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Bird of the Day: Red-vented Bulbul (Bangalore, Karnataka)

November 30, 2015

Red-vented Bulbul by Vijaya Kumar - RAXA Collective

The New Bread Basket

November 30, 2015

Image © Shutterstock via

We all enjoy eating bread, whether it is gluten- or wheat-free, whole grain, French baguette, Italian ciabatta, or any of the myriad other styles of baking. In a new book called The New Bread Basket, author Amy Halloran explores, as her subtitle explains, “How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.” An excerpt, via, follows:

People will keep studying one another and drawing on their ingenuity to build sustainable farms and food systems. Alan Scott jump-started a new old-fashioned approach to bread with his oven plans, offering an alternative route to a food that had been industrialized. Other innovators are fiddling with ovens and mills, turning dairy tanks and silo bottoms into malt systems, scaling down equipment and deindustrializing processing. They are making tools to fit a future they are shaping.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Brown Fronted Woodpecker – Male (Pangot, Uttarakhand)

November 29, 2015

Brown Fronted Woodpecker-Male by Dr. Eash Hoskote - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Intermediate Egret (Bangalore, Karnataka)

November 28, 2015

Intermediate Egret by Brinda Suresh - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Pied Kingfisher (Vaduvoor Lake, Tamil Nadu)

November 27, 2015

Pied kingfisher by Vijaykumar Thondaman - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Bar-headed Geese (Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat)

November 26, 2015

Bar-headed Geese by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Crested Gowshawk (Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka)

November 25, 2015

Crested Gowshawk by Dr. Eash Hoskote - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Blue-crowned Motmots (Xandari Resort, Costa Rica)

November 24, 2015

Dory: Not so Ditzy in Real Life

November 24, 2015

Blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) at Monterey Bay Aquarium by Wikimedia contributor Tewy.

We’ve all seen the humorously scatterbrained black-and-blue fish Dory in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, but only those who have spent some time snorkeling or diving in tropical waters have seen the real-life surgeonfish–as that class of fish is called–just keep swimming in its natural habitat. Next year, Finding Dory will act as a sequel to the immensely popular aquatic animation film from 2003. Before you watch it in cinemas, you can learn a little about the actual fish that Dory is based on, via BBC Earth:

“I suffer from short-term memory loss,” Dory tells Nemo. “I forget things almost instantly, it runs in my family.”

It’s very funny and ultimately touching, but this depiction is just a little unfair. The fish Dory is based on does not have short-term memory loss. It is rather more awesome than that.

It has several names, including royal blue tang, regal tang and surgeonfish. Its scientific name is Paracanthurus hepatus.

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Bird of the Day: Asian Koel (Bangalore, Karnataka)

November 23, 2015

Asian Koel by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

Cranberries Covered by Science Friday

November 23, 2015

Four mature cranberry cultivars (clockwise, from upper left): early black, a Massachusetts native; DeMoranville, a hybrid developed at Rutgers University (named for Carolyn DeMoranville’s father); Stevens, a hybrid from the first USDA cranberry breeding program, released in 1960, and the most widely planted hybrid in the U.S. today; bugle, an unusually shaped Massachusetts native (not widely planted). Photo by Carolyn DeMoranville, UMass Cranberry Station

We’ve featured a post solely dedicated to cranberry bogs in the past, and have also seen some of the classic holiday sauce as part of a Thanksgiving art celebration. Now, with Thanksgiving Day coming up in the United States on Thursday, we’re learning even more about the North American fruit from Science Friday’s Thanksgiving Science Spotlight:

There are certain things that might come to mind when thinking about cranberries: A certain shade of red, a certain small size, and a certain kind of tartness. But these characteristics can differ among cranberry varieties—of which there are more than 100, according to Carolyn DeMoranville, an associate extension professor and station director at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Cranberry Station.

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Bird of the Day: Flowerpecker (Pudukkuttai, Tamil Nadu)

November 22, 2015

Flowerpecker by Vijaykumar Thondaman - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Brown Winged Kingfisher (Bhitarkanika National Park Orissa)

November 21, 2015
Brown Winged Kingfisher by Pallavi Kaiwar - RAXA Collective

Photo credit: Pallavi Kaiwar

Speak for the Trees

November 21, 2015

img_2807_zpspgvnjiddWe have a special place for any citizen science project, no matter what kingdom of natural life it covers, or whether its accomplished at home or in the field. Now we’re learning about a new project covering trees from The Nature Conservancy’s “Cool Green Science” blog:

What Is i-Tree?

i-Tree is a Swiss army-knife collection of tools that people can use to measure the impact individual trees and forests.

In fact, the collection of tools is so comprehensive it can seem overwhelming. But don’t be daunted. Here’s the information you need to get started.

For citizen scientists, i-Tree Streets and i-Tree Pest Detection are two key instruments in the i-Tree arsenal. (Many of the other tools are designed primarily for city officials and forest managers.)

For each tree that you select to inventory, i-Tree Streets can estimate the tree’s effect on greenhouse gasses, air quality, and stormwater overflow. Find a group in your area that is conducting a tree inventory with i-Tree Streets. City governments and conservation organizations can collect the data for use at the local level.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Buff-rumped Warbler (Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica)

November 20, 2015

Bird of the Day: Rose-ringed Parakeet (Chambal, Madhya Pradesh)

November 19, 2015

Rose-ringed Parakeet by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

Slacklining Revisited

November 19, 2015

Slacklining at the west farm at Xandari. Photo by Jocelyn Toll.

A little over a year ago, James wrote about slacklining while here at Xandari, since we were both practicing the recreational activity a few times a week. Back in the day, we had to search far and wide for appropriate trees on which to anchor our line, finally settling for orange trees in the orchard that we rotated between. Since then, we have two special spots designed for slacklining at Xandari, one by the west pool, where the sunsets make for a great view (see left), and another down below the studio, where the line can be set up at a longer distance and the posts are strong enough to take some serious bouncing.

Our studio slackline, however, is nowhere near as long or strong as that which Théo Sanson walked in Utah last week. As you can see in the video below, he traversed a “highline” that must have been a thousand feet above the ground, anchored between two landmarks in the desert of Castle Valley. The music you hear in the background of the video happens to be one of my favorite soundtrack pieces, drawn from Ennio Morricone’s work for the western film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Northern Pintail (Mangalajodi Wetlands, Orissa)

November 18, 2015

Northern Pintail by Dr. Eash Hoskote - RAXA Collective

Bird of the Day: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Atlanta, Georgia)

November 17, 2015

Ocean Cleanup Project Tests Successfully

November 17, 2015

Around 90% of the world’s sea birds have eaten plastic items that they mistook for food, a study estimates. Photograph: Chris Jordan/Midway: Message from the Gyre

We’ve alluded to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch before, though we haven’t shared any stories covering it directly. Last week, The Guardian reported some good news from The Netherlands, where the prototype for a 100km-long, crowdfunded cleanup boom for the ocean was tested successfully. Arthur Nelsen reports:


Further trials off the Dutch and Japanese coasts are now slated to begin in the new year. If they are successful, the world’s largest ever ocean cleanup operation will go live in 2020, using a gigantic V-shaped array, the like of which has never been seen before.

The so-called ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’, made up largely of tiny bits of plastic trapped by ocean currents, is estimated to be bigger than Texas and reaching anything up to 5.8m sq miles (15 sq km). It is growing so fast that, like the Great Wall of China, it is beginning to be seen from outer space, according to Jacqueline McGlade, the chief scientist of the UN environmental programme (Unep).

Read more…


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