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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Glory shorn

The street I live in has organized a woodcutter and the beautiful African Tulip has been shorn of its glory. No longer will I step on fallen flowers after a shower, to slip, curse, and regain my balance. No longer will my car be showered with flowers that fall with a dull thump and mar the windshield with juices that refuse to go away.

But, no longer will I be able to glimpse the sky through those leafy branches and watch the moon rise highlighting the flowers briefly while on its heavenly journey.

I mourn the loss of the tree, but I am in a minority. A week ago, a branch dropped off for no ostensible reason and broke the wing mirror of a car parked below. It was a lucky thing the branch did not fall upon the car itself. The owner had already sent for the wood cutter and this was the last branch,, straw. The tree had erred and it had to be punished.

This was the very tree that played host to the shikras that responded to my call. Crows would perch on its branches and call to my wife, demanding their share of the largesse that she put into a little plastic box and left for them to eat undisturbed. Squirrels leapt off its branches to confidently sail the short distance to my balcony railing so they could scurry up to the hibiscus flowers, pluck them and sip the nectar unafraid.

The squirrels will move on. Crows will perch, watchfully, on the electric cable running parallel to my balcony and the shikras will, doubtless, find another roost.

It's not an inconsolable loss. The tree still remains and the upper reaches are being left alone. Small mercies, for which I should thank God. My balcony is now bright and sunlit. A sunshine that will become unwelcome when the summer rolls around.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Of Squirrels and night herons

First of all, let me apologize for not having returned for such a long time. I did promise a post on bees, but have been so constrained that I was unable to work out that post at all. It did need a couple of fresh photographs that I didn't take at all.

Now that I've the excuses out of the way let me tell you about Saturday morning. The first morning in the last six months that my family and I have been able to get out and about.

Lal Bagh beckoned but we were late to see any of the birds that might have been there. Munias flew from tree to tree but always silhouetted by the early morning sunlight that streamed through the leafy branches and set off whistles and trills from the mynahs while the crows and cuckoos called for their bit of attention.

Joggers and walkers strode on, oblivious to the morning shift that was being played out before their eyes. Our first stop was to try to see the Mottled Wood Owl since Trupti hadn't seen it at all. Our disappointment was acute, the owl wasn't in residence.

We wandered on, taking in the sights and breathing the redolent odours, unidentifiable by an uninitiated like me but Trupti drew deep breaths when we walked on a carpet of tube roses.

I was busy looking at some patterns on the flowers that dot the sides of the path when Trupti called out softly to tell me that a three-striped palm squirrel (chipmunks for my American friends) was snoozing on a branch just out of my reach and above my head.

It was this little one. It had just woken up and was yet to come to grips with the world around it for the day.
As we watched it, it decided that it had better get a move on. Trupti, Adu, and I were absolutely thrilled to see that we weren't the only ones who needed a stretch...

... and then a yawn.

I was directly below the little fellow and managed to snap off a picture of its little pink tongue sticking out.

It went off on its way to breakfast and we trundled off faithfully to check on our favorite birds at Lal Bagh - the spotted owlets - no, I'm not putting up any more pictures of owlets as yet - and then tiredly decided to go up to the lake for a quick look around.

Cormorants swept up in the air, landed quietly in the water and ducked under to see if they could grab a fish or two for break fast, but otherwise, the lake was still and silent. There wasn't even the hint of any other bird around.

A short bridge breaks the lake from a little backwater. More like a swamp than a pond, this is filled with lillies and lotuses. This season, the pond was full of leaves but few flowers showed their pretty faces. And then among the green leaves and plastic debris we found the night heron.

The night heron stood stock still for a few minutes and then looked like it was going to regurgitate it's food. It ducked its head, seemed to thrust up something in its throat and opened its beak but nothing else happened.

We watched for a while, but got bored with its rather statue like stance and turned our attention to the moorhens instead. They were certainly more entertaining.

Their long toes helped them stride across the lily pads like they were waking about on dry land only occasionally stopping long enough for the pad to sink slightly under their weight while they wrested some little tidbit and munched on it delicately.

We did manage to see some lovely mushrooms and spider lilies but they will have to wait for another post.