Wildbuzz | In irises, do roses dwell
‘Goolab chasm’ or rose eyes or the light-eye ones was the vernacular name conferred upon hawks as opposed to ‘Siah chasm’ or the black-eyed ones bestowed upon falcons by the nobility of the sub-continent.
The irises of the female northern goshawk, which alone was known as the ‘baaz’ or ‘shahbaaz’, changed from lemon yellow to an orange-red with age while the male goshawk or the ‘zurrah’ would sport blazing ruby eyes upon maturity. The sheer beauty of the shahbaaz’s eyes was deceptive for it was a raptor enjoying a reputation for uncommon strength, tenacity, suicidal courage and viciousness in pursuit of prey. The changing roses in her aging irises were as if these had been sourced directly from the writhing prey’s frothing blood.
There are documented cases of large eagles such as the Bonelli’s bringing down fawns or even a large monitor lizard. In the bygone era, three to five Saker falcons would be set in a flying pack upon an Indian gazelle (chinkara) with the winged hunters not too infrequently impaled on the chinkara’s dagger-like horns. But it was upon the shahbaaz upon whom was lent the distinction of flooring an adult Chinkara all by herself; a mighty prowess that rendered her the esteemed bird of Mughal emperors, Sikh Gurus and Rajput rajahs.
In his volume published in 1852, ‘Falconry In The Valley Of Indus’, the Victorian explorer, Sir Richard Burton, described the royal shahbaaz as one that could cost as “much as a (sum) fully equal to 200 pounds in England.” On a hunt with the Ameer of Sindh, Burton penned a vivid narrative of the shahbaaz killing a racing gazelle after braving the danger from dagger horns that repeatedly pierced her tail and thigh feathers.
“She swooped upon its back, deeply scoring the delicate yellow coat as she passed by. Then she descended upon the gazelle’s head, deafening it with her clashing pinions, and blinding it with her raking talons. As the victim, losing strength and breath by excess of fear, could no longer use its weapons (horns) with the same dexterity, the boldness of the Shahbaaz increased. Then the Ameer’s dogs, who had become ferocious as wolves, gained sensibly upon their victim. But even before the dogs had fastened their fangs upon the gazelle’s quarters, the unhappy gazelle was stretched, panting and struggling with the Shahbaaz straining every nerve to pin its head to the ground,” wrote Burton.
Blood eyes, lemon legs
Hawk-eyed visitors and walkers to the last pond at the Sukhna lake, where the regulator gates are situated, would have noticed blackish-white birds hunched at intervals in the bushes flanking the water. These birds seem virtually frozen in posture, like the nearby Buddha statue in the typically unquiet, Garden of Silence. Known as Black-crowned Night herons, these wetland birds are a resident species and some nest just a few hundred yards away on the tall trees that straddle the boundary of the UT Fish Seed Farm.
Adult herons are distinctly coloured with unblinking, dark orange to blood-red irises, dull green legs/feet that morph to lemon, orange-red or pinkish red in the breeding season, a greenish-black back and a handsome black crest sporting a few white plumes. The crest stands momentarily erect when herons express emotions at their nesting or roosting places, such as territorial spats. Immature herons are brown, streaked and speckled with rufous, buff and dark brown. Herons are prone to feeding at night, setting upon flights to and from their feeding grounds with vocalisations of a raucous ‘kwaak’ call. This characteristic call confers upon herons the common vernacular name, Kwaak.
The diet of herons comprises fish, frogs, aquatic insects, dragonfly larvae etc.
Mumbai: Environmentalists and concerned residents of Thane have raised alarm over the construction of 20 commercial bungalows in Yeoor village, which lies within the notified eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), where development activities are restricted. The bungalows, Hindustan Times has learnt, are being developed by Thane Municipal Corporation corporator Hanmant Jagdale, who was awarded a commencement certificate for the project in April last year. Activists, however, termed these constructions as illegal.
Senior Congress leader Harish Rawat on Thursday staged a nearly hour-long sit-in on the national highway in Haldwani to protest the condition of the road that he said was claiming lives of a number of people as the government remained a mute spectator. Rawat also promised to continue his protests over such issues in future too. Rawat has been aggressively campaigning for the bypolls for which the Congress has fielded Nirmala Gehtori as its candidate.
Thane A 64-year-old man was killed and three others suffered injuries after a speeding car collided with a cab ferrying two passengers near Manas petrol pump in Mankoli village in Bhiwandi on Wednesday. The deceased Iqaram has been identified as Iqaram Nishan Ahmad, 64, and the injured as Ashfaque Ishaque Shaikh, 35, Majid Mustaque Qureshi, 38 and Jitesh Joshi, 28, all residents of Bhiwandi.
Navi Mumbai: Following the arrest of a 25-year-old auto-rickshaw driver Jayant Suresh Kolkhekar on Tuesday night from Panvel for allegedly killing a 33-year-old woman Reshma Sachin Garude, the probe revealed that the accused had purchased a sim card in the name of the deceased to avoid getting caught. The phone, however, led the police to him. Kolkhekar used to ride the rickshaw, owned by the deceased, a mother of two girls.
The West Bengal cabinet on Thursday decided to table a bill in the state assembly to replace the governor with the chief minister as chancellor of all state-run universities, education minister Bratya Basu said, a move that is seen as a fallout of the long-running battle between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. There has been no reaction from Raj Bhawan to the decision.