Showing posts from 2012

Wild Cats of India

I’m sure many of us aren't aware of the splendid diversity of wild cats we have in our country, apart from the elusive tigers and charismatic leopards of the feline family. So let’s take a tour of these felines in today’s blog post.

Wild felines such as the Asiatic Desert Cat, Pallas's Cat, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, Rusty-Spotted Cat, Leopard Cat, Marbled Cat andthe Asian Golden Cat are all found in our country. Many of these cats have not been studied in detail and there are some aspects about these cats that still remain unknown. Some of them have been given the status 'vulnerable', i.e., the wild population of these animals are reducing from their habitat. Also, these cats are spread out in different parts of the country. Most of these cats are rarely seen out in the open. We can also say that its easier to spot a leopard or a tiger than many of these mysterious cats!

Moving ahead, apart from the Indian Leopard that we are well-acquainted with, there are two more types…

Urban Birds of Prey (Part II)

Let's have a look at some more raptors that can be seen in our city.

The magnificent White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is an opportunistic carnivore with a diet that includes fish, turtles, sea snakes, birds and mammals. It is also monogamous., i.e. a pair remain together until one bird dies, after which the surviving bird quickly seeks a new mate. Mumbai's coastal areas would be the best place to observe this bird.

The Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)is a bird of prey from the family Accipitridae. It has a long neck with a relatively small head (resembling the pigeon), making it appear quite distinct from other raptors. It is called the Honey Buzzard as it is known to feed on comb, larvae, pupae and adult forms of bees and wasps. It's diet also includes other insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and smaller mammals. 

Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)is a bird of prey, more often seen perched on trees instead of flying. It is not a very la…

Urban Birds of Prey (Part I)

Raptors are ‘birds of prey’ and they are one of the most fascinating hunters of all time. They are found throughout the world and they adapt very well to various habitats. They are known for their stealth, speed and killer instinct. Today let's look at some of our urban raptors (birds of prey).
One of the most common raptors that we see are kites. Here is the Black Kite (Milvusmigrans), a medium-sized bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. When they soar above in the sky you can easily identify them by their slender body and forked tails. The Black Kite can easily be called, 'Raptor of urban skies', as it is very abundant in our city.

Next comes the Shikra (Accipiter badius), a small raptor often seen being bullied by the numerous crows found in our city. You will most likely get to see one in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The bird has a very peculiar call that goes like, 'kik-ki.. kik-ki..'. It is a very skilled hunter and it is known to prey on birds and animals …

The Day after Diwali

It’s the day after Diwali. Last night a huge number of people all across the city celebrated the festival by lighting up firecrackers. This morning the sweepers have swept away the remains of those crackers, and well, we think that’s the end of the story. But no, unfortunately our episode with the fireworks doesn’t end that easily. Firecrackers leave behind an after-cloud of toxic substances that are harmful in various ways.
So today let’s take a look at the harmful substances that linger on in the atmosphere, long after the colourful fireworks display has died down.
Fireworks consist of gunpowder and some ‘unique’ chemical substances that give them their colour and effect. Some of these substances include cadmium, barium, dioxins, strontium and perchlorates, apart from other chemicals. If you think that use of fireworks doesn’t really cause much harm, let me tell you what these ‘unique’ chemicals alone are capable of doing.

Cadmium: It is widely used in fireworks without any restricti…

Bio-indicators in your Locality

Mumbai is the commercial capital of India and it is developing at a very fast rate. But at what cost does this development come?
Our city’s pollution problem is a well-known fact – we are the 10th most polluted city in the country! The pollution problem is currently a very serious one and it is detrimental to our health. In this blog post, we are not going to look at how we could tackle this problem; instead we will consider how to identify if our own residential area is pollution free or not? And we are going to do this with the help of ‘bio-indicators’.
Bio-indicators are basically flora and fauna that can be used to monitor the health of the environment. All plants and animals act as bio-indicators in one way or another. And here are some of the most common bio-indicators that we come across.

Lichens: Lichens are unusual and amazing organisms and they consist of fungus and algae living as one. They are found throughout the world; and in cities they can be seen growing on trees, wa…

Damsels and Dragons of Mumbai

Today we are going to look at one of the fastest and also one of the most important insects that we find in our city - Odonatans!
Dragonflies and Damselflies are collectively referred to as ‘Odonatans’ and they are found near water bodies and other damp areas of our city. They are known to have excellent flying skills; some are even capable of flying backwards! Odonatans are aerial predators; that means they are capable of hunting while in flight.
These insects bear an important significance as they feed on mosquitoes and other pests and thus help in controlling pest populations in our city. Both, the larval stage (young ones) and the adult stage of Odonatans are known to prey on mosquitoes and other harmful insects. In the past, people in Thailand have successfully used dragonflies to control populations of the ‘Aedes’ mosquito which is an important vector in the spread of dengue fever. Maybe Mumbai can take some inspiration from the above example and do something similar to combat …

Butterflies: Beautifying Mumbai!

Mumbai is home to about 160 species of butterflies! A little hard to believe this, isn’t it? But it’s absolutely true!
In our city, many different landscapes are closely intermingled with each other, which lead to the creation of various habitats that are suitable for a rich biodiversity. This has helped the butterflies to adapt to our urban landscape and add much beauty to it. In today’s blog-post we shall look at some of the most interesting and mesmerizing butterflies found in our city of Mumbai. 

The first one that I want to highlight is called the Blue Oakleaf (Kallima Horsfieldi). It usually goes unnoticed due to its resemblance to a dead leaf. Surprisingly, the upper-side of this butterfly is well coloured with shades of white and blue. An interesting fact about the Oakleaf Butterfly is that every individual in this species has a different under-wing pattern, making each and every butterfly unique!

Then there’s the Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) which is supposedly the bigges…

The Bird that goes: Tuk-Tuk-Tuk..

Did you know that Mumbai has its own dedicated ‘city bird’?

You might think that this title has been given to the common crow or the blue rock pigeon or maybe even to the house sparrow; because these are birds that Mumbaikars come across all the time. But what if I tell you that none of the above hold the coveted title of being our 'city bird'? 
The city bird of Mumbai is the Coppersmith Barbet and it is also known as the Crimson-breasted Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala). This bird is more often heard than seen and it is known to make a monotonous call that goes like, tuk-tuk-tuk. The call resembles a coppersmith repeatedly hitting a copper sheet and this is how it gets its name. The Coppersmith Barbet is also known to make an early morning call to welcome the sunrise. Haven't you heard this call in your locality?
Coppersmith Barbets can be found near wooded areas, gardens and possibly even in the greener patches around your residence. They often inhabit older trees, where…

Backyard Wildlife- By Aristo Mendis

Generally when we speak of wildlife, the first image that pops up into our minds is that of a scenic evergreen forest with tall trees and thick foliage, alive with a variety of creatures. While this interpretation is not entirely wrong, the danger is that by imagining that all ‘wildlife’ exists only in some distant forests, we may unconsciously ignore the ‘flora and fauna’ that actually surrounds us – that is found in the vicinity of our homes, workplaces and other public spaces.
In a city like Mumbai, we unfortunately have close to no interaction with nature; because we are too busy fending for ourselves in a never-ending rat race. Actually, given our stressful lifestyles, nature can prove to be a good stress-buster – all we need is just a basic level of interest in these other forms of ‘life’. 
And we don’t need to look too far; our own surroundings have a relatively good variety of trees and animals that just go unnoticed. Common examples can be that of birds, butterflies, frogs a…

Green School Campaign 2012-13:ACTIVITIES

So we're back with another edition to the Green Schools Campaign. This year we have about 46 schools on board and we're already halfway through completing the first sessions! Till now we've been having a great time and hope you are too!

We left you with quite a few activities to do... and also have mailed you handouts on how to carry out the activities.
The activities are:
1. Green Mapping and Listing trees (Group Activity)
2. Adopt a Tree & Story of My Tree (Individual)
3. Green Wall (Group Activity)
4. Paper Drive (Group Activity)


1. Decide on an area which you need to map. It can be your school and school vicinity, the area around the school, your neighborhood, society etc. Remember, you have to carry out this activity in your school as well as an area outside your school (Ex. A housing society, a nearby garden etc.)
2. Before you start mapping, make sure you write down the name of the area on the top of the map.
3. Draw an initial map of the building…

Green School Campaign 2012-13: A glimpse

We've started with the Green Schools Campaign 2012-13!  Here's a glimpse of few of the schools that are a part of the campaign this year.