A NIGHT AJAR | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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chandigarh Updated: May 24, 2014 22:06 IST


The call of the nightjar is as if a door has opened in the night and let music flow in to relieve the darkness. Nightjars are birds that are most active after dusk and before dawn hawking insects of the night. During the day, their plumage so closely blends with the surroundings that they can scarcely be seen. Neither do they betray the slightest twitch of a muscle as they rest in daytime.

Most nightjar species found in India so closely resemble each other in plumage that experts often figure out a species by their distinctive calls. To savour the serenades of the nightjars, I spent Tuesday night at nearby Perch dam.


A nightjar at night. Photo courtesy: AMISH PATEL

It is breeding season and nightjars call with a lusty tone. The opening bars of the concert were heard at dusk with the Savanna nightjar flying in circles from the flanking hillsides of the dam uttering its call, 'chiveet-chiveet'. As darkness engulfed us and the stars crept out of the crevices of the cosmos, the Long-tailed nightjar belted out its repetitive notes: 'chaunk-chaunk'. As many as 50 can be uttered in one serenade of 'chaunks'. The Long-tailed nightjar, unlike the Savanna, preferred to sit close to water and sing.

By about 10pm, the nightjars had fallen silent. Only Long-tailed nightjars would utter a few notes periodically before retreating into silence. It was now a rising crescendo of night insects, singing hymns of love to woo the galaxial 'jugnus' that winked upon us.

Ashok Kumar, a top professional golfer who rose from humble origins as a caddie boy from Samastipur, Bihar, to India's number 1 golfer for a couple of years, is a maverick with a taste for wild life! He has made friends with a Sambar stag that visits the clubhouse of the fabled Delhi Golf Club (DGC).


Ashok Kumar with sambar. Photo Courtesy: ASHOK KUMAR FACEBOOK PAGE

This sambar is so used to being fed biscuits and chips by golfers that he wanders into the members' area with an air of utter bravado. Ashok says, "This deer is very dear to me. He belongs to the DGC. He is like a member of the club!" Ashok never fails to feed it though he does not realise that feeding wild deer with packaged foods is wrong. The deer's digestive system is not adapted to such alien foods and neither is it a good augury for wild creatures to lose their natural fear of humans as poachers or unscrupulous elements can exploit this over-familiarity.

Besides, the "stag party" on the manicured DGC greens leaves greenskeepers with a severe headache. There was another memorable wild encounter involving Ashok. Playing the jungle-flanked 9th hole at the DGC during an Indian Open, Ashok hooked his ball into deep bush.

His caddie left the golf bag among bushes as he went searching for the ball, and a snake crept into the unattended bag. When Ashok arrived at the 10th tee, the bag produced some irritated hisses. Ashok and his caddie fled the spot, dumping the bag. Out from Ashok's bag slithered a non-venomous Rat snake, found in plentiful at the DGC!



Rat snake in the commode. Photo Courtesy: MOHAN KRISH

This is not the first time a snake has sought refuge in a commode's hole. Here is one wacky snake rescue by the Bangalore-based expert, Mohan Krish, who had earlier rescued a cobra holed up in a commode! A six-foot Rat snake took refuge in the toilets of a house on Bhavani street, Ramamurthy Nagar, Bangalore.


The rescued snake with Joncy John (left) and Mohan Krish.PhotoCourtesy: MOHAN KRISH

Krish searched the toilets in the main house but could not find the snake. His search took him to the domestic help's toilet and he finally spotted the snake in the commode. It had fled from one toilet to another using the sewerage/water pipe. Krish blocked the pipe, flushed water into the commode, and pulled out the slippery customer! The house's lady owner, Joncy John, who is a lover of wildlife, was fascinated. She insisted on touching the snake and even went to the extent of requesting a bemused Krish to teach her the art of rescuing serpents!