Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wandering Glider

One of the things I like to do these days is watch dragonflies hovering and darting around the grasses near the coffee shop. There are really large swarms of them in campus. I recently got a chance to photograph this one:

This species of dragonfly is called the 'Wandering Glider' or 'Globe Skimmer' (Pantala flavescens). It's one of the most adaptable insects- once the dragonflies lay their eggs in the pools that the monsoon creates, within 72 days, the larvae transform into dragonflies. Then, these collect in huge swarms sometimes with other species of dragonflies. Apparently, the emergence of these coincides with the Onam festival and their local name in Kerala is Onathumbikal.

The dragonfly is also one of the most daring, undertaking long sea voyages and migrating to some of the most inhospitable places to find a suitable place to breed. This ability has allowed it to thrive all over the world. It has been known to fly fearlessly even in heavy rains, giving it the name of 'Typhoon Dragonfly'.

Their transparent wings and slender bodies would've never given a clue about such resilience! I always thought of dragonflies as rather delicate insects, catching some microscopic prey on the wing. Now, I think of them with some new found respect- there aren't too many creatures that small who can navigate tropical storms with ease!

Some more info is available here:

Globetrotter Dragonfly

Monday, September 1, 2008


I thought I should blog a bit about the Banyan tree as it's IIIT's 10th anniversary as well as its official symbol. The Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is well known for its aerial roots and its gigantic spread, especially in some old trees but it's less known for its rather amazing life cycle.

Banyan trees don't have flowers in the conventional sense. The Ficus species bear figs but the flowers are inside the fruit! This phenomenon is due to an amazing interaction between the tree and a special kind of wasp called the fig wasp.

When we eat a fig, we're actually eating the flowers inside the 'container' that is the fig. The flowers are of three kinds- male, female and a third kind which is the gall flower. The fig wasp, which is responsible for pollinating the flowers is born inside the fig. Male and female fig wasps also mate inside the fig, but only the winged female flies out of her cradle after mating (the male has a minor role to play in the drama!).

She flies to a different ficus tree that is bearing figs and enters a new fig to lay her eggs in the special gall-flowers. While doing so, she brushes against the female flowers and pollen is deposited on them. The flowers get pollinated and the figs can now take seed.

It's quite a story... the mighty fig depends on a tiny wasp for its entire reproductive cycle. The wasp is also choosy- each kind of ficus has its own species of wasp and it can only lay its eggs inside its figs.

Our campus has only two banyan trees that I know of- one near the Main building and the other behind A-block. Incidentally, banyan trees are also one of the best places to watch all kinds of birds because they love feasting on its fruits. One of the most beautiful of these is the Golden Oriole. It's a very shy bird with a red bill and a golden yellow plumage. I have always seen it around these Banyan trees on campus. Here is a photo, but not a very good one:

I hope people start noticing trees around campus, there are many interesting things to be seen. I have quite a few photographs that I took around April this year. Perhaps I should start a tree series on this blog as it has been idle for quite a while!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


After the rains many interesting creatures come out into the open. This scorpion was one of them last night. It prefers living underground most of the time and is nocturnal. Although it is feared for its bite, the venom in the scorpion sting is not fatal for human beings. It can cause some discomfort but not death.

The picture below, of a dead scorpion was taken in the morning. Toads, frogs, snakes, squirrels and now scorpions are in my list of roadkills in the campus. It's rather sad but I don't know what can really be done about it. I was also informed that some of the security staff were deliberately killing the scorpions when they found them. I suppose it was done in the interests of safety but these scorpions won't harm unless provoked. It's the same paranoia that results in many snakes getting killed as well. I hope some of these scorpions survive the monsoon!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The elusive partridge

The call of the Grey Partrige or Grey Francolin as it's now called was one of the first calls I heard when I came to this campus. The birds are one of the commonest in Peninsular India. They have a loud, ringing 'tee--teeu-ka-' repeated about four times. Another call 'is Pee-la-la, Pee-la-la'. The Hindi name is teetar and the birds are also considered a delicacy.

In the wild, they're seen in groups of three or four secretively stepping through the undergrowth. I have not been successful in getting very close to them. Often, when you flush a group of birds they will suddenly fly up from the ground, flapping loudly and scatter deep inside the bushes.
So far, this photograph has been the only chance at capturing a pair. This was taken near the main gate this morning.

Call of the Grey Partridge: at IndiaBirds (Quicktime needed)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Crimson Rose

I found this beautiful butterfly basking high up in a tree this morning.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Our campus has a number of leafless trees, that are excellent perches for birds like the cute Spotted Owlet.
There is a bare tree near the library which used to be the haunt of a pair of Spotted Owlets on our campus. For the last few months they had disappeared from this place. Then late one evening I was surprised to find them sitting on the goalposts on the football field! This seems to be one of their favourite perches. If you check these carefully at night, you may just see them !

Most people think that dead wood, or bare trees are useless, but in fact they can be really important for birds as perches, roosts for the night or if the wood is of a suitable variety as a potential places for a nesting hole. At the same time, it's also interesting to observe how birds are so resilient--they adapt themselves to artificial perches like streetlights, electricity poles, pylons and goalposts!

Here is a Spotted Dove on a lamp post: