Category Archives: Birds

What is it like to be a bird?

Bird-sense-cover.jpg

Cover of Tim Birkhead’s book Bird Sense

Can we ever know what it is like to be a bird? As poetic as the question may appear to be, it’s fascinating how the question has captured the attention of a bunch of  scientists, artists and other professionals ranging from neurosurgeons, ecologists, physiologists to bird illustrators and medieval travellers. The fascination with bird flight is possibly as old as language itself. Birds are among the early cave paintings, be it in the subterranean caves discovered by teenage boys at Lascaux, or the paintings of Genyornis in cave paintings in Northern Australia that could be 40,000 years old, dating to the time when man set foot on that continent. In Bird Sense, Tim Birkhead who has written fascinating stuff on history of science, birds and birdwatching and has edited the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology, makes a narrative synthesis of the historical and contemporary knowledge on what it is like to be a bird. An extremely intriguing question throwing up questions such as “Is this know-able?”. Such philosophical meanderings have clearly not deterred several scientists from designing simple and elegent experiments to try and understand this. Continue reading

Birds of BR Hills

If you came for the checklist of birds of BR Hills, directly scroll to end of this post.

Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve

Map of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve showing BR Hills (marked as BRT WLS on map), north of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (marked Tailaimalai RF on map) and through Sathyamangalam, contiguous with Bandipur and Mudumalai Tiger Reserves (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

My journey with the Biligirirangaswamy temple hills (BR Hills) is an old one. It was during my medical school days, nearly 15 years back that I first went to the hills on a then trendy Yamaha RX 100 (2001 monsoon months). At the time, the frequency of buses were few and Veerappan was alive. Continue reading

Gallery

Table mountain

It was a wonderful and sunny October morning after an overwhelmingly busy week-long discussions over complexity of health systems and researchers’ collective aspiration for a people-centred health system held at a venue largely unrepresentative of the rest of South Africa, … Continue reading

Afrindian Mammals

I just came across a recent book on Indian mammals. Congratulations to the

Cover image from Flipkart. Click image if you really want to buy the book.

authors (M. S. Pradhan, S. S. Talmale), both from the prestigious Zoological Survey of India. I, for one would have bought it, if not for its fairly expensive pricing. It is priced at 4500. I hope, that by now, the authors have become aware of the bloopers on its outside cover though. Well, I hope they are bloopers, for I would find no good reason to illustrate a book of Indian mammals with African elephants on its cover! Continue reading

the biligirirangan hills

The BR Hills forests, until recently protected as a wildlife sanctuary under the

BR Hills have been identified as a source site for tigers, one among 42 such sites globally (Source: Walston et al, Plos Biology)

Wildlife Protection Act have recently been upgraded to a Tiger Reserve. And by no means without reason; BRT is one of the 42 global source sites for tigers, “so termed because these areas contain concentrations of tigers that have the potential to repopulate larger landscapes”. However, the forests are also a sanctuary to the Soliga people, who are themselves also increasingly seeing a role in tiger conservation. With a new, dynamic officer taking over as the Field Director of the tiger reserve, there was an effort at making a booklet to introduce new visitors to the rich wildlife, people and culture that these hills hold. Reproduced below is my contribution to the booklet, now incorporated into a well-designed booklet available to all visitors to the hills. Continue reading