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Thread: Country notebook:m.krishnan

  1. #161
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    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK : M. Krishnan : Stag parties in Kanha : The Sunday Statesman : 18 November 2018
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    STAG PARTIES IN KANHA
    ( CHITAL)

    " I looked for Stag-parties of Chital in the Kanha National Park. Here, as in places in Uttar Pradesh, the deer can be seen in large herds in comparatively open country, and on somewhat similar ground. In the Masinagudi area of the Mudumalai Sanctuary of Madras, I have repeatedly observed large Stag parties in September- October.

    In other gregarious deer, such as Swamp Deer, such seasonal schools of adult males are well known.

    Chital are highly gregarious, particularly when living not in tree forests, but in open scrub jungles; but so far as I know, no one before me has reported regular herds of Stags among them. I have watched such Stag-parties in the Masinagudi area over many years -- in September-October herds consisting only of Stags, at times over 150 in strength, can be seen here; some of the Stags are in hard horn, some in velvet and quite a few have polled heads, having just shed their antlers, so that from a distance (and it is hard to get close to these deer in the open country) they look like big hinds.

    However, by watching them through glasses as they crossed a ridge in a line, silhouetted against the I had satisfied myself that there were only adult Stags in the herd. Sometimes (and this is true of Swamp deer, too) an old or sub-adult hind or two may be found with a school of Stags, but this does not make it any less of Stag-party.

    In Kanha, I was not able to see any large school of Chital Stags. But I was there in May; may be in the cold weather, after the rains, there are big herds of Stags to be seen here too, though the grass and herbage will be obscuringly tall then. However, I did see quite a few small parties,from 3 to 9, consisting entirely of stags. These were in hard horn, and among them were some superb animals, with magnificent antlers. Many of them were limping, and carried flesh wounds.

    There is no definite rut, confined to a particular season or part of the year, among Chital, even in North India; Stags in velvet and in hard horn, and very young fawns, may be seen at all seasons. Moreover, the courtship is a rather prolonged process as among most herbivores, though the climatic act of mating is quick, a fact little appreciated by most naturalists and unknown to quite a few of them. As in most deer, Chital stags, when they engage in combat, attack each other from close quarters and with savage fury. The brunt of the sudden forward thrust, with the head lowered and the entire body weight behind it, is usually borne by the clashing, interlocking antlers, one of the combatants gets pushed back after awhile, and disengaging its locked antlers, turns quickly round and runs away, but it does not always escape unscathed; a glancing thrust from the antlers of the opponent, following up, often inflicts a nasty flesh wound. Apparently the limping stags I saw were fellows in misfortune, suffering from such wounds."

    - M. Krishnan

    This was published on 6 April 1969.

    #The photograph of Chital stags in a herd not reproduced here.

  2. #162
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    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK : M. Krishnan : The Slender Loris : The Sunday Statesman : 30 December 2018
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    SLENDER LORIS

    " By the time I was 41, I had to admit that I had lost my long fight with myself, and that what people euphemistically term the spread of middle age, and botanists more bluntly secondary thickening had overtaken me. And on my forty-first birthday I wrote these lines on the Slender Loris, in envy and regret.

    I wish I were a Slender Loris
    And not a massive human being.
    In such a change of course
    Much more is
    Lost that is gained, for though agreeing
    With men in lacking tail and manners,
    On evolution's path it lingers
    Bar back' we have reached the
    Destination
    All the days it sleeps with shaking Fingers
    Over sun-shy eyes, no fasination
    Lmoels its night; slow-limbed
    The stories
    Or trees it climbs for insect plunder.
    But still I wish I were a loris --
    Beyond all argument it's slender

    By no means an inspired verse, but factually very sound. The Slender Loris (and even the Slow Loris of north-east India, with its body and limbs much thicker) is a featherweight, the size of a kitten and slim, with a very narrow waist and hard, thin limbs; the great goggle eyes are set on by a patch of dark fur around each of them and as one might guess from its owl-face and big, round orbs, it is a creature of the night.

    It is highly arboreal, and spends the day in sleep, deep in the shady cover of a tree top, with its face buried in its chest, bird like and often with its hands over its eyes to shed them from the glare, especially when it is forced to keep awake by day. It is from its round face and its habit of shading its eyes with its hands that it gets its Hindi name, Sharmindi-billi (the bashful cat).

    Lorises are among the small creatures the are missed easily, and so are seldom seen.In fact I can recall seeing a loris only thrice-a pair of slow Lorises high up a tree in Bhutan,and a Slender Loris twice in the south, also up trees and on both occasions late in the evening. Unfortunately for it, the slender Loris is credited by superstition with the ability to bring one luck, and its gnomelike looks are so unusual the it is commonly kept in a cage and exhibited in zoos, and as a captive animal (usually exposed to much more glare that it can tolerate) it is by no mean unfamiliar.

    It is not only that they do not give it a cage large enough and deadly enough small in sleen in comfort through the day on some suitable perch -- they often give it the wrong diet as well, bread-and-milk and bananas. I do not know if a slender Loris is exclusively insectivorous when wild; perhaps it also eats eggs and even small tree-living lizards when it can find them, and soft fruits and other vegetarian fare. But I am quite sure that it dose need insect food or some suitable substitute.

    In fact, its dentition is hardly that of a fruit-eater and, as I learnt in the most unpleasant manner imaginable, it has sharp teeth. To get the picture reproduced here I had the two captive Lorises taken out of their cage and placed on a long length of tamarind bough, with one end planted into the earth. Somehow those Lorises did not want their picture taken. As soon as they were put on the bough, they climbed quickly down and made for the security of their cage, moving over the ground at an awkward, shambling shurie much faster than on the bough, I caught them both and gently redeposited them on the bough, and in the process got a sharp nip from one, which confirmed my views on its dentition.

    A man whom I know, who kept a Loris for a pet, told me that the animal once made a bid for liberty, and on being chased, entered a pool of water and swam across, using a rhythmic breast-stroke, only to be caught on reaching the farther bank. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this report, but believe it, for most animals can swim when they have to."

    - M.Krishnan

    This was published on 13 July 1969
    #The photograph of Lorises has not been reproduced here.

  3. #163
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    Sighting of a slender-loris is so difficult these days unless one is out in the night with torch. I would love to see one swim. Wonder how fast it can swim.

  4. #164
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    I have never seen a loris in India. I was fortunate to spot a slow loris last year when in the jungles of Borneo. There were 2 of them, large eyes, one had a brown coat and the other a greenish tinge in its coat, moving super slow but distinctly looking at our torch light.

  5. #165
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    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK : M. Krishnan : The Mocking Bird : The Sunday Statesman : 10 February 2019
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    THE MOCKING BIRD

    HARIAL
    (Blue Pigeon)

    " Those who have spent some time in the deeper forests might have heard, probably when they were alone and immobile, a loud, fluent, mocking bird voice and looked for its source and found nothing. Bird-calls are difficult to render in words because, lacking consonant and even defined vowels, it is only their fortuitous resemblance to familiar phrases in their syllabic break-up that provides the rendering into words, and this is dependent as much on the hearer as on the call. But about the undercurrent of mockery in this particular call-to human ears- there is little doubt.

    The first time I heard the call I had been following a heard of elephants along a forest road, and on leaving the road to continue following the great beasts lost them suddenly round a bend (a thing which is quite easy to do, in spite of the huge size of elephants). After a while I realized that I had also my way, and didn't have the foggiest notion where the road was. I tried getting back to the road along a nullah and after two miles sat down in the shade of a giant flaf for rest and reorientation. It was then that I heard this call. I could not place the direction from which it came exactly, though the call was loud and seemed quite close, and although I looked hard all around and above I could see nothing that might have been responsible for the sound. Then I heard it again and though I could not see the bird, it was very clear to me what it was saying. "You fool !" it said "you are miles from the road". I was.

    It was only after another such experience with the voice that I located its owner; it was the Harial (the Green Pigeon) and naturally I had missed seeing it; against a leafy tree top the bird is almost invisible- and with a call so uncolumbine in its accents and intonation, even if I had seen a Harial near where the call came from, I would have looked elsewhere for my bird.

    Last summer, near Churna in M.P., I tried sitting up during the day beside the only stream in the neighbourhood, a mere chain of half-a-dozen elongated, shallow puddles in the dry, sandy, rocky bed of the stream. It seemed most unlikely that any animal would come there during the scorching heat of the day, but the concentration of Sambar and Pig slots on the impressionable sand tempted me to put up a hide of dry grass and sit up for two days. At the end of it, it was clear that the animals came to the water only after sunset, but the bird life of those little pools was most interesting. In the evening flocks of Harial and Rose ringed and Plum- headed Parakeets came there, to guzzle the coarse river sand.

    Right by my hide there was a leafless, twisted tree, bristling with dry branches, and I counted over 30 Harials in it they quarreled for perches on it like all pigeons, and they were very pigeon- like in their take off with audibly flapping wings, and they sat there for an hour or longer peeking all round to make sure that no one was there in the neighbourhood, before they dropped to the stream-bed to drink and eat sand. I had ample opportunity to listen to them and noticed that a cock serenading a hen on a treetop, further up the bank, had a recognizably pigeon-like call, very different from the usual, mocking call. I thought of many renderings of the common call, but came up with nothing better than
    "You fool ! You are miles from the road".

    - M. Krishnan

    This was published on 5 October 1969

    # The photograph of the birds on stream-bed has not been reproduced here.

  6. #166
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    Apropos of the posting above on 24-02-2019 : 6.45 p.m, the Correct Caption may please be read as under:

    THE MOCKING BIRD

    HARIAL
    (Green Pigeon)

    I sincerely regret for the mistake.
    Saktipada Panigrahi
    25.02.2019

  7. #167
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    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK : M. Krishnan : Elephants in Musth : The Sunday Statesman : 3 March 2019
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    ELEPHANTS IN MUSTH

    " THERE were quite a few tuskers in the herd of Elephants ( which I thought a composite herd ) at the Corbett National Park, and in the evenings, when they came out of sal cover and crossed open ground to get the water, they were usually by themselves. There was a small, mean-looking old bull with both tusks broken off short who was said to have a nasty temper, and a massive, medium-sized bull with short blunt tusks, also well past his prime, who had the habit of grazing steadily towards human intruders till they moved off. Besides these, there were three sub-adult tuskers, and I thought that was the lot.

    Then one evening a much more impressive bull, with yard-long symmetrically curved tusks, taller than other bulls and longer and heavier in the barrel came out of the sal forest. The herd and oter bulls were half a mile away, and this bull crossed the narrow belt of open scrub behind the rest house and made straight for the Ramganga.

    I had a good look at him as he crossed the clearing, the slanting light of the descending sun illuminating him warmly and bringing out every little surface detail in sharp relief. He was in his prime, probably about 40 or 45 years old, with a black skin flecked with pink on the trunk and a pink trunk-tip, and covered thinly with red dust, and on either side of the face, between eye and ear there was red patch, as if the iron of his hide rusted there - this was where the dust had settled on the sticky exudation from his musth glands.

    I followed him discreetly, keeping well behind, as he went down the boulder-strewn path through the forest to the river. Once he was at the water, it was possible to approach much closer among the opposite bank but although the photographer in me urged me to do so. I had the sense to stay hidden at a sufficient distance so that I could watch once again a big tusker in musth spraying the cooling water over the irritating patches on either side of his brow where the secretion from the musth glands had spread over the skin.

    Bull elephants in musth, as I reported in this column some years ago, often carry clinging, hard-packed day on their tusks, even after bath, and I had supposed because they had used their tusks, after a bath, and i had supposed this was because they had used their tusks to dig up something, some corm or luber deep in the earth, which when they are in musth, the deep digging fixing the earth so firmly on to the ivory that even subsequent spraying with water could not wash it off - I have seen a tusker swim right across the fast flowing Periyer with his head submerged most of the time and when he climbed ashore the mud was still clinging to his tusks.

    Soon after a bath, the elephants throw dust, or at times mire, all over themselves; this habit cannot possibly fix the earth so firmly to the tasks that it stays on after the next bath - there should be no confusion on this account.

    Well, I spent one of the pleasantest hours I have have lived through watching the great beast drink deep at the Ramganga and then spray the water systematically all over his head and body. Then clean-washed and glistening black, he crossed the river where it was shallow, climbed on to the bank on which I was, and searched around till he found a suitable patch of dry earth which he kicked up with his forefeet till it was loose and powdery; then picking up
    ( Contd.)
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 04-03-2019 at 10:47 AM.

  8. #168
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    Elephants in Musth
    (contd. from previous page)


    ... the dust in his trunk, he threw it over himself. After this, he went up to the steep earth bank, and selecting a clear spot on its perpendicular wall, drove its tusks into it, using his great mass to bury them deep, and stood leaning his weight against the bank. Luckily, I had a small pocket-telescope with me (the normal lens of my 35 mm camera screwed on to a special eyepiece, and most useful implement) and was able to watch entire operation closely.

    As he stood, leaning his buried tusks, the compression of the attitude on the head and face caused the musth to flow out of the temporal glands, and no doubt the fact the pores in the skin over them have been freshly washed free of all clogging matter helped in this. I suppose elephants in musth get some relief by expressing the secretion from the tumid glands in this manner. After a while he leaned back, pulled his tusks out of the earth and sauntered away, and I noticed lumps of impacted clay sticking to his tusks, and realized at last what causes tuskers in musth to carry hard clay on their ivory."

    - M. Krishnan

    This was published on 14 December 1969.

    # The photograph of the lone tusker in musth has not been reproduced here.

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