, I spotted the spotted owl sitting on the boundary wall near a tree. I took the pictures with mobile camera. Usually other birds are easily scared off and does not allow you to approach near and fly away. I took chance to approach it. It saw me but did not make much effort to fly. It will rotate its head and see through half closed eyes. I could almost touch it. It was very lovely bird.

After some rounds, I found it sitting there. On close inspection, I saw one of its parents sitting on the scaffolding of electrical distribution system. It did not allow the approach and flew away as soon the camera was trained on it. Then I spotted another one sitting on a neem tree outside the boundary. Whole family was there.

Outside is the fallow land with bushes and grass. Nearby are dense woods where peacocks roam making the calls. These owls must have found their prey like small rodents or others small birds here.

After that day, I could not find them any day except once.