Henry Rufous Treepie – Guest post by Karishma S.

Posted 4 July 2018 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: animal behaviour, animal rescue, birds, guest posts, nature

Tags: , ,

Henry Rufous Treepie

This is Henry, the young treepie I recently rescued after he fell down from his nest. I waited for his mom to come after the fall but when that never happened, I took him in. He was quite scared initially but later on adapted and used to mingle well with me. He never liked being in the cage so he used to sit upon my shoulder like a boss and keep observing keenly as I used to roam around the house doing some job or the other. A few days later when I took him out into the garden, his mother spotted him and flew down to feed him. This was an extremely heartening sight and Henry’s excitement knew no bounds. So this became a routine, his mom would come and feed him three to four times a day and if in between he felt hungry I would give him some egg. I must say he was one eating machine.

Each day he would make some progress in his flying. Though His mother tried to guide him to the nest during the initial days, he used to get stuck in thick bushes or some large canopy after which I would’ve had to get him down. I knew he was a tough guy and would someday make it to the nest.

Ready to travel!

He used to love hopping around in the garden pecking at almost everything he found, trying to eat it 😂. But the fact that he was fearless was disadvantageous for he would hop up to every other bird that came into the garden expanding his social circle but wasn’t wary of the fact that some birds could be predators too. I saved him twice from getting swooped up by hawks or kites and his mother used to keep an eye on cats lurking around and used to shout and alert us whenever she spotted one.

The little treepie was hyperactive. Once he was confident of his flying skills he would fly from one sofa to the other and everywhere inside the house. He was very adorable I must say.

Very soon, on the 13th day of his arrival when I took him out into the garden for his breakfast a surprising thing happened. He took a long flight guided by his parents and reached one of the branches of the mango tree he fell from. Following that he kept hopping from one branch to another finally reaching the nest where he was greeted by his sibling.

If you let a treepie get to your head, you may enjoy it! 🙂

Everyday, I observe little Henry hopping here and there around the nest. He replies back whenever I call out his name.
I’m proud of my little treepie and hope he attains greater heights. This experience taught me how well animals learn to adapt and connect with each kind of environment they are exposed to.

PS- I’m sure he would be bossing over his sibling now and showing off his flying skills to him 😂😂

Note: Karishma S. is a member of the Painted Storks Nature Club.

I Glued Myself To A Crocodile

Posted 3 September 2016 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: nature

I glued myself to a crocodile - image copyright  Jim Jourdane.

I glued myself to a crocodile – (Image copyright Jim Jourdane. Used under Fair Use)

I glued myself to a crocodile,
It wasn’t what I wanted to do,
As I fixed a radio transmitter,
The croc shook, my tube shook,
I was stuck with glue.

John held the head with a rope,
tied it to the pier rail,
Elmo held the rope of the tail,
tightly lest his grip fail.

I shrieked to Maya for immediate aid,
she kept her head, dropped her phone,
ran to the van, found my bag in my bed,
got my nailpolish remover, it’s acetone.

It came to me by flight,
but with God’s grace,
I caught it just right,
and with my teeth took a bite,

whipped off the bottle cap,
poured it all on my hand,
wrested my hand off right
then and jumped to land.

The poor croc cursed me,
splashed me, doused me,
but my job was done,
and now we could follow … my hand!

(Written by Ashwin Uncle when he saw the funny cartoon on BoredPanda & this doggerel is published under ; Creative Commons 4.0 BY-SA. The image is copyrighted by Jim Jourdane and used under “Fair Use”.)

Dedicated to Agata Staniewicz and Jim Jourdane by Ashwin Uncle when he saw this cartoon today

“I Illustrate Humorous Stories Of Scientists Failures” by Jim Jourdane
(url – http://www.boredpanda.com/i-illustrate-scientists-failures/)

Bukbuk’s Sleepytime Adventure

Posted 17 August 2016 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: marmots, mountains, nature, podcast, stories, winter

Tags: , , , ,


Bukbuk was not sleepy. He lived in a burrow with his parents on a mountain meadow in the Ladakh Himalayas near a place called Dras. It was the first winter of his lfe. He had drunk lot of his Mamma’s milk and eaten crunchy greens, bulbs, roots and shoots and now he was fat, soft, round and furry. But he was not sleepy.

Pa Buk and Ma Buk had told him all about it. That it would snow for many months, and that they had to sleep through all of it. It was a great adventure called “HIBERNATION”.

Pa Buk said, “Bukbuk. its time to hibernate. All Himalayan Marmots hibernate. You have eaten enough and all you need to do is go to sleep. Just take a small nap, and you will fall fully asleep without realising it, and once you wake up, it will be spring.”

Naughty Bukbuk was not happy. As usual, he loved doing “masti” (which means mischief in Hindi language). He was full of energy and wanted to play. He did not want to sleep. Not just yet.

Ma Buk said, “Bukbuk, this is not a normal sleep through the night. When you fall asleep, you will only wake up after a very long time. Pa Buk and I are sleeping on both sides of you. If you do get up and its dark, check if we are sleeping or awake. If we are sleeping, just curl up again next to me and go back to sleep. I will wake you when the warm winds melt the snow in Spring.”

But naughty Bukbuk only thought “Arre waah, if Ma and Pa are asleep, I can do masti and have fun without any-one coming to know!”

But Pa Buk knew Bukbuk very well and he warned him.

“Bukbuk, the winter is a very dangerous time for marmots. The safest thing to do is sleep, becuase it is dark, cold, windy and snowy. And there is still danger. The Snow Fox comes out in winter and catches pikas. If any marmot gets up and goes around in winter, he can die. And we won’t be awake to help you!”

Bukbuk had no choice. Pa Buk closed up the burrow. Ma Buk made a cosy nest of grass and straw, put Bukbuk on it and patted him to sleep while singing a lullaby. Though Bukbuk didn’t want to, slowly his eyes drooped and he slept!

Time passed. Outside cold winds blew. Snow fell and blanketed the mountainside. The rocks, earth, plants all got covered under snow, and every where, if one was awake, one could see a smooth white landscape.

Then something happened! The sun shone for a while and a little snow melted. It made its way through the earth into the marmot burrow. And a single drop fell from the roof of the burrow onto Bukbuk’s head!


Startled, Bukbuk awoke. He rubbed his little paws on his eyes and looked around. It was totally dark. Beside him, he could feel and hear Ma Buk and Pa Buk sleeping deeply. Slowly his eyes adjusted to the dark. The air was cold, but not too cold.

He shook Ma Buk but she didn’t respond. He shook Pa Buk and he did not wake up either. Ma told me, I should go back to sleep, thought Bukbuk!

But wouldn’t it be fun to just have a look-see at the world in winter?

So he made his way from his cosy nest, through the living burrow and passage to the front door. Pa Buk had blocked it with some mud and plant material and it was frozen. Bukbuk gave a soft push. The block moved a little but sprang back. He pushed harder, and it shifted slightly. A little light was now visible. Bukbuk squeezed through and went out onto the front porch of the Buk burrow. This is Bukbuk’s favourite place and he likes to sit out here and look all around him.

Bukbuk had been here before, but it now looked and felt different. First of all it was very cold not warm. There was a thin layer of snow and the porch felt slippery. Sitting on the porch froze Bukbuk’s bottom but he was curious and looked all around.

Bukbuk was used to seeing all green and brown both all around him and on the mountain opposite, but now it was white, brown and black everywhere. All around him, the snow shone where the sun rays reflected off it and it hurt his eyes to look there. So he looked at the stream next to his burrow on the right – it was gone except for some small ice patches.

The wind now began to flow gently, it was very cold and gave Bukbuk the shivers. But he was not done looking around as yet.

High across the valley, the shining blue lake called as Pariyon ka Talaab (which means the Lake of Fairies in Hindi) had not frozen though it was mid-winter, but the waters now looked dark and mysterious.

The wind picked up more and now the chill went into Bukbuk’s bones. His paws, ears, feet, tail and nose began to hurt. But Bukbuk still looked around.

The sun was shining; the sky was blue but about a third of it was covered with a dark cloud which promised even more snow. It was growing darker, soon the clouds would cover the sun. All over the wind now began to howl, and the wind began to freeze Bukbuk and it also pushed him slowly towards the edge.

Bukbuk realised he was in danger. He desperately scrambled back into the burrow and was barely able to make it when the sun was covered by the dark clouds. The wind roared and if Bukbuk had remained there for just one second, he would have been blown off the mountain to his death. He squeezed in through the slightly open door and stood trembling. He was very, very cold.

After he got over his fright, he pushed the door shut. Fortunately the door was intact. Bukbuk crawled back into the burrow and cuddled up to his mother. Feeling a cold body next to her, she reached out, half-asleep, pulled him close to her. She held Bukbuk to her breast and fed him milk. Slowly Bukbuk thawed, and his mother’s warmth made him feel better. The warm milk filled his tummy and he felt drowsy. Soon he fell asleep.

When he awoke, there was light around, the air was fresh. Ma Buk and Pa Buk were not next to him. And he felt hungry. It was not cold anymore. Bukbuk rushed to the entrance of the burrough where his parents sat looking out.

The snow was melting, green grass was showing in some places. The streams were flowing full. The sunshine warmed his back. The lake on the hill opposite was a shining summer blue again.

The world looked friendly and harmless. Soon he would need to eat.

Then he remembered his experience on that dark winter day. He wondered should I tell Ma and Pa Buk about it? He thought, if they ask me, I will tell them, otherwise not. Bukbuk realised that his parents had told him what was right and protected him from danger yet again.

Do you think Bukbuk has learnt his lesson or will he continue to be a naughty marmot?


Image copyright : ~melanie~ ( www.flickr.com/photos/15199884@N04/ ) / Flickr, All rights reserved by ~melanie~, used here under Fair Use.

Bukbuk’s First Adventure

Posted 8 August 2016 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: marmots, mountains, nature, podcast, raptors, stories

Tags: , , , ,


There never was a naughtier marmot than BukBuk. He lived in a flowery meadow high up in the Himalayas with his Pappa and Mamma!

Bukbuk loved his home. It was under a large rock on the mountain and faced the South. A stream nearby gave them water to drink. Grasses and plants all around meant there was a lot of food for them.

Best of all there was a flat rock just outside his burrow. BukBuk and his parents sat on this rock and enjoyed the sun in their face. It was on this rock that Pappa Marmot taught Bukbuk each day. Bukbuk learnt about the way marmots whistle when they see an enemy such as an eagle.

But most of all, he loved to sit alone on the warm rock, with his nose high in the air to smell the wild flowers and let the wind tickle his whiskers!

But Mamma Marmot would not allow him to sit alone!

“Why can’t I sit on the rock in the sun?”, Bukbuk said crossly.

“Because its dangerous for a young marmot to sit alone out there!”, said Mamma.

Bukbuk didn’t believe it. He had sat there so often and nothing had happened! He had not even heard a real emergency whistle in his life!

One day Bukbuk’s parents went in search of lily bulbs for the larder. Bukbuk was alone. Immediately he thought, “This is chance to sit in the sun alone! After all its so close to the door. I’ll come in very soon and nobody needs even to know!”

Bukbuk went out. He sat on the rock and looked all around. There was a warm sun and a light wind. “This is so much fun, he thought!” The warm rock felt so good that he began to feel drowsy. Bukbuk dozed.

All of sudden, he heard an emergency whistle. He woke with a fright and looked up. A dark shadow blocked the sun. The shadow grew in size. Bukbuk suddenly realised that a very large bird was diving towards him shrieking. It was an EAGLE!!!! Claws held forward, the eagle descended on poor BukBuk. There was no time to turn and run back home. Bukbuk rolled off the rock ro the right and down the slope.

The Eagle narrowly missed him, hitting the rock instead. Bukbuk rolled into a grass patch. For a split second, he was hidden from the Eagle’s view. His heart thumping, he ran as fast as he could downhill towards a hollow rotten tree trunk. The enraged eagle flapped his wings, changed direction and streaked after Bukbuk. He did not mean to miss his meal today.

Bukbuk ran through the grass. He dodged around the stones. In panic, whenever he felt the eagle was about to catch him, he changed direction. He managed to remain just out of reach of the eagle’s claws. Bukbuk reached the log safely.

But the eagle reached there too! Screaming and shrieking, it tore at the soft crumbling wood with its claws. The log began to come apart. Very soon the log would break and Bukbuk would be caught!

Bukbuk looked around frantically! What to do next?

He saw a small burrow nearby. It was narrow but large enough for a young marmot to enter. But it was five feet away. The eagle could catch him on the way. But the eagle was about to finish tearing the log apart. Bukbuk was sure to get caught if he stayed.

Bukbuk fled for the hole! Immediately the eagle pursued. It looked like Bukbuk wouldn’t make it. He dived strainght into the hole. As Bukbuk entered the hole, sharp claws pierced his back and blood spurted. But he was safe. The eagle’s claws could not hold onto Bukbuk who was already deep in the hole.

The enraged Eagle shrieked and tore at the entrance. Deep inside, Bukbuk sat in the dark, bleeding and trembling. Bukbuk felt soft muzzles and whiskers on all sides. It was the Pika family who lived in the burrow.

Time passed. A light rain began outside. A mist descended on the meadow. Marmots could be heard moving around, whistling. Mr Pika accompanied a trembling Bukbuk back to his horrified parents.

Bukbuk’s mother licked off the blood and comforted him. Bukbuk’s father complimented him on his quick thinking. They both asked Bukbuk to be very careful as marmots have many enemies.

Do you think Bukbuk learnt his lesson?

This podcast / script has been written by Ashwin Uncle specifically for the Painted Storks Nature Club. On the request of the club members, this is being shared with all the kids of the world. And so the podcast and the script are licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution-required Sharealike license, which means you can use and distribute this podcast freely and also derive works from it but you must attribute me (Ashwin Baindur), you cannot change its license and all the works derived from this podcast need to be under the same Creative Commons license or an equivalent free license.

* Narrated and recorded by : Ashwin Baindur
* Story by : Ashwin Baindur
* License for podcast and script : Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution-required Sharealike ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ )
* Short url for podcast –  http://bit.ly/2bbyAlW
* Short url for script – http://wp.me/p4f3X-Rv
* Image copyright : Christopher J. Fynn / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8058274

* Find Bukbuk’s stories on Soundcloud at this link : http://bit.ly/bukbukall


Remembering Maiwand

Posted 27 April 2016 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: nature

Tags: , , ,

The massacre of the 66th Foot at Maiwand!

The year was 1880. The heat in the Afghan countryside was fierce. As
the troops formed up the approaching Afghan hordes spanned the horizon
– there were 25,000 Afghans and Ghazis while the small contingent of
three battalions, one British, H.M. 66th Regiment, and two Indian –
Jacob’s Rifles and Bombay Grenadiers took position and readied
themselves. With them was a half-company of the 2nd Company, Bombay
Sappers and Miners, led by Lt Thomas Rice Henn, R.E. They took their positions
in the centre with two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery.

Lt Thomas Rice Henn, R.E. posted with the Bombay Sappers

Lt Thomas Rice Henn, R.E. posted with the Bombay Sappers

The Second Afghan War had seen events going well for the British. They
had defeated Afghan tribesmen at Ali Masjid, Peiwar Kotal, Kabul, and
Ahmed Khel, and they had occupied numerous towns and villages,
including Kandahar and Jalalabad. Ayub Khan, the younger son of the
Emir of Afghanistan, Sher Ali, who had been holding Herat during the
British operations at Kabul and Kandahar, set out towards Kandahar
with a small army in June, and a brigade under Brigadier General
Burrows was detached from Kandahar to oppose him. Burrows advanced to
Helmand, opposite Gereshk, to oppose Ayub Khan, but was there deserted
by the Afghan troops of his ally, the wali of Kandahar, and forced to
retreat to Kushk-i-Nakhud, halfway to Kandahar. In order to prevent
Ayub from passing to Ghazni, Burrows advanced to Maiwand on July 27
and attacked Ayub, who had already seized that place.


The Afghan onslaught fell on the left flank comprising the Indian
infantry who gave way and rolled in a great wave to the right, the
66th Regiment, the backbone of defence, were swept away by the
pressure of the Ghazi attack. The 66th were in turn swept away and
decimated. Only the artillery and the Bombay Sappers under Lt Henn
stood fast, an island of calm in themaelstrom, covering the retreat of
the entire British Brigade. Seeing that they were covered by the
Bombay Sappers the British artillery fought till their their
ammunition was expended,and then abandoned their guns. Henn made his
men stand up and fire a volley at the crowd of Ghazis and Afghan
regulars pouring down upon them. Then he gave the order to retire
steadily. He had been wounded in the arm some time before this, but
remained with his men to the last.

The Royal Horse Artillery flees from the Afghans at Maiwand

The Royal Horse Artillery flees from the Afghans at Maiwand

Henn and 14 of his men followed the line of retreat of the 66th
towards the wall of the first garden across a large
nullah, and in a small water-channel in that garden, which was in a
place called Khig, they joined some remnants of the 66th and Bombay
Grenadiers. The battle churned on with the Afghans wiping out the
several small parties which had formed after the line had broken up
until only one remained, that of the 66th, the Grenadiers and Sappers
at Khig.

Here, in this small garden, at a spot undistinguished except for the
bravery shown there, a determined last stand was made. Though the
Afghans shot them down one by one, they fired steadily until only
eleven of their number were left, and the survivors then charged out
into the masses of the enemy and perished. Henn was the only officer
in that band and he led the final charge. He died while fighting,
firing a rifle all the while, from a shot to the head.

The Battle of Maiwand was one of the principal battles of the Second
Anglo-Afghan War. The Afghan followers of Ayub Khan defeated the
British Army in one of the rare nineteenth-century victories of an
Asian force over a Western power. For this however, Ayub Khan paid a
heavy price: between 2,050 and 2,750 Afghan warriors were killed and
probably about 1,500 wounded, while killing 969 British and Indian
soldiers and wounding 177 more. The British were completely routed,
and had to thank the pity and apathy of the Afghans for escaping total
annihilation. The 2nd Company, Bombay Sappers and Miners lost 16 dead,
including Henn, and 6 wounded.

As the survivors trickled in, of the Bombay Sappers Of the Bombay
Sappers who did not perish at Khig, a party of about a dozen men
reached Kandahar. One of this party added that, when a few men had
collected together, they decided that it was improper to straggle into
the city and accordingly fell in under the senior Sapper to make a
suitable entry and marched into Kandahar as a formed body. Others,
mostly wounded, arrived on camels, wagons or limbers. Thus, even in
defeat the discipline of the Corps held good.

While, the battle dampened morale for the British side, it was also
partly a disappointment for Ayub Khan, Governor of Herat and commander
of the Afghans in this battle, because he had lost so many men to gain
a small advantage. Ayub Khan did manage to shut the British up in
Kandahar, resulting in General Frederick Roberts’s famous 314-mile
relief march from Kabul to Kandahar in August of 1880. The resulting
Battle of Kandahar on September 1 was a decisive victory for the
British, ending operations in southern Afghanistan during the War.

A marble monument to Thomas Rice Henn can be seen in St. Patrick’s
Cathedral in Dublin and a memorial window in Rochester Cathedral. The
inscription on the monument records that “having led into action a
detachment of the Bombay Sappers and Miners he perished gloriously on
the fatal field of Maiwand on July 27th, 1880, covering with a small
but indomitable band-eleven in number-the retreat of the entire
British brigade.”

The memorial plaque for Thomas Rice Henn in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

The memorial plaque for Thomas Rice Henn in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Maiwand went into British military legend. Rudyard Kipling
wrote of the plight of the 66th :

“There was thirty dead an’ wounded on the ground we wouldn’t keep –
No, there wasn’t more than twenty when the front began to go;
But, Christ! along the line o’ flight they cut us up like sheep,
An’ that was all we gained by doing so.

I ‘eard the knives be’ind me, but I dursn’t face my man,
Nor I don’t know where I went to, ’cause I didn’t ‘alt to see,
Till I ‘eard a beggar squealin’ out for quarter as ‘e ran,
An’ I thought I knew the voice an’ – it was me!

We was ‘idin’ under bedsteads more than ‘arf a march away;
We was lyin’ up like rabbits all about the countryside;
An’ the major cursed ‘is Maker ’cause ‘e lived to see that day’
An’ the colonel broke ‘is sword acrost, an’ cried.”

When Arthur Conan Doyle had to find a suitable foil for his
idiosyncratic detective, he portrayed him as as a regimental medical
officer injured by a Ghazi jezail at Maiwand to give him an excuse for
his spare time and availability to Homes.

Watson & Holmes

Watson & Holmes

So as great stories go, Maiwand was added to Islandlwana and Dunkirk
and other military tales. Henn and his gallant Bombay Sappers are
little remembered today.

So why remember Maiwand?

To remember, in the face of certain death, Bombay Sappers stood true
and lived up to the highest ideals. They did not show fear, cowardice
but weathered the storm though they themselves perished. So it must be
in today’s scenario – when faced with ambiguous moral choices, we must
reject the improper ones, even at the cost of promotion or convenience
or material advancement.

For only, if we remember Maiwand and stand
true like Henn, in our professional lives, can we regain honour lost
at Adarsh Society, and a hundred other places in our lifetimes.

Rare plants need to be propagated to protect them!

Posted 16 May 2015 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: nature

Tags: ,

Guest post by Nandan Kalbag

Certain wild plants, native to India, need to be introduced in gardens. One such climber is Oxystelma esculentum. Its common names are Dudhani and Dugdhika (in Marathi) as well as Rosy milkweed vine (in English). It is a medium size climber with very dense foliage. Flowering occurs mainly in Summer & Monsoon.The common variety is with flowers having pink center. However, I als0 found a pure white variety in CME Pune.

It is easily propagated from stem cuttings. It is a host plant for caterpillars of Common Tiger butterfly.

Purple variety of

Purple variety of “Oxystelma esculentum” creeper, also called as “Dudhaani” (Marathi).


White variety of “oxystema esculentum”


Twin pods of Dudhaani, typical of the family it belongs to, Asclepiadaceae


Elongated, narrow leaves of Dudhaani


The Striped Tiger “Danais genutia” is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Dadiinae, Family Nymphalidae) commonly found in India. It has a variety of host plants, including “Oxystelma esculentum”. (Image credit : JM Garg on Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-SA 3.0)

The caterpillar of the Striped Tiger. Watch out for these on “Oxystelma esculentum”. (Image credit : School of Ecology and Conservation, UAS Bangalore , Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-2.5)

Note: Images other than those with specified credits are copyrighted to Nandan Kalbag.

Ock ohem ocktei wies Barsoom!

Posted 9 October 2014 by Ashwin Baindur
Categories: nature, space

I’m taking a trip on the first Flight Test of the Orion Spacecraft. Here’s my Boarding Pass…

Orion Boarding Pass Flight Test 1 (Dec 2014)  for Ashwin Baindur

Orion Boarding Pass Flight Test 1 (Dec 2014) for Ashwin Baindur


Care to join me? Sign up here!