Who has the best GPS system in the world. One of the big mobile companies? Google? Defence Forces of any country?
It’s the birds. Yes, the birds- the colourful things with wings- win. And among birds- it’s the migratory ones who are fitted with the best GPS systems. Their annual clocks too function the best. Take this little fellow, a Purple Sunbird, for instance.
He was our guest for the second succeeding year.
So, after the last two posts that I did about the children’s movies and how they were based on some lesson or other on nature conservation, I just thought why not share a little personal experience this time. Not to mean that I was directly involved in any such activities. However, it was an experience that had me thinking on our own actions and their implications on nature and environment. Well, here goes.
You must have noticed our winged guest in the photograph above. The winter before last, i.e. to say on exactly 30th December 2016 we first noticed him sitting on our fancy bell in the veranda. All of us were surprised and there was a lot of discussion on where it came from. Since it wasn’t moving we thought it could be a stuffed toy.
But who kept it there, one of the workers employed for our home’s renovation. But why would they? Or maybe the State Biodiversity guy who had come in earlier that day to deliver 2017’s calendar? Lots of speculations, no correct answer. And since during all this, this fellow didn’t budge a centimetre, we concluded that it was indeed a stuffed toy.
The next morning it wasn’t there. However, we noticed this quite late so we asked the workers if they had kept something on the bell. Their answer of course was negative, and we were left puzzled.
In the coming couple of days we noticed that the bird could be seen sitting on the bell in evenings and disappeared in mornings. So we finally realised that the little fellow had made our bell its home.
For the three- four months that followed he became a part of our routine. Checking if he was there in evenings and finding him gone on his daily duties in the morning. Until one day around mid-May it stopped coming. We waited a few more days for him to return. When he didn’t, more speculations followed, beginning with the worst. Had some predator killed him. Bulbuls are their enemies, maybe it’s them. Maybe it found a new home. May be this, may be that.
The bell on which he resided during the winters had become dirty. But in the hope that he may be back in a few more days it wasn’t taken out for cleaning. The logic, if he does return he may not recognise a cleaner bell. A couple of months went by and all of us were sure that it had gone forever, just hoping for the best.
But you know perhaps our logic about the bell was right. For exactly an year later, i.e. on 30th December 2017 he was back. His tiny self, perched on the pretty dirty bell of ours. Actually it was then that we realised that it must have migrated here during winter.
We had seen purple sunbirds roaming in vicinity in winters before but never given much thought about them.
However, having this one as a guest for the second year gave us something to think about the migration of birds. Just imagine, same date, same month, same city, same home and the same bell. How awesome is it?
All of us have heard of migration of birds during winters to warmer areas, and the fact that they visit the same sites year after year, if it has not been destroyed that is. But witnessing it first hand was a different experience.
For all the four months in both seasons that he was here, the little bird had become a part of our lives. It was a routine to confirm if he had arrived in the evening and to see when he flew in the mornings.
Now it has gone back to wherever it came from at the same time as last year, in mid-May.
As we await his arrival, we have cleaned the bell so that by winters it gets sufficiently dirty for our annual guest to recognise.
The Clean Bell
THE ANNUAL VISITOR:
Another story is that of a Coppersmith Barbet. First have a look at these photos:
Cannot see enough of his reflection or wondering if there is someone inside
This little fellow came to our house for 3-4 subsequent years in winters, spending most of the time watching itself in our reflector windows. The funny thing is it never went to any other of our windows to watch his reflection. Perhaps it was because of the Mulberry Tree in our neighbours garden which was adjacent to this particular window. Whatever the reason, we had a lot of fun watching him every year and presuming it was the same bird we were quite happy to know that they have long life and good memory.
Before I enter in the third phase of my story a little trivia on the birds above. Purple Sunbirds & Coppersmith Barbets are found all over the Indian Subcontinent. So they do not exactly migrate over from colder countries, they came perhaps from colder regions. I do not have a very profound knowledge on their habits or movements. For us they are migratory visitors as they arrived only during winters.
Have a look at the video of our friend- the Coppersmith Barbet
THE MULBERRY TREE:
We moved to our current house about ten years ago. Though our city is (or rather used to be) quite green we never had lot of greenery around our earlier homes as we do now. The residents here have planted Neem, Peepal, Banyan and lot others which have grown over the years. This in itself felt wonderful. On top of that the sight of so many different birds was even more rewarding.
Remember the Mulberry tree I mentioned above on which the Coppersmith Barbet used to sit, well this is the third part of the story. I don’t remember the tree fruiting a lot in the first couple of years we came. But after that it produced plenty. It began fruiting around August-September when little green fruits started appearing and they became completely ripe and sweet to eat by summers (April to May). The birds, especially the ones who migrated from nearby places in winters used to perch on the tree’s branches and the additional bonus was the little raw and ripe fruits of mulberry. This tree was the main reason we were fortunate to watch a wide variety of birds during winters in our vicinity. The result a lot of our winter mornings and afternoons were spent watching the beautiful birds and clicking a lot of pictures.
Then, there came an year in which the tree had grown big and its branches loaded with fruits. Most of its branches weighed down by ripened purple-black fruits rested on our roof. The mulberry fruits ripen around summer and are at their sweetest. So when these became too much for the tiny birds to finish we decided that such wonderful fruits should not go waste. Mind you we didn’t eat all of them. As I said they were too many and were there for two complete months. So whenever plucked them a large portion we did send to our neighbours in whose garden the tree stood.
Pray tell me what we did wrong? Maybe we did, at least in the opinion of our neighbours. For since that summer ended and around September when the fruiting begins our dear!! neighbours cut down all of its branches and left only the main trunk. The pretext- that the mulberry wasn’t letting their coconut tree grow. Now come on who told them to plant it in our climate anyway. And what use is it here? It still does not bear any fruits, the birds definitely cannot sit or rest on it and it does not give shade.
And this has been happening every year since then, five years to date. The tree becomes lush green and just when it’s time for fruits to appear between August-September our neighbours religiously cut it down to keep only the trunk. And since that winter the number and variety of our winged guests that visited us before has continuously dwindled.
There sure are other trees like Neem, Peepal in our area. But birds obviously preferred mulberry to them. It was the big mulberry tree that attracted them. They could sit on its branches. Enjoy winter sun and the shade alternatingly and of course eat a lot of fruits.
How mean of our neighbours. Just so that we should not enjoy a handful of those sweet mulberries they have taken it out on our little winged friends.
I mean look at them they keep cutting down a useful tree year after year. And look at us. In hopes of the Sunbird’s return we did not even take out the bell for cleaning.
Well friends, jokes apart, the constant destruction of routes and resting places of migratory birds and habitats of birds in general is actually a serious matter to dwell upon.
MIGRATION & ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS:
Migration of birds or animals in general is a well-known phenomenon. The reason for migrations may be different for different species, but in everyday parlance we mostly recognise it with arrival of birds in huge numbers and varieties from a colder place to a warmer one during winters. Also the movement to be called migration has to be an annual occurrence that is to say year after year or in specific seasons.
There are many places in India where we receive our annual guests during winters and these attract many tourists to watch them. These birds fly thousands of kilometres each year flying over countries, mountains, rivers and reach the same place year after year. Our Badaa Taalaab is one of them.
In recent years concerns have been growing over the destruction of ecological sites or environment in general which are sometimes an important factor in determining the birds’ known routes. As a matter of fact, these concerns led to the International Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or the CMS or Bonn Convention. It aims at International co-operation for conserving the migratory species as well as the ecological sites or the routes over which they pass. This is important as the animals cross a large number of countries to do so.
You must be wondering that I perhaps have wandered away from my story. But no, that’s not so. You see in the three to four years when the Mulberry Tree was in full bloom the number and variety of birds visiting in winter was large. Some we recognised like the Golden Oriole, some we didn’t. Some we could capture in our camera, some we couldn’t. But it’s a fact that ever since the Mulberry Tree gets cut down before the fruiting season we have not seen most of these birds again.
When we connect all these incidents I am sure that the absence of food due to this annual cutting ceremony, is a major factor in the reduction of our guests. And once we connected this it has left us wondering, if cutting of one tree can have this impact, what can the destruction of forests or other ecological sites can do to the migrant guests.
For me this annual ceremony of our neighbours and frankly for no apparent reason and justification whatsoever is somehow symbolic. Symbolic of the futile arguments we give many a times to destroy the natural resources around us. During all this we rarely give any thought to the destruction we are causing to others species. Even more rarely we think that losing these wide variety of ecological treasure is ultimately going to be our loss. I am not talking about just the aesthetic loss but the real, actual damage to our own lives and livelihoods on this wonderful planet.
I hope we realise their value well in time.
ALL OUR VISITORS:
Here are some photos of the birds we were able to click when they visited during the months of winter to spring/ summers. It was an amazing time for us.
1. Two Coppersmith Barbets:
2. Green Bee Eaters:
3. Few Others:
4. Where there are small birds, there will be birds of prey:
5. Resting on the Mulberry Tree:
6. A Golden Oriole on the Mulberry Tree:
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