Friday, Sep 19, 2014

Down in jungleland: Spring Sonata

I’m delighted to discover that my regular ‘morning alarm’, the red-whiskered bulbul, is back on duty after having taken most of the winter off. He’s going to awake (me) earlier and earlier as the summer progresses I’m delighted to discover that my regular ‘morning alarm’, the red-whiskered bulbul, is back on duty after having taken most of the winter off. He’s going to awake (me) earlier and earlier as the summer progresses
Written by Ranjit Lal | Posted: March 30, 2014 5:22 am

Well, I spent most Sunday afternoons this winter — and spring — sitting out in my single-person balcony, sipping a beer and reading. Trying to read, actually, because ever so often, a tailorbird would visit the bougainvillea creeper right in front of me, searching for tidbits and inveigle me to try and take its picture.

And no, it’s not a particularly quiet and yogic spot suitable for deep introspection or composing epic poetry — the traffic roar from the road across the (Nicholson) cemetery is incessant and louder than usual because of the wind direction and, of course, there are the usual morons whose main means of communication is blaring their horns.

But there’s more to be heard (and seen) than the traffic, and I’m always amazed at how many species of birds (and some animals and insects) have gotten used to our clamour and cacophony and uncouth habits, and carry on with their normal lives as if we didn’t exist (tip for survival?).

We must certainly be upsetting their sentiments a lot — fouling and poisoning the air and water, harassing and trapping and killing them and using their body parts for weird rituals, keeping them in cages and trying to teach them to talk…. And still they continue to live cheek-by-jowl with us, “adjusting”, no doubt, one hell of a lot.

Tune in even in the middle of the afternoon, and there’s plenty to be heard and seen. The loudest, of course, are parakeets, streaking and shrieking across the skies in an excess of Sunday bonhomie as if there’s nothing in the world that can bring them down (hah — these lucky fellows obviously don’t know what cages are!).

Wheeling about in the heavens, mewling peevishly are the black kites that roost and nest in the huge surviving tamarind tree in the cemetery (most of its equally magnificent compatriots were hacked down way back in the ’90s), occasionally spiralling down and snatching up tidbits from the cemetery, causing the flocks of gossipy mynahs to flurry off with much indignant chattering.

I hear the squealing of grey hornbills and, through the corner of my eye, spot a threesome undulating swiftly through the cemetery as if chasing each other. Hmm… I’ve seen this threesome on several earlier occasions, and wonder what’s going on: two suitors chasing the same girl? An outraged parent forbidding an unsuitable alliance?

As the afternoon wears on, the barbets and coppersmiths begin calling, gleefully anticipating another incandescent summer. And then there’s a flurry of panic-stricken “mayday” calls, from bulbuls, mynahs (who continued…

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