Monday, December 8, 2014

Scaly Breasted Munia at Native Place, Kamshet

Winter approaches and at Kamshet the paddy in the fields is ready for harvest. Driving through one can see people hard at work harvesting the grain. 

Last weekend I spotted a Scaly Breasted Munia in the garden from the veranda outside my room at Native Place  – Have only seen these birds once a few monsoons ago and was thrilled to spot  them so close to the house.  They were busy building a nest in the pergola outside the lake front rooms – this was easy to deduce as the birds were flying in and out with long grasses in their beaks and disappearing into the climber cover 

Here is some info on this little bird - The Scaly-breasted Munias breed year round and may have multiple broods on a good year, up to 3-4 broods. The male brings nesting materials while the female builds, often from the inside. In some, the breeding nest is later used as a roosting nest.

The nest is an untidy globe made out of grass and bamboo leaves, with a side entrance.  The nests are not woven and material is simply pushed together. But the nests are well-made, robust and waterproof. The birds work tirelessly and the nest can become an enormous globe. Both parents incubate. The eggs hatch in about 2 weeks and the young are fed entirely vegetable matter, which is regurgitated by the parents. They fledge in 18-19 days. Juveniles often form their own flocks after leaving their parents, and wander about together.  

Astrid Rao 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Whew! The Vadivali Lake is full

Vadivali Lake  -  A view from the Native Place Guesthouse

The monsoon did not start so well this season. There was an air of concern at the Native Place guesthouse. All our staff and most people plant rice and the delayed rain was definitely a problem.

With the signal of the first rains most people had planted out their paddy seeds (they usually save up seed from the last harvest to use the next season) now with the rain playing truant the sun scorched the young paddy seedlings. People had to bear the expense of buying seed and replanting.

Water level on the  21st July

The next question was would there be enough rain to fill up the lake. Our gaze turned to the lake in front of us and the brown banks all around it.  Each time we visited the guesthouse I took pictures from my balcony to monitor the levels of the lake.

Imperceptible change in level on the 27th  July 2014

Last week we drove up to Native Place on Wednesday evening. It was dark when we got there but the next morning (Thursday) I woke up excitedly and stepped out into the balcony camera in hand hoping for a steep increase in levels and there it was – yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah the lake is full. The paddy is thriving in the fields and all is well in our world.

3rd August 2014 - Full to the brim 

The rains played truant in the month of June but thankfully made up in the July.   

Astrid Rao 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pink & Purple

It is the monsoon season and the predominant color is green but pink purple and silver seemed to be the theme of the weekend – there were Michelle’s purple boots that were driving me insane – all I could think of was I want I want I want

Then we noticed 2 varieties of Vitex Negudo in flower

and the pink frangipani that we had planted 2 years ago

The check dams we had built them in summer seem to be working like magic – tiny little silvery water falls

We came across a tree fall – check Dwane drinking this moss charged water

A medicinal plant in flower – one of the Dashamularisht that is supposed to be in short supply and may be endangered also pink (sorry I don’t know the name)

Green – the color of the paddy we have planted – next weekend is transplanting time so guys if you want to get your feet squishy in muck and plant the rice that we will serve you soon … come on over 

Come on over :)

Peace Bliss & Happy Landings 

Astrid & Sanjay Rao 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kingfisher Tales

Two weeks ago we drove up to Native Place early in the morning. We got there in good time and as usual I ran into the garden to see how it was getting along.   There had been a few drizzles and everything was green ad growing vigorously in the humid weather. The gardeners Anil and Eknath were quietly working on the slope above the veggie patch and I made my way towards them.  As I walked towards them I was greeted by an incessant scolding sound that seemed to be coming from high up in the trees. I spotted the familiar flash of blue immediately. ‘Now what’s her problem’? I thought. 

Then last week Anil showed me these tunnels bored into an unsightly bank of land that had been the result of overenthusiastic leveling of the slope to plant veggies last year. Big blunder it was and I cringed each time I laid my eyes on it praying for inspiration to help me disguise it.  Anil told me he had seen a kingfisher entering the tunnel and  beckoned me closer to listen to the sounds the chicks were making – I could see the scat at the entrance of the tunnel and as I leant forward. Once more on cue the kingfisher began to scold me for daring to go to close to the tunnel and I retreated not wanting to cause the poor mama any undue worry.

Kingfisher nest - Dont miss the white scat!

And then the penny dropped. Ah yes had read about this somewhere a while ago. Kingfishers make tunnels high on the mud banks of the river. They dig out the soft mud and lay their eggs there. Now this was by no means the lake or river bank but it did serve the kingfisher’s purpose.  Clever birds!!! They had found a suitable nesting place not even a hundred meters from the lake.  We were all delighted – to host the family of kingfishers but as far as mama bird was concerned she was not at all happy to have us lurking around. Hopefully she will get used to having us around – after all we do have vegetable plants to take care of. Until then we will have to tread lightly and put up with her rude calls. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Native Place Summer Holidays

Bird excitement continues at the NP guesthouse – the Sunbird who built its nest in trellis framing the lake view gallery, a high traffic zone of the guesthouse, protests loudly each time someone comes by to sit here and enjoy the view. Her chicks have now hatched and she makes frequent trips to feed them.

A pair of sparrows has decided to build its nest above the fuse box in the entrance landing. Their swooping sorties past the sunbirds nest and over all our heads adds to the excitement.  The area has turned into a veritable flying corridor. They have taken to harvesting hay and other building material from another birds nest to speed up their building operation much to the consternation of mama Sunbird. We often hear them squawk as they race each other to the nest building site. They seem to be fooling around like a pair of young lovers running wild on the beach.

And yes the Bulbul's eggs I mentioned in my previous blog have hatched. We got here in time to watch the parents feed the babies for a day before bad weather or some other eventuality L caused the chicks to fall out of the nest. By the next day the parents moved them away and put paid to our ideas of watching them grow and learn how to fly.

The greatest excitement by far has been the daily visit of a pair of Grey Hornbills who appear each evening.  

Astrid Rao 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Back Home at Native Place

Dwane sends me proof that the Palash is in flower :) 
Last week I visited Native Place for the weekend after a very long time.  In fact I had last been there during the Diwali holidays in November. My son’s exams had kept me busy in city and now finally I was able to get to Native Place. 4 long months of being away and yet once I was there it was like I had never left. Of course I had missed out on the flowering of the Palash and the Red Silk Cotton tree. I had missed many a harvest of vegetables from the garden and the birds too seemed to have gone away for the summer.

On Saturday morning I woke up and went into the balcony to see and hear a bunch of about 40 Bulbuls fooling about in the trees – there was a constant movement within the canopy of the Umbar, Jamun  and the Mahua trees as pairs chasing each other from one tree or branch to another – what a glorious site it was to see these birds at play.
Blue Flycatcher in the Naive Place Garden
It struck me then that Bulbuls was all I had seen – where had the ioras gone to I wondered – not many sunbirds to be seen either and as I thought these thoughts I spotted a flycatcher yes a Blue Flycatcher right there on the Umbar tree – a beautiful sight it was and made me very happy.

Then later Eknath the gardener showed me a Bulbul sitting in its nest – wonder if there will be chicks in the nest when I go up next. I showed it to Saumya – Vrinda and Chetan’s little girl and she was thrilled. Oh! The simple pleasures that fill the heart.

Another treat in the garden was the Petrea Volubilis in flower. -  such a graceful climber - here is a picture taken from my balcony

And now to look forward to a glorious summer with lots of paragliding, bird watching,  gardening and perfecting the art of sitting in a hammock and doing nothing 

 Peace Bliss and Happy Landings 

Astrid Rao