Saturday, 30 July 2016

Praying Mantis

This afternoon we had a silent visitor in our verandah. Sitting on our hand embridered settee, it was tiny in size, slender legs, long forearms, large head which rotates, all green in colour-- any guesses? You would think it is a grass hopper. Even we thought so. Till Neeta and I went closer. It was a 'praying mantis'.

Why the name 'praying mantis? Because their upright posture, while remaining stationary with fore arms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis. See the picture below:

According to WikipediaMantises are an order (Mantodea) of insects that contains over 2,400 species and about 430 genera in 15 families.   
Mantises are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks. 
Their elongated bodies may or may not have wings, but all Mantodea have fore legs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey.

They are mostly ambush predatorsThey normally live for about a 
year. See the life cycle diagram of a praying mantis courtesy

Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates 
after copulation. Thank God this behaviour is limited only to the mantises.!

We had sighted another mantis in Feb-2015 called the 'Violin Mantis' as it resembles a violin in colour and shape. A picture from the previous story is reproduced below:

Hope you enjoyed viewing these tiny creatures. Do share your sightings with us.
Thanks for browsing

    Harsh-The-Ghumakkad/ 30th July 2016

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Wealth is the ability to

Life today is centered around a screen, be it a cellphone, laptop kindle or iPad. We are so engrossed in these 'impersonal' screens or beeps (WhatsApp updates and the like), that we lose sight of life around us. People 'talk' through a text message even though they are sitting next to each other. When on a holiday, you frantically 'shoot' pictures of monuments, places and forest. But you fail to 'feel' or admire the forest-- its silence, fallen leaves, dried tree trunks, bird calls, gentle breeze, morning dew or the aroma of the jungle. How many times have you 'paused' in your life to experience the life around you?

This PQ- in our picturesque quote series-- is inspired by  Henry David Thoreau's quotation, "Wealth is the ability to fully experience life" which is so relevant today. Wealth is not amassing currency, jewellery, cars, houses or other material assets, but it is the ability to experience life. Go on a hike, take a dive, walk in a forest, climb a hill, laugh loudly with friends, drive cross country and such crazy things. Or, on 'softer' side- play or listen to music, paint, write or read a poem, volunteer to help others and so on. All of these, help us in experiencing the life fully.

Did you recognise the picture? No, not the Niagara Falls. This one was shot in failing light from the cable car while approaching Bhedaghat near Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh India. It is a spectacular water fall and a deep gorge where river Narmada tears through soft marble rocks. If not yet been there, plan the next vacation.

Experiencing life reminds me of Srisailam Dam in Andhra Pradesh. During monsoons, when all the crest gates are opened, it is a sight to behold. See the picture below.

So, once in a while beat the humdrum of life, take a deep breath, pause and 'feel' the life around you.

Some of the earlier PQs on life are:
Darkness and blindness
Rose petals and Life
Life is like a Bicycle

Thanks for browsing

   -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 24th July 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

Red Crabs of Suryalanka

Ever seen a 'Red Crab'? Not one but in thousands? If not, then head straight to Suryanaka beach, near Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh India. In wet months of June-July, you can witness the grand spectacle of red crabs burrowing and resurfacing as the tide recedes. Watch them swim with the tide or walk in step with each other. Ghumakkad was in Suryalanka on 20th-22nd June and shot these pictures. Captions have been suggested and watermarked by Nikhil, my nine-year old grandson who was with us on the beach.
Where else are these red crabs found? As per National Geographic magazine, Red Crabs are found in Australia. These crabs also live in the burrows on Christmas Island south of Indonesia and migrate to the coastal zone during wet months. They are thus called Christmas Island Crabs. BBC has featured stories on Red Crabs found on the east coast of India. 

During our earlier visits to Suryalanka in the months of January and April, we had spotted the smaller sand bubbler crabs. These tiny crabs created sand galaxies on the beach. See the pictures from earlier posts below.

This time in the month of June, we saw the larger crabs-- the red crabs (about 4 inches plus in size). The tiny crabs (just one cm in size) could not be spotted in large numbers in June except a few. Is it that the sand bubbler crabs grow in to red crabs? Perhaps, some marine biologists can educate us on this question. Google could not answer it clearly.

You can see a red crab burrowing in the short video below.

Most of the crabs had twin antennae of equal height except a few where one 'dipole' appeared shorter.

Nikhil wanted to give all captions in red colour as the story pertained to red crabs. He had his say finally!

All the above pictures were taken on a cloudy morning which gave a dull effect. We were luckier in the evening when the sun came out-- and so did the crabs.
In these two short videos, you can see the red crabs in action at the beach.

Talking of perception, a military lensman like Ghumakkad saw a marching pattern in the way crabs were walking on the beach!
Even the crabs believe in the eco-friendly slogan 'leave only a foot print behind and no litter'!

As the shadows lengthened, crabs continued to be at work-- unlike humans who start watching the clock after it is 5 pm in the office!

Apart from the red crabs featured above, we also saw few baby crabs much like the sand bubbler crabs seen in Jan 2014.

In the next picture, the small crab almost crawled on to my feet at the beach sit out. Wonder if it was the same family or another species?

Here is an earlier picture of the tiny crab for comparison.

So, the question remains, are the sand bubbler crabs and red crabs different, or are they same family at different ages? 

We would appreciate answer to our query-- do sand bubbler crabs grow up as Red Crabs? Pictures or supporting links are welcome. That is how Ghumakkad learns-- by sharing knowledge.

Before we close, for those readers who feel repulsive looking at a crab, they can admire Suryalanka beach for its glorious sunrise as in the picture below:
Thanks for browsing,

    - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 15th July 2016

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Where is the gun on Gunrock

Gunrock in Secunderabad is a major landmark. Ghumakkad had brought you stories of Gunrock earlier (click here to view previous picture story Boulders Speak ). Every time we climb the rocks, camera's shutter doesn't stop clicking. But this story is special- because selection of pictures, giving a caption and watermarking-- has all been done by a nine year old! Thank you Nikhil for donning the role of Ghumakkad-the-Junior!

Cloudy Sunday morning in July-- not a perfect day for photography. But it was Junior Ghumakkad's last weekend in Secunderabad. So, five hikers set off at 6 AM. A word about each of them:
Nikhil: 4th grader from California USA. Loves soccer and hiking.
Dia: 9th grader from Army School, Secunderabad. A tennis enthusiast who writes well
Siddhi: Just finished school. Aspires to be a veterinarian. Loves Nature and photography.
Sridhar: Former Captain, Indian Army. Fitness guru who loves gardening.
Harsh: The Ghumakkad- not in the picture below.
No more writing. Let the pictures with captions  by Nikhil do the talking.

Hurray, we have done it!

This is the water tank on top of the Gunrock.

 The water tank built in 1882, continues to be in use.

 We met another family who had toddlers climbing the rocks very deftly.
While climbing the rocks, we shot a 30 second video of a millipede who seemed to be hiking with us. 

Continuing with our story, another picture of the millipede below.
 Most of us get confused between millipedes and centipedes. Centipedes are found in homes as well and move very fast. Whereas, millipedes move slowly and live in burrows. A comparative sketch explaining the differences is reproduced from the net below.

Another small creature spotted by us is the beetle with yellow spots.

 Wild flowers break the monotony of barren rocks.
 Rocks and boulders around Gunrock  have interesting shapes.

 The area around Gunrock appeared much cleaner this time. My last hike was 4 months ago. This was thanks to Indian Army. See the picture below.
All the five hikers taking a break. The picture captures the moods of everyone.
Hope you liked the effort of a nine-year old. Nikhil did a splendid job and says "Bye Hyderabad" as he leaves tomorrow for next part of his India vacation.

Before we close, the question remains 'where is the gun on Gunrock'? You are welcome to clarify the mystery of the missing gun.

Thanks for browsing

    - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad with Nikhil-the-junior-Ghumakkad/ 7th July 2016