How I Met My ‘Courage’

‘Courage’ the little frog sat comfortably across this fast flowing stream. It looked as if he had made friends with the stream and her fast flowing water. The very strong wavy water was trying to protect it from predators.

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The rocks neighboring the water made it even more difficult to reach the frog. As soon as I stepped in the stream the water flow increased and the waves stopped me from getting close to Courage. But I knew I wasn’t supposed to give up. I had to prove to the stream and her friends that I am different. I am not the human being who throws plastic at them and usually comes to destroy them.

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I am going to observe this frog and help conserve him. So I put my foot down and went ahead. While I played with the fast flowing waves, another Whistling friend joined in. Thrush, the bird, occupied the canopy above me and watched all the drama below. He looked at me like “Oh just another creepy human being”. But wait, there’s more to me, I thought as I struggled to keep my foot down in the waves.

Look at the frog

The rocks had decided to stop me as well. They turned slippery and asked moss to cover them. I knew, these are not inanimate objects that we look upon them as. They are in fact the beloved children of Mother Earth, live creatures in themselves. All these life forces come together to make a brilliant cradle for the survival of human beings. In return it is our duty to give back, as much as we can.

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As my mind recited these thoughts, Mother Nature seemed to guess this already. She calmed down a little, after a good twenty minutes of my struggle through the rocks and waves. I had reached where Courage was. He posed for me and said ribbit-ribbit. Two more frogs jumped in and these I decided to call- Moxie and Energy!

Mr Courage

As I got out of the stream, I felt super happy. All the adrenaline rush and this new bond of frogship felt really wonderful. I was on top of the world. When I first decided to cross the stream, I was afraid. But as I gathered my courage and decided to take this path, I made friends on the way. These friends might not be able to party, wish me birthday or Whatsapp me, but they will always be there. Having them as companions, I realized, I don’t need anyone else!

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What’s Your Reason To Watch Birds? If You Don’t Have a Reason Find One Here

Bird-watching needs no introduction. Bird-watching (or Birding as we like to call it) is a wonderful way to step outdoors. Not only does it give you a chance to experience some of Earth’s greatest flying wonders but also to show compassion for nature. Just like any other happy drug, birding is super addictive! I have also observed that it is equally enjoyed by children, youth as well as the old. Did you know it is listed among the most pleasurable and well liked hobbies in the world?

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I have come up with a list of reasons why people get addicted to watching these bright, astonishing winged creatures:

Because You Are An Adventurer: You are among those crazy people who find excitement in danger. You love putting yourself in trouble and mostly use the ‘try it out’ way of learning. Yes, bird-watching involves a lot of adventure. It definitely isn’t for the fainthearted. Many times it involves trekking up and down through rocky terrains, climbing trees, walking miles through dark evergreen forests and open lands, experiencing ticks and leech bites and sometimes even walking through slush teeming with snakes and crabs!

But you enjoy it all, and that’s what makes you a successful bird-watcher.

Walk through the misty rainforest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!
Walk through the misty forest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!

To Show Your Love for Mother Earth: You get to go closer to mother nature and enjoy every season. Your love for nature can only be expressed through bird-watching. You often feel like hugging a tree or living in a tree house.  You love the mixed fragrance of poisonous herbs, jungle berries, various other trees and plantations found in the forests. And all of this complements your love to watch these colourful beauties take to the air.

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I often hug a tree and thank her for being so good to birds!

Because You Love Your Camera: Photography is a fancy hobby. When clubbed with exciting adventure, amusing nature and unmanned beautiful green surroundings, many jump in the field with their cameras and choose birds as their subjects. Although they are super difficult subjects, the satisfaction of capturing a great “bird photograph” is boundless. Tagging along with an experienced bird photographer is a great option for starters. Else just read about birding ethics and you are good to get out to explore the avian world with your lens!

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Make New Friends: Bird-watching is a social activity and is best enjoyed with people of similar interests. By means of different online bird-watching groups and forums you tend to meet several exciting people who possess vast knowledge about birds and nature. Each new person you meet, might amaze you. Considering similar interests and likes, the bond of friendship grows forever.

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Get a Little Famous: Bird watching makes you famous among your friends, extended families, work-groups etc. Mostly birding is combined with great photographs. These days when social media is all pervasive, the photographs go straight on your Facebook timeline. Birds, natural habitats, your travel joys and places fetch you too many LIKES (Y). Whichever platform you choose, your bird photographs help you stand out from the boring study crowd.

Oh yes!
Oh yes!

To Fight Boredom: On a Sunday Morning you are dragged by a bird-watcher friend into a new world.  You always wanted to know the “twee twee” in your garden so you’re out on a birding excursion. Once you experience the birds up close, it wouldn’t take you long to get addicted.

And when you are addicted, you’ve taken care of your boredom!  😉

To Get Into Serious Research: You are the next bird-man/woman of India. You’re not only familiar with names of different birds but also with climate change, different habitats, behavior, songs, various species, etc. You know it all! Mostly associated with some wildlife NGO or other organisation, you are this generation’s Dr Salim Ali in making!

Did you know- we can all get a little scientific by helping this brilliant Citizen Science Project called Bird Count India!

Just upload all your records on EBird and participate in their monthly contests! This is also a great way to keep all your bird sightings organised and in one place.  🙂

More research, anyone?
More research, anyone?

For The Unbeatable Surprise Element: With birding you start exploring more and more forests. The forest in itself is the greatest unsolved mystery. It becomes routine to come across unrecognized birds but sometimes there’s more than just that. Leopards, scorpions, deadly snakes and other small creatures share their territory with birds. WOW!

I clicked the following photo of Soldier Crabs (Dotilla mycteroids) when I went out to an undisturbed beach on the coasts of Karnataka in search of waders. Aren’t they gorgeous?

My favorite army of soldier crabs!

And how about something more interesting and creepy?

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This Green Vine Snake swallows down a whole Calotes; while the birds chirped behind!

To Travel on Budget: Bird-watching involves a lot of traveling. It becomes an obsession for you to want to spend more and more time with birds. You might also like to travel to different destinations to watch different birds. In your unique bird watcher gang, there is always a little space for you in someone’s SUV!

Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend's SUV
Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend’s SUV

Because Birding Is Healthy: Believe it or not, being close to nature has several health benefits. Walking on natural non-cemented paths is great for your joints and muscles. It reduces the ground reaction force exerted on your joints (the physiotherapist me is talking here). Also trekking/walking in itself can help you fight several diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and depression. Talking more about depression and stress – Birding is a great stress buster. Not only does it allow you to go to faraway places but also helps you spent some time with yourself. For me it is equivalent to meditation. We all are aware about the benefits of meditation, if not, read more here!

Photo Credits: Rishi Gupta
Start walking while you’re birding!

Just for Fun Folks: You smile ear to ear when you see a bird. You feel relaxed in the lap of nature and in the company of chirping creatures. You follow many Facebook groups about birds and wildlife. You go out for bird-watching trips and travel to different bird sanctuaries. You just enjoy this outdoor activity and believe me, there is no greater reason than this one!

No matter whatever be the reason for you to be close to nature or watch birds. It is the duty of every individual to prioritize the environment and its well being. Developing a feeling of compassion and love for species other than man is beautiful and enlightening. It isn’t late to protect the only habitable planet. Start today and appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature, she is the biggest and the strongest. You do your bit and she will protect you!

Dr Jane Goodall rightly said- “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference”

Take a step! Start appreciating nature today.

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Frogs Of Hampi: You Must Check Them Out During Your Visit To The Heritage Town!

Hampi, a UNESCO heritage site is not only rich in its heritage but also unique in its wildlife. The town is slightly touristy and has numerous temples which makes it a very famous tourist spot. In my search to find lesser known places, I ended up staying in the north of Hampi (across the Tungabhadra River) in Sanapur. Sanapur has pristine, undisturbed habitats which are a home for numerous frogs, birds and reptiles. Especially in the rainy season, the paddy fields, adjoining granite monoliths and the mud houses of farmers become a paradise for frogs and toads to breed. If you happen to be in Hampi, anytime during the months of June to September, you will definitely get to see a number of frogs here-

I am in love with these paddyfields, just outside my homestay!
I am in love with these paddyfields, just outside my homestay!

Here are all the frogs that I saw during my visit to Hampi-

The Sri Lankan Painted Frog (Kaloula taprobanica)

This colorful and distinctive frog is about 5 to 6 cms in length. It is stocky with short legs. It is possible to come across this frog in moist places, smaller puddles and near fields. Occasionally, it is possible to find this in your courtyard or your bathroom.

I found him jump below my hammock when I was reading a book in dim light very close to paddyfields at Rambo Homestay

This colorful frog is such a poser!
This colorful frog is such a poser!

Variegata Ramanella (Ramanella variegata)

This frog looks like a tiny birthday balloon with its distinctive fine yellow spots. I am not sure what this loner was doing in my bathroom. But it probably swum through the sewer opening, jumped through the door or was just planning to say “hi” to me. Did you know that this frog has a very large distribution and if you are observant enough, you might just find it in almost any damp places, protected forests, rivers, fields, etc. There are eight species of Ramanella out of which six appear in peninsular India.

Tiny, spotted beauty in your bathroom!
Tiny, spotted beauty in my bathroom!

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

The toad has to make it to my list wherever I go in India. They can be found almost everywhere, a toad, could most likely be. In monsoons, a walk around your own home in a sparkling city can reveal at least one toad. These are super easy to identify- just look for a “V” above the snout with warty skin and dull color.

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That “V” = Common Indian Toad

Common Indian Tree Frog (Polypedates maculatus)

This is apparently a very common frog. It is possible to find one almost anywhere and everywhere, given its distinctive call. It is distributed throughout India as per resources. My frog expert friends tell me- “You should know where to look for this frog”. It lives in the trees and shrubs about 3 to 4 feet above the ground. Occasionally, it climbs down on rocks near puddles and fields and you might be lucky like me to find one.

Chilling on the rock!
Chilling on the rock!

Burrowing frog (Sphaerotheca species)

I came across this species of frog while taking a night stroll. The tiny frogs of this genus have a specialized digging apparatus on their feet. A really funny incident happened when I spotted this one. I was walking on the road and the frog jumped over someone’s feet who was pissing by the side. I am sure I weirded out this man but still managed clicking this one awkward shot in all the smelly area. So now you know where to get this digging frog!

Little digging frog
Little digging frog.

I love these little, slimy creatures. How about you- have you visited Hampi yet?

If not, pack your bags this monsoon for the much needed weekend break and stay at my favorite Homestay to see all the frogs in one go! 

PS: Heartfelt thanks to all my wonderful frog loving friends who helped me with the frog identities and information. For more check the inspiration section!

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