Category Archives: Wildlife

BUCEROS: A time to review the BNHS ENVIS newsletter

Lovely images and production quality of the BUCEROS magazine/newsletter produced by the BNHS ENVIS team
In the recently arrived Vol. 22 No. 2 (2017) for instance several pages are reproductions of articles (well selected ones) that seem to have appeared in The Times of India

I glance at the two volumes of BUCEROS that arrived a few days back (Vol 22 No. 2 (2017). The least problematic is the fact that I received them in 2019!

ENVIS, short for Environmental Information System is a programme to bring together information on various aspects of our environment in one place and engage a wide range of actors from researchers, policymakers etc “ENVISioned” by the Ministry of Environment & Forests several years back. BNHS is one of the ENVIS centres for Avian Ecology and the BNHS-ENVIS programme lists a rather ambitious set of objectives, and possibly receives public/donor funding to achieve them. While the printing and production content of the newsletter that they produce (BUCEROS) is of high quality, the content is rather poor; the most recent issue I received was entirely made of bird-related articles from Times of India and the rest borrowed from other Internet sources (duly cited but…). In this day and age does it make sense to produce, print and disseminate such high quality printed magazines under public funding with limited content beyond what is publicly available?

The website of BNHS ENVIS sponsored by MoEF&CC; most of the operational parts of the site were last updated in 2016 & 17; BUCEROS is one of the magazines produced by this facility and issues up to 2016 are available online

This brings up a fundamental problem with many publicly funded programmes: they are rarely reviewed openly and external oversight (either technical expertise or lay oversight) is limited. A letter to ENVIS@BNHS follows….

Local language bird material across the country through a network of ENVIS centres

Given that a lot of what BUCEROS currently does is attainable at much lesser cost using social media dissemination of articles instead of high-quality production and dissemination of English magazine, perhaps BNHS ENVIS could think of decentralising local language material in various Indian languages produced through local partners based at other states and districts across the country. Imagine localised material on birds produced in Kannada or in Assamese or Gujarati by government colleges or educational institutions that can be easily disseminated within the state rather than an expensive English language magazine set-up operated from BNHS.

A letter sent to BNHS ENVIS asking for a thorough review of BUCEROS and bringing it in line with the kind of technology platforms and social media engagement available today

What is it like to be a bird?


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


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

A confused biodiversity congress: First impressions from the 2nd Indian Biodiversity Congress

For every complex problem, there is a simple solution, and it is invariably wrong

Madhav Gadgil, quoting HL Mencken at the 2nd Indian Biodiversity Congress

I had an opportunity to attend the 2nd Indian Biodiversity Congress that started

The Congress was fairly well attended with many young students and academia, but crucually lacking policymakers

today in Bangalore. What was quite amazing was the diversity of speakers in terms of their background/disciplines and the political establishment line-up for the inauguration (Veerappa Moily, Ananth Kumar, R Ashok and few others). Both of these only augur well for the biodiversity movement in the country. But a scan through the very poorly edited “Book of Abstracts” reveals (to my mind) the confusion among the contributors and editors as to what the congress means and should stand for. Continue reading