CITY'S BEAUTIFUL CHICKS!
New birds are being discovered with gusto in the 50-km radius around the City Beautiful. In the last week alone, there were two additions: a Pallas's fish eagle photographed at the backwaters of Siswan dam on January 26 and a vagrant Greater flamingo recorded at Mote Majra wetland, Banur, on January 28.
The list of bird species recorded in the Chandigarh inter-state region now stands well above 400.The other significant record of the Greater flamingo from Punjab has been visits of small flocks to Harike Wildlife sanctuary since 2010. The Pallas's eagle is a declared vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This eagle is known to hunt waterbirds as large as geese and also pirate food from other predators. Raptors, in general, are facing decline due to varying factors. They are also exceedingly difficult to identify due to their varying plumage. I requested renowned bird book author Tim Inskipp to provide a diagnosis of the photograph taken at Siswan.
Inskipp replied: "Clearly a big eagle and the general colour pattern indicates either juvenile Pallas's eagle or Eastern Imperial Eagle. I think Tawny eagle can be ruled out because of the very pale contrasting inner primaries - they are paler in Tawny but never this pale as far as I know. The long neck and rather small head and the uniform brown underparts are all wrong for Eastern Imperial, and I am sure it is a Pallas's Eagle."
The conviction of the six hunting companions of late Nawab Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger Pataudi' for a term of three years and a fine of `10,000 by the Special Environment Court, Faridabad, on January 29, is a story also of activism.
Credit must be delivered at the door of Naresh Kadian, chairman, Indian People for Animals, who risked the wrath of the Haryana establishment by "stealing" the carcass of the female Black buck shot by the Pataudi party at Kilrod, Jhajjar, on June 5, 2005, and having a post-mortem undertaken at the Delhi zoo by renowned veterinarian NVK Ashraf and zoo vet Paneer Selvam.
There was a subversive effort to have the hunted Black buck (an endangered species) declared as a non-endangered 'neelgai'. But it was Kadian's efforts that forced the Haryana government's hands and the Pataudi party was booked under the correct sections of the law.
Kadian dug out the carcass of the Black buck and rushed it to the Delhi zoo. Kadian was booked for stealing the carcass and obstructing the government. Hounded by the establishment, he went into hiding and was eventually cleared by the courts.
He has over these 10 years relentlessly pursued the Pataudi case. Following the conviction, Kadian has written to the President seeking a recall of the Padma Shri awarded to Pataudi in 1967.CAUGHT AT SILLY POINT!
Cricketing legend and icon of the erstwhile nobility, Tiger Pataudi, has joined his peers in the happy hunting grounds. Known for his courage and quicksilver movements on the field at Lords, Pataudi's exploits in the jungles were of a somewhat different order.
Out hunting once with his nephew, Saad Bin Jung, on the Nepal border, the Nawab was caught with his pants down! In his book, 'Wild Tales from the Wild', Jung recalls that his favourite 'Mamoo' was answering nature's call in the tiger-infested jungle. The Nawab ordered Jung to stand guard nearby with a gun as he hung his trousers from a tree and settled down with a sigh to relieve his pressing bowels. A tiger alarm was mischievously sounded just then and Pataudi was off like a flash, abandoning his trousers. Pataudi made a dash for the jeep, 60 yards away, and dived in. What a catch!
In November 1998, Pataudi and his better half courted controversy when they let fly at migratory birds at Hokera sanctuary in Kashmir. The shooting party, including British embassy officials and Patiala royals, were guests of the then CM Farooq Abdullah. They shot 160 waterfowl over two days, the bulk being drab, slow-flying and uneatable Tiger Pataudi!
I personally recall Pataudi and Jung from a duck shoot in Haryana in 1985 with India's the then top skeet shooter, Harinder `Baba' Bedi. Pataudi refused to wade into the water to get close to the ducks and preferred to fire from the comfort of a perch on the car bonnet even as most of us went into deep water. Pataudi, ever the dapper fellow, was well-equipped with a priceless, royally-engraved English double-barrel shotgun, custom-built with a curved butt to suit Pataudi's one-eyed mien. But as ducks whizzed by and Pataudi missed them with his poor shooting, an exasperated Jung memorably snatched Pataudi's gun and brought down two Pintail ducks in a jiffy!
But Pataudi's last known escapade in the wild was most unchivalrous. In June 2005, Pataudi was arrested for poaching a female black buck and two Black-naped hares. It was unsportsman-like to shoot animals in breeding season, a female, and that, too, with searchlights.