A PARTRIDGE TOO FAR
A white-eyed buzzard rarely takes to hunting grey partridges (francolins). Even rarer are chances of the partridge escaping when the buzzard has its talons firmly implanted on the partridge's chest. But this is precisely how events unfolded at the Sukhna Lake nature trail this week while I was on a ramble in the late afternoon through scrubland interspersed with tree saplings.
The buzzard was hounding a partridge, which was fleeing from one bush to another. It finally pounced and pinned it down in a sprawling bush. The partridge let out a volley of distress calls, which were very unlike a bird's, and closest to the piteous squeals a roadside puppy may emit when its legs are crushed by a car.
I have heard partridge calls since childhood and even sampled the astonishing repertoire of this bird's calls that a German researcher painstakingly recorded in the 1980s at the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur. But these distress calls challenged the frontiers of auditory imagination. As I neared the encounter site, a foraging male peafowl got alarmed at my approach and made a dash for cover.
As luck would have it, the peacock went straight into the bush where the buzzard was holding the partridge causing the hunter to get flustered and fly off in a huff. (PHOTO COURTESY: ATUL DHAMANKAR)
The grateful partridge scampered for safety deeper into the bush. I was saddened. I regretted my presence had denied the buzzard its rightful dinner of a juicy partridge.
FREQUENT FLYER MILES
A Black stork chick sitting in its nest was caught and ringed around its legs with the white tag, 605W, on July 21, 2002, in the Suzun, Novosibirsk Area of Russia. Ornithologists were hoping to track its winter migration to India. Chicks are preferred for tagging because adult storks shift from one wetland to another and are, therefore, difficult to trap. Years passed and there was no news of this stork. It was finally sighted at the Baslapur Reservoir of Amravati district in Maharashtra on March 10, 2013. This was 3,885 days after the chick had been tagged and it had travelled 3,684 km as the crow flies to reach Baslapur.In a recent research paper on this startling insight into migration, Dr Raju Kasambe of the Bombay Natural History Society states, "Presuming that the bird visited nearby areas for 10 years of its life, it had travelled a minimum of 73,680 km in its life!"
To trace the stork's origins, Dr Kasambe had dashed off several emails to ornithologists in Europe/Russia. He finally got a response from a delighted Dr Frantisek Pojer of the Colour Ringing Project on the Black Stork in the Czech Republic, who identified it as the chick tagged in Suzun.
(PHOT COURTESY: ASHAHAR KRISHNA KHAN)
"Storks regularly winter in Amravati and other districts of Maharashtra in good numbers. In 2007, two storks radio-tagged in Czechoslovakia were recaptured in Akola district and were again released as a part of the New Odyssey Project started by Czech Radio. But the information about their migration pattern, particularly about their place of origin, was lacking till now. This recovery of 605W has also resulted in information about the longevity of their life," states Dr Kasambe.
SWEET MOMMY HEN
On a farm in Hyala village in Nawanshahr, Punjab, a 'desi murgi' (hen) is happily playing foster mother to two peafowl. They were hatched by this foster mother or broody hen from eggs abandoned by the real mother in a field in Wazirpur village. The peafowl eggs were retrieved by wildlife conservationist Nikhil Sanger and given to a farmer, Babbar Singh Bhullar, who agreed to let his hen hatch the eggs. Bhullar was the perfect host as he loves rearing an array of domesticated animals and birds. The peacocks are growing well but their behaviour is deeply imprinted by their foster mother and her real chicks.
The benign and matronly hen does not discriminate between her differing wards, and the female peafowl loves to snuggle with her foster mother in Bhullar's barn room. But rehabilitating these peafowl in the wild will prove a very trick process, says Dr S Sathyakumar, a pheasant expert from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
"Pheasantries and zoos as a standard practise keep domestic hens to hatch eggs of wild birds in case of certain emergencies. But the peafowl hatched in Hyala village will not develop the instincts needed to survive in the wild, such as roosting on trees at night to escape predators. (PHOTO COURTESY: NIKHIL SANGER)
These peafowl will also be too familiar with humans. So, a very phased programme of inculcating jungle skills is required for rehabilitation. Generally speaking, wild creatures born in captivity do not have a high survival rate when reintroduced into jungles,'' he said.