Birds in my backyard

The backyard of my apartment is home to several bird varieties – many, not so common. In these couple of years, I have observed them in such regularity that I forget that they are in fact rare sightings in an urban setting. Early this May, I wondered why our gardens were so suddenly empty. From the hustle and bustle of early March to the now empty quiet, the apparent lack of life in the garden hedges seemed stark.

That warm afternoon, I was distracted by a few feeble squeaks from outside my study. I tip-toed to my balcony-garden to inquire. Bright green and yellow streaks were flitting in and out of the balcony nets. They were a few Green Munias enjoying the quiet of the afternoon floating like trapeze artistes from one end of the balcony to the other. It was May, I realised, and the birds were busy nesting.

Come monsoon and the enormous tamarind trees in the periphery of the compound becomes training ground for Asian Koels. Sipping my morning chai, I hear incessant calls of male koels from behind the dense foliage. As the calls reach a heady crescendo, I often struggle to spot the hidden singer from my window. On days when I am persistent, I catch a flash of the shy singer’s iridescent black plumage and his stern red eyes.

One of my favourite visitors is the Red Whiskered Bulbul. I have always felt that the male Bulbul is conscious of his easy, good looks. I see him carefully preen himself and wave his beak in the air, almost smugly telling himself “All OK’ !!  Peeping through the grilles, a charming Bulbul pair hop in to inspect my pots. Alert to even the slightest sound, they fly away with a quick, rolling screech.

A Brahminy kite roosts right above the guard cabin at the main gate. Safely perched on a Tabebuia tree, the stately Kite has been sizing up every visitor for several months now. Though I sight egrets, cormorants and green bee-eaters from within my compound, I have not been fortunate yet to get them grace my balcony.

The chestnut-coloured wings of a Greater Coucal (crow-pheasant) may seem mis-matched with the rest of his plumage. He is nevertheless a strikingly handsome fellow. Hopping on the lower rungs of the transformer, the solitary coucal regards morning walkers suspiciously with a deep ‘coop coop’ grunt. Foraging amongst the bougainvilla vines, he hangs around for a few hours every morning and disappears into the neighbouring scrub land. If the sighting of a coucal is a harbinger of good fortune, then I am truly fortunate every day!

In sharp contrast to the coucal, our resident Turtle Doves are an amiable lot. When I hear the gentle purring of our own local Doves four floors above in my study, I am reminded of the Song of Solomon - “The voice of the turtle doves is heard in our land”.  

Recently, when a friend rued that birdlife has disappeared around us, I casually walked him around the campus and pointed him to some of the beauties I see almost everyday. This was only to gently remind him that birdlife actually abounds everywhere - all that we need to notice them is some curiosity and generous patience.

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Birds in my backyard

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