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The drongo in the window

Wildlife photography  

Thrissur’s sepulchral lockdown quiet had begun to get on my nerves. The sound and fury of the heavy pre-monsoon showers, which had long been overdue and knew no lockdown, provided much-needed relief from the overwhelming silence.

Just the other day, after a couple of hours in front of my computer with the heavy rain providing welcome background music, I got up for a stretch and a glass of water. As I moved to the kitchen past my bedroom door, I saw I had a visitor. On the window grille across the room, with its back to me, perched a small lean black bird with a longish tail hanging limp.

Drenched tail

I stood rooted to the spot. I did not like to scare it away. It appeared in silhouette and I could not readily identify it. By and by, I noticed its forked tail, the fork indistinct because the tail feathers were drenched. I thought it was a drongo.

It had not seen me. It remained still. So did I.

It had been my practice of late to stand at my seventh floor window every morning and evening and view the world below. Often, I would spot a drongo perched on a power line. The sight brought back memories of my old walks on the Thrissur temple grounds when I used to see not only drongos but also several other birds such as mynas, sparrows, egrets and jackdaws.

As a boy I had seen drongos in my village where the bird was known as katthirivaalan, the scissor-tailed one. Much later, as an adult, I had learned from my illustrated bird book that the drongo is known in Malayalam as aana-raanchi — literally elephant lifter. That had intrigued me no end. Calling a 50-60 gram bird an elephant-lifter is making a mountain out of a molehill. But the bird has rare fighting qualities. It fights off birds much larger than itself. It is known for its “dive-bombing” — pecking on the head from above — of much larger birds.

It is said the early bird gets the worm. I have yet to see an earlier bird than a drongo. I have seen drongos in the dark hour before dawn feasting on termite flies fluttering around a streetlight. As large swarms of these flies rise to the light, a handful of drongos, perched on the power line, take turns diving into them and returning to their perch with a fly or two in their beak. Termite flies also surface in swarms late evening and then, too, the drongos are there to feast on them at some streetlight. Late to bed and early to rise!

The heavy downpour had abated. My visitor suddenly took off, leaving me stranded in my musings. I hadn’t had a visitor (man, beast or bird) in at least a month. The drongo kept me eloquent company for a a couple minutes. Most important, it gave me something to share with my bird-loving grandson.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 1:13:43 PM |

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