Yellow Rumped Warblers

Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous, quite reminiscent of an Indian Summer and was perfect for a stroll in the woods!   As I gently tread on the bed of leaves looking at the barren foliage for signs of birdlife, a whole bunch of Cedar Waxwings swooped down and landed on the branches only to fly away, but they kept coming back.   And beautiful Yellow Rumped Warblers although not as striking as in their Spring plumage were flitting from branch to branch, ever so restless, which makes it very difficult to photograph them, The World of Warblers

YR warbler in flight2 Continue reading

Summer Reading

With summer behind us, here’s a short list of some noteworthy reads that I caught up with…….

A gripping account of expeditions along the Silk Road in Central Asia in the early 19th century to look for lost Buddhist treasures is narrated fascinatingly by Morgan & Walters.   Funded by the British Raj, an avid explorer and archaeologist, Aurel Stein sets off into the harsh deserts with a motley crew and a spirited dog called Dash.  The treasures that he is seeking are ancient Buddhist texts believed to be preserved in caves along the Silk Road and to rescue them from obscurity!   But even in his wildest imaginations, Stein could not have dreamt of what he would eventually stumble upon in the caves of the Taklamakan desert -the Diamond Sutra – which the Buddha is said to have preached to his disciples in Sarnath.   And it is absolutely fascinating to note that this is the first ever printed book in the history of mankind, circa 868 AD, a full five centuries before Guttenberg invented the printing press.   Journeys on the Silk Road is a captivating travelogue filled with adventures, history, politics.

US

 

Simon Winchester narrates a riveting account of how people from different walks of life and with different bent of mind came together to build the United States of America.  In order to do that he draws a leaf from ancient cultures that classify the world into five different elements, earth, fire, water, wood and metal.  Simon is a powerful storyteller and weaves seamlessly Thomas Jefferson’s visions, Lewis and Clark’s expeditions, the development of roads, canals, railroads, telegraph and communication networks that helped shape the US. Simon adds a nice personal touch with his own accounts of travel to several historic sites.  While this is not an encyclopedia of American History, it does a fine job of keeping the reader engaged at all times with interesting tidbits and is sure to enthrall history buffs.

 

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Despite a successful career as anchor of ABC’s Nightline, Dan Harris experienced bouts of mindlessness that resulted in a panic attack during a live recording.  After experimenting with self help books, medications and New Age Gurus, he discovered a simple means of meditation from Buddhist teachers.  A complete skeptic at first, Dan describes his journey in a no-holds barred approach as to how simple breathing techniques helped him refocus his thoughts time and again.  His lucid writing drives home the point that while there may be no nirvana in the near future, he is definitely ten percent happier with his life.

 

In this era of information overload, how does one differentiate signal from noise and make sense of it all, or simply put, separate the wheat from the chaff, as you are constantly bombarded with facts from newspapers, television, internet, e-mail, text, Twitter & Facebook.  If you have misplaced your keys or reading glasses, or have a hard time recalling passwords in this day and age of multitasking, leading to shorter attention spans, then this book is for you.   Dan Levitin, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience says that our minds evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and does not store memories in a neat compartmentalized fashion, in the same way that you would organize a filing cabinet.   Filled with humorous anecdotes this book looks at how our brain thinks and how leaders adapt to changes and come ahead of the endless chatter that fill our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Nanjing – An Ancient Capital City

My travels took me to Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China, through which the Yangtze River runs. Nanjing is a nice blend of a modern city and ancient culture coupled with beautiful parks and lakes. A less known fact about Nanjing is that it was the capital of China under several dynasties, before it shifted to Beijing. Much like the Great Wall of China, Nanjing has its own unique monument called the Ming City Wall which runs about 35 km and 12 meters high that served as a fortification for the city’s defenses. Built in the 14th century by the Ming dynasty much of this majestic wall survives today and serves as an impressive landmark.

IMG_0607Xuanwu Gate architecture

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Magic in the air

Last weekend was a bonanza for spotting migratory birds, particularly spring warblers!  It had rained the previous night and the rich earthy aroma wafted through the woods early in the morning when I went scouting for some good sightings.   There was music in the air as several tiny birds flitted effortlessly from tall trees.   Getting good shots in between branches and leaves was another story.   I was fortunate enough to get a decent shot of my first Baypoll warbler and American Redstart.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler Continue reading

Freshwater Turtles

Walking along the Bailey Tract in Sanibel Island on the lookout for birds, I happened to spot these freshwater turtles sunbathing.  Several turtle species are on the endangered list and on the brink of extinction.  Recently scientists in Brazil recorded the largest ever hatching of South American river turtles at the Abufari Biological Reserve as reported by the National Geographic.

turtles turtle1turtle

Prize Catch

I was intently observing shorebirds recently at the Ding Darling Wildlife Sanctuary in Sanibel Island trying hard to distinguish one brown bird from another, when I detected a swift motion up above me.   I was lucky to get this shot of a majestic Osprey with a prize catch!

Osprey

Flying in V-formation

You have probably seen a flock of geese or other birds flying in a V-formation and wondered why they do so.   Scientists at the Royal Veterinary College, UK have cracked this mystery based on hours of data logging from small transmitters fitted on bald ibises, a critically endangered species.

Source: Getty

It turns out that the wind behind the lead bird and off to its side is pushed upward which is used to its advantage by another bird that follows the lead bird closely.   Thus every bird that follows behind another one is getting a free lift every so often resulting in a pattern.  This allows them to conserve energy during long flights which the birds undertake.

This remarkable work has been published in Nature and more about it can be read here .

Birding on St. Pete’s beach

Heading south to where the birds are, it was that time of the year to escape the frigid winter in Indiana and bask in sunny Florida! I wasn’t sure how much birding I could do at St Pete’s beach on the Gulf coast, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience.   Sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico in the west and Tampa Bay in the east, St Petersburg boasts excellent weather year round and attracts a number of migratory birds. The glistening quartz sand beckons you to tread softly and sink your feet in as you scan the skies and the shoreline for avian life in the wee hours of the morning and here’s what I found.

IMG_6305A Willet chasing the waves looking for breakfast.  Willets are rather large stocky shorebirds with a long thick bill and in winter, it has a rather drab plumage.   Continue reading