The Bluebellvine or Asian pigeonwings

Sometimes one passion leads to another. My love for this creeper and a few clicks courtesy my photography passion led me to look for more about this plant. Reminded me of those school days when I had proudly presented my project on Medicinal Plants of India in twelfth standard. I used to spend hours reading detailed books that I borrowed from the school library and also read Mom’s Botany texts that I had picked up from Kerala on one of my visits. The yellowish torn pages happened to reveal to me what Google reveals to us these days.
 
Have you ever had the butterfly pea tea? Do you know why it is so popular in Thailand and Malaysia? Do you know how easily the flower can be grown back home? Take a look at its medicinal properties too.

Aparajita (Hindi) or Shankhpushpam (Tamil/Malayalam) flower is one of my most favourite ones. The most striking feature about this plant is the color of its flowers, a vivid deep blue; solitary, with light yellow markings. The blue colour when illuminated by sunlight is nothing short of a magical light. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, with elliptic, obtuse leaves. It grows as a creeper, doing well in moist, neutral soil.

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I guess it’s not just the flower but the entire vine that reaches out to another plant for support. The way she entwines the other plant and embraces it with her beauty is something that signifies true love for me. I can spend hours clicking her. She’s been one of my favourite subjects for my photography passion. Be it a sunny day or a rainy afternoon or a cloudy evening, she bedazzles me every single time.

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It is grown as an ornamental plant requiring little care when cultivated. Its roots form a symbiotic association with soil bacteria known as rhizobia, which transform atmospheric Nitrogen (N2) into a plant-usable form, therefore, this plant is also used to improve soil quality through the decomposition of nitrogen rich plant material.

I somehow find it to be a lucky plant too. I have one outside my front door and a few in my terrace garden. I have gifted it as seeds and as plants to friends who are close to my heart. With this I wish them peace, health and prosperity.

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Her scientific name is Clitoria ternatea. She is commonly known as Asian pigeonwingsbluebellvine, blue pea, butterfly pea, cordofan pea and Darwin pea. The flowers of this vine have the shape of human female genitals, hence the Latin name of the genus “Clitoria”, from “clitoris”. (Synonyms: Clitoris principissae.)

It is commonly found in Asia, mainly in India and Philippines.

Medicinal properties

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is ascribed various qualities including memory enhancing, nootropic, antistress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing, and sedative properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, due to its appearance similar to the female reproductive organ, and consistent with the Western concept of the doctrine of signatures, the plant has been ascribed properties affecting this organ.

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This beautiful creeper has wonderful medicinal uses and especially it’s use in enhancing the memory and reducing stress in very popular. Scientific studies have been done extensively on this amazing plant and many of it’s traditional uses have been proven. The root extract acts as a mild sedative and calms down the central nervous system so it can be used as an anti depressant and anti stress medicine. The root extract also show anti asthmatic activity. The flower extract of the plant also has been proven scientifically to protect against free radicals and is full of antioxidants.

And other very surprising effect of this amazing plant is the chloroform and methanol seed extract has been proven to have larvicidal activity against three species of mosquitoes! The wound healing property of butterfly pea also has been proven through research. It also has blood sugar lowering properties. It has been proven as a safe herb and there was no any major side effects or mortality.

The first time I had the Butterfly Pea Tea was in Thailand. I never knew what it was but I loved the colour and the soothing effect. It is supposedly a health drink. Here’s a YouTube video describing this drink.

Bibliography

Wikipedia

Evaluation of larvicidal activity of medicinal plant extracts against three mosquito vectors

Larvicidal activity of Saraca indica, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, and Clitoria ternatea extracts against three mosquito vector species.

Clitoria Ternatea

 

Kabini Diaries Part II – Birds of Kabini

Do Read Kabini Diaries – Part I in case you would like to know more about the place. 

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Common Raven

A raven is one of several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus. These species do not form a single taxonomic group within the genus, but share similar characteristics and appearances that generally separate them from other crows. The largest raven species are the common raven and the thick-billed raven.

As we approached our resort in Kabini the lush green fields complimented by dark rain clouds made us stop and breath in the beauty. That’s when we spotted this darker than black little fellow. Who says black (read dark) is not beautiful?

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Indian Pond Heron

The Indian pond heron or paddy bird (Ardeola grayii) is a small heron. It is of Old World origins, breeding in southern Iran and east toPakistan, India, Burma, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They are widespread and common but can be easily missed when they stalk prey at the edge of small water-bodies or even when they roost close to human habitations. They are however distinctive when they take off with bright white wings flashing in contrast to the cryptic streaked olive and brown colours of the body. Their camouflage is so excellent that they can be approached closely before they take to flight, a behaviour which has resulted in folk names and beliefs that the birds are short-sighted or blind.

We almost missed him since we were busy tracking the alarm calls which ended being false alarms. There’s some relation between false alarms and me. Both the girls gave me so many of them throughout the pregnancies and the jungle safaris too bring them on most of the times.

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Changeable Hawk-eagle or Crested Hawk-eagle 

Changeable hawk-eagles breed in the Indian subcontinent, mainly in India and Sri Lanka, and from the southeast rim of the Himalayaacross Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines. This is a bird occurring singly (outside mating season) in open woodland, although island forms prefer a higher tree density. It builds a stick nest in a tree and lays a single egg.

The light showers gave her goosebumps and my constant clicking annoyed her enough to run from one branch to another, from one tree to another. But I still caught her. Completely drenched. Her eyes begging for some privacy in her own home.

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Crested Serpent Eagle

The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) is a medium-sized bird of prey that is found in forested habitats across tropical Asia. All members within the species complex have a large looking head with long feathers on the back of the head giving them a maned and crested appearance. The face is bare and yellow joining up with the ceres while the powerful feet are unfeathered and heavily scaled. They fly over the forest canopy on broad wings and tail have wide white and black bars. They call often with a loud, piercing and familiar three or two-note call. They often feed on snakes, giving them their name and are placed along with the Circaetus snake-eagles in the subfamily Circaetinae.

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Indian Peafowl

The Indian peafowl or blue peafowl (Pavo cristatus), a large and brightly coloured bird, is a species of peafowl native to South Asia, but introduced in many other parts of the world. The male peafowl is predominantly blue with a fan-like crest of spatula-tipped wire-like feathers and is best known for the long train made up of elongated upper-tail covert feathers which bear colourful eyespots. These stiff feathers are raised into a fan and quivered in a display during courtship. Females lack the train, and have a greenish lower neck and duller brown plumage. The Indian peafowl lives mainly on the ground in open forest or on land under cultivation where they forage for berries, grains but also prey on snakes, lizards, and small rodents. Their loud calls make them easy to detect, and in forest areas often indicate the presence of a predator such as a tiger. They forage on the ground in small groups and usually try to escape on foot through undergrowth and avoid flying, though they fly into tall trees to roost.

East of West, India is the Best. Similarly, travel all around the world but this handsome chap will still steal your heart with his perfectly coloured body and a beautiful spread of feathers with rich, vivid and varied hues. Can never afford to miss clicking one.

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Common Kingfisher

The common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) also known as the Eurasian kingfisher, and river kingfisher, is a small kingfisher with seven subspecies recognized within its wide distribution across Eurasia and North Africa. It is resident in much of its range, but migrates from areas where rivers freeze in winter. This sparrow-sized bird has the typical short-tailed, large-headed kingfisher profile; it has blue upperparts, orange underparts and a long bill. It feeds mainly on fish, caught by diving, and has special visual adaptations to enable it to see prey under water. The glossy white eggs are laid in a nest at the end of a burrow in a riverbank.

While everyone in my safari canter was busy deciding whether a bunch of dried leaves in the bushes was a leopard or not, I managed to click these fellows on the far end of the large pond in the jungle. Felt so so happy and proud to have spotted them and clicked them without annoying them.

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Orange-headed Thrush

The orange-headed thrush (Geokichla citrina) is a bird in the thrush family. It is common in well-wooded areas of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Most populations are resident. The species shows a preference for shady damp areas, and like many Zoothera thrushes, can be quite secretive. The orange-headed thrush is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, earthworms and fruit. It nests in trees but does not form flocks. The male of this small thrush has uniform grey upperparts, and an orange head and underparts. The females and young birds have browner upper parts.

I had never seen one before. Tried to identify with Google Baba’s help but I guess an amateur can’t just survive on Google’s skills. Then found the ID through the Indian Birds group on Facebook. Such a wonderful group of professionals ever ready to help. Much needed space for newbies like me.

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Black-rumped flameback or Lesser golden-back woodpecker

The black-rumped flameback (Dinopium benghalense), also known as the lesser golden-backed woodpecker or lesser goldenback, is a woodpecker found widely distributed in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the few woodpeckers that are seen in urban areas. It has a characteristic rattling-whinnying call and an undulating flight. It is the only golden-backed woodpecker with a black throat and black rump. The adult male has a red crown and crest. Females have a black forecrown spotted with white, with red only on the rear crest. Young birds are like the female, but duller.

The last time I had spotted him was at the Bagh in Bharatpur. He was playing hide and seek then. And at Kabini, this fellow seemed to be in no rush as we went click, click and click.

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Streak-throated woodpecker

The streak-throated woodpecker (Picus xanthopygaeus) is a species of woodpecker found in the Indian subcontinent. A medium-sized, green woodpecker with streaked throat and scaly whitish underparts. Green above with yellowish rump, white supercilia and white and black moustache. Crown red in male, blackish in female. Tail dark and plain. Small, dark bill.

In the woods, your luck plays a great role. Sometimes you can spot a couple, or an entire family, or a parent with their offspring, or an entire community. These husband and wife pair were spotted in close proximity but I couldn’t manage them in one frame. Nevertheless, it was a joy clicking them.

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Indian Roller

The Indian roller (Coracias benghalensis), is a member of the roller family of birds. They are found widely across tropical Asia stretching from Iraq eastward across the Indian Subcontinent to Indochina and are best known for the aerobatic displays of the male during the breeding season. They are very commonly seen perched along roadside trees and wires and are commonly seen in open grassland and scrub forest habitats. It is not migratory, but undertakes some seasonal movements. The largest populations of the species are withinIndia, and several states in India have chosen it as their state bird.

We were stationed at one of the locations identifying the alarm calls. There was information that a black panther was in the premises with its kill. I got tired of looking into the bushes in vain and as I turned around I saw this beauty on a nearby tree. The couple pic was clicked a little ahead on another tree. Just in time before they flew.

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Hoopoe

The hoopoe is a colourful bird found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers. It is the only extant species in the family Upupidae. One insular species, the Saint Helena hoopoe, is extinct, and the Madagascar subspecies of the hoopoe is sometimes elevated to a full species.

He can be found in the nearby children’s park and hence I wasn’t very keen on clicking him. But he kept posing and attracting me enough to make the ‘effort’. Technology and human brain are no match for nature.

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Yellow-footed green pigeon

The yellow-footed green pigeon (Treron phoenicoptera), also known as yellow-legged green pigeon, is a common species of green pigeon found in the Indian subcontinent. It is the state bird of Maharashtra.[2][3] In Marathi it is called Hariyal. The species feeds on fruit, including many species of Ficus. They forage in flocks. In the early morning they are often seen sunning on the tops of emergent trees in dense forest areas. They especially are found sitting in couples on tree branches.

You have heard the phrase ‘Ghar ki murgi daal barabar’…right? We have an entire family resident on one of the trees near my kitchen window and hence I wasn’t impressed. But still I clicked because I have never got the complete body in one frame. Either they are partially visible from behind the branches or leaves, or they just show their face to tease me.

My ten-year-old and I were probably the only one on the safari keen on birds. Everyone else was more interested in the cats. I wish the next time I visit Kabini, I have a better company to be able to capture the numerous ones that I missed this time around.

Source

The details of the birds have been collected from Wikipedia. All the pictures are clicked by me using Nikon P900.

Don’t miss reading Kabini Diaries – Part I 

Kabini Diaries – Part I

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kabini river lodge

One summer night of 2011, the husband returned home after his graduation ceremony at IIM, Bangalore. To celebrate the occasion, he had been to Kabini with a bunch of his batch mates for two days. Ever since that night the girls and myself have been listening to his wish to take us to Kabini one day.

Our travel adventures are mostly restricted to North India because of his love for long drives and the fact that both sets of parents reside within a radius of ten kilometers from our place. Air travel for us is like that Bharat Darshan offer for Central Government employees; once in four (or five) years affair.

So this summer I was supposed to plan a vacation for Dad where the entire family was together. Just when I was about to click on ‘proceed to checkout’ on the Yatra flight booking, the man said, “Anyway we are going to spend so much on air travel for your Dad’s dream vacation, why not extend it to include ours too.” Thus the Kabini dream saw light.

There were lots of hurdles which kept looming over our heads and making us doubtful about our vacation till the day we actually flew. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

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We had booked a Myles car for our five-day stay in Karnataka. Due to some mistake at the agent’s end we got our vehicle only after about two and a half hours spent sitting in the scorching sun. Thankfully we had booked our stay at Kabini from the next day onward. Otherwise we would have missed one safari.

The ride through the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway was one beautiful ride.

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These cotton candy clouds gave us company all along. After taking a break at Mysore for the night, we set out on our journey to Kabini the next morning.

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And as we approached closer to Kabini, these were the mesmerizing scenes that welcomed us.

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Covering these beautiful patches we finally reached Kabini River Lodge, located on the southern fringes of the Nagarahole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi National Park). This was the former hunting lodge of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and was rated as One of the Top 5 Wildlife Resorts in the World by the British Tatler’s Travel Guide.

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Situated on the banks of river Kabini, the 54-acre property in itself is a pleasant treat. Lush green scenic views around the tented accommodations and the lavish cottages.

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This tent was our home for two days and we enjoyed every bit of the wilderness around it.

The very next morning, we woke up to this. Bliss!

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The Maharaja’s bungalow has a well-stocked bar and the interiors showcase the rich history behind it. The former hunting lodge that’s been converted, speak of erstwhile elegance and comes with comforts like charming accommodation and even a fully equipped conference room for those meetings that spell business as unusual.

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That’s the skin of a real tiger who died. It’s been treated and stuffed to give you an idea about the size of the deceased.

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That’s the bar. Tastefully done and well-stocked to suit your taste.

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The pictures on the wall speak of those old royal meetings, hobbies and adventures. Something that speaks of a culture gone by.

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The Kabini River Lodge, to me looked on the higher side when we were about to book. But the experience tells me that the property is absolute value for money. The entire experience from the stay, the weather, the staff, the safari naturalist, everything was just perfect.

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What I loved most about this jungle lodge is the time management. You check in around 12 p.m., settle inside your accommodation, relax for a while or go on a nature walk around the property, assemble at the GolGhar (the river-facing gazebo restaurant at around 1 p.m. for a lavish spread buffet. You can either go back to your rooms, or head straight for a walk around the place or enjoy the scenic view near the river. Assemble back at the GolGhar around 3 p.m. for a quick tea/snacks and head for the three-hour jungle safari.

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Once back, you’ll be served another round of tea/coffee and at 7 p.m. there’s a wildlife documentary showcased at the Maharaja Bungalow. By 8.30, dinner is served. Another sumptuous spread.

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The very next morning, you’ll receive a wake-up call around 5 a.m. Freshen up and assemble at Golghar around 5.50. Sip your morning cuppa and take your seats in your respective safari coaches. You’ll be back sharp at 9 a.m. and your breakfast will be ready.

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Around 10 a.m., you can take a round of the river on a traditional coracle or you can opt for a regular motor boat. On this ride, we got to know from our boat driver Mr.Nair that just 35 kilometers through the river and we could land in my home state, Kerala.

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There is also an Ayurveda Wellness Centre, a unit of Vishwa Vaidya Ayurvedashram, Mangalore. They offer ayurvedic treatments for a rejuvenating experience in the enchanting woods. Mom and Dad enjoyed their share of body massages. If I were to believe Mom, the treatment did help her with her aching muscles for a few days.

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All their lives my parents have slogged for the sake of their respective families and for us. I don’t remember them taking a vacation ever. This was probably the least I could do for them.  While Dad enjoyed taking the girls around the property and help them with the swings, Mom was eagerly sharing her Botany knowledge with the excited girls.

That did leave me with ample time with my camera and I went Click, Click, Click!

The best part about visiting such rich wildlife resorts is that you get to meet inspirational people who patiently and persistently capture wildlife with their larger than life gadgets that make you feel like beginners at school. We had the good fortune of meeting Kalyan Verma, the famous BBC documentary man and Janardhan N Doraiswamy, who organises wildlife tours nationally and internationally. He did give us quite a few tips on photography workshops and the tricks of the trade. Much appreciated!

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I leave you with this overview of Kabini River Lodge, a JLR initiative. The next post will showcase the Nagarhole National Park experience and my wildlife encounters. Stay tuned!