Monday, August 9, 2010

Tribune picture of Baya Birds hanging from big bush

Long time ago i used to go in summer and fall for a walk into woods.Early mornings were a joyous time as it would be cooler at that time and god would put up show for us.It was a great palette in colours and to a melancholy boy walking alone it gave some peace.

There was canal in Amritsar near the sacred heart school and i got of the road and would have a private heaven on the banks of this canal.Though i did not know about the power of running waters then but it provided a focus to this wanderer.I walked in and out of the canal checking small fishes and toads in the canal.At times water flowed in the canal other times their wood be just pooled water.Getting wet was not like it is today I had these Bata shoes they were scout my friend Shyam Rajani had introduced them to me .They had rubber souls and black leather tops .I do not remember if it had three or four rows of outlets for laces.I always wore socks in those days Mostly Khaki shorts .This was my universe .

In summer no body expected me to be at home i could choose to go where ever and till what time i chose.Mostly i was gone till noon or so ,i could walk for ever it seemed like then ,who says youth has no advantages.Mostly hunger was the guiding factor for the trip back to home where mom would be complaining and would insist that i take a bath before she would feed me.So it was the habit and then have a sleep ,deep day time sleep of Kumbh Karan.He slept six months a year and so did i only difference was that i slept half a day every day that is at least 12 hours .

It was a life of great leisure and care free.I was interested in science fiction in those days .I many of my heroes observed bee colonies ,ants,migrating birds .And they kept track of the heavenly bodies.Catalogued the clouds in the sky Morning star and the cycles of the moon.This all interested me and in 1960s i felt i a great scientist would make a contribution to original secrets of science someday.On researching i became aware that life of Baya bird was not that well documented .On this canal were not any fruit trees mostly we had KIkar which is used for brushing teeth and has thorns on it.Rarely their were Pipal and Bodh (Indian oak) trees.Most of the land around was used for farming crops.

Fields had its own rhythm in sync with nature.So i decided to catalogue the lives of Baya birds.I know they were yellow bellied and i think males had yellow head but i can not be sure.I measured distance to these trees from the road to mark them on paper.I measured and double checked the distance by counting the steps and measuring my average step and graphed on paper(note book)When ever their were bunches of nests i i identified them as the colonies .I do not remember if i gave them names of trees or the fields where they were located or just gave them alpha/numerical names.

I tracked the progress of the nest building by the male birds who sang and built nests to attract females.They chose finest of grasses and with great care bound them to the branches which would not dislodge them in strongest of the winds.

As these birds wove their nest rather than just lay materials on the tree to lay their eggs .They had to be much more selective and laborious.These nests are quite unique ,they have a tubular opening in bottom where the birds enter and exit .This gives them extra protection from predators.On the side of the opening their is a chamber where mother and father and chicks can stay in security.It is totally protected from rain and other elements of nature.On the bottom of the living /bedroom of the chambers i have seen them cover with cotton ,cloth or other materials .I have also seen them covered with dried mud.Now i think this must have been to hide the eggs or any chicks from any predators on the ground.

I have noticed that if a male did not attract a mate during nest building they abandoned the nest and build another at a different site mostly in another tree.I have seen many abandoned nests in different stages of weave.Last is the one long entry way tube.Observing this has made me aware of their life .I tracked them for several years .So is my affection for the Baya bird Julaha of the flying kind.Kanary yellow in the picture looks very pretty I do not remember ever that pretty because photographer has telephoto Lens.Print is also beautiful.

All this to tease the heart strings of a romantic scientist of last century and the shores of the canal.Carefree memories of the youth when the girls were most prettiest and all the villagers were above average.Some times i wonder was it the optimism of a new nation feeling its freedom.This was on 15 years after the Independence of India in the town where wounds of Jalian Wala Bagh were not yet fully healed and bagh(garden) was in disrepair.This Bengali family who had kids in my classes were caretakers of the bagh and they could show us like any body wants to let a visitor know about one's family.I think that family was Mukherjee.

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