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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

A season full of transitions

For much of the world, the term migration is defined as “the seasonal movement of birds from the cold north to the warm south”. But the rains too inspire our feathered friends, resulting in a movement less dramatic in number but no less in frenzy.

opinion Updated: Jun 30, 2019 04:43 IST
Sunjoy Monga
Sunjoy Monga
These pink-striped trumpet lilies vanished before most of Mumbai had even woken up to the rains.
These pink-striped trumpet lilies vanished before most of Mumbai had even woken up to the rains.(Sunjoy Monga/yuhina ecomedia)
         

Plenty has been written about the monsoon and its mesmeric effect on everyone, from poets and philosophers, playwrights and photographers to Mumbai’s promising potholes. But one feature that remains full of surprises is nature’s limitless laboratory, where everything transforms.

While most of us associate rains with frogs and their ilk, few associate the season with featherfolk and fleeting flora.

For much of the world, the term migration is defined as “the seasonal movement of birds from the cold north to the warm south”. But the rains too inspire our feathered friends, resulting in a movement less dramatic in number but no less in frenzy.

On the Mumbai Safari, at least 50 bird species move with the rains, singing and dancing as showers and potholes make their appearance. Another 10 or so species get thrown off-course by strong monsoonal currents. Amongst those that regularly journey with the rain signs are cuckoos, weavers and finches, rails and crakes, quails and buttonquails, herons and storks, as well as kingfishers. And of course, the Oriental dwarf-kingfisher, known simply as ODKF within the birding community.

Many of these birds move in response to the changing weather, up and down the hilly region, or between the Konkan plains and the Deccan plateau. Possibly, they’re avoiding the more challenging hill-slopes that bear the brunt of the monsoon winds and torrential showers.

The heavy rainfall season with its strong winds is a real challenge to breed for some of these birds and which typically seek the regions either up on to the Deccan plateau (which sees far less rain) or, for a few, the comparatively ‘gentler’ rainfall tracts in the Konkan plains (which includes Mumbai).

Plants too abruptly surface from apparent nothingness, often within the foremost day or two of rainfall. Some of these are called ephemerals and include those majestic pink-striped trumpet lilies, most of which have already appeared and vanished in these past few days.

Alas, what we have done to the wetlands of the region has ensured that seasonally journeying wildlife has less and less reason or way to return every monsoon. Rails, crakes and weavers and other birds may not have much of a habitat to visit in the coming years.

First Published: Jun 30, 2019 04:43 IST

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