Hitherto, this pandemic, I am neither a patient nor a suspect. I wish, by God’s grace, no one suffered the torments of the Covid19. This outbreak, has applied sudden brakes to the fast running life and given a compulsory break to all those who are not a part of any essential services. From having been reduced to automatons, living a busy mechanical routine, they have been elevated to the rank of human beings. I am one of them as the non-availablity of all the non-essential items has relegated my routine to just the basics of life. It has made me realise that actually we need the bare minimum to live peacefully.
As I look around, I feel blessed to be locked down in the beautiful bower of birds, bees and butterflies (There are snakes too but because most of the times they remain underground, I am not afraid). I am happy to be in the midst of nature and admire its beauty incessantly without any hurry and worry. Through the thick canopy of tall trees, glints and gleams of sunlight trickle down, thus making it cool and shady for me to walk through in this scorching broad daylight heat where the mercury has soared to almost 40 degree Celsius.
This beautiful bower of bliss reminds me of John Keats ” A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. As I live in and watch, I find it more beautiful than ever. The tall trees , the bees and their hives, the vast skies, beautiful butterflies…. I am unusually amazed to see the most common and most ignored and yet the most amazing and awesome sight of the leaf-fall; how the trees shed their leaves, how the dead leaves leave their boughs. Some whirl, some spiral, whirr, pirouette, make so many different patterns as they dance down with the wind before they softly kiss the ground. The earth then gets draped with a crispy, golden brown carpet.
A squirrel suddenly breaks the silence as it scurries through the crunching leaves. Looks all around with its wide-span eyes and forages for food. Food once found it dines in a very cute posture, holds the nut in its hands and nibbles to its heart’s content with its bushy tail curved and straightened towards the sky. Enamoured with this sight I designed a table for the squirrels to scurry and for myself to enjoy their dining-scene! I loved to watch them nimble, scramble up and down the trees and bushes, leap over the boughs, rest for a while and squeak. They appear to be screaming when many more join in. They remind me of the lines of W. H Davies :
“What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass”
A party of babblers also breaks the quietude as they scrabble through the dry leaves spread for food.
My attention is then stolen by the sweet inviting whistles of a male Oriental Magpie Robin, a solitary bird that enjoys its own company. Trailing behind, a short while later, the other of the duo with a grey neck joins at some distance. As it sings with force, up the tail goes. The bird has adapted to the nest-boxes hanging in my garden. I can hear some coon- coon sounds from the nest- box. Some eggs have been hatched! Some fledgelings are inside! It is the end of Spring time.
With the onset of summer, the Cuckoo Koel marks its presence. The deep resonating call of the male bird fills the air. Its sweet and sovereign call dominates all. William Wordsworth describes the bird as the ‘ Wandering Voice’. The Greater Coucol with a whoop whoop sound, is a big black bird with copper plumage often seen walking or hopping on the ground when no one is around or hiding high in the trees. The female voice is neither continuous nor sweet. Though it darts from tree to tree, the Mango tree seems to be its favourite. I generally spot the Asian koel silently lurking in the bush of the Mulberry tree. This nursery rhyme best describes the cuckoo:
What do you do?
I open my bill,
In May, I sing all day
I change my tune”
Indian Golden Orioles are the harbinger of mangoes. I have seen these mango coloured, pretty birds, rocking in the breeze, at the crown of canopies.
It is a delight to watch the tiny ruby crowned kinglets in twilight. Once they treated me with a unique shower-sight when my garden water pipe developed a leak. I suddenly saw the passerines fluttering their wings in that squirting shower one by one, while others camouflaged in the Passiflora vine, politely waiting for their turn. Bathed and refreshed they then nestled back in the bush. The shower show went on until I tip-toed towards them and all flew away.
I have seen a similar squirt-shower being enjoyed by a group of sunbirds and Oriental White Eyes many a time. The purple colour of the sunbirds shone out as they flew from flower to flower for nectar. Their bills are sharply curved for sipping nectar. They seem to disappear in the scorching heat of summer. The female sunbirds are brownish, not glossy but with a mat finish.
When the Kingfisher flies past the sky, it makes sharp shrills like a siren and so I just cannot listen to it. Its orange coloured long pointed bill is more conspicuous as its bright plumage.
The shrill whistle of the grey headed hornbill generally wakes me up. The bird wears a casque and gets up very early while it is still dark. I generally see it on the Eucalyptus trees, in pairs or with the family.
What an honour it was on that cloudy day to catch a glimpse of a baby Paradise Flycatcher on the Pipal( Sacred Fig) tree! What a beautiful bird, what a majestic tail! No wonder it is the state bird of Madhya Pradesh. Pipal tree, the sacred fig tree attracts hordes of birds. The fruits of the tree are a delicacy to the frugivores and insectivores.
Common Mynas, Spotted Doves, Pigeons are friendly birds that do maintain distance but hop all day in the garden. Red Vented Bulbuls remain perched quite often on the lower branches. Parrots make a lot of noise when they fly from a tree to another. Drongo takes a commanding position like a scarecrow and sits all alone, keeps an eye all over.
An unfamiliar double tweet yesterday robbed my attention. I followed the tweet and was searching for it until in the evening I spotted a solitary, colourful bird with a stubby tail under the Hibiscus shrubs. It was Indian Pitta. Nine bright colours juxtaposed so well that I kept wondering what a lovely mix it was! I have spotted many more birds during this lockdown, the names of which I do not know. Though they all are very pretty but I still miss my childhood courtyard bird that nested in the ceiling fans at home every spring: the house sparrow.
Now I feel like I am a rich person to enjoy this wealth of nature. Now no lust to wander, no lust to shop, I just wish to be amidst nature and watch, watch and watch. With each passing day my eyes are getting better trained to spot the birds and ears sharper tuned to their twitters. The more I explore, the wealthier I feel. The passerines, the nectarines, the insects and the trees; the earth, the sun, the wind, what a warmth they bring! All together make a happy family.
This is the only wonder of the universe and the most wonderous wonder! I wish each one of us lives in a beautiful bower!