Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Birds in the city.

When I moved into this city some eighteen years back there were a lot of trees. The road I live on was lined by tall wild almond trees. As far as looks go, they were ugly trees with large leaves and large useless pod-like fruits which simply littered the street. A large number of common mynahs roosted on the trees, making a huge ruckus every morning and evening and peppering anyone unfortunate enough to be passing below the trees with generous amounts of bird-shit. Then the trees were cut down for widening the road and I started missing the clamor of birds which had made these trees their home. After a few years I noticed that the birds were back. The mynahs were now roosting on a mobile tower which had come up recently. On noticing carefully I saw that a pair of kites had made a nest on the highest platform of the tower and the rest of the tower was used by mynahs. They spent the night on the tower making the familiar racket every evening and flying away in the morning. This made me curious about the adaptability of birds in the changing urban environment and to celebrate the first monsoon showers of the month I decided to go bird watching in the city. I picked up my scooter and rode around early in the morning enjoying the mild showers. Now our city has very few patches of green left, most of the flora being represented by isolated trees by the road or small private gardens. The first birds I came across were a group of parakeets (I counted ten) perched on electric wires. The next sightings were two kites perched on a huge advertising hoarding. There were a number of pigeons and a few doves mostly on eaves and rooftops. The biggest surprise was a common grey hornbill which flew across the road and disappeared behind the few remaining trees. The commonest presence was of crows and mynahs. Some good Samaritans had left feed for birds on the sidewalk of the only flyover our city boasts of and scores of crows and mynahs were fighting over the spoils. A few years back these crows had almost disappeared but have made a strong comeback. Maybe the discontinuation of use of Declofenac (a pain killer) in domestic livestock which was threatening the vulture population has something to do with this resurgence in the number of crows as well. The best part was reserved for the last. As I reached home and was parking my scooter I spotted two brown rock chats and one bulbul on my gate. Not bad for a half hour drive. The only thing that makes me sad is that I don’t see sparrows any more. These little birds which were a part of our everyday existence when we were growing up have become rare indeed. Still, I am hopeful that like crows and vultures they will make a comeback and our children will get to see them.

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