Forests and Birds: Ruminations from five days in Sri Lanka’s Evergreen Forests (Part 2)

–Text and Images by Anand Krishnan; paintings by J.G. Keulemans from Legge (1880), sourced from Wikimedia Commons. As the day wears on, the calls of the endemic Purple-faced Leaf-Monkey are audible throughout Sinharaja, and the traveller may pause to listen to them at his or her own peril, for the ever-present leeches await everywhere. A multitude of butterflies, giant millipedes and beautiful lantern bugs may be found on or beside the forest trails, as may several beautiful reptiles such as the Green Garden Lizard and the Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard. Hiding unobtrusively in the foliage by the side of trails, … Continue reading Forests and Birds: Ruminations from five days in Sri Lanka’s Evergreen Forests (Part 2)

Forests and Birds: Ruminations from five days in Sri Lanka’s Evergreen Forests (Part 1)

–Text and Images by Anand Krishnan; paintings by J.G. Keulemans from Legge (1880), sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The island of Sri Lanka is located very close to the Southern tip of India, separated only by the narrow Palk Strait. The two landmasses have been connected and disconnected at various points in the geological history of the Subcontinent, resulting in both significant interchange of flora and fauna, and a marked degree of endemism, particularly in the evergreen forests of India’s Western Ghats and the rainforests of Sri Lanka’s wet zone. Rainfall is an important feature of Sri Lanka’s biogeography, demarcating as … Continue reading Forests and Birds: Ruminations from five days in Sri Lanka’s Evergreen Forests (Part 1)

Travels with birds in Cambodia’s wild landscapes (Part 2/2)

–Text by Anand Krishnan; Images by Chaitanya Deshpande (CD) and Vaibhhav Sinha (VS)  (This is the second of the two-part story on birds and natural history of Cambodia. Take it away Anand!) Cambodia’s Northern Plains harbor one of the largest remaining expanses of dry deciduous dipterocarp forest in Southeast Asia, and this habitat has been identified as crucial to the conservation and survival of a number of species. A two-day visit to this forest (under the auspices of the Sam Veasna Centre) was the highlight of our trip to Cambodia. The village of Tmatboey in Preah Vihear province is one of … Continue reading Travels with birds in Cambodia’s wild landscapes (Part 2/2)

Travels with birds in Cambodia’s wild landscapes (Part 1/2)

–Text by Anand Krishnan; Images by Chaitanya Deshpande (CD) and Vaibhhav Sinha (VS) (This is the first of a two-part story on birds and natural history of Cambodia. Take it away Anand!) Bordered on its north, east and west by Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, respectively, and with a short coastline along its Southern border, the Kingdom of Cambodia is a country of unique geographic and cultural history. The basin of the Mekong river, and in particular the closely associated Tonle Sap (Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater body), with its seasonally inundated floodplain, served as the ‘rice bowl’ of the Angkorian civilization … Continue reading Travels with birds in Cambodia’s wild landscapes (Part 1/2)

Of Gulliverian parrots and Lilliputian eagles: size changes on islands

This is the ninth post in the Specimen Tales series Anand Krishnan writes ~ The biogeography of islands has long fascinated scientists. The faunal diversity in the Galapagos Islands and the Malay archipelago, respectively, provided the impetus for Darwin and Wallace to propose their theories on the evolution of species. Birds typically arrive on islands by volant colonization (a fancy way of saying they flew there), and may then evolve different forms from their mainland ancestors. The work of J. Bristol Foster, Ted Case and others has related changes in size on islands to (among other things), the presence of … Continue reading Of Gulliverian parrots and Lilliputian eagles: size changes on islands

Species up a mountain

After a short hiatus, we are back! Anand Krishnan continues with the next post in his series Specimen Tales ~ In continuation with the previous post’s theme of how species distribute themselves, we deal here with altitudinal separation of species. Many species tend to replace each other over a gradient of elevations, such as that of the Andes of South America. Habitat types change as altitude increases; forests decrease in height, average temperatures are lower, and overall species diversity decreases as fewer and fewer lowland species can make it all the way up a high mountain. In many cases among birds, the … Continue reading Species up a mountain

It’s a magpie! It’s a vulture! No, it’s a bald crow!

This is the seventh post in the series Specimen tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ In continuation of the last post’s theme of evolutionarily “odd” birds, we will, in this post, discuss another family of paradoxical birds, this time from the rainforests of West and Central Africa. The Picathartidae, or rockfowl, comprise two species found in the Lower and Upper Guinean rainforests of Africa, where they nest in small colonies on rock surfaces such as cave walls (hence the common name). The scientific name Picathartes is literally a portmanteau of Pica (magpie) and Cathartes (vulture), which goes to show just how confusing … Continue reading It’s a magpie! It’s a vulture! No, it’s a bald crow!

How odd…

This is the sixth post in the series Specimen tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ A fundamental objective of the classification and scientific description of animals is the need to understand how they all relate to one another. This is crucial to deciphering the evolutionary tree of life; to sustain our planet’s biodiversity, we must first understand how it came to be. In continuation of the last post’s musings on scientific names, I will here elaborate again on scientific names, this time, ones that reflect the supposed relationships or characters of the species under discussion. For example, the epithet corvina may … Continue reading How odd…

The power of beauty

This is the fifth post in the series Specimen Tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ In meditating upon birds, one of the first thoughts to spring to most people’s minds is their beauty. For many, this beauty may arise simply in the mannerisms of the bird, a simple, understated elegance. Most commonly, however, our perceptions of avian beauty are tied largely to color, the varying hues of plumage that span a large proportion of the visible spectrum of light (and even the ultraviolet!). Many families of birds are gorgeously patterned in contrasting colors, with elaborate ornamentation. This has, in the past and … Continue reading The power of beauty

Yin and Yang: A tale of two ibis

Anand Krishnan writes the next story as part of Specimen Tales ~ Today, we tackle two birds, similar, yet different. Both birds are ibis, with long, curved probing beaks, and both stand out within this family in sporting a punk hairdo: bald skin at the front of the head, and a frill of feathers behind it.  Both are cultural symbols in their respective ranges, and both, sadly, have dramatically declined to near-extinction. That, however, is where the similarities end, as the two are markedly different both in plumage, and in the habitats they inhabit. The following is a discussion of the … Continue reading Yin and Yang: A tale of two ibis