LIVE AND LET DIE
Well-known city lawyer, Harmanjit S Sethi, is a keen golfer who spends quality time on the greens with his children, Hargun and Manya.
The trio, besides trying to shoot as many birdies as possible, maintain a hawk's eye for wildlife sightings. The most memorable experience was when they were playing at the Shiwalik Golf Club, Chandimandir, and came across a Rock python curled up on the fringe of the 6th hole green.Here was an exotic sight that kids seldom get to see except in zoos or on TV. Hargun excitedly clicked pictures of the python with his father's smartphone as caddies wrapped it on a stick to rehabilitate the non-venomous serpent in nearby jungles.
The Sethi family also came across a Sambhar mauled by stray dogs near the 10th hole. As they approached to examine the wounds and see if they could help the creature out of its pain, the sambhar stamped its legs hard in the ground warning them to keep away.
Had they got closer to the Sambhar, the wounded creature may have further hurt itself in panic so they left it to its fate.
On the 16th hole tee, the family witnessed the jumping prowess of the Neelgai, which can put championship horses to shame in such feats. The Sethis came upon the 16th tee and the surprised Neelgai in one single bound cleared a 7-foot fence! But what saddened these budding wildlife enthusiasts was the hacking down of a Spectacled cobra in the roughs right-flanking the 15th hole at the Chandigarh Golf Club. The gardeners had misinterpreted the cobra's flared hood as a declaration of hostile intent and killed it, not realising that the hiss and hood are emphatic warning signals to humans to mind their own business.
FREQUENT FLYER MILES
Though migration of birds is most closely associated with that of large waterfowl in late autumn, there are a number of small birds that come down to the plains earlier than that.
One of the most delightful is the Grey wagtail, a flock of which I saw on the banks of a late-monsoon rivulet near Jayanti Mata village behind Chandigarh.
It is a bird that endears itself to a keen observer with the ceaseless bobbing movement of its tail, sharp sprints for insects on ground, and an agility to spring in the air and seize prey in flight.
According to the citizen science programme, MigrantWatch, run by the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, the wagtail generally begins migration to the Indian plains in early September (except for a few stray sightings that are in August), and leaves in April. The data base of MigrantWatch for the last five years shows the earliest record of the migrating wagtail as August 1, 2007, from the Ballavpur wildlife sanctuary, West Bengal, by Urmila Ganguly.
The bird summer breeds in the Himalayas and trans-Himalayan regions stretching to Central Asia.
The most amazing record of the wagtail's migration was that of a one-legged specimen that flew 1,500-2,000 km from its breeding grounds to the same spot in the BRT Hills sanctuary, Karnataka, every October for three consecutive years till 2009!
TALE OF SHIVERS
Here is another busybody migrant to the Indian plains from the higher Himalyas every autumn, the black redstart. A confiding bird in human presence and one whose tail also perpetually seems to shiver and foreparts of body keep dipping. As if it was still recovering from the severe cold and chest congestion it had acquired in the higher altitudes!
The black redstart is normally sighted in the tricity region in the first 10 days of October, and this year a sighting was reported in Chandigarh on October 1 itself by associate Prof MS Sekhon.
MigrantWatch reports the earliest sighting across India for the redstart this year as September 19, 2013, at Devgadh Bariya (Gujarat) by Shantilal Varu.
Chandigarh-based scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Rajive Das, took time to observe and photograph the redstart while on an official trip from Manali till the Siachen Glacier.
Das clicked redstarts at Kullu and at Manali on September 4, and later on September 6 at Sarchu in Himachal Pradesh. He was pleasantly surprised to see the bird throughout his journey to Ladakh from Manali onwards.
He spotted the redstart at the army's Siachen base camp, and the bird could be even seen at Khardung Pass at 5,359 metres. The redstarts that Das clicked at such high altitudes are likely to be in transit migration to cultivated patches and plantations at lower altitudes.