Wild buzz: Living in a glass menagerie

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 05, 2016 10:30 IST
A Rat snake hunting for eggs and chicks in Baya nests. (Photo: Kola Venkateswarlu)

Some of us may throw stones (and the photographer of the accompanying picture did so!) if we see a snake stealing the eggs and ‘’poor, helpless, sweet babies’’ of the Baya weaver bird when ‘mummy and papa birds’ are away foraging for food. However, if the nests disappear altogether and these charismatic birds decline in numbers because of ‘’increasing loss and modification of grasslands into human-dominated landscapes like agriculture farms, orchards, factories, canals, roads, and rapid increase in human population’’, we not even click our tongues in regret. We do live in a charmed bubble of bad knowledge, self-serving ethics and partial awareness. The chicks/ eggs are a snake’s rightful diet and one of the balances woven deftly into nature’s intricate ‘food and numbers’ systems. But what can justify the invasion of humans into the ancient homes of these birds powered by ‘greed over need’? India is home to four species of weavers: Baya Weaver (Common Baya or Indian Weaver); Streaked Weaver; Black-breasted Weaver (Black-throated Weaver) and Finn’s Weaver (Finn’s Baya or Yellow Weaver). This is the only species which has suspended pendulous nests built in colonies, usually above water.

Alarmed by declining numbers, the Bombay Natural History Society has announced an all-India count to record Baya weavers on two consecutive Sundays: June 05 and 12, 2016. The BNHS has invited bird watchers, ornithologists, NGOs, forest officials and nature lovers to record and report sightings of Baya weavers in their areas.

This count is under the aegis of the Common Bird Monitoring (CBM) programme, a citizen science initiative. Weaver bird data can be reported to www.bnhs.org.

Laments Dr Deepak Apte, director, BNHS: “Being born in rural Maharashtra, Bayas were an integral part of our backyard. Sadly when I visit my village now, I hardly see the beautiful nests.

Declining population of a common bird like Baya is a reflection of insidious damage we are doing to our immediate surroundings. Hence continuous monitoring of such species is imperative to understand and monitor the changing environment.”


(Photo: Dr. Vivek Banerjee)

What would be the gold standard for a photograph of that ethereal spirit of the air, the Indian paradise flycatcher? It is virtually an impossible task to sift through and judge the multitudes of eye-candy flycatcher photographs captured all over India. But this image of a male flycatcher in a rufous morph, glancing back over its shoulder with a look of regal disdain and perched on an Amaltas or Golden shower tree at the Ranthambore National Park, stirs the soul to its depths. The photograph achieves the merger of two colours that render the season glorious: rare rufous and golden galore.

This exquisite composition, and its attendant finery of colour and detail, can be aptly described as the photographic equivalent of miniature bird paintings commissioned by the courts of the great Mughals.

Would not our imagination, so provoked, wander to those noble eras when the prince retreated to a secret room that seemed to reach to the clouds and veiled in golden garlands. Awaiting a forbidden tryst with a girl with a golden heart stealing away from the hearths of the commoners.


Discarded materials dumped callously in the Sukhna lake jungles. (Photo: Vikram Jit Singh)

Heaps and heaps of life jackets and human figures fashioned from colourful paper and stuffed with plastic packings were discarded in cavalier fashion in the Sukhna lake reserve forest within a stone’s throw of the lapping waters. The dump was not more than 500 yards from the Lake Club and the CITCO’s leisure boating jetties but was chosen cunningly enough to conceal the discarded material from casual observation. This illicit disposal posed not only a threat to the teeming bird and animal life in the wetland but was a source of pollution once waters surged towards the jungle in the rains and the discarded material subjected to intense attrition.

While the dumping seems to have been undertaken on the sly by elements of the CITCO using boats to haul the discards and dump them in the forest, the forest department’s patrols failed to detect this ‘garbage of recreation’ rotting right under their proverbial nose.

Chief conservator of forests Santosh Kumar said he was shocked that government agencies could dump with such irresponsibility in the tricity’s beloved lake that cradles a charismatic eco-system. “I will have the dumped material photographed and brought to the notice of the concerned departments,” said Kumar. Lake Club’s senior manager, Naib Singh, said the ``dumping was likely to have been at the behest of CITCO.

The Club’s life-jackets are all accounted for.” CITCO’s general manager Jagan Choudhary was equally perturbed when he was informed of the dump on Thursday evening by this writer.

To his credit, Choudhary took a boat to search for the dump at 7.30pm on Thursday itself, but engulfing darkness hampered the operation. True to his word, the dump was located on Friday early morning and the discarded material evacuated. However, no responsibility has been fixed on CITCO employees who illicitly dumped the material.

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