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Can Forests be taken for granted?

Early morning breeze swaying alongside us. It was cold yet adaptable and pleasant. Coming from the place where only three seasons are predominant – hot, hotter, hottest – people embrace winter like never before. Little  did they realise that winter is really difficult to withstand and a significant reason to worry upon.

Nevertheless, that’s what I did too in Kodaikanal – enjoying the cold weather conditions. The temperature was under 15 degrees in the morning and was well-suited for a lovely walk.

Way to Wilderness
I took a stroll along with a few of my nature lovers. The high rise trees, mostly non-native, standing erect on both sides of the rough path. Standing beneath them were a few native Shola trees like Native Olive, Nilgiri Elm, Matchbox tree, etc., which were once abundant in Kodaikanal but now exist only in small patches. Thanks to the invasive Eucalyptus, Pine, Lantana and Accacia trees (and many more) that took over the forest just like we (humans) do for our own greed. (Also read this - Fragile Heritage)

Besides the flora, sounds of a variety of birds and insects were flowing along the gentle wind that kept the forest lively which left us more intrigued and curious. From the constant tic-tacs of crickets to the more buzzing cicadas, the insects were having quite a time in the wet forest due to rain. We were unable to spot any, which was the sad part. But with birds, we had a good time.

As soon as we started our walk, we saw two little birds actively flitting across branches; couldn’t get a clear view even with binoculars as they didn’t settle in one place. No curved beak so not Sunbird. Light shade of green on its exterior, could it be a  Warbler? But next one was quite clear and it’s endemic-to-Nilgiris, the Nilgiri Laughing Thrush. The prominent white brows, dark orange belly and dark brown upper parts were unmistakable. Its flight pattern was similar to that of the Babbler, which disturbs me often at work back home.

Then we heard a sweet singing Magpie Robin over the electric cable and the elegant White Browed Wagtail dancing on the lawn. Jungle Mynas were everywhere. A few were seen mimicking the Indian Robin. Only then we saw a Robin couple vigorously working out something on the mud wall. Maybe they are looking out for a best place to construct a nest. But these Mynas seem to have other ideas. While watching these to and fro movement of Robins, we saw a pair of Nilgiri Laughing Thrush again. Maybe they are following us. After all, we are a group of nature enthusiasts right. Conversely, we saw a set of those tiny light green birds again chirping and dancing around. This time it occurred to me; it could be White Eye yet not sure.

While I was trying to have a better look, one of our members found something green flying overhead. It was a medium sized green bird, seen from a distance. Looked absolutely stunning. Its beak resembled like Barbet. Immediately, I googled and confirmed it as Blue-throated Barbet. Wow, what a sight. It waited for just a minute flashing its features before vanishing into the enveloping thicket of the woody forest.
 
High raise trees, mostly Eucalyptus and Pine
It’s not very long, before we spotted the most attractive Nilgiri Flycatcher. The dark indigo blue shade was quite helpful in identifying the species. It is a winter migrant of Nilgiris and found mostly in higher altitudes of the Shola forest. Likewise, we saw another high altitude bird. It stood beside the leaves perfectly camouflaged with the dark branches. I confused it with Hill Myna initially but there was no yellow patch behind its neck. Only an eye-liner in yellow, which was exceptional. It was alone, perching on one of the branches and started to sing after a while. Clicked an image and checked with my friend, who confirmed it as Indian Blackbird. It stayed there for some time enabling each of us to have a closer look.
Meanwhile, we saw some colourful mosses (Lichens) on the walls, rocks and tree trunks. The dewdrops on top of every tiny bead of moss and pine leaves reflected the sunlight throughout the surface. 
        Haircap Moss found on the walls of a dilapidated building


Resurrection plant
Again, we heard the similar twittering sound coming from the branches. It looked like the same tiny light green bird. We stayed there for a while just to observe these fellas and  to know who they are whilst they jumped from branches. In less than a second, it leaped on to one of the branches that stood directly above our head. Suddenly, two of them fell off the branches. It was a tall tree so we could see them swirling and tumbling down towards the ground. But before reaching the ground surface, they readjusted themselves and landed on the bush that was just two feet from us. No need of binoculars this time. It stayed less than three seconds but was enough to spot those distinguishing white patch encircling its eye and the olive-yellow head. It is the Oriental White Eye. We stood rooted to the spot and observed another brilliant display. Maybe they are fighting or romancing. Whatever it is, it was gorgeous and completely worth it.

Its time and we were heading back, which is when we saw something orangish beneath the leaves in one of the Eucalyptus trees close by. Two of them were there. It looked like a Black and Orange Flycatcher, apparent from its dark head and orange belly. Yet another wonderful sighting! 

Just before our cottage, we heard a slight commotion coming from within the woods. Since the forest patches was dense, we couldn't see anything. The other day, we heard stories about three Indian Gaur, which was freely roaming around the city. The very thought of it scared us off, considering the beast's muscular nature. In a flash, something ran passed us with a grunting noise. It was a wild boar. We were stunned for a moment but the experience was unbelievable. 

With the most satisfying smile, we were heading back to our cottage and that’s when we saw them. One that not just spoils our mind but also a big threat to this flourishing landscape. One that pollutes our land, water, oceans and kills them all at ease. One that is not to be seen there because it has been banned. Yes, a pile of plastic waste – carry bags, straws, food covers, plates, cups, spoon and packing bags.
 
Plastic trash amidst the pristine forest ecosystem
We know that it chokes our drainage system. We know that it seeps into the soil and stays there for years curbing rain water to get through. We know that plastic-filled landfill results in leachate that pollutes our ground water. We know that larger plastic breaks down into pieces and becomes micro-plastic, which can never be recovered from land or water.

We know everything yet we do not stop using them. But we put blame on others – government, politicians, corporates, food producers and so on.

At the end, we simply fail to realise the fact that we are the end users or consumers. If we reduce or control our usage, we could see the change. It is we who throw them everywhere, be it a forest, water body, beside a road or railway line, etc.  

Reduction in our usage pattern may impact the production to the great extent. And its a serious time to think about our food preferences; not just for the environment but for our own health too.

After all, it’s we who need animals, birds, insects and trees alongside us to survive; they don't need us. 

Let us not take forests for granted!

Comments

  1. Interesting!!!! Good sharing of experience.

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  2. Well written Gautham, as you mentioned various organisms alien to me, i googled their images in another tab online, i just want to appreciate you observations as they are quite accurate. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. That's what I expected; people must look for the birds described here. Glad that you did and I am sure you loved it too.

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  3. Such an awesome and beautiful experience in the lap of " the princess of hills" ..such an awful and shameful insight about human nature..how contrary! Thought kodaikanal was a strict plastic-free zone! But humans always find loopholes to break the rules ..right?! It's high time we took every chance to say a big ' no ' to plastic..feeling"guilty as accused" !!

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    Replies
    1. True. We need to look back to our habits that would have caused massive destruction to such beautiful environment.

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  4. Actually I missed those two nature walks, but when I read ur article, it took me into your eyes and made me see and enjoy those soul sounds of the birds and the ambion of the place. Really a good write up

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  5. Nice narration Gautham...........

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  6. Good one Gowtham.. it's been great if you shared the videos too..
    Uma Mageshwaran,

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  7. Really missed it! Each and every lines are really coming to my mind imaginarily and brought up me to core of nature when I read it. U are an excellent writer!!
    - Sasi.

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  8. Excellent coverage of our trip usage of vocabularies and cohesive devices add more essence to your article. Keep going about bird watching....

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  9. Superb article, lexicons were widely used and well structured essay. It seems that you're interested towards ecosystem and bird watching, it is worth sharing, that we are polluting our biosphere unprecedentedly compared to last decade, if we take a step against pollution gradually it'll deteriorate. However, it is unforgettable journey in my life.

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    Replies
    1. Yes its time to question our habits, especially food preferences. Packed food cause greater damage to our environment and also to our health. And thanks for the compliments. I learnt a new word today because of you - Lexicon :-)

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  10. Excellent narration Gautham.. Felt like
    being along with.. All the best.. By the way also learned few new words ��
    Vijay

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  11. The finishing line of your article tells the hard truth. This is an interesting free flow narration.
    Hats off Gowthama.

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  12. The ability to weave birds, trees and animals seamlessly into a narrative on an experience as simple as a walk, not only conveys your flair for observation, but is reflective of your deep concern for our environment.

    Well written👍

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Thank you for reading. Really appreciate your time. Would be great if you could share your thoughts about the article you just read. Will be happy to discuss about it. Little bit of discussion helps! Always!

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