Birds at home

They had barged in. So the most one could do was to be civil with them

October 30, 2022 12:42 am | Updated 12:42 am IST

Leave them alone.

Leave them alone. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The bulbul looked at me quizzically with the slightest tilt of its head. “Why poke your nose here,” he seemed to have asked. If I could employ the help of a bulbul speak version of Duolingo, I would have most certainly retorted, “Why, this is my independent villa. So should I not be aware of the goings-on in the work area of this secluded room upstairs?”

He seemed to be weighing the situation and noticing that I hadn’t really come close enough for combat, looked the other way nonchalantly. As for me, well, I let out a sigh of relief and quietly exited the scene.

Last year, around the same time in the very same work area, an enterprising bulbul pair had figured out the ideal spot for their nest, away from the noise and possible predators. They had gathered a few stray twigs and leaves on a wide round iron peg which had been drilled on to the wall for drawing a clothesline. The clothes line had been left into disuse for a variety of reasons. Little by little, the neat pile of twigs had grown in size to form the rough contours of a nest. Before long, I had been privy to the parenting capabilities of my avian friends.

I absolutely loved animals, but had always been wary of pets. I found it scary that one could stand close to a cow to caress it and could not fathom why one would allow oneself to be licked all over the face by a pet dog. What if they turned rogue for a second, leaving their masters darting to the doctor with a deep wound or broken bones? I have been fervently begging my fellow friends to keep away from zoonotic viruses and tick-infested fur. Wish I had been lucky there! Quite the contrary, it was amply made clear that they would rather have the company of their pets than that of a sermonising middle-age lady.

I had loved my new guests for sure. But I had been ever surer of my fear of getting attacked by the delicate pair. There was a mutual agreement of sorts. During the day time as the birds went out in search for food, I would occasionally leave a tiny cup of water, a banana or a few random grains on a steel plate on the washing machine placed right under the nest. They had not seemed particularly happy with my offerings. But I had beamed with pride during the few occasions I had to clear out the mutilated bananas, soggy from the water splattered all over. Of course, they could not expect their host to go hunting for worms. To begin with, I had not offered them my hospitality. They had barged in. So the most I could do was to be civil with them. The bananas and grains were additional bonuses for them to peck at or to mess about with.

As the days passed by, I had started hearing faint cries from the nest. Twice a week, when the washing machine would rumble about in the evenings, I had heard squeals from the nest decreeing displeasure. I had obliged and then on, the machine had run only during the daytime, when the bulbuls went hunting for the prey. When they were back in the evenings, they had a cosy and quiet family time all to themselves. In the night, I would furtively open the door to the work area ever so lightly and switch on the lights momentarily to catch sight of the two birds sleeping on the clothes line. I had never before seen birds asleep and this became a nocturnal pastime.

And just when the special bonding between the species, hitherto anathema to me, had started to work its magic on me, they simply vanished leaving me teary eyed. To my utter surprise, a week later, I sighted upon a young bird with a teeny weeny tail, chirp exactly like my ex-tenant. And sure enough, a bulbul sat on a branch a few metres away chirping back. Aha! My friend had finally come back to introduce me to more of his brood. A few offerings followed which were rejected graciously. Then, they disappeared again, never to return. A year passed by, but I could not bring myself to pull down the nest which had withered by now.

When I thought I would never encounter my avian guests again, the bulbuls returned with a vengeance invading the very same nest. The nest seemed to be on a perennial lease to their fraternity. It was a deja vu moment. This bulbul pair was not very receptive to my advances and as mentioned earlier, one of them politely conveyed to me that the nest was, and will always remain, a property for their ilk to settle at will.

As ill luck would have it, circumstances forced me to switch on the washing machine in the evening one last time. As I crawled to open the door of the machine to remove the washed clothes, the bulbuls, startled from their sleep, circled high above my head, crying out foul. I stepped back in haste and ended up clearing the clothes only the next day. As if on cue, they disappeared since that night. Oh dear, I knew I had botched it up again. I kept cursing myself as I waited fervently for my guests to offer me one last chance for redemption. I lost my sleep pondering over the fate of the unhatched eggs, left unattended, due to my folly. Miraculously, the birds were back after a day, easing me of my guilt.

This time around, I intend to leave them alone and let them have their way, I better realise they would any day prefer a juicy worm to a soggy banana.

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