RV Matters - 23 Sep 2018

Last Thursday, my brief siesta was disturbed by the loud, raucous screeching of the parakeets from the tamarind tree outside the house. Initially I ignored this but when it persisted, I decided to investigate. These incessant alarm calls normally indicate the presence of a predator, usually a snake.

I could notice half a dozen parakeets fluttering and excitedly flying about a particular branch and there were also a couple of palm squirrels moving around the same spot, their tails raised in alarm. A few minutes of patient waiting revealed the cause of their concern – a 4-foot long rat snake, moving slowly along the thick branch, thirty feet above the ground. The noise attracted the attention of a crow that briefly joined the parakeets. The drama persisted for well over 45 minutes during which the snake moved from branch to branch, the birds in hot pursuit. There were some intervals of silence, during which the snake was concealed in one of the numerous cavities of this ancient tree or amidst the foliage of the pipal tree that has taken root on the main trunk of the tamarind. I had to warn the girls who were going for lunch or coming back from lunch to Red House (completely oblivious to the racket made by the parakeets!) since the snake has a tendency to drop off from the tree to escape the harassment of the birds. Close to 2.00 pm, a couple of students reported seeing a large snake crossing the road and by then the parakeets fell silent.

Communal mobbing of snakes is a fairly common sight in Rishi Valley and I have come across this on several occasions. On some instances, I have seen a host of bird species participating in this activity and the list includes sunbirds, flowerpeckers, tailorbirds, Magpie-robins, common iora, bulbuls, occasionally drongoes, parakeets, mynas and crows. Rat snakes regularly climb trees where there are bird nests, especially those of parakeets and mynas. The smaller birds named above usually mob the green vine snake which is an arboreal species. While mobbing, birds give sharp alarm calls and move excitedly and often very close to their adversary. Birds like crows even nip the reptile’s tail and harass it. Once a few years ago, I had seen a vine snake with an ashy drongo, dead, in its mouth, being mobbed by crows.

Dr Santharam

RV Matters - 16 Sep 2018

After a gap of nearly two months, we finally had good (6.1 cm) rains on the night of September 11. It was great to see the dry spell broken, finally.

The leaves of the duranta bushes which were drooping have sprung back to life almost overnight. Millipedes (the long brown ones) have emerged from their hiding places. Frogs started croaking. The grass that had turned brown is lush green once more. The Scaly-breasted Munias which had suspended their nesting outside my house have resumed their activities by coming in with long strands of green grass for lining their dome-shaped nests.

To me, the most interesting development since the rains was the emergence of winged termites. They started making their appearance the evening after the rains and they were immediately noticed by their predators. Crows gathered in the playground, picking out termites as they came out of the crevices in the ground. A spotted owlet made sorties in the air flying after the insects. Even the next morning, the feast continued – several dozens of crows and mynas were busy picking the termites from the open meadows and fields. They were joined by bee-eaters, babblers, drongoes, coucal, bulbuls and a host of other bird species. A flock of House (Little) swifts flew unusually low over tree-tops, catching the termites in mid-air and consuming them.

Winged termites are the most sought-out food by many birds. Even humans (tribals like Irulas) consume them regularly for their proteins. Though a lot of these insects fall an easy prey to birds, mammals, larger predatory insects, reptiles and amphibians, by their sheer numbers the termites are able to satiate their predators and a large proportion of the population actually escapes and survives. Maybe these insects have already learnt some of the basics of economics by which they can outstrip the demand by excess supply!

Dr Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Pav Baji

Pav Baji is one of the popular dishes in Rishi Valley. The main ingredient of the Pav made in our bakery is Wheat flour and not Maida.

Pav Ingredients
Wheat Flour
Maida
Brown Sugar
Cooking Butter
Cooking Oil
Yeast
Guar Powder
Milk
Salt
Fresh Water

Qty
20 kg
5 kg
3 kg
2 1/2 kg
1 kg
200 gm
150 gm
2 ltr
250 gm
As required

Mix Wheat Flour, Maida, Brown Sugar, Butter, Yeast, Guar Powder, Salt, Milk, and Water. Blend for some time till the batter is smooth. Keep the batter for half an hour after rubbing the oil on top and cover with wet cloth.

Make small balls and keep on the baking tray for one hour. Bake for 25 minutes at a temperature of 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven and again rub with oil on the top of each Pav. For the above quantities, we bake 650 Pav’s.

Masala Ingredients
Coriander
Red Chillies
Cumin seeds
Kasthuri Methi
Bedi Somph
Turmeric
Cinnamon
Cloves
Star
Cardamom

Qty
300 gm
100 gm
100 gm
100 gm
100 gm
50 gm
25 gm
25 gm
25 gm
50 gm

Broil the above ingredients and powder.

Baji Ingredients
Potato
Dry Green Peas
Onion
Tomato
Carrot
Capsicum
Cauliflower
Ginger paste
Garlic paste
Green Chilli paste
Oil
Cooking Butter
Salt

Qty (for 600)
25 kg, boil, remove skin, mash
5 kg, soak overnight, boil till soft and smash
8 kg, grated
8 kg, chopped fine
5 kg, grated
3 kg, chopped fine
7 nos, big, grated
300 gm
300 gm
300 gm
2 kg
1 kg
As required

Heat oil. Add grated onion, followed by ginger, garlic and green chilli paste. Add salt and turmeric powder. Roast further till onion is brown in colour. Add chopped tomato and roast till oil floats on the top. Add chopped capsicum and grated carrot. Roast till carrot is cooked. Add grated cauliflower and cook. Pour Pav Baji masala mixed in little water. Cook for 5 minutes and then add smashed potato and green peas. Cook further for 10 minutes. Switch off the stove after adding chopped coriander and butter.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

RV Matters - 9 Sep 2018

Bats have always been spooky and thought to be harbingers of evil to humans. Just outside the Staff Study-2, in the dark corridor, in our senior school building, there are 5-6 bats roosting during the day. Their droppings on the floor below their roost area gives away their location.

These are Schneider's Leaf-nose bats (Hipposideros speoris), a species endemic to India, according Dr T. Ganesh, Ecologist at ATREE, Bangalore. Dr Ganesh and his team have been surveying temples in the southern Tamilnadu for their bat fauna and he has been seeing declines in their numbers. He feels rather than discouraging the bats, Rishi Valley School should take pride in supporting bats in their campus. He feels we could remove their excreta which makes an excellent manure regularly and use in our gardens.

Dr Santharam

Photo: V. Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Proso Millet Payasam

Proso Millet is grown in our Estate. This payasam is very tasty and healthy. 

Ingredient
Millet
Jaggery
Palm Jaggery
Condensed Milk
Ghee
Cashew Nut
Raisins
Cardamom (powder)
Dry Ginger (powder)
Coconut (grated for milk)

Qty (for 600)
9 Kgs
7 Kgs
2 Kgs
4 Kgs
3 Kgs
1 Kg
1 Kg
50 Gms
50 Gms
80 Nos

Qty (for 10)
200 Gms
150 Gms
50 Gms
1 Small tin
50 Gms
15 Gms
15 Gms
1 Tsp (5 gm)
1 Tsp (5 gm)
1 No

Coconut Milk Portions to keep aside: 1st – 10 ltr; 2nd - 15 ltr; 3rd – 35 ltr.

Soak the millets in water for one hour. Remove and strain. Roast in half of the ghee. When roasted 75%, cook in coconut extract (3rd milk). Grate both type of Jaggery together, add 5 ltr water, boil, strain and pour over the boiling millet. Stir till the Payasam is thick and millet is fully cooked. Add the second extract of coconut milk, stir continuously and add condensed milk, reduce the flame and stir for 5 minitues. Add the first extract of coconut milk and switch off the stove. In a small kadai, boil the balance ghee, add cashew nut and raisins, roast for a while, pour over the payasam and add cardomom and dry ginger powder.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

RV Matters - 2 Sep 2018

The hoopoe is back! After a gap of nearly three months, this bird is back in the campus. I first saw it a week ago opposite the Green House. This morning, I woke to the calls of the “hud-hud-hud” calls of the bird. They are now getting ready for their next breeding cycle. Where does this bird diasppear after it raises its family of 2-3 chicks in a tree-hole or in a crevice in a building? I have seldom seen them in the campus, though on rare occasions they do turn up in the open spaces outside the campus in our valley between June and August.

An Asian Brown Flycatcher, a local migrant, too turned up near the Malli House last week. The season is changing and the birds are coming back. The first Himalayan migrants – the Grey Wagtail and the Greenish Warblers should be here anytime now. Paradise flycatchers too will soon turn up. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Dr Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Tomato Rice

This is one of the most favorite rice dishes in Rishivalley. Most of them prefer to have the combination of Tomato Rice, Onion raita, Egg Curry or Paneer Curry and Appalam. 

Ingredient
Rice (Sona Masoora)
Tomato (Sliced)
Onion (Sliced)
Garlic (Paste)
Ginger (Paste)
Green Chilli (Paste)
Chilli Powder
Coriander Powder
Turmeric Powder
Cardamom (crushed)
Cinnamon (crushed)
Cloves
Star
Aniseed (Bedi Somph)
Bay leaf (Tej patta)
Green coriander (chopped)
Mint (pudina)
Oil (we use Rice Bran)
Ghee (we use cow ghee)

Qty
40 Kgs
40 Kgs
10 Kgs
1/2 Kgs
1/2 Kgs
200 gms
400 gms
200 gms
50 gms
30 gms
40 gms
40 gms
30 gms
200 gms
20 gms
3 bundles
2 bundles
5 Kgs
2 Kgs

For 5-6 people
1/2 Kg
1/2 Kg
2 Nos
1 Tsp
1 Tsp
1 Tsp
20 gms
10 gms
1 Tsp
8 pcs
5 cm 1 pc
12 Nos
8 pcs
1 Tsp
2 Nos
1/4 bundle
1/6 bundle
1 Tsp
10 gms

Soak rice in the water for 30 minutes before cooking. Heat oil in the cooking vessel . Crackle Bedi Somph , add Tej patta, crushed Cardamom, Ginger paste and Garlic paste. Roast well and then sliced onion, green chilli paste and salt. Roast well till the onion is soft. Add turmeric powder, half of the chopped green coriander and mint.

Add coriander powder and chilli powder, roast well till the raw smell of Coriander powder is removed (we use roasted Coriander Powder). Add sliced tomato and roast till oil floats on top of the masala and make sure tomato is fully cooked. Add 60 ltr of hot water and boil. When the masala is fully boiled add washed rice and rest of garam masala, green coriander, and pudina. Mix well. Pour ghee on top, reduce the flame of the stove, keep a lid on the cooking vessel and cook for 15 minutes.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

Bird Watching - 26 Aug 2018

TIME: 6.40 to 8.30 AM
ROUTE: DH to Lost Lake via Duranta Hills
PARTICIPANTS: Santharam, Jyothi, Yashvardan, Ishan, Pranav, Yash, Tanaya, Damini, Lalith

A Battle Lost and a Battle Won: Several bee-eaters were diving into the air from their tree perches and deftly catching their insect meal in mid-air. Below, the Sunday players were already on the playfield ‘battling different goals’. One beetle which was caught mid-air was spat out and landed at our feet in a dazed condition. Perhaps, its biochemical constitution did not agree with the bird’s palate. A different battle was going on in the Duranta Hills. Though we traversed much distance, our list was more or less completed near-abouts the foot hills. Santharam attributed the sparse bird population to the invasion of subabul on the hills...

BIRD LIST (INCLUDING CALLS)

15. Coucal
16. Laughing Dove
17. Crested Honey Buzzard
18. Black-shouldered kite
19. Feral Pigeon
20. Scaly breasted munia
21. Ashy prinia
22. Redvented bulbul
23. Indian Silverbill
24. Pond heron
25. Common Woodshrike
26. Small or White-cheeked Green barbet
27. Coppersmith

1. Whiteheaded (Yellowbilled) babbler
2. Common Mynah
3. Small green bee-eater
4. Loten’s sunbird
5. Tickell’s flowerpecker
6. Whitebrowed bulbul
7. Black Drongo
8. Roseringed parakeet
9. House swift
10. Rufous Treepie
11. Small minivet
12. Grey tit
13. Tailor bird
14. Grey Partridge

RV Matters - 26 Aug 2018

  What does this image remind you of? Look carefully! Yes, a bunch of RV students (“bats”) sitting on the benches at the assembly!

What does this image remind you of? Look carefully! Yes, a bunch of RV students (“bats”) sitting on the benches at the assembly!

Last week while on my walk to the mouth of the valley, I spotted two groups of ashy Wood-swallows, each numbering a dozen or so, sitting tightly huddled together on the High-tension wire. I have seen these birds only occasionally and that too at the mouth of the valley in small numbers, rarely exceeding half-a-dozen. These dull-colored birds often feed by pursuing insects caught in the mid-air. They have short nasal “chek-chek” call notes that often give away their presence. They have short tails and often the primaries of their wings extend beyond their tail feathers.

Elsewhere, in Chennai city, where this bird used to be common, I have even seen them nesting atop an electric pole in the middle of a crowded locality.

Dr Santharam