Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Lakes of Bangalore : Part I – Kaikondrahalli Lake


Bangalore a city once famous for its beautiful climate, gardens and lakes, has been declared as one of the most polluted cities in the country.
In a recent study conducted by the prestigious Indian Institute of Science has said that this city will be ‘Unlivable’ in the next 5 years. The maddening pace at which urbanization and ‘development’
that has happened in this city has ruthlessly cleared out the greenery and the Lakes that once were the pride of Bangalore.
This series of blog posts is based on my visits to the lakes in and around this beautiful city.
The first post in this series is about Kaikondrahalli lake. This is the story of a group of people who decided to save a lake that was almost at the verge of extinction.
This lake is on the Sarjapur Road, at about 6-7 km from the Outer Ring Road.

I had come to know that a restoration project was undertaken to save the lake somewhere in 2010, where people from the area had gathered and approached the BBMP to prevent illegal
encroachments and to prevent the drainage that was flowing into the lake. Today this is a well managed area and is quite clean and pollution free.

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I visited this place on a fine Sunday morning. A 48 acre area in the midst of the dusty and polluted area of Bangalore.
This lake is part of the Varathur lake chain and is also connected to the Kasavanahalli lake. A picturesque spot full of bird activity and fresh air.
The early rays of the sun paint the whole scene with a beautiful orange tint. This place has a wide range of ecosystems.
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There are marsh lands, shrubs, and really tall trees. This provides habitat for a wide range of birds.
The first sight I saw was that of a spot billed pelican gliding through the water. The water was so still and clear that even the reflection of the pelican was like one in the mirror.
SpotBilled Pelican

When I reached there were already a few people on the jogging tracks. I strolled along the sides of the lake listening to the tweets of so many birds, most of which were hiding in the bushes and trees.
There is an island in the middle of the lake, which is a breeding ground for cormorants, purple herons, darters and the spot billed pelicans.
I was lucky enough to see a Kingfisher having its breakfast.
White Breasted Kingfisher
On one side of the lake there are high rise apartments and on the other side there is a slum. The lake is sandwiched between this stark contrast.
There are constructions going on and one can only hope that this fast paced development does not ruin what is left of Kaikondrahalli lake.

Snaps from Kaikondrahalli lake

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Birding @ Ramadevara Betta


After spending a restless Saturday at home, I decided to go trekking at Ramadevara Betta. This was 12th of February. A fine Sunday morning. Finally the winter slowly receding from Bangalore, the mornings are not as cold as it used to be till a couple of weeks back.  Started off from Bangalore around 6:00 AM in the morning and we crossed the NICE road tollgate by 6:30 AM. The sun was rising behind us and the moon was setting just in front of us. I decided to stop to take a few quick shots.

 

I was enjoying the bullet ride when my wife reminded me of breakfast. Till then I had forgotten about that but since she mentioned it I could feel my stomach rumbling. We had reached Bidadi by then. We saw ‘Stop Over’ ( Had a bad experience previously). Further ahead there was this place called ‘Malgudi Vatika’. There was serene atmosphere to this place. Two gentlemen dressed up in white Shirt and a white pyjama, resembling the characters from R.K. Narayan’s stories. The waiter had a thick rectangular moustache, which was perfectly trimmed at the edges. He had a black ‘Freedom fighter’s cap’. He reminded me of some shop keeper character in the small town of Malgudi, which R.K. Narayan had described.

After breakfast it took as another 1.5 hrs to reach Ramanagara. Right after the Ramanagar town we took a right. The distance to the the base of Ramadevara Betta from the main road is hardly 8 kms. The road goes through a village and there are houses and a few farm lands on both sides. There were hardly any shops after taking the deviation from Ramanagara.

Ramadevara Betta is a hill full of Granite rocks. It has a very old temple dedicated to Lord Ram. It is believed that Lord Ram visited this place during his exile. More than a trekking spot, this is a pilgrimage site. For nature lovers this place has thick vegetation full of birds and butterflies. Ramadevara Betta is also a vulture sanctuary and hence it is under the control of the Karnataka Government. The place has been maintained neatly. This was one of the very few places were I have seen almost zero plastic waste.

This place is also famous as ‘Gabbar Singh’s ‘ hideout in the Bollywood movie Sholay.  ‘Passage to India’ a Hollywood movie was also shot at this place.

Before the trip I had read about this place and it had been mentioned as a moderate-difficult trek. But right from the base of the hill there are steps and railings. There are a few temple priests to guide you through. There are a couple of small shrines on the way. Me and Pooja were climbing slowly listening to every bird and trying to spot as much as we could. The Purple rumped Sunbird was quite elusive and Pooja managed to get a shot of it.

 

This was followed by a tussle with the Oriental White eye to give a good pose. We were already happy to have spotted two new birds to add to our list. There were a couple of beautiful spots on the way to the top that gave a very good view of the surrounding hills.

The flight of steps lead to the Ram Temple, after which this place got its name.

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We had reached the final flight of steps. It looked really steep and here the steps were actually carved into the rock. They look intimidating but are easy to climb as there are railings.

These steps take you to the top which has a constant wind blowing and beautiful sceneries  with a 360 degree view. At the top we were greeted by a paddy field Pipit, and finally when we had decided to decent back out of nowhere an Egyptian Vulture flew by. It happened so fast that I did not have time to focus my camera and take a shot. Although the Vulture sanctuary is well known for the Long Billed Vulture, I was happy with what I had just s, and we began our decent.

The trees here are full of birds, I was able to spot and identify only a few of them as I am new to this game. But Ramadevara Betta is a good getaway spot from the busy city life.

 

A Weekend at the Scotland of India


On January 26th when the nation was celebrating its 68th Republic, I set out on a family trip to the Scotland of India – Coorg.

Being a family trip I was not on my RE. Since it was a car ride, I slept for the initial part of the Journey. Then we sopped over at ‘Stop Over’ in Bidadi for breakfast. Looks like the staff there was not ready to accommodate the Long weekend rush. We had to wait for almost an hour to get our breakfast, and it was an even tougher struggle to finish that breakfast.

We resumed our journey and we crossed some beautiful countryside roads. The beauty of the Karnataka country side is always a welcoming sight. Cattles, farmers, farm lands small puddles of water.

We crossed Srirangapatna. Since we had already been there in the past we decided not to halt. The roads were really smooth and I dozed off a couple of time during the journey.

We reached ‘Athithi Comforts’ in Kushalnagar around 12:30 PM.

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Checked in and rushed in for lunch. Over lunch we decided to visit the the famous Namdroling Monastery and Harangi dam. As these seemed to be close by to our hotel.

The first stop was the Namdroling Monastery. I have been to this monastery before during my schooldays. The picture I had of this place from my memories was of a colorful and serene place with lots of paintings. Like everything else the colors of the monastery had faded with time. It was dull but the place still had its serene and peaceful environment. We roamed around, occasionally glancing at the display boards that had descriptions about the various paintings and about the Buddha Idols that were the main attractions of the monastery.

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From Left Buddha Padmasambhava, Buddha Sakyamuni and Buddha Amitayus

 

The monastery was established by the 11th throne-holder of the Palyul lineage, His Holiness Drubwang Padma Norbu Rinpoche in 1963, following his 1959 exit from Tibet as the second seat of the Palyul Monastery.

It was prayer time and we could hear drum and trumpets accompanied by chanting, adding vibe to the whole monastery.

Our next stop was Harangi dam. The road to the dam was really interesting, lonely roads with greenery on both sides. I really missed not being on my bullet. We reached the dam, but unfortunately the dam was closed and was not accessible for the public. We stopped our car and decided to make the most of what we had. I tried clicking a few cormorants and parakeets that were around.

We still had time to kill and then we decided to make it to Raja’s Seat before sunset to enjoy the view. Being a cloudy evening it got dark soon and we just made it to the place.

I was still excited about the few birds that I was able to identify that day and the photos that I clicked.

The Second day plan was to cover Tala Cauvery. We were all excited to see the birth place of  one of the largest rivers in South India. Again the road from Madikeri to Tala Cauvery was full of curves and steep slopes and filled with beautiful picturesque backgrounds.  All the way I was dreaming of a beautiful stream of water flowing through the mountains, may be a small water fall-  Ah what a perfect spot to see some birds. But to my utter dismay all that was there was a  regular temple with a small pond of water, there were some people, taking dips in that pond. This pond signified the origin of the river. We all were wondering whether we had missed something, the origin of a river cannot be a Pond for sure, was this a hoax or maybe we really missed something. From the temple there was a small flight of steps that led to a hill top that had some pretty decent views. The disappointment created by what we expected Vs what we saw at Tala Cauvery over shadowed everything else, even those beautiful spots seemed dull to us and we decided to head back to Madikere to get some lunch and maybe visit a couple more places and finish off the day.

After lunch, we visited the Madikere fort. It had a small museum with some relics and old artifacts. The museum building itself seems to be an old church and there were memorial stones all over the place. A small typewriter kept on display caught my attention and I stood gazing at that ancient piece of technology for sometime, imagining how many letters and documents that machine would have punched out in its years of service. We then took a stroll around the fort looking at the view and wondering how soldiers would have used those vantage points to spot enemies. There were some sparrows and a coucal on the walls of that fort, but since it had started drizzling, I had left my camera in the car. We also visited the Omkareshwara temple. The temple has a design that is quite similar to the ones seen in Muslim dargahs. It was almost getting dark and we decided to get to Abbi falls as it was nearby. By the time we reached there it was already dark. I don’t know if it was the dim lighting or the gloom cast upon us by Tala Cauvery, but Abbi falls looked beautiful.

Next day morning I woke up early and decided to go for a walk. I had recently picked up the hobby of birding. I picked up my camera and started walking. The sun was just rising and i could hear the birds singing on the tree tops, but I just couldn’t make out where they were. Finally I managed to see a brown shrike, a spotted dove, a red whiskered bulbul. This got my spirits high for the day. This was the last day of our trip and Nisargadhama and Dubare Elephant camp was left on our list. After breakfast we first went to the elephant camp. The camp was closed due to some strike but we had a good view of the cauvery river and people enjoying rafting. I was still on the look out for birds.

Nisargadhama was again a typical picnic spots with tourists littering the place, there was a deer park. Its a pity to see these beautiful creatures in captivity. On the final leg of this trip I was able to ‘shoot’ a Ashy Drongo, a yellow wagtail and a magpie robin.

Three days had gone by in this beautiful place and now it was time for us to return. With a bunch of photos and memories we bid farewell to the paradise called Coorg.

 

 

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