The male Indian paradise flycatcher at Cactus garden, Panchkula. (PHOTO: ARYAMAN JAIN)
The male Indian paradise flycatcher at Cactus garden, Panchkula. (PHOTO: ARYAMAN JAIN)

Wildbuzz: A fairy tail come true

A child’s imagination was tickled to the core at the flash of a black and white bird with long ribbons trailing and twirling behind it; a pebble chronicles the river’s passage
By VIkram Jit Singh
PUBLISHED ON APR 10, 2021 11:12 PM IST

Aryaman Jain, a budding 12-year-old bird photographer, was out with his dad at the Cactus garden, Panchkula, when an ethereal avian darted into view from amid the leafy boughs. The child’s imagination was tickled to the core at the flash of a black and white bird with long ribbons trailing and twirling behind it.

“I told my dad that something was stuck to the bird’s body. I could never imagine that a bird could have such a long and unusual tail. Within a few seconds, the bird disappeared in the trees before momentarily reappearing.

The bird looked like a winged white mouse to me because it was playing hide and seek. Dad (Anuj) chuckled and told me that it was a male Indian paradise flycatcher and that its tail was for real. I was wonderstruck; the bird was like a fairy in its movements and appearance. With great difficulty, I captured a photograph of the furtive bird with dad’s old camera and posted it on my chat group. My friends thought the ‘pic’ was real cool, ‘awsum’, and wanted to know this amazing bird’s name,” Aryaman told this writer.

The reactions of Aryaman, a resident of Sector-18 and a Class-7 student at St Kabir Public School, to the flycatcher typify the compulsive charm the bird’s aerobatics and elegance exert on all, irrespective of age. The flycatcher is a favoured model and has graced jacket covers of innumerable bird books. A tryst with the flycatcher can sow the seeds for lifelong interest in our winged friends.

The ringed pebble from a Siswan dam rivulet. (PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH)
The ringed pebble from a Siswan dam rivulet. (PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH)

Rings of passage

Rings embedded in a tree trunk mark the passage of time. The earth’s orbit around the sun is again a measure of time. The rings of Saturn circling the giant planet comprise ice and rock. So, what did the rings on an enigmatic river pebble lying dormant in the parched seasonal rivulet draining into Siswan dam in the Shivalik foothills embody? The answer is: the river’s passage. Were the rivulet to go dry permanently, ringed pebbles would be rendered relics left in time’s wake and aesthetically evidence its erstwhile flow.

“Random abrasion of the pebble as it transits in the river system results in smoothing and rounding off its sharp corners and edges. Transport of pebbles in rivers and streams leads them to collide and rub against one another and the stream bed. These pebble rings are formed due to fluctuation of water levels of the river and groundwater during different time periods. Rounding of grains provides clues to the amount of time sediment has been in the transportation cycle,” Panjab University geology associate professor Ashu Khosla told this writer upon examining the fascinating pebble.

Professor RS Chaudhri, former chairperson and director of Geology (PU), elucidated further: “Were we to take recourse to a layman’s analogy, one could imagine a stack of papers and cardboards. The papers will degenerate faster, but the cardboard is more resilient. That would leave the cardboards prominent in the stack and that is what the rings are in the pebble. In this river pebble, there were once layers of coarse and fine materials. The coarse material (mainly sands) projects out as rings whereas fine-layered material (silt and clay) gets eroded as sand is comparatively harder and more resilient. This is the peculiar character of sandstones of the Middle and Upper Shivalik formations.”

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