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All Things Wise and Wonderful

21 May

I had written two previous blog-posts on my experience with biodiversity documentation ( All things bright and beautiful ) 1 and some sample photos ( All things great and small) 2. Following on with the song by Cecil Frances Alexander, I have named this post after the third line of the song:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my interest in biodiversity documentation arose from suffering a myocardial infarction in 2008 3 – a reminder that some of the painful and difficult experiences in our lives are permitted by God to lead us into a new direction or introduce us to something new that He wants us to experience.

After nearly 30 years at the Makunda Christian Leprosy & General Hospital in Assam, my wife Ann and I have moved to the Christian Medical College, Vellore as consultants to the Missions Department. Our work involves visiting mission hospitals across the country. On most of these visits, we get up early in the morning to walk around the campus of the hospital that we are visiting or surrounding areas to document the biodiversity of that location. This has enabled me to upload a growing number of observations after leaving Makunda to iNaturalist 4 – I have over 20,000 observations of nearly 3000 species on this website from India at present and lead the observers from the country 5. This is a map of the location of my observations from India (till May 2023):

Over the years, I developed a deep curiosity about all living things. This led to photographing everything that I saw, identifying them and learning about them. It led to publication of articles and the writing of short chapters and a growing understanding of God’s wise and wonderful natural world.

In November 2022, I was invited to speak on “Biodiversity Documentation and Research” – a part of the “Nature Talks” series at the Christian Medical College. A recording of this talk can be viewed by clicking on the link below. Please note that there were some internet disruptions during the talk and you can skip over the section between 25.50 and 29.50:

I became interested in this activity when I was 44 years old and I am surprised at the power of our God-given brains that enable us to learn something new and do well at it inspite of the passage of time. I did all this work without taking leave from my busy work as a surgeon at Makunda – on early mornings and late nights. I hope that those who listen develop an interest in the world around them and marvel at the creations of a wise and wonderful God.



All Creatures Great and Small

27 May

My previous blog-post was about my experience documenting biodiversity over most of the previous decade. Readers may read it here:

I closed that post with this song which we all sang during our school days:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all

– Song by Cecil Frances Alexander

This post is entirely filled with photographs that God has enabled me to take over the years. Browse through them and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did when I took them. I have written short notes to accompany each image. If you want to see more of my images, please visit my Flickr site ( ) and if you want to see them as observations, they are here ( )

The Blue-throated Barbet (Psilopogon asiatica) is one of the commonest birds on our campus. This photo shows the rich colouring of this beautiful bird. It is also an example of an ideal bird photo – head turned just right with a good ‘bokeh’ in the background.

This is a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus). Cuckoos are known to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds – brood parasitism. This species lays its eggs in the nests of the necklaced laughingthrushes.

One of the common birds of our campus, the White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) – it has a beautiful song. A recording of its call is here:

One of the night owls, the Brown Boobook (Ninox scutulata). It is very difficult to get a daytime photograph like this one.

Birds display behaviour and emotions like other living creatures. Two Spotted Owlets (Athene brama) enjoy sitting out side by side with some allo-preening.

Phayre’s Leaf Langurs (Trachypithecus phayrei) are a species of Endangered primate that is found in our area.

The common Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) – the first photo shows a couple eating a tuber and the second one shows juveniles at playtime.

One of our campus orchids (Eulophia zollingeri). Orchids are one of the two largest families (along with Asteraceae) of flowering plants. This one is a terrestrial orchid (growing on the ground). The first orchids discovered were terrestrial and had two tubers underground – they were therefore named orchids due to their resemblance to testes.

Another common campus species, this time an epiphytic one – growing on trees – Cymbidium bicolor

Aeginitia indica is a root-parasite. The shoots come up from the forest floor in the monsoon season and soon produce the colourful flowers.

Forests inside our campus are home to all sorts of flora. This is an unusual fern, Helminthostachys zeylanica.

Forests are full of fungi of all sizes and colours – including these tiny vivid red mushrooms – Hygrocybe sp.

North East India is home to unique herpetofauna. This is a pit viper from our campus – Trimeresurus erythrurus

Our campus is home to large non-venomous snakes as well. This is a Burmese Python – Python bivittatus

All living creatures employ a number of measures to survive, including mimicry. This tiny frog looks like a bird-dropping on a leaf – Theloderma baibungense

The largest bats in the world are found across India. This is the Flying Fox – Pteropus giganteus – a mother bat breast-feeding an infant inflight.

One of the common squirrel species here in our campus is the Pallas’s Squirrel – Callosciurus erythaeus

A family of Asian Small-Clawed Otters – Aonyx cinerea – found in our campus as well as in surrounding areas. These are the smallest species of Otters in the world.

One of the common species of Mongoose in our campus, the Crab-eating Mongoose – Herpestes urva

North East India has seen a lot of elephant-human conflict in recent years, not surprising as people encroach into their habitats. These are wild elephants – about to enter a tea-estate bordering jungle.

Makunda has a wonderful arachnid biodiversity. This is one of our tarantulas – Chilobrachys assamensis – about the size of one’s palm.

Another ground-level view of the same tarantula – showing iridiscent blue colouring on its legs. Tarantulas are kept as pets in some parts of the world.

Spiders come in all shapes and sizes. This is a tiny one that mimics ants – Amyciaea forticeps

This spider looks like a piece of thread – Ariamnes sp.

A rare colourful spider. This one is Platythomisus octomaculatus – rediscovered in India after 120 years by members of our “Makunda Nature Club”. The story is here:

There are cunning spiders too. This one is a Portia sp. – known to be an ‘intelligent’ spider, this one uses different strategies to fool and eat other spiders, including drumming on a web to appear as prey.

Many butterflies are named after Shakespeare characters and ranks of the Armed Forces. This is a rare one from our campus – the Harlequin – Taxila haquinus

We have many colourful dragonflies. This one is especially bright and beautiful with a mettallic iridescence – The Greater Bluewing – Rhyothemis plutonia

Most people think that moths are dull and boring. These are male and female Thyidid moths of the species Glanycus insolitus. Identifying moths is not easy – I still struggle, sometimes not even able to identify which family a moth belongs to – I thank experts like Roger Kendrick who have patiently identified moths for me on Facebook and iNaturalist over the years for my limited knowledge of moths.

Two more spectacular moths. Carriola sp. on the left with its intricate green veins within clear windows and Nevrina procopia on the right with its delicate patterning.

I’m closing this post with a snail. This one has small spines on its shell and belongs to the genus Endothyrella. I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I did taking them and learning about these creatures – great and small, the Lord God made them all.