Went on road trip to LA last week and drove on CA 1 passing Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey bay. With scenes like this and breaching whales, we’re bound to come back here for a longer visit. More pictures as well.

Went on road trip to LA last week and drove on CA 1 passing Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey bay. With scenes like this and breaching whales, we’re bound to come back here for a longer visit. More pictures as well.

Catching up on Grails and Groovy

It’s been a while since I wrote about anything related to technology. In the last couple of months, I have had the time to catch up on a whole bunch of topics. This includes some unfinished courses on Coursera, some books and also technology. 

I did my first reading of Effective Java. It’s an awesome book if you already are familiar with the programming language. I cannot believe that I hadn’t read this book all this while I was working on Java. I could relate to most of the content in the book with past experiences working with the language. I would highly recommend it if you haven’t read it already. 

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Here are some interesting topics that I found that you might want to read. 

The exceptional performance of Lil’ Exception - this article dissects the happenings in the JVM on the topic of Exception handling and makes an interesting case on why programmers should not use exceptions, unless absolutely necessary. 

I have found myself revisiting a lot of code bits from our product over the last two months, and given our choice of stack, I did find it a little daunting. This wiki page about Groovy style and language feature guidelines for Java programmers is a great starting point for people wanting to make the transition from Java to Groovy - code writing wise. 

There are whole bunch of videos from Greach Conference on their YouTube channel that you might want to watch, especially if you are working on the Groovy/Grails stack. Find them here:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreachChannel

I am excited about the new REST support in Grails and also updates to the spring security framework to work with Grail’s REST support. If you are building APIs, especially for Mobile apps and HTML5 (AngularJS) based front ends, then Grails should definitely be on your list of server side frameworks. It provides a great way to express both a web(browser) front end and a RESTful interface with very little configuration. There are also a whole bunch of Async features in 2.3 (riding on top of the GPars library) that is worth checking out. 

… relentless quest to pin-point the exact date of the main battle of the Mahabharata. Despite what the brainwashed pinko Commie agents tell you, we all know that there is nothing metaphorical about our ancient texts. It’s all literal. These events actually happened. As you can see, these aren’t just stories passed from one generation to the next until someone was thoughtful enough to note it down. Nope. These were passed around word for word, without the narrator’s biases or abilities of comprehension interfering with the narrative.

http://scroll.in/article/670643/Biased-liberal-mafia-takes-on-India’s-new-head-of-historical-research 

Mahabharata is definitely the more believable text among Hindu mythologies, but there are still some outrageous things about the whole thing. Case in point Ghatotkacha. The problem with far right is the very essence of the paragraph, stubbornness to consider an alternate theory or think with an open mind. 

Birding in the new world

I’m excited to be birding in the new world and observing new species of animals and plants. I have already been on 3 birding trips and I’m beginning to identify and spot common birds. I have heard from many folks that birding in the west is way different from birding in India. Even with my limited experience, I can already begin to see the differences in culture. 

I love the concept of open preserves and county parks that carve out a space for wildlifers like me to explore. These are small preserves and National parks that are marked and closed for private use. The landscape in my immediate vicinity is a mix of dry shrub thickets called the chaparral habitat. They can be likened to India’s shola grasslands in the western Ghats. 

I was lucky enough to be part of the Palo Alto annual bird count and I had a great birder friend, Vivek Tewari,  who took me along. We saw about 30+ species of birds in a span of about 6 hours. Obviously every single bird was a lifer for me and I got a good tutorial on the bio-diversity and ecology of California. Pictured below are two highlights from that day. My first shot of an Anna’s Hummingbird and a Gopher snake. In my last 5 years being a wildlife enthusiast I have never encountered a snake in the wild. On this day, we saw a total of 4 snakes in total, sunning themselves in the afternoon sun. 

I am looking forward to birding in the new world! 

The problem with the normals and tech is the same as the problem with the normals and politics, or society in general. People believe they are powerless and alone, but the only thing that keeps people powerless and alone is that same belief. People, working together, are immensely and terrifyingly powerful.

Everything is broken - on medium https://medium.com/message/81e5f33a24e1 

A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 
Zoom Info
A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 
Zoom Info
A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 
Zoom Info
A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 
Zoom Info
A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 
Zoom Info

A series of images to remind us of the beauty of our natural world. A friend once said, “that which you can’t see, you won’t conserve”. This, may be, is my way of reminding us all about what we are trying to save. 

Critically endangered birds of India

I found this image shared on BNHS’ Facebook page and was both intrigued and saddened. Of the birds on the list, I happened to see the Red Headed Vulture on my second safari in India. I couldn’t comprehend the excitement amongst other birders then. We also looked for the Great Indian Bustard in Greater Rann, their supposed breeding ground but couldn’t find any.

 

Steppe Eagle - Greater Rann of Kutch

While driving toward a particular rocky hill in the Greater Rann of Kutch, we saw this magnificent raptor sitting right on top. The Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) is a big bird, about  60 to 80 cms in size, and is hard to miss. These raptors are migratory birds who spend their summers in the Steppes and then head south for winter. The ones that reside in the Mongolian and Russian region, migrate to India during the winter, crossing the mighty Himalayas in their journey. It generally prefers dry desert like surroundings and its diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds. 

Birdlife states that their population is decreasing and puts estimates of around 1 bird per 100 sq km radius. The best place to sight them is in their migratory path, where they form flocks of hundreds while crossing tricky terrain or feeding sites. 

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How to prepare for a birdwatching trip

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I have been birding for a while now and I must say, I enjoy it thoroughly. Birding is one of the easiest ways to observe nature. You just have to look out of your window or balcony, or visit a nearby park/lake and watch for birds. But, if you were to take a short trip for birding, this is when you need some preparation. Here’s my quick checklist of things you need before birding. 

Learn about the area

Learn a little about the area you are visiting. Speak to people who have visited the place before and know what to expect. Use the internet: a simple search on your favorite search engine for “«birding location» trip report” will tell you a lot about the place and its biodiversity.

Also, understand what to expect in terms of species. In my experience, while birding in India, guides will only show you stuff that you ask for. Make sure you know enough to tell the guide what you are expecting to see. A simple search on flickr, 500px or any good image search engine for the location will give you photos of species you can expect. Make a checklist if you can’t remember them all. 

Gear and Essentials

Here’s a list of things to follow/carry when going birding

  1. Wear comfortable and dull colored clothing. Birds are usually wary of people and you need to blend in to the surroundings as much as possible. 
  2. Birding involves a lot of walking, so wear comfortable walking shoes
  3. Carry a book and a pen to note down birds or their characteristics if you don’t know the name.
  4. Carry a cap or a hat if you plan to bird for long. 
  5. In cases of cold mornings, wear layers rather than a thick sweater. That way, if you do feel warm later in the day, you can shed that layer and be comfortable. 
  6. A good pair of binoculars (you can rent them if you don’t have one). A good starter would be this Olympus 8*40 binoculars.
  7. Most good birding destinations are away from the city, so bring some water and food along
  8. A field guide to help you identify birds. Grimm Skip (Birds of the Indian Subcontinent), as it’s colloquially called, is a great field guide for India. 

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For the photographers

If you are into bird photography, there are a couple of other things you might want to carry on the field. Here’s my list:

  1. A good camera with good zoom. A good semi pro camera with digital zoom should be good enough to start. DSLR’s allow for more creative options. 
  2. For the DSLR folk, buy/rent a nice wildlife lens. Most birds and animals will stay as far away from us humans as possible, and if you need shots of small birds, you will need the focal length. Anything upwards of 250mm to 300mm should be sufficient. You can rent from Tapps, Toehold among others if you are in the Bangalore area. 
  3. Carry extra batteries/battery grip and memory cards. And leave your camera bag in your vehicle if you are walking.
  4. You might also want to look at buying/renting a monopod if you are shooting in canopied forests or in diffused sunlight. This looks like a sturdy enough monopod to start with
  5. If you are going to a dusty place, get a cover for your lens and camera. 

Ethics

This is a heavily written about topic and there are tons of articles you can look up on the web. Here are some articles you can start with. 

Principles of birding ethics 

Here’s another that I really liked: The ethics of nature photography and the ostracising of photographers 

That’s it. Oh, and lastly, go along with a good group, that appreciates birdwatching, and you will find your birding experience to be even more rewarding. If you are in Bangalore, join the local birding community bngbirds

Man is Evolution’s greatest mistake!

George B Schaller 

Unsure about the author. Picked up from an email signature on bngbirds mailing list.