Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Valley School

Today we visited the Valley School in Southwest Bangalore. There is extensive jungle and nice paths. Nice and quiet. We started off seeing an Oriental skylark but my eyes fell to a wonderful flower of touch-me-not. I used to get this plant as a boy from circuses. You touch the leaf and the plant folds! Here I was in south India and the plant carpeted the ground.

We signed in at the gate and immediately were struck by the large number of 5-6 foot high termite hills, some right next to school buildings. I do not think many Americans would tolerate nature so close at hand. Birds were everywhere and I started seeing new birds such as the Coppersmith barbet and the Black drongo.
My guide Dr. Kumar Ghorpade, an expert taxonomist of syrphid flies, was delighted with the number at hand and started flailing about with his net. After ducking into the jungle for a bit he called me over to see the most outrageous spider I had ever seen, the Wood spider, which was the size of an adult man's hand!

The weather today was much improved over yesterday which was far too hot for me. There was a light breeze and some clouds kept the sun off my burned face. I was thrilled to see Green Bee Eaters actually eating bees. While I was photographing an amazing little bird called the Purple-rumped sun-bird, a man showed up on a motor scooter. He beamed a great smile and took my hand and started speaking in the native Karnada. I shrugged and spoke in english, neither one of us caring that all was gibberish, both smiling and shaking our heads. Finally, Kumar came over and translated. I was introduced as an american and the Indians' smile got even bigger as he shook my hand again. He apparently though I was merely an alien not his favorite foreigner. He told us that an elephant had crashed through a granite and barbed wire fence the night before and was somewhere around. Whoa!

I was finally able to see Black drongos, which Sally had seen but I missed on Tuesday. Drongos are like our flycatchers, launching from perches to nab insects. I also found some nests of weaverbirds, something I had only ever seen in books.

I had begun to cough today because of the terrible exhaust in the city and on the way home, Kumar had the driver stop while he ran in to a pharmacy to get me lozenges. How's that for a guide?


Nate said...

The Weaver Bird nest looks like it is hanging from a thin, dead branch. How can it support the bird and a nest of young?

Anonymous said...

Is that some kind of proboscis on the fly? What's it for?

Steve Sauter said...

The branches are very wiry and stay so.

The Syrphid fly is a predator and that is his weapon of choice.