Sunday, December 9, 2018

Exploring Cintacor island resort, Kurumgad, karwar

Flickr recently changed it's stance on free storage and unlimited web hosting.
To avoid the risk of having broken images in all of the blog, I've decided I'll stick to videos with image slideshows.

A very generous invitation from Raju sir had Pavan and me make necessary leave plans to explore the amazing Cintacor island resort. An overnight bus ride followed by a boat ride and we were all set to explore the flora and fauna.

Enjoy! Adios till the next ride ;)


Friday, November 9, 2018

The biodiverse Indraprastha - Spider meet 2018

Got the opportunity to be part of this year's Team Saaliga Spider meet at Indraprastha, Mysore. Team Saaliga has been doing some great work in spreading awareness about spiders.
Wriggled out of Bangalore to reach just past lunch time. Was amazed to see myself surrounded by lots of shrubs (and definitely not by chance, this is a result of decades of intent and proper execution). Entering the gates and gazing around I could notice something almost on every single plant/leaf. That was just a trailer, so to speak, of the biodiversity we would feast our eyes on later at night.

A heady mix of researchers, nature lovers - we were in for some great learnings. And for me, personally, not having to feel as a misfit :D
Quick welcome session and introductions set the tone for the highly interactive talks on Spiders. Anatomy, behavior, hunting and breeding strategies discussed in detail, with some great visuals. With new found knowledge, we were all set to observe better in the field. Some lipsmacking snacks followed the official release of Team Saaliga logo by the Mysore DC.

Spilt into two teams, we set out to explore. We wanted to explore and cover a lot of area, but the rich density of life ensured we were moving at a snail's pace. Almost every plant giving something to observe.

We started with this Crab spider (Thomisidae) blending in perfectly on a flowery branch
Crab spider, blend mode ON!

The Social behavior of the Chikunia spider, multiple spiders with their spiderlings in close proximity
Chikunia spider with freshly hatched  spiderlings

Cellar spiders in plenty, many of them holding onto their eggs bundles
Cellar spider, Pholcidae with eggs

Cellar spider, Pholcidae with eggs

Most corners/gaps between leaves were taken up by Orb weavers
Neoscona with web

Wrapping up freshly caught prey with silk from it's spinnerets
Wrapping prey in silk! A tiny orb weaver making short work

Signature spiders were found in plenty too, owing to the abundance in prey the relative size of almost all spiders we found were LARGE!
Signature spider, Argiope sp

Some pretty flowers around!
Flower for ID


Flowers for ID

Dandelion, looking like a bursting firework

A hunstman lying in wait to ambush anything that gets close

A beautiful Dartlet
Golden dart

Palm dart
Palm dart

Mating moths
Mating moths

Freshly moulted cockroach
Freshly moulted cockroach

Weaver ants tending to scale insects
Weaver ants tending to scale insects

Fly resting on flower

A funny looking Derbid planthopper
Derbid planthopper

The wing shape is unique and fascinating!
Derbid planthopper, rear view

Long legged fly
Long legged fly

Cricket nymph
Cricket nymph

Resting honeybee
Resting honey bee

A few more fascinating spiders

Long jawed spider, Tetragnathidae
Long jawed spider, Tetragnathidae

Sac spider
Sac spider, Clubionidae

Wolf spider
Wolf spider, Lycosidae

The devil! Portia sp
The devil! Portia

The Mirror spider, Thwaitesia sp.  Couldn't manage a side-on image showing the "mirror"

Mirror spider, Thwaitesia sp

This beautiful Crab spider

Comes in white too!
Crab spider, Thomisidae

The striking Hamadruas


Brettus juvenile
Brettus juvenile

Perfect moult of a Huntsman
Huntsman moult

If you're a thirsty bee/fly, there's no way you'd notice that camouflage. In fact Sumukha mentioned the UV emission from the spider attracts the bee/fly closer
Crab spider, blending in!

Tree trunk spider, Herennia female
Tree trunk spider, Herennia sp

Two striped jumping spider, Telamonia female.
Two striped jumping spider, Telamonia female

Some images to showcase how effective and critical spiders are as pest control, maintatining the delicate balance in the ecosystem
Crab spider, with honeybee kill
Crab spider with honey bee kill

Parawixia with grasshopper
Parawixia with grasshopper kill

Rhene feasting on Chironomidae
Rhene with non-biting midge kill

Indraprastha is the brainchild of Mr.Chandrashekar, having taken up Organic farming and put it into perfect practice - the place truly is a rich biodiversity hotspot. Species covered here are a miniscule subset. The team was able to identify 81 species of spiders.

The hospitality and great food from Team Saaliga and the APC family was amazing to experience :) Thank you for opening the gates and our eyes to the wondrous world at Indraprastha!


Monday, September 17, 2018

Welcoming the Olympus, for macro!

My own Olympus kit arrived mid-week. Thanks to Gaurav (kunwar.g) and Vimal for the wide angle 14-42. Sagar, Ravindra and Sateesh for managing shipping, co-ordination and getting it to Bangalore.

I was hooked onto the Olympus system ever since I tried it during the Agumbe trip, thanks to a very generous friend. The level of customizability, the light weight, Focus peaking, no dim-VF, etc. ensured it didn't take too long before I had my own setup, atleast for macro!

Picked the Olympus OMD EM-10 mark2 to get started with the mirrorless micro-four thirds system. Had all the features from higher bodies, barring the additional button layout, weather sealing and scaling of megapixels available in EM5 and EM1.

Edit: Adding some reasoning for the switch
To me, the added apparent focal length and DoF (almost 1.5x compared to the APSC sensor) was helpful, more so for high magnification macro. The light(er) system, bright EVF (allowing me to shoot fully manual lenses stepped down) plus the in-camera focus stacking, coupled with focus peaking tilted the favor towards the OMD

The lens of choice for macro was the Zuiko 60mm macro, there really was no confusion since I'd seen it's capability during earlier trip(s). The last gear I'd picked was more than 4 years ago. With this switch the mind started racing with several combinations of lenses to help replace the second body (40D)
Picked the 14-42mm to kind of replace the kit lens. Planning for a 40-150mm to replace the Canon 55-250mm focal length. Intend to use the Olympus setup for travel, given how light this is. This has sort of rekindled shooting other genres.

The menu controls are a treat! Almost every button is customizable, the bright EVF and focus peaking makes it a breeze to operate. The option to manually set focal length of the manual lens being mounted (for Stabilization) is brilliant, every lens you mount is automatically stabilized now. The IBIS rocks, very apparent during video shooting!

Tested it out over the weekend. Beginning with the macro lens

Flowers for ID

Mimosa pudica, flower

Coromandel marsh dart

Scorpion-tailed spider, Arachnura  sp

Aphids being tended to by ants


Ricaniidae planthopper nymph

Crab spider on a flower


Common pierrot

Ashok was kind to pass on the Canon-MFT adapter. This helped me mount the Canon tele on the Olympus, increases reach by a factor of 1.5x (almost like shooting with a TC on). The setup is highly unbalanced though, huge lens - tiny body!
The bright EVF and focus peaking helped with the adapted Canon 400mm f5.6, a few bird images

Purple moorhen

Purple moorhen

Pelican amongst Cormorants

The video mode was refreshing to use, the IBIS sure did help

A Purple moorhen looking for food in Lily roots

Spot billed pelican glide and landing

It's fun having something pocket sized with versatility, almost feels like a small toy in my rather large hands. Being used to the gripped 7D, handling this is taking some getting used to. Will add on a grip for better handling very soon.

Battery life is nowhere close to that of a DSLR, guess who is going to be lugging around half  dozen batteries!

Any questions or inputs - please leave a comment :)