Former Punjab chief secretary YS Ratra, like many a proud and possessive tricity householder, cherishes his garden flowers but does not relish too much the prospect of Red-vented bulbuls making short work of his springy sweet peas! But can anyone quarrel when a bird as delightful, and with so rich a history of association with humans as a European goldfinch, drop in for a snack? And that, too, from out of the blue!
It was almost as if nature had willed this petite, upland bird to retired Brigadier Sarbjit Singh Randhawa's door in Sector 36-D, Chandigarh. On March 17, Brig Randhawa, a keen naturalist and photographer, saw two goldfinches perched on marigolds planted outside the boundary walls of his neighbour, Col RK Dutta (retd), and relishing seeds. It is not that goldfinches have not been photographed in the region earlier; it is just that these sightings have come from the nearby hills -- Chakki Mor, Bhojnagar, Pinjore, Solan, Bir Shikargah - but not oft from the city's heart.
Brig Randhawa's tryst with goldfinches goes a long way back. He earlier saw them flitting in the Sukhna Lake jungles, and memorably between 2000 and 2002 when he was commanding the 121 (Independent) Infantry Brigade Group in Kargil. Goldfinches would visit his Kargil residence to feed on zinnia seeds.
Goldfinches are found in several global races. The race inhabiting the sub-continent is Carduelis carduelis caniceps and described as a "resident and winter visitor. Pakistan hills and Western and Central Himalayas". The melodious call of the goldfinch and its plumage rendered it a popular cagebird in Europe and it enjoys many references in Western culture and art. Just as WA Mozart's pet European starling was closely associated with the composer's 17th piano concerto, the Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi, named a 1729 flute concerto after the goldfinch. "The flute is perhaps the instrument best suited to recreating the whistled sounds of songbirds. Vivaldi's Goldfinch concerto, or Il Gardellino, challenges the flute to imitate the bird's silvery trills and sweetly warbled phrases, even its plaintive notes," wrote Bob Sundstrom for 'BirdNote'.
FREE TO DOOM
While time will tell whether the under-production docudrama, 'Jang-e-Azadi', steered by the artistic father-daughter duo of Shyam Benegal and Pia, will leave its footprints on the sands of cinematic history, the film's shooting over the last two weeks at Jainti Majri and Gurra villages (14 km from Chandigarh) has certainly left its proverbial bumprints on the environment. Produced by the Punjab Freedom Movement Memorial Foundation to showcase the role of Punjabis in the Freedom Movement, the film crew colonised the countryside for seven days. After the shooting along the Shivalik cliffs ended on March 17, the hordes of production personnel sped off, leaving piles of litter, garbage and expended material from the sets at various points, some along a flowing rivulet.
The film's production wastes - oblivious to the media and public consciousness - not only contaminate the environment for the rustics, but pose a danger to biodiversity. Apart from a plethora of common birds, the film shooting took place in the wintering habitat of the Eurasian sparrowhawk, Egyptian vulture, Steppe eagle, Common kestrel and the Wallcreeper. At night, these moors are swarmed by sambars and neelgais, who will be now exposed to plastic/litter ingestion.A similar risk is posed to grazing livestock. The attitude of not clearing litter after a consumptive use of the environment stems from the deeply-ingrained sense of entitlement that afflicts privileged Indians and can be summed up thus - "It is not our headache" - even though it is must be doubtlessly clear to the film crew that no garbage disposal agency was operative in the countryside.
Photo caption: The dog caught in the clutch -wire trap.Photo: Sheena Sodhi
An alert resident of Peermuchhalla, Zirakpur, which falls between Sectors 20 and 24 in Panchkula, has repeatedly brought to the notice of the Punjab forest department the poaching by use of the notorious clutch-wire traps in the forest belt here. The forest harbours wild boars, neelgai, peacocks, hares, civets, etc. Animal rights activist Neenu Sodhi's husband Naresh, and daughter Sheena, recently rescued a dog caught in a trap camouflaged in an agricultural field's fencing. The troubled activist emailed a written complaint to chief wildlife warden Dhirendra K Singh with pictures of the trapped dog.
"The snare was obviously not meant for the dog as its meat is not a prized item.
This dog is not the first one which has been rescued by us. Many more (dogs) must have been released by poachers, as I have observed dogs with wounds caused by a wire or rope cutting into the skin. I wonder how many targeted animals are getting caught in these traps and killed by poachers.
I have made complaints to your department earlier, too, but still awaiting a reply," Stated Neenu Sodhi's complaint.
When contacted by HT, Singh said the "complaint had been forwarded to DFO (territorial division), SAS Nagar, Tejinder Singh, as the concerned forest belt falls under his jurisdiction and not of the Wildlife wing." On his part, the DFO said: "I have asked the range officer to visit the spot and file a report."
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