Monday, August 8, 2011

Simha farms - Monsoons, Macros, Western Ghats

So far, it has been a quite year for us with fewer adventures and more work and this seems to be continuing into the 2nd half of the year too... After the NTP, I should confess with pride I no longer venture into the field looking out for either birds or mammals only, its every life form that now enthuses me and everything looks interesting :)
With new work and new responsibilities, my Saturdays are a little jeopardized with a couple of hours work to be done and that reflects wherever I travel. Instantly we decided on visiting my friend Adithya's Simha farms for the weekend that is located at Madodi village at the foothills of Kodachadri very close to Hosanagara and Kollur. We needed a break and we were well aware, it would be raining and we were happy about it! (What else do lazy bums need...) Rains in the western ghats is different - it rains, it rains and it only rains. Just when you think the rains have stopped, it starts again, its not a heavy downpour but a slow steady drizzle for hours together and this is the story every day for couple of months when the monsoon is at its peak. Seeing the sun is uncommon and he may not be visible for a couple of days together and all that you get to see is dark clouds hovering above threatening to open up anytime... and with it comes lots of mosquitoes and mosquito bites!
The whole place turns green and you get to see a lot of shades of green all around, the amphibians, reptiles, bugs, beetles, insects are all out and its a macro world out there for the people interested. The little drops of water on the flowers, on the rich green leaves, the moths and caterpillars, centipedes and millipedes, bugs and beetles, frogs and toads, lizards and snakes, you just cant stop smiling. Shooting macros is not an easy job, you need to get wet, dirty and slushy and suffer zillions of insect bites to get close to the subject. Of the lot, frogs are the friendliest who do pose for you diligently, the bugs and beetles are the ones that make you run around, but are good posers once they are tired and realize you are still behind them! I'm still in the infancy of macro photography and now I have started venturing into manual focusing and different exposure combinations with my Tamron multipurpose lens. 
(not sure whether it is the Common Green Forest Lizard?)

With the KSRTC Rajahamsa service running full, we had to choose the Durgamba travels to Madodi and we were bed bugged the whole night :( As we landed early in the day, the rains had just stopped and the fantastic weather was so rejuvenating for our tired limbs. Probably for the first time ever, my Canon camera was in the bag for more than a couple of hours since I landed there. My eyes were scanning all around for something interesting and a couple of hours passed by waiting for the rains to recede and in finishing my work. Stuffing ourselves with breakfast, lunch and snacks and with continuous rains and our continuous bouts of sleep, it was evening time before we even realized. Briefly for about an hour or so, the sun was out  and all of a sudden the place was brimming with bird activity in a hurried manner. In a span of less time I sighted the Racquet tailed drongo, Malabar Grey hornbill, Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Small Minivets, Asian fairy Bluebird, Verdited flycatcher, Purple rumped Sunbird, Golden Oriole, Vernal hanging Parrot, Golden flameback Woodpecker and many more that I could only hear but not see that finally brought out my Canon zoom lens into action. The evenings were colder and the day ended with a bachelors party for Raja and with rains, rains and more rains! (Well Nag aka Nagaraj Gaitonde had a very long night and a night to remember for sure :)).
Day 2 started of with less rains and sun was more prominent than the day before and it sure was an interesting day for all of us. Snails, Centipedes, Caterpillars were all around the place and there were varied life forms all around. When it rains the Cicadas and the Crickets are the most noisiest around but hardly visible, got a single view shot of a Cicada luckily. The massive bull sized Indian Bull Frog was very co-operative and didn't move an inch letting us close by and a couple of other frogs too. The Cicada, mating Grasshoppers, the tiny yet beautiful Blue banded bee kept me occupied till the time we departed from the place. The session of badminton that we played made us realize where it hurts the most if you are playing after a long gap. The most interesting happening was the Cicada kill by the Praying Mantis and the after events.
(@ about 2:30PM)
After lunch, as were were gearing up for a team photo shoot, we were attracted by the shrills of a cicada close by but a little unusual and off sound. Closely inspecting the surroundings, finally we found the cicada firmly in the grasp of the spiked forelegs of the mantis on the bark of the nearby tree. The shrill from the cicada continued as the grasp of the mantis became stronger.
(@ about 2:45PM)
What amazed us all was the manner the mantis was holding on to its prey firmly standing upside down on the bark of a tree and the prey being heavier than itself. As the cicada was still moaning, the mantis was on its job chewing of its prey from the top and it was a sore sight for us observing all the action. The life in cicada was not out completely as it still tried to wriggle away even as the mantis kept on munching on its prey.
We could not get too close as the position of the mantis on the bark was not conducive but all of us sat observing the game of life and death through the binox and our naked eyes and somewhere in our hearts we felt sorrow for the cicada. Half an hour later, the boys went for a nap and I went around chasing the bees and the grasshoppers around.
(@ about 3:40 PM)
The action went on for more than an hour with the mantis enjoying the feast and the cicada now only half visible. I left the mantis to feed further on its pray without causing further disturbance to chase the insects and the bees. I could not find the mantis after an hour or so past 5PM nor could find the shell of the dead cicada. Amazing nature and amazed to see such instances live!
We bid goodbye to Adithya and proceeded towards Shimoga town from where our reservations on the KSRTC Mercedes Benz was confirmed to Bangalore. Somewhat, we were not happy with the Merc ride and felt the Volvo's are much better in comfort.

Personally for me, a good beginning into the macro world and I know for sure this will linger on for some time to come :)

You can contact Adithya Biloor @
and @
9449652173 / 9379535738 / 08185253738
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