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Warbles that break the reverie

Common Myna bird on fence.

Common Myna bird on fence.  

Bring out the field glasses, as the lockdown has made birds feel free to fly back into territories long abandoned by them

Locked in our empty nest for several weeks now, my husband and I spend a lot of time in the balcony of our fourth floor apartment which has a jamun tree reaching our eye level. I have some interest in birds, but for my husband, every bird is just a chidiya.

With no morning walk, no meetings and no clinic and limitless TV and WhatsApp, we read the newspapers minutely and catch up with books that have been lying on the shelves for years. Time has become irrelevant, and we need to check often which day of the week it is.

The monotony got broken by a little bird. We rarely paid attention to a chatty mynah that always perched on a pot while we read the newspaper and sipped our morning coffee. I noticed that the beak and patches around its eyes were yellow, characteristic of the common mynah. My husband told the bird enviously, “Now you are free and we are caged.”

Mynah on the jamun

As the days rolled by, we observed four other types of mynahs pecking at the flowers of the jamun tree: the bank mynah with an orange-coloured patch around its eye and orange beak, the pied mynah with a lot of white colour on its body; and the appropriately named grey-headed and black-headed mynahs. Two types of bulbuls, the red-vented and the red-whiskered, also drew our interest.

Better-heard but less-seen birds such as the tiny tailor bird with its cheerful “twit twit twit twit”, the coppersmith with its loud, repetitive “tuk tuk tuk” and the call of the cuckoo bird that reaches a crescendo gave us a sense of peace. A lone kingfisher perched far away on top of a tall bare tree with its loud, monotonous call could be easily recognised by its white breast and long beak.

We realised that earlier all these birdsong was getting drowned in the cacophony of horns. Along with the newspapers, we started bringing our binoculars, camera and a bird book to the balcony. We linger in the balcony for breakfast too while watching the green parrots, an occasional house sparrow and a blue-black iridescent sunbird.

Even after moving indoors for cooking and cleaning, we get glimpses of soaring kites that retain their grace while warding off a pesky king crow. We can hear the gentle musical whistling of the kite in flight, and it is amazing to see the bird lowering its legs, ready to land, quite like the wheels of an aeroplane.

Many people in our apartment complex share pictures of the setting sun. The challenge is to capture a bird against the backdrop of the sun. At dusk, flocks of parrots with their thin long tails fly in a northwest direction and egrets, with their necks drawn back like an S and long legs stretched, fly southeast. Though it would be interesting to follow the birds to their roosting sites, we do not have the freedom.

vijayacardio@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 5:44:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/warbles-that-break-the-reverie/article31599998.ece

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