Flash mobs of the night
PHOTO: KEDAR BHIDE
The night may fade away star by star. But much before stars light up the early night, it is the fireflies that emerge out of the crevices of deepening darkness and lend a glitter. Fireflies have been nearly banished by the glare of city lights but in the tricity's peripheral jungles, these can be seen in good numbers, especially around water bodies. To sit in solitude in a jungle and watch the fireworks of fireflies, and then glance upwards to the galaxial Diwali on a moonless night, is to realise paradise itself.
What can be more charming when poetry pairs with an evocative picture of these flash mobs of the night! Kedar Bhide took this picture of fireflies at Purushwadi in district Akole (Maharashtra). Bhide is an intrepid wildlife scientist, whose range covers alleviating snake-bite prevalence in Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) to discovering rare snakes of the North-east and braving all manner of hardship to photograph wildlife (such as doing potty in bottom-busting Ladakh's ultra-rarefied altitudes!)
I will now let Bhide's words take over: "Fireflies are insects which produce bioluminescence due to reaction of calcium, ATP and luciferin with enzyme luciferase in their light organ. Oops! Such a dull description! For me these are moments of joy, sparks of dreams, signals of celebrations!'' writes Bhide.
Art of the grotesque
PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH
Most view male peacocks through the prism of peerless beauty. So, the human eye will be offended at the bird's less-noticed attributes. Such as, what seem ungainly legs and feet, guttural yelps (it does not need a mellifluous aria to lure females!) and cylindrical, black potties tapering to a bluntish point like a thick, unsharpened school kid’s pencil. But when wild predators set to work on a peacock, the remains of this gorgeous national bird are the most disturbing. I came across this male de-feathered and eaten by a predator in a Shivalik nallah near village Chotti-Badi Nagal. It brought to mind an extraordinarily beautiful woman from a gory crime scene snapshot- disrobed, ravaged, and then savaged by a cannibal who had left nothing below glossy breasts. I could not ascertain the species, which had killed the peacock. It was either a leopard, jackal or a smaller wild cat species. However, the very next day as I rambled across the same nallah, I startled a white-eyed buzzard scavenging on that peacock's remains. The buzzard was competing with dozens of grotesque, bluish carrion flies loathe to yield territorial claims over a 'putrefying pudding'! So effective were these scavengers that the odour of death was receding by the hour. Nature would doubtless term these tireless 'safai karamcharis’ as angels of death. And, the devil can take the hindmost!
Jiyo aur khaane do
The heart-shaped necklace of death. PHOTO: KOLA VENKATESWARLU
Kola Venkateswarlu is a wedding photographer. But he nurtures a passion for nature and expends four hours daily as part of a six-month project to photograph the Baya weaver birds and their fascinating nests near his home in Kodad, Telengana. He stumbled upon a fascinating episode. A Rat snake is known for its climbing agility, stealing into bird nests and throttling chicks and gobbling eggs. A large specimen attempted the same on a Baya nest. Kola noted that on the first bid, the snake climbed up but fell down into the flooded fields. The determined snake again made a bid, successfully contrived a necklace-like loop around the branches and nests, and stole eggs.
The climax came when Kola threw stones at the snake to "save the birds". I spoke to Kola on seeing his marvellous photos. After he had recounted the episode's minute details, I reminded him that chicks/eggs were the snake's rightful diet and one of the balances woven so deftly into nature's intricate 'food and numbers' systems. To his credit, Kola acknowledged his folly and promised never to interfere again with nature's 'cruel yet wise' ways. Cheers! Over to the next 'baby' murders!