Wildbuzz | She stayed back at Sukhna | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Wildbuzz | She stayed back at Sukhna

If she survives till November, it will mean an end to her isolation as pochards will by then have migrated to Sukhna from the northern latitudes.

punjab Updated: Sep 17, 2017 15:25 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
A mesmerising portrait of a female Red-crested pochard.
A mesmerising portrait of a female Red-crested pochard.(SANDIPAN GHOSH)

Last winter, the Sukhna lake was blessed with a record arrival of 104 migratory Red-crested Pochards. This shy bird, scrupulous with regard to its wintering habitat, has been growing in numbers at the lake. I have recorded their wintering numbers since 1999-2000. The number recorded in the 2003-’04 winter was 16 while in some winters, less than 10 pochards were counted. The pochard is among the late arrivals of migratory species in autumn and among the early departures in spring to breeding grounds in Central Asia.

For the first time, I observed that four pochards had lingered behind at the lake, as late as the third week of May 2017. However, as of last Friday, only one pochard remained, a female, at the rowing canal of the regulator-end. What fate befell the other three pochards is any one’s guess. The lonely female lurks in tall weeds and is extremely wary but has survived a torrid Chandigarh summer. If she survives till November, it will mean an end to her isolation as pochards will by then have migrated to Sukhna from the northern latitudes.

The straggler pochard’s plight lends a unique opportunity to focus on the female, which is invariably eclipsed by gorgeous males when in flocks.

A carp caught from Sukhna lake tinged with ‘breeding stress’ colours. (VIKRAM JIT SINGH)

WHEN BLOOD SURGES

Carps are among the largest families of fresh water fish found on earth. Some of the carp species, both native and exotic, thrive at the Sukhna and Dhanas lakes. During the breeding season, centred around the surge of monsoon currents, fishermen find carps tinged with golden/pink/red hues, especially around the fins. As the breeding season recedes, so do these bright colours. Are these courtship display colours, as in male birds? No, says eminent fisheries expert, professor MS Johal. “These are colours acquired by both sexes due to stress, extra activity and muscle use during breeding. As blood flows towards the fins to fuel this hyper-activity, reddish and allied colours flood the fins and adjoining fish parts.”

“The fins in carps are normally without blood, like human nails. However, in breeding season the carps surge against the currents to trigger egg release and this super-activity leads to blood flows and transient bright colours in fish. These bright patches can be described as a kind of ‘’roughness’’ suffered due to heightened activity. In carps and in fish, generally, females outnumber the males. In a study of 129 carp specimens at Gobind Sagar reservoir, I found only four males. Females release thousands of eggs but only an estimated 0.001 percent are fertilised. The remaining eggs disintegrate and are not productive,’’ professor Johal told this writer.

Naik Vijay Kumar S (courtesy: INDIAN ARMY)

VENOM WON THE RACE

A grieving yet graceful J Sangeetha stepped across on Thursday to receive the Sena Medal (Gallantry) from Lieutenant General PM Hariz at the Southern Army Command’s investiture ceremony at Bhopal. A venomous snake, India’s lethal roads and her husband’s unusual courage had brought Sangeetha and her two sons, Sukesh and Nivedhan, to Bhopal and a poignant award ceremony, far afield from their Karnataka village.

Sangeetha’s husband was the late Naik Vijaya Kumar S, 35 years of age and from the 4th Engineers Regiment. He was serving on attachment to a Rashtriya Rifles battalion in the 16 Corps sector when his last days unfolded in a series of accidents that went horribly amiss. But the brave Naik’s death was written over by an epitaph of courage, grit and devotion to duty and comrade.

The official citation for the award states: ‘’Naik Vijaya Kumar suffered a venomous snakebite while on duty on June 13, 2016, and was being evacuated to hospital in an ambulance. Unfortunately, the ambulance met with an accident causing death to a nursing assistant and injury to others. Naik Vijaya Kumar displayed super-human tenacity and courage in saving life of Medical Officer and the other Nursing Assistant by communicating the mishap for assistance, rescuing others from vehicle wreckage and providing medical aid despite his declining medical condition due to which he succumbed after five days of treatment. He displayed courage, perseverance and leadership beyond the call of duty in the true traditions of the Indian Army.’’

The effects of envenomation, per se, would not have led to the Naik’s death as he was under medical care while the ambulance raced to 166 Military Hospital, Jammu. But the trauma of the accident and his frenetic activity to save his comrades --- after finding himself the only “fit’’ man left in the wreckage --- led to a quickening of blood circulation and a much faster spread of venom. This caused irrevocable damage to his organs, something that anti-snake venom serum could not neutralise later.

The golden rule of first response to snakebite is to keep the patient passive and calm and affected limb dangling so that blood circulation does not step on the accelerator and restrains venom’s race to reach the ramparts of vital organs and wage a war of annihilation.

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