I woke up in the morning at around 7 am and all I could hear was the sound of chirping birds. But soon I forgot about their existence around me and found myself busy with other things. It was only around 10 am while I was sitting in the veranda reading a book, I noticed a few birds flying by me. I couldn’t recognize their sound.,they sat few meters away from me on a dry perch. The Sun was shining brightly on their chocolate brown wings. House sparrow. It is the state bird of Delhi but they are not so common in Delhi anymore. But here in Assam, especially in the villages, they are like members of each house.
“It is hot here”.
“Yeah very hot”.
“Can we go somewhere else?”
“Yeah, some shade”.
And they flew to a nearby litchi tree and disappeared behind the leaves. In the cover of the leaves of the litchi tree, a friendly chase was going on between three magpie robins. I heard their calls before I saw them. Long threatening calls to each other. Then I saw one of them flying into a thorny shrub. He was followed by another and then the last one picked the trail. And then suddenly all of them flew out and circled in the air, some bits of aerobatics and vanished again behind a shrub covered with some undergrowth.
As I left the veranda I saw a Robin swoops in and perch itself on a rose bush. When a Robin is around it will make you feel that there are few other species of birds too, as it can make many different kinds of sound. The one that I left near the front porch of the house was making a different noise than the one I saw in the backyard on the mango tree.
The award for the noisiest bird IMHO will go to the barbets or may be the jungle babblers. I am right now surrounded by at least 5-6 barbets. I can constantly hear their sound, “whitlooo whitloo whitloo”. One of them is sitting on a branch of a tall olive tree in one corner of our garden. I cannot see it as it is well camouflaged with its surroundings. Whenever I come home, I hear their sounds from dawn till dusk and especially during noon when everything else become silent. Occasionally, one of them would come down and sit on a Papaya tree and look for any ripe papayas. Their mustache would remind me of a doorman in a Rajasthani attire in front of a big Haveli.
My uncle built a bamboo structure to help few creepers grow in the garden. This includes two types of gourds, few French beans, and some tomatoes which will soon produce small tiny cherry tomatoes which would taste sour. The season is ending for the beans and they are struggling to grow in comparison to the rest. A lonely brown shrike usually makes an appearance in the mornings and in the evenings to inspect their growth. She would sit on the structure looking at these plants tilting her head from side to the side. After a brief inspection, she would look at something in the distance and disappears after a while. She is always quite, solitary and in her own thoughts.
Towards the left of the house, we have few orange and lemon trees. I saw a tit on one of the trees in the morning. It would sing “teeteee teeetee teetee” and jump from one branch to another. This way it would cover all those trees. I was expecting he would be followed by few other tits but he was alone today. To get a clear view I pushed the window of our kitchen farther wide. He did not like my presence and flew away. I heard his sound again when I was sipping my second cup of tea of the day a while later.
The mynas and the doves are lots like family than the rest. They are almost everywhere. The coconut tree near the kitchen is the favorite place for the mynas to rest. Every time my mom would go out towards the garbage bin which is few steps away from the kitchen to throw something, they would come down looking for something to eat. They would calmly veer through the ducks in the backyard. One of the ducks looks like a mallard to me and he is the alpha male of the group. Once in a while, the ducks would start quacking so loud that it could wake the dead. Mom tells me during the winter season a duck would cost Rs. 300-400,. Even the eggs are as expensive as Rs. 6. They have a strong pungent aroma. Scrambled egg is the best way to eat them. On a very special occasion, a duck would find its way to the kitchen just like how a turkey does during Thanksgiving. At least three different kinds of dishes would be prepared out of duck meat that day and best one is the one that goes with the whiskey or the locally made rice beer.
A rufous treepie comes and sits on the banana trees growing at one edge of the garden. One of the banana trees which didn’t grow to be healthy but could produce few bananas which no one cared at home to protect are his morning breakfast these days. He would make one call as he arrives which reminds me of the word pendulum for some reason and starts to dig into one banana. The banana trees and the mango trees during fruit season attract many visitors including a troop of monkeys. The dogs are trained to handle such crisis and a war is declared once they sense the arrival of the monkeys. It is typically a war between the monkeys and my entire family including the dogs and it goes on till the distant cousins disappear from the scene. At times, a ‘rise of the planet of the apes’ kind of moment occurs as the troop retaliates. Immature mangoes and young branches of the tree can be seen strewn on the ground post such scene.
The call of the Koel certainly feels different here than hearing the same in Delhi. Here it’s like listening through a headphone which cancels surrounding noise. As the sun sets, the sound echoes and becomes even sweeter.
This list doesn’t end here. There are other species too. Like the red-vented bulbuls, few Prinias, rose-ringed parakeets and the warblers.
I asked my brother if he has seen any owls recently. Big or small. He didn’t pay much attention to the question but told me that he could show me a hornbill nest nearby. A chick has fallen from the tree and is now being cared by a family. I was more interested in owl but I told him I would surely like to see the nest.
These birds keep me busy the entire day. Whenever I visit my native home, I spend a good amount of time watching these birds. Like once I heard a whistling sound, somewhat familiar but I couldn’t recognize it at first. Following its direction, I found myself below a tall jackfruit tree. Few fruits are hanging from a lower branch and they are of the same size as that of a matured papaya. A few potato sized ones are hanging from the main trunk slightly above this branch. An orchid is growing where the branch is meeting the main trunk. This tree also supports a pepper creeper which has almost reached its top. Some part of the main trunk is covered with moss. The Bamboos growing close by is leaning towards the Jackfruit tree, kissing its top branches. A colony of red ants is taking advantage of the situation and they have created a huge nest using the leaves and the young branches of both the bamboos and the jack fruit tree. The nest is little bigger than a football now. The recent hailstorm has damaged a portion of it. I circled around the Jackfruit a couple of times to spot the bird which was sitting on a topmost branch. I could only catch a glimpse when it flew away and sat on an Amla tree (Indian Gooseberry). It was a Black-hooded Oriole.
The more I start paying heed to the various sounds of chirping, tweeting and cawing more birds I begin to notice. I have never seen swallows around my house. Probably I never noticed. But few of them are nesting on a wall of the storage hut adjacent to our house. When they fly, their shapes remind me of fighter jets. They circle around the house for a couple of minutes and swiftly disappear from the scene. At times they can be seen sitting on the electric wire going parallel to the main road in front of the house.
And just when I thought, the list of the resident birds has come to an end, I saw a small folk of scaly-breasted munia feeding on the paddy harvest which has been stocked in the open and covered partly by a polyethylene sheet. I watched them closely for a couple of minutes and returned without disturbing them.
Currently, I am living some 3000 KM away in a concrete jungle called Delhi. However, things are not bad as one would perceive. The banyan tree in front of my apartment is home to many squirrels and pair of kites. They nest on the tree every season. A large flock of Rosy Starlings visits the tree every season -twice. So do the yellow-footed green pigeons. A pair of Indian Robbin usually comes and sits on the mulberry tree and the electric wires. Every morning few doves, pigeons, squirrels, parakeets and babblers can be seen on top of the garden wall where my neighbor spreads out food for the birds. The leftovers are consumed by the big rats which come out from the underground holes during the night. Occasionally a Shikra visits the garden and the Mynas go crazy. Occasionally, one or two odd Grey Hornbills also visit the banyan tree. So do the Prinias, Oriental White-eyes, and few sunbirds.
Birds are beautiful and I enjoy spending time with them, observing them and photographing them. Attached here are few photos from my recent visit to Jim Corbett Tiger reserve.