Field log

16/02/2017 — funny. tomorrow is the panchayat election in Mongajodi. But everything is so quiet. No congregation of people discussing politics, no announcements. Cant imagine this happening in Cal if tomorrow were the elections! Its just like every other day. This is no surprise though.

Rajaniji had to come get us from the ecotourism office. Unable to see him, we started walking back after our meeting and ganja session at the office. We crossed the railway track and saw the familiar auto standing near the ganja haunt. Poor guy was busy running around from morning. Some extra duties on his shoulders for the elections and other stuff. So this is what he said. “did not have it since morning. will sit here for 2 hours now and have weed. do you want to stay or leave for home?” As blunt as that.

That’s the surprise. The weed calms everything down and takes the mind beyond politics. To an easy life.

We leave tomorrow with Ali at 6 30. Aim — locate tracks and place two camera traps.

17/02/2017 — gifted with a quote of immense depth.

From Bablaji. “Bhujabalji gave keys to the thieves and told them, go steal as much as you want”.

Bablaji was himself a poacher once. He is a bird guide now.

To get to learn from Bhujabalji and to have met him feels immense. What a character. So earthed, does not stand out but was able to create a movement and it is self-sufficient now. That is a conservationist!

20/02/2017 — money flies!

2 traps up and running. Lets see.

Must get rid of this depression. Must push myself.

It’s heaven here. Water starting to recede. Wet meadows rising. So much space to roam around for the Fishing cat. Wonder what it eats in summer. More rodents and birds?

Nanda — glad we found him. Serious guy and enthu too. Hope he agrees to be our field assistant.

Learnt some techniques of treading marshes. The bamboo pole and support walk is ingenious I thought. Thoroughly enjoyed!

21/02/2017 — Babu is good. Lots of enthu. Full fledged mud walking.

Mud boots — you son of a god!

4 traps within 100m of each other. Lets see what happens. Fishermen guarding.

EXCITED ! — fishermen says he knows a Fishing Cat nest. will take us there in 3 days. measurement tape, GPS, pictures.

22/02/2017

Went to retrieve traps at 5:30 a.m……..walk down to tea shop near railway and from there on Babu’s bike. It was high tide Babu said.

Got Otter! in one of the traps. no Fishing Cat. It will take time for them to get acclimatized i think.

Pratincole flocks are such a delight as they turn. At certain angles, a delight happens when the light yellow breast feathers meet the soft golden rays of the waking sun.

It looked like it was heaven from the watch tower. Rusty golden hues of the Phargmites flowers is enriched with the sun’s morning rays. And they stand atop earthy green strands. Still silvery channels meandering through the marshes. The Garden of Eden was perhaps named so because of these moments that marshes gift.

Babu was saying that during the summer months it is very easy to spot FC because they sit on the bank and look into the water (literally).

IDEA — lets get them all together to draw main and ana-channels in the Monglajodi marshes that radiate out from the base tower. to draw the expanse of wet meadows in winter, summer, monsoon, post-monsoon. What fishes aggregate where?

Do camera trap positions show more home range overlap in monsoon and bigger territories in summer? Function of seasonal inundation?

Makes sense if they have bigger ranges than the ones in Howrah. Howrah — the resources are densely packed. Dont need to maintain big home ranges. Here, in Chilka, prey and predator are both wild and their interactions happen by chance so the area that they cover must have a lot of vantage points which can be regularly surveyed for food. No wonder Terai has their home ranges at 22 sq km! The way water becomes scarce in the dry season — they have!

Also, quite definite that we will get more scats in the dry months in all the wet-turned-dry meadows. Limited resource, hence more territoriality, hence scat deposition essential?

LAZY BUM, GO STUDY!

No idea about rodents though. Got a few of them in the camera traps. Cartoons just like the Howrah ones! Oh, and the silhouette of two Bandicoots on the bund in the evening — quite amazing.

WISH !— to photograph the silhouette of a FC as it walks across the wet meadows against the backdrop of silvery evening waters.

Want to write a book.

Articles.

Poems.

People are talking BAGHODA here. Feels nice. Excited about the nest! First data of its kind!

22/02/2017 — why do small things become big and big things become small?

anyway, humans are stupid. I am stupid.

But yayyyyy!!!! got our first Fishing Cat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yayyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!

shit man! havent written the proposal to Zilla Parishad. shit shit shit!!!

ok — “Know Thy Neighbours” — study one chapter from SCR-what else? plan banerjee’s visit

24/02/2017 — sitting inside for 2 days…..grounded rather!…. conservation is a sector now. people have to sign MoUs before starting to work. We are no longer friends, just co-workers.

On the other side, its good to talk to someone like Monalisa — what a wonderfully friendly voice. Prefer that anytime to pretentious R.

ok, fine!

MoU-me with Wild Orissa. hahaha!

ok, the other problem is you are being lazy as usual. Just say you are being lazy. Dont mention that other thing. no! you are just being lazy.

the list grows!

10:00 p.m. — OK, INTERVIEWS AT THE FISHERMEN’S VILLAGE WERE NICE….!!!

There were no Phragmites here 12 years ago. There was Sippala (smaller Typha) and other smaller emergents (I think they are emergents). Fishing Cats were seen here since the last 8 years. Hmm! Moving wetlands and moving populations??? nesting — how interesting!

anyway, lets get back.

15 years back — fishing more profitable?

if yes? then was it because Chilika was open before the marshes came up?

if no? is it because of more availability of freshwater fish now? some other reason?

if 50–50? then hmm….

also, has siltation increased in the last 15 years? why? deforestation upland? is phragmites burning/weedicide/dredging really the solution?

always seen Jungle Cat near human habitation and Fishing Cat in Nolo-jongolo

Many of them could make F cat sounds…..Looks funny!!!

seen mostly sitting on the banks in both summer and winter. one report of sighting FC with big rodent. one report seeing FC prey on birds (unconfirmed about identity of bird).

no report of leopard cat and small indian civet till now.

palm civet, yes — Salia Patnai

Again the conflict is between fishermen and fishing cat over shared resources (fish and land) but in a different form to Howrah’s. Here they despise the Nalajangala because it has decreased their open Chilika fish catch. (Think there will be difference of opinion between different grades of fishermen). But the Nalajangala gives refuge to the F cat (refugee!). Yet there is no direct conflict between both parties.

Land and water ecotones are dynamic, liable to change, cannot expect stagnation of resource use policies.

Interesting!

And, no reply from Wild Orissa yet. expecting a thunderbolt again!

What the hell? I mean no business. I mean conservation.

Ramaji has a little bit of an ego. NOOOOOOOO!

Partha is dealing with all the politics.

Do I ever cross his mind?

02/03/2017 —

Fishermen interview villages — Monglajodi, Panchapati, Kaluapara, Soran, Kumondal, Bankiapoli, Baulabandha, Noiri

Monglajodi, Sundarpur, Balipatapur, Bhushanpur, Alipora, Tinimohani, Hordas, Khetandi, Karimpur

nol kotobochor dhore ache? tar agey ki chilo?

kirokom mach dhora porto tokhon? (how mch quantity/how much profit then?)

akhon ki dhoroner mach dhora pore? (quantity/ profit?)

nol jongole mach dhorte jan? kirokom er mach pawa jaye? ta nie bikri hoe? kirokom dam?

types of fish in summer, winter, and monsoon in marshes

have you seen a fc?

when? where? what was it doing?

since when did you start seeing fc? do you feel they came?

why did the nol jongol emerge here?

is there any remedy?

was an uncanny feeling when the traps started flashing both sides of the channel along the bank.

and then, i saw thee — O fishing cat, just as i wanted to see you for once…….thy silhouette.

what feelingssssssss!

and oh the smoked fish- beauty i say.

ideas — distribution and ecology of the Fishing Cat

distribution in south and south east asia , literature survey, e-cat, media….what are the common features across sites from where they are * — — — — — — -

eported?

ecology — multi-species occupancy modelling in Howrah reveals reed connection, Chilika — same thing- camera trap, scat, interviews.

Discussion — issues with its conservation outside protected areas.

plan — March 15th-May 30th — Interview of fishermen, camera trapping- concentrate on getting better pictures. identify individuals at atleast Monglajodi, Sundarpur and open chilika and monitor.

phd-connectivity and pinch points, management.

post doc-flood pulse, floodplain communities, convergent evolution? fishing cat as indicator of low-lying wetlands, management policies of floodplain ecosystems.

I accept this award on behalf of a small but growing team of Fishing Cat conservationists like Partha Dey, Meghna Banerjee, Suvra Chatterjee, Kamargaria, Kushberia and Tajpur Fishing Cat Committee members

The Fishing Cat and Tiger are both Schedule I animals. It is present in lowlying wetlands like marshy grasslands and mangrove swamps, that are linked to climate and water availability. These wetlands are nature’s sponges, soil stabilizers, nutrient traps and carbon sinks.

It is majorly present in the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Yamuna floodplains in India where habitat destruction is the primary threat. Marshes can dry up in the summer creating an illusion of land — a characteristic that makes them vulnerable to conversion. The Indian Terai has lost 98% marshy grasslands already. These are wetlands by law and deserve prioritization, not only for wildlife but also for society as they are important for maintaining water dynamics. Fishing Cat is one of the indicators of these wetlands and its presence can serve to prioritize wetlands for conservation. Policies to safeguard these wetlands are required immediately to prevent further conversion or destruction.-

The Fishing Cat is present in 12 protected areas in the country, including Tiger Reserves. Fishing Cat monitoring is possible in protected areas since a regular monitoring and documentation protocol for megafauna like tiger, elephant is followed. This mechanism can be utilized for maintaining records of Fishing Cat sightings. We started a monitoring protocol for the cat in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and want to spread the work to other protected areas where it is present.

27/03/2017 — Monglajodi to Tinimohani — channel names

Monglajodi,

Sundarpur,

Katilakoth,

Abhirampur (X— no nol),

Ujura (X),

Turiapara (X),

Balipatapur,

Bhushandipur,

Dochia

Alipora,

Tinimohani

Monglajodi to Noiri — channel names

Balinasi,

Panchupatia,

Kalupara,

Joilipara,

Soran,

Jayantipuru,

Barori,

Balia,

Nimina,

Baulabandha,

Nairi

Fishing villages along Chilika’s marshlands (29)

Nairi,

Baulabandha (scanty marshes),

Balianimana (x),

Barori (X),

Jayantipuru (scanty marshes),

Soran,

Barunapura,

Matiapara,

Kalupara,

Joiripora,

Panchupatia,

Kharipadara,

Balinasi,

Monglajodi,

Sundarpur,

Abhimanpur,

Katilagotha,

Balipatapura colony,

Balipatapura,

Bhushandapura,

Dochian,

Alipora,

Dehopura,

Hardas,

Khetandi,

Kuhopara,

Baghananji,

Boropkudi,

Karimpur

02/04/2017 — OH MY GOOD LUCKY STARS! FORGIVE ME FOR THIS DE-REALIZATION. BUT DID IT REALLY HAPPEN?

THE OLD MAN AND CHILIKA (enter Nolojongolo strategically)

OUR FIRST CLEAR SIGHTING- OH THE HEAD, SO BIIIG?

03/04/2017 — Rajaniji was the star of the kid’s party. And Aska-40 was the hit!

The self-outcasted Brahmin ate fish and drank alcohol even though the entire village (especially Brahmins) is on a vegetarian diet for Shib puja and Ramnabami (31st March to 15th April)!

PD and R danced like crazy tweens three pegs down. and shouted verses in their semi-sing-songs.

R:

Ryan’s thought crossed my mind a couple of times. It’s good I have these de-realization moments. helps me tide over these moments of sorrow and missing. Maybe it never happened, it was just a dream.

04/04/2017 — Wow, the dark blue freshwater pushed inside the Phragmites fort. The ripples — the wait in spate. The southern winds, let them sing the comfort song……..another 15 days……..and the world will be theirs to explore.

the mud will soften to get the imprints.

OPEN CHILIKA:

PD: HOW MANY FISHING CATS DO YOU THINK ARE THERE?

KALOSHI (GULIYA) : KOTI KOTI (LAKHS AND LAKHS)

PD: HOW MANY RICE GRAINS ARE THERE ON YOUR PLATE?

KALOSHI: YOU TELL ME TO COUNT LAKHSMI’S GIFT?

PD: ERR, HOW MAY STARS IN THE SKY?

KALOSHI: AS MANY AS IT IS POSSIBLE. WHY COUNT THEM AT ALL?

10/04/2017- Balipatapur colony with Rabindra babu , son and Babu.

are these two different males?…..scats and pheromones both located………and met our first F cat in Chilika which came down to inspect a camera trap for several minutes. passed by several times……..his scat was liquidy and he looked a bit lean.

rabindra babu — shoal mach and red baby groups.

05/08/2017 — Raining continuously, sometimes heavy, sometimes light. Fishing Cat (probably female) seen with two cubs. at Pokhri where jackals were recorded by our traps.

From the same place, Goja and his siblings were rescued.

Do the observed cubs belong to the same litter? Was litter size 5?

Or are two adult female cats sharing the space?

Saw eggs. According to Ramaji, moorhens first (creamish and white eggs with black streaks, the nest was on floating aquatic grass like vegetation. looked like a ‘kotor’ surrounded by a fort of the same grass. Crows took two eggs in front of our eyes.

Little grebes (roundish white eggs on muddy mound slightly above water level, exposed with two white eggs).

Pheasant tailed jacana eggs (four brown and prominently oval eggs) on a floating mat of reeds (?)/grass (?) graminoid.

now the chirchira is very prominent and creates a texture with the aquatic vegetation. Shaluk flowers were not there. But just 20 days ago, that was not so.

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