Saturday, April 30, 2016

Little Cormorants, Underwater Swimmers

Like never before I saw number of Little Cormorants during my recent visit to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, about 80 km from here. These birds are very commonly found in the water bodies around Chennai, but not in numbers that’s uncountable. Vedanthangal invites lot of birds from across the globe but this time little cormorants took large numbers into the account. 

Little Cormorants

The Little Cormorants are a member of the cormorant family of seabirds, slightly smaller than the Indian cormorant; it lacks a peaked head and has a shorter beak. The bird sized between 50 to 55 cm in length and weighing up to 530 grams is widely distributed across the Indian Subcontinents and extends east to Java, where it is sometimes called Javanese cormorant.

Little Cormorants @ Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

The bird looks entirely back in the breeding season but the plumage is brownish and the throat has a small whitish patch in the non-breeding season. It forages single or sometimes in loose groups in lowland freshwater bodies, including small ponds, large lakes, streams and sometimes coastal estuaries. Like other cormorants, it is often found perched on the waterside with its wings spread out after coming out of the water.


Little cormorants produce low roaring, grunting and groaning sounds comprising low pitched ah-ah-ah and kok-kok-kok’s. They swim underwater to capture fishes and propel themselves using their webbed feet. But the captured fishes are often brought up to the surface to swallow them and during that time others birds including their fellow cormorants, painted storks and egrets may attempt to steal them. 

Linking this post for Saturday Critters

Thursday, April 28, 2016

It’s Summer

Summer Sunset
Sunset @ Muttukadu backwaters
Summer brings a sigh of relief
with schools enclosed for vacation
students chose to chase their passion
like gushing water in search of roots.

While summer curse to scorch
the compassion of sea breeze bless,
blissful moments to surpass
with flock of birds flag off to home.

Summer brings up the memories
that neither forgotten nor went down
with multiple layers adding on latterly
the calm afternoon winds up the dust.

Summer breaks the age barrier
where everyone likes to have ice creams,
fruit juices and tender coconuts
cool down our entire system.

Like every season that has an essence
summer delivers radiant sunshine,
where shoot, unripe fruits and flowers
regenerate under the natural hood sun. 

Though summer being a dry season
there isn't scarce for happiness,
and when the back itches for scratch
the urge for mountain's dew become firm.

Monday, April 25, 2016

RGB Monday

Baby walker of my neighbor's one and a half year old kid, Achu!


Other day, after his play, he left his baby push walker outside the home and I used that opportunity to click on the colorful walker to share on my RGB Monday. He has a habit of leaving things outside wherever he play and later his mom collect them all. Achu’s family is just two months old to our compound and he developed an attachment towards my mom very soon and even our pet dog maintain silence when he enters our home freely. He’s very quiet unless he joins with other kids and he hadn’t started to talk yet except calling amma and appa (mom-dad) but he’s understandable and point out on things he wanted and mentions what. The thing I appreciate in him was he never takes away things from others, even though he doesn’t take food easily from his mom, he refuse anything we give him to eat. I leave this post with his photo below:   


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Crow Assignment and Dog Behavior


I used to stroll around the home in the evenings in kind of getting breeze and one day I causally looked at the custard apple tree (pic above) in front of our house but outgrown from the neighbor's compound, and found a male crow breaking the sprigs of the tree by going on the withered or easily breakable. Early summer the leaves were all parted and now it looks as if it started to shoot again and there’s already couple of little custard apples hung around… the crow seemed patient in finding the right sprig that’s easily achievable and it didn’t few away with the sprigs but dropped each after the break up. Later it few away and I left wonder. I know birds collect sprigs/sticks only if they are building nest and so I was sure the crow should be nesting somewhere and all the break ups for that.


What I really wonder was does the crow (or any bird species) built the nest at this time was because they know it is the season where trees withered to produce more sticks or it’s a coincident where nesting of birds and fall happens at same. I think in Tamil Nadu the fall season was between February-March.  During a visit to Topslip in mid Feb, I saw abundant of leaves filled across the forest and mountain pass and upon which I inquire to know it was the fall season there. Before I stop wondering, I was amused at the sight which followed. Where a female crow flew in collecting the sticks on the ground that was broke down by the male crow. As I went near the gate I find numbers of sticks were parted by him. I really loved the cooperation between them in building the nest and producing their offspring’s in fall season!

I think the male crow was very concern about building the nest and helping his partner, as I saw him other day on another tree with the same assignment.  The crow in the flight (picture above) wasn’t shot at pointing at the bird, but fell into image when taking some photos at Elliots beach.  


Another interesting sight I got to watch outside the gate on the following days was, a stray dog munching on grasses! First I thought it was sniffing something but it was actually chewing on a patch of grass on the roadside. I have heard dogs eat grass, but ever seen one before. Our pet dog, Maya, used to eat raw vegetables like beans and carrot and not grasses like the one seen above.  Upon this, I browsed the net to know: that a dog eating grass is actually quite common and this form of pica is considered as normal dog behavior. And grass eating doesn’t usually lead to throwing up -- less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit regularly after grazing. Other suggested reasons why dogs might be eating grass include improving digestion, treating intestinal worms, or fulfilling some unmet nutritional need, including the need for fiber.

Linking this post for SaturdayCritters

Friday, April 22, 2016

Songs that stole my heart

It’s been sometime I felt awesome listening to a song, but this time I got to experience two at a time although both has similar tones, its pleasure to listen either the  Telugu or Tamil versions of Prema Parichayame, which in Tamil as Naan Un Azhaginile from the upcoming Tamil movie 24. A.R. Rahman has composed the songs and Chinmayi’s sweet rendering in Tamil and Telugu was immersing along with Hriday Gattani (Telugu) and Arijit Singh (Tamil) lending their male voices cause a soothing effect in Madan Karky’s heartfelt lyrics.

Though listening the songs back to back, I was impressed more by the feel caused by Prema Parichayame than the Tamil lyric based song Naan Un. Beyond the language and understanding, the music and rendering touched me deep to mummer the song without my knowledge. Apart the above two, Punnagaye, another melody from the album is also commendable and so beautiful. The song has couple of my favorite singers - Haricharan and Shashaa Tirupati, who has been around sometime and whose songs are almost my favourite. 


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Park Fence

Hope you remember the beautiful sculpture of traditional women I posted here, and today’s image covers some of the sculptures the way they erected across the park, in a line.

Park Fence

The fence in front of it separates the parking lot and the small park of the restaurant where he had lunch during our trip to Kumbakonam. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mountain Pass of Kolli Hills and Arappaleeswarar Temple

Having our lunch at Senthamangalam, a town on the foothills of Kolli Hills and about 12 km from where the Ghat road with 70 hairpin bends begins! Among the mountain passes in south India, Kolli Hills has the highest number of hairpin bends. Though it perhaps sounds adventure and exciting and although it was, there’s nothing to fear about alike it resound dangerous – infamously called as the mountains of death, the travel for certain distance on this road is quite zigzag. An experienced driver could give a pleasure ride… and the road is good enough and wasn’t traffic alike other mountain passes could feel secure.


We climbed the mountains in the afternoon and the landscapes on the way till the foothills, from the town, were covered by farmlands, where paddy, sugarcane, palm coconut and areca are cultivated in large scale. I am thinking for a separate post on this to look more in detail. So, the almost ride on this mountain range were zigzag through evergreen forest until the first village atop the hill, Cholakkadu, emerge with a telescope house and farmers market. It was a beautiful ride with pristine beauty at every curve and except few sharp hairpin bends, where heavy vehicles are forced to take reverse as it is not possible to turn it one radius, it was pleasant indeed.

One of the sharp hairpin bends
An evergreen and pristine mountainscape
As I know Kolli Hills is famous for the herbal and medicinal plants with great potent, I kept breathe in deep the fresh air winding across the Ghat and believed it heals my respiratory which perhaps polluted to traffic environment in cities. Though I was disappointed somehow expose to the transformation of the mountain tops into farmlands, the calmness and leftover spaces of evergreen slopes keep me regain. We had booked rooms in the Panchayath Union cottage at Semmedu, the headquarters of Kolli Hils, but the rooms weren’t nice enough and that time we heard about the youth hostel near Arappalleeswarar Temple, in Kovilur.

Herbal forest at Kolli Hills
The youth hostel is about 11 km from Semmedu and we decided to check the place to know will it suitable for us, informing them to come back if we aren’t content. The road to the hostel takes us through some lovely farmlands and a mini falls, though the accommodation wasn’t that greater there, but the environment where it was built wanted me to stay over there. And it was slightly drizzling when we reached there, which add more pleasant to the moment and silent ambiance. The hostel is on the road to the Arappalleeswarar Temple, with a backyard facing mountains and valley apart holding a beautiful garden landscape within.

Arappalleeswarar Temple (click all pics for enlarge)
Being nearest to Arappalleeswarar Temple, it was our first spot to check out. No, I haven’t gone inside the temple and not only it has steps but I wasn’t interested then. The temple was the main attraction to the Kolli Hills only next to the Aagaya Gangai waterfalls, which closely exists to the temple and only people who are healthy and ability to climb down/up 1500 steps are permitted inside. Like I told in my previous post, the Arapalesswarar Temple was built by the mountaineer ruler and skilled archer Valvil Ori in the 1st or 2nd century CE during his regime. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it also houses his entire family – Goddess Shakthi, Lord Vinayaa and Muruga. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Indian Pond Heron @ the edge of the Lake

At the end of the neatly paved trail at Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, which we visited last week, I find an Indian Pond Heron stalk prey at the edge of the lake. The bird very common in India, usually forage alone and can be missed easily just the way stalk prey in the pictures below.


The Indian pond heron or paddy bird is a small heron, widely distributed across India and its bordering countries and in the Persian Gulf, it is found in Iran, Oman and UAE.   Appear stocky with a short neck; the breeding plumage (which is in the images) has dark brown patches on white unlike non-breeding birds that have white plumage streaked in olive and brown.

doesn't it look beautiful with the reflection in water?
Measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing about 230 to 275 grams, and wingspan to 75 to 90 cm, the bird has a greenish bill with black tip and yellow eyes. The prominent feature of the bird was it transforms its appearance when take off with flashing bright white wings in contrast to their dull body colors.

a non-breeding plumage is also present in  the pic above
Apt to their name, they inhabit around ponds and pools mostly, apart marshes, rivers, streams, paddy fields… the birds feeds on fishes, frogs, crustaceans, insects and small reptiles, usually from the edge of the pond. 

Linking this post with SATURDAY CRITTERS

Friday, April 15, 2016

Floral Bowl

The bowl maybe small – in brass
Filled with red rose petals
And a hub white rose.      
Flowers Bowl

Like chef garnish a dinner
Mom’s simple floral order
Adorn our tea table. 


Linking this post with Floral Friday Foto

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Shot from a road travel

My visit to Kolli Hills happened to be from Palani rather directly from Chennai as we were on a course of roundabout visiting the temple town following Thanjavur. We started from Palani after having the breakfast and reached Kolli hills by late afternoon via Dharapuram and Karur. The roads to the destination were partially a state and national highways – the NH 7, and during that course I shot some photos that made this post.

Above is a beautiful emblem I noticed at an intersection before entering the Dharapuram town. The emblem resembles a burning lamp to me and at other perspective I find fingers holding a ring with fire inside. (click photos for enlargement)

Men traveling on a mini tempo or locally known as china yanai (the Tata Ace) on  NH 7 (check the photo below to know where it was shot) and being morning hours, I guess they were supposed to carried to their workplace.

Sign boards indicating the distance of the destinations ahead and aside.

View of a hillock come hill temple of lord Muruga captured from an over bridge on the same highways.

At last come’s trucks of two with load of tractors and the number plate of the truck marks MH, which I guess is transported to Maharashtra – an Indian state.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A visit to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

I visited the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, about 80km from Chennai, on Friday. And this was the first outing with my grandmother after grandfather passed away in December. I have been to Vedanthangal more than couple of times but only this time I find (or went on seeing) a huge arrival of birds, and most of them were Painted Stork and Little Cormorants followed by moderate numbers of Grey pelican, Back-headed ibis, Little and Great egrets and Spoonbill.

A scenic  view across the bird sanctuary,  shot by my brother from the  watch tower
Vedanthangal is the oldest lake bird sanctuary in the country and the steps to develop it into a bird sanctuary has started as early as 1798 when the British government realized the ornithological importance of the region. The small lakes dotted this area acts as feeding grounds for the birds, so it was attracted by variety of birds. Vedanthangal, meaning hamlet of the hunter, got its name from the act of hunting of birds by the local landlord in the early 18th century.

Painted Storks on a withered bamboo shrub
Though the Vedanthangal Lake was declared as bird sanctuary in 1972, it has a unique history where the local populace provide protection to the sanctuary for centuries. The locals realized that the birds dropping falling into the lake create an effect (liquid guano), and when the water is used to irrigate crop fields it yield greatly and saves the fertilizers cost.  And due this the locals protect the sanctuary and thus it attracts around 40,000 birds every season, with an area of only 30 ha.


Proving that, the other side of the lake (pic above) was flourished in a golden/green meadow of paddy field! While being fascinated by the birds that decorate the number of trees stood inside the lake, the vast paddy fields on the opposite confront its scenic beauty upon growing sunset was stunning. The paddy fields with little/great egrets foraging is always a beautiful sight and one could not miss such views during a visit to Vedanthangal.

Painted Storks, Juvenile
Painted storks, juveniles, standing on their nests
We had been to Vedanthangal in the evening unlike my previous visits in afternoon; I was amazed at the number of birds. But when the evening started to immerse, as sun continue to keep down its effect, many flock of birds resume to the lake after foraging in surrounding lakes. When we arrived the noise of birds weren’t louder unlike it gets darker and it seems it’s the nesting season for Painted Storks, as we saw many juvenile birds of same standing all-over the nests.

A  group of spot-billed pelicans, little cormorants and  egrets occupies the trees
Birds migrate to Vedanthangal mostly in winter season (between October-March), but this time due to the torrential rains in December there’s enough water in the lake for the birds to extend their stay. Right now, it is estimated to be about 15,000 birds at the sanctuary. Apart the plenty of painted storks, little cormorants and grey pelicans, I tried to observe variety of birds but was amused to find spoonbills, openbills, a grebes and night heron, only at home when checking the photos!

The watch tower that used to have a telescope, but it seems to be miss this time. The neat pavement along  the lake.
Although we brought a binocular, it was little painful to watch through the pair of lenses but I loved the close view somehow. Vedanthangal has a pretty neat and flat pavement along the lake bank allowed me covering the entire stretch in my wheelchair. There are couple of watch towers and view points along the footpath to observe birds and I find more interesting shooting birds this time.  At the end of day, we were left with a magnificent sunset with flock of birds flew in foreground.

I took number of photos and it’s impossible to post all at a time… so decided to make many posts out of it and more details on birds. 

Linking this post with SATURDAY CRITTERS

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Cottage Gate and Pet

One of the cottages gates in Kodaikanal, where we stayed during a visit.

Gate and Pet

The picture was shot on a morning hour before we move out on sightseeing the pristine mountains, leisurely.  Our pet dog Maya was also ready to accommodate us and I was outside shooting some photos around, and Maya’s present on this photo is unintended but I liked it later revealing. Anywhere I go, I chose to be outside rather taking rest inside the room and not only because I believe life begins outside the window, I was always attract to the environment more than the structure we stay inside. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Glance on Kolli Hills

Mountains have been my favorite places of travel and I have covered almost hill-stations and mountain ranges in Tamil Nadu, but I haven’t posted anything so far about the Kolli Hills, situated about 50 km from Namakkal in south India. I had a bittersweet experience visiting this pristine and peaceful mountain range of Easter Ghats, but it wasn’t the reason for me to keep away from this destination in blog. Sheer laziness could be the ground for the delay because the album of Kolli hills were stored in DVD and I really want to revisit the place once again through blog posts and only now I got to execute the resolution.

A welcome arch at the foothills of Kolli Hills 
At a height of 1370 meters, Kolli Hills still (I guess) breathe fresh in absence of tourists thronging unlike other hill-station in south India. During my visit to this mountain region (in late 2010), the place was under development to gain the status of a hill-station but I think the things haven’t settled yet fully to derive many tourist. I hear there isn’t a moderate restaurant/hotel yet and accommodations other than few resorts and government cottages/hostel lack people staying over there. I read from few reviews on the place complains sanitation has been an issue still. I hope authorities take care of it in providing basic amenities to attract more tourists who could make a day trip to the mountains.

Kolli Hills
Mist covered mountains of Kolli Hills
I have covered almost places in Kolli Hills, which trace back its history to Sangam period (a period in the history of ancient southern India) and are featured in several works of classical Tamil literatures such as Silappathigaram, Manimekalai, Purananuru and Ainkurnura. The region was ruled by a mountaineer and the most popular and celebrated archer and the King Valvil Ori around 200 AD. Valvil Ori is regarded as one of the greatest archers the country has ever seen and he’s said to have pierced an elephant, tiger, deer and a boar and monitor lizard in a single stroke with arrow. He’s also praised as one the seven great philanthropists of Sangam period and his valor and marksmanship are sung by several poets.

The statue of Valvil Ori
Honouring the generosity and skillfulness in archery (what Valvil means) of the King Ori, a statue of him was erected in the headquarters of the Kolli Hills, Semmedu, in year 1975. The govt. organize annual tourism festival named after him and conduct archery competitions remarking his skill in handling the bow. The district administration has built a nice park around the statue and fences for protect. The mountains of Kolli Hills are evergreen forest and being not commercialised yet, the mountains retain its nature except the plains atop that are converted into farmlands. Important farm products cultivated here are coffee, jackfruit, pineapple, black pepper and other spices.

Lovely step paddy field atop the mountains
Kolli Hills are encompassed by number of tribal villages and most of them are involved in farming and rice and other minor millets form the staple food of them. The jackfruits grow on these mountains are well known for its distinct flavor and the many streams spring around make scenic waterfalls. The most famous and the most visited place by tourist, the Agaya Gangai waterfall is situated in Kolli hills. The waterfall flow from a height of 300 feet is at a depth of 1500 steps down a valley. The Arappaleeswarar temple near the fall’s entrance is a pilgrimage site and the Shiva temple here is said to have been built in 1st or 2nd century by Valvil Ori.

The other places of interest in Kolli hills are Seekuparai and Selur Nadu view points and apart the Masila Falls and couple of other mini water falls, the development of botanical garden and boat house is an additional attraction to people. The Ettukkai Amman temple is another noted site in Kolli Hills, the name which derived from Kollipavai, a guardian deity of the mountains which was also called as Ettukkai Amman.

More to come later…

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Red-Whiskered Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Derive its name from the red whisker patch below its eyes was caught at Kodaikanal during one of my visits to the hill station and the bird was perched on a small shrub next to our cottage.  The Red-whiskered bulbul is a passerine bird found in Asia and being a member of the bulbul family, the bird is found very common in hill forests and urban gardens within its range and it feeds on fruits and small insects.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

The bird about 20 cm in length, has brown upper-parts and whitish under-parts with buff flanks and  a dark spur running onto the  breast at shoulder level. The distinctive tall pointed black crest and the red-vent and whiskers make them easy to identify. The bird’s calls are a loud three or four note call and they conspicuously perch on the trees but are often heard than seen. 

Linking this post with SATURDAY CRITTERS

Friday, April 01, 2016

Friday Review: Thozha – A Reliable Friend

Thozha aka Oopiri (in Telugu) is a neat Tamil movie I watched from the drive-in and the drama deals with the relationship between a quadriplegic and his caretaker. The film is an official remake of the French film, The Intouchables, and the Tamil-Telugu version was directed by Vamsi Paidipally featuring Karthi, Nagarjuna and Tamanah. The film opens with Nagarjuna and Karthi inside a car, racing through the streets encompassed by police chase, traces the past on the journey they come together and the bond shared between them.

Seenu is a culprit comes out on parole and seeks jobs that could showcase his humanitarian and thus attends the interview for the caretaker of a quadriplegic billionaire, Vikram Aditya. Though he was attracted to the magnificence of the house and prettiness of Keerthi (personal secretary of Vikram), the obvious reasons he confronted wants Vikram to go for him and what happens from then becomes a life changing for both.

Although the film concern about things happening between them, it goes beyond and touches the lives of their individuals and personal feelings so well. The film carries emotions in lighter manner yet reached the sense and makes come out of theatre without any compassion and sorrow to keep us down. Though Karthi showcase cool attitudes always, the director and the script has utilized him so well and his pair with Tamanah is not new but looks afresh on screen, perhaps because she does look like over makeup!   

Nagarjuna, who is always seen as action hero in Telugu movie and last seen in Rathamohan’s Payanam (in Tamil) as a commando, chose to do the role of commanding from a wheelchair. I anticipated some actions scenes by him, at least in flashback scenes, but just stills to go. The car racing in Paris city was stunning and funny with paragliding. The comedy with paintings and the character of Prakashraj as Naga’s personal advocate was very good.

The music and songs were enough kind, but somehow sprinkles Telugu essence. The camera work was good and the lightning in darkness of Paris and the interiors of the house captures the mood of romance and loneliness well. The expressions and feeling of a wheelchair bound was nicely navigated, without making any negative impact and impressions. The attitude of making surprise and indifference make sense and I also liked the way the character of Nagarjuna was displayed to see apart from compassion and sympathy.

Thozha – stands as a reliable friendship!