Monday, August 01, 2022

Vultures of SRS Betta

A few billion years ago huge granite rocks formed under what is now the Deccan plateau. More recently, like tens of millions of years ago, the granite complex through what were the Deccan traps, forming a geographical structure running all the way from Ramanagara to Hampi. Erosion and other elemental forces played their part to leave dramatic granite rocks all along this area, making it look like the gods played marbles with these massive boulders. 

Two such massive monoliths sit close to the Arkavathy valley and one of them is a called the SRS Betta, named after an enterprising mystic who saw a little nook almost at the top of the sheer granite face and said "Hmm that could be a good place to meditate". That nook now has a shrine that attracts a lot of pilgrims. The authorities have made this shrine accessible by carving out steps on the smooth granite rock face, line the path with hand rails. Most other rocks in this area, however, are completely inaccessible and these serve as the perfect nesting place for some of the most enigmatic large birds in this area; the Egyptian vultures. 

This weekend, we trekked up the Betta. This was my first time despite having spent long periods of time in this area. As we reached the top and soaked in the fantastic views, the hot drafts around the hills started attracting the raptors around. Soon we spotted our usual vulture pair in the mixed flock, and they had come there with a surprise; there were two juveniles circling around the parents. Just as I was taking this life-affirming sight, a pair of peregrine falcons swooped in from somewhere and attacked the vulture pair. For some reason they kept bothering the juvenile vultures for nearly half an hour, just as the hapless pair were trying to mind their own business and focus on their flying skills. 

I had spotted these peregrine falcons for the first time in this area. And I had been reassured that the vulture pair, given their endangered status, had continued the holy mission of bringing new progeny into the world. We eventually came down from the Betta, but for the rest of the weekend, I've been floating on air.



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