The Plumed Serpent
The Crested Serpent eagle is encountered in the forests behind Sukhna lake, Morni hills, Mirzapur dam etc and is a raptor that has mastered the art of killing snakes, mostly non-venomous ones.
But as India's leading authority on raptors, Rishad Naoroji, notes, there are rare cases of eagles taking on venomous snakes such as Russell's vipers and Spectacled Cobras, and perishing in the tussle. Naoroji records two such instances of this eagle, observed dying with a swollen foot due to a venomous bite: from Chiplun, and from Sinhagad Fort, Maharashtra (the latter instance an encounter with a Spectacled cobra, which had been partially decapitated by the bitten eagle and also died in the fight). But wildlife photographer, Saurabh Thakekar, captured a double-rarity. The first time he ever saw this eagle was at the Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, and as luck would have it, that eagle had also got the better of a viper. In Thakekar's words: "The eagle was trying to crush the viper's head in its talons while the viper was still alive! it was there in front of us for 20 minutes and eagle started eating the viper from the head, while its tail was still squirming." Photo: Saurabh Thakekar
DANCE O DIL
No words can describe their worth...no lonely cloud can shadow their golden blaze. Spring's dazzling array of blooms have few rivals than those offered by the tricity's bungalow gardens. But among these reign sovereign the `bloom of blooms': a set of rare Trumpet daffodils, also known as Wild daffodils or Lent lilies (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), that have made the hearts dance in Niti Sarin's Sector 4 garden in Chandigarh. These are the daffodils of the celebrated poem written by William Wordsworth in 1804 when his imagination took flight as a lonely cloud and chanced upon thousands of these wild blooms playing with every wind at will and outdoing the river's waves in sheer exuberance. Sarin planted 50 bulbs in October but was disappointed when none sprouted for 45 days. Then, one tiny green shoot emerged from one of the seemingly dead wombs, and then another one, and in February-March this year, all 50 bulbs bore fruit. There was no extra care required except a feed of rich fertilisers, says Sarin, whose peer group has gone raving mad about her daffodils. Fluttering like virginal eyelashes, the daffodils ``tossed, reeled, danced and laughed'' with the vigorous winds of March that buffeted the tricity till rains forced Sarin to cut, and watch them wilt indoors under her adoring gaze. "Amazing what these flowers do to the heart...the elation from within," exclaims Sarin. But, in the typical style of hybrids, these garden daffodils don't concede a whiff of fragrance and are quite removed from the smaller size and shape of their wild ancestry. Photo: Niti Sarin
CUPS OF JOY
The hymns of the wind, the whirr of bees, baritone bellows of sambars, squeaks of squirrels and twitter of birds around the blooming Silk cotton tree are as if a musical ensemble of virtuosi has gathered for a grand performance of nature's renditions of the `Spring' symphonies of Robert Schumann and Benjamin Bittern. In nature, appearances can be deceptive and deathly. Birds learn that some `flying flowers' or gorgeous butterflies are toxic to eat. But there is a wingless flower, which tastes as good as it looks. The cup-shaped Silk cotton flowers brimming with sugary nectar attract many bird species, who quarrel and jostle for a sip. The nectar attracts insects, which also lures birds. Insects and birds are, in turn, pollinating agents. The flowers falling on the ground with a soft `plop' sound following a nudge from bird beaks or the breeze, are gobbled by sambars below, while squirrels, too, relish these blooms. Since this tree looms over the forest, it serves as a perch for larger birds such as eagles and Openbill storks. I have seen vultures seeking refuge in this tree when disturbed from picking a carcass by wandering drug addicts in the Siswan dam forests. Indeed, this tree is a `langar' for the jungle's denizens, serving all irrespective of caste or creed! CAPTION: A Black-hooded oriole on a Silk Cotton tree. Biswajit Mandal photo