The parent barbet sits on the improvised nest. Credit: Amrit Singh
Nowadays, schools do much to mark 'environment day'. The administration, ever keen to certify its credentials, lends a helping hand replete with sermons and pious press releases. But we know certain officials violate environment laws brazenly. And parents, who pack off kids to school with cute environment posters, litter roads outside schools by merely lowering car windows.
But here is a stirring example from KB DAV School, Sector 7, Chandigarh. On July 8, a termite-eaten tree outside the school gates was damaged by a storm. As the UT horticulture division set to clear the fallen branches and the tree, a nest with three chicks was discovered. Fortunately, the school had a veteran saviour of birds in the guise of a peon, Umeed Singh, who took the nest, placed it on a broken cane stool thrown outside the school by a careless citizen, and had the improvised nest mounted back on the tree.
It worked! A good thing, because birds often desert nests that are modified or shifted. The parent bird, a large brown barbet, was back soon, catering to the chicks' growing hunger. The worrisome factor is acute disturbance since the tree stands amid the clamour of waiting parents/idling engines and the barbet often has to fly off with undelivered food in the bill.
The nest maker, Umeed Singh. Photo credit: Amrit Singh
Says principal Pooja Prakash: "Umeed's simple gesture speaks volumes of the spirit to save the environment. Neither it took a poster, nor a talk on rain harvesting, but a sweet gesture of a peon to show everyone that it is the thought that matters the most when it comes to saving our environment!''
Umeed is no stranger to such acts because as a kid in Tehri, Uttarakhand, he would restore chicks to nests. He migrated to Chandigarh in 1995. At the KB DAV, Umeed maintains a cage to rehab pigeon chicks fallen out of nests. He proudly declares that not one bird he has rescued has died.
Sheep in wolf skin
Photo credit: Vikram Jit Singh
On July 8 and 9, tricity's snake-rescue expert Salim Khan received summons. There were small snakes wandering along the walls in a ground-floor classroom (1 D) at St John's High School, Sector 26, Chandigarh. Khan retrieved two hatchlings of the common wolf snake, which is a non-venomous species often found habitating in buildings. On July 10, Khan rescued a 1.5-foot, sub-adult wolf snake from 'malba' stored along the compound wall next to the school's entry gate.
Realising that the hatchlings must have come from a larger brood that recently hatched, Khan prised open the plywood racks in the classroom and found six to seven small skins shed by the hatchlings. School authorities have wisely evacuated the classroom and shifted kids till such time as the classroom is snake-free.
Snakes time egg hatching with the rains due to abundance of food, and hatchlings quickly disperse to avoid conflict and seek prey. Their mothers don't rear them. Wolf snakes mimic the skin patterns and look of the common krait, which is India's most venomous land species. But wolf snakes are entirely harmless to humans, surviving on house lizards, cockroaches etc.
Andress in a flower
Photo credit: Amit Choudhry
The tricity will remember journalist Amit Choudhry, who wrote dizzily on fast cars and hard rallies. But fed up with the prevalent ''petty work culture'', Choudhry immigrated to Rumania in end-2003 before finding his haven a year later in the French region of 'Le Massif de la Chartreuse'. There, he looks after global business development and marketing for a firm specialising in high-end steels.
The charming Choudhry, who is popular among mademoiselles, una ragazzas, frauleins, femmes suisses et al, nurtures another passion. "I'm not attracted by museums or buildings, but more by wild, 'savage' lands, so I do two to three small trips or treks into the mountains close by, or a longer one maybe, once or twice a year, to Yellowstone or the Californian desert or Israel's Dead Sea area, where I was fortunate to see the Nubian Ibex."
Well, here is an exquisite sampling from his odysseys: one of nature's own Ursula Andresses (a wild flower!) clicked in the basin of Lac Emosson, a lake straddling the Swiss-French border.