Today is one of those days where I lose all ability to write! I can’t bear to be dull and boring, so I won’t subject unsuspecting readers (read I, me and myself) to long accounts of birds they could easily find online. Here’s me cheating and using technology instead.
Little Egrets have a varied diet- fish, crustaceans, spiders, frogs, insects, molluscs and reptiles. In addition to the Little Egret, 3 more predominantly white colored Egrets are found in Mumbai: Cattle egret (most common), Intermediate egret and Great egret. Egrets breed in the monsoon- Cattle egrets develop a golden-orange breeding plumage, Little egrets develop two long plumes on the back of their heads.
Here's a video of the Little Egret disturbing potential prey with its feet and gobbling up its breakfast.
Education systems are infamously myopic and the oft-worn attention-seeker 'I was born a Genius; Education ruined me' t-shirts certainly do have a grain of truth to them. The reproductive cycle of a frog from egg to tadpole to its final metamorphosis into an adult is only ONE of the reproductive modes of the group. In fact, an amazing 40 reproductive modes have been identified globally (Wells 2007, Gururaja 2012). These include:
1. Gastric brooding frogs of Australia (considered extinct) in which the female would swallow fertilized eggs and vomit out completely formed froglets
2. Tree frogs that build foam nests over streams or ponds whereby the tadpoles can drop into the water and swim their way to adulthood
3. Bush frogs that lay eggs in bamboo cavities and tiny froglets emerge completely bypassing the tadpole stage
4. A viviparous African toad that gives birth to completely developed froglets by providing nutrition through yolk
5. Midwife toads in which the male carries a string of fertilized eggs on his back to protect them from predators
6. Almost 100 fertilized eggs sink into the back of female Surinam toads which later develops a cyst to protect the eggs as they develop into froglets. The froglets exit her body when she sheds the protective skin.
7. Dancing frogs of the Western Ghats in which the female digs a cavity and deposits her eggs in the stream bed
The Indian bullfrog, however, sticks to the textbook in the typical blinder-bound manner of a sniffling schoolboy and undergoes the complete cycle of metamorphosis. During the breeding season, the male frog attaches itself onto the back of a female. The female lays eggs that are covered by a protective gelatinous sheath whereupon the male releases his sperm fertilizing the eggs externally. The eggs later develop into tadpoles. The carnivorous tadpoles dwell close to the bottom of the water-body, stalking prey including other tadpoles. Juvenile frogs are mud-colored with a pattern of dark spots and stripes that easily camouflage them in muddy fields.
Now if only the Indian education system would take a leaf out of the bullfrog's book and metamorphose into a useful beast.
Today the much-awaited, frequently discussed, debated, scrutinized, cursed Indian monsoon finally arrived filling Mumbai office-goers with much consternation for this would be the day most left their umbrellas back home. Amidst the squelching sandals, honking autowallahs, screeching cars, cursing pedestrians, shrieking hawkers, laughing children, roaring waves, dripping roofs, creaking branches, amistd the general pandemonium that accompanies the pattering rain, there was one sound that was conspicuous by its absence. The silence of the frogs was deafening, though not nearly loud enough to penetrate the ill-informed, myopic, GDP-obsessed ignorasmuses of the human race.
The easiest frog to spot during the monsoon is the bright yellow, morbidly obese Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus). Hoplo= Having powerful members/heavily armed, batrachus= Frog. Unfortunately, I could not figure out what powerful member frogs of this genus possess. The species name tigerinus probably derives from the carnivorous feeding habits of the tadpole. An adult Indian bullfrog is quite a Godzilla, feeding on worms, mice, young frogs, small birds and even juvenile snakes! Its loud 'cronk cronk cronk' calls herald the rainy season in western India, and the tiny intermittent marshes in Mumbai soon transform into fields of steroid-injected lemons with occasional flashes of brilliant blueberries against the peppermint green grass.
Incidentally, these 'Jumping Chickens' are widely harvested for frog legs, which are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. There goes a story about how frog legs were exported in huge numbers throughout the Konkan. The following year, pests wreaked havoc in paddy fields and the farmers had to incur substantial losses. Recognizing its potential as a natural pest controller, the Indian government has accorded the status of a Schedule I species to the Indian bullfrog. In simpler terms, offenders trading in frog meat face upto 3 years in imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 25,000 or both. In a rapidly expanding metropolis like Mumbai, the primary threat to these giants remains rampant habitat destruction. The increased usage of chemical pesticides in agriculture may also contribute to reduced populations in rural India.
P.S: Enjoy the orchestra at a Borneo pond that got voted the 'Most Beautiful Sound in the World'
Ramblings on wildlife sharing spaces with non-wild humans