Wild buzz: Arjuna’s arrows

Imagination’s connectivity would summon to mind parallel images of a helicopter hovering while lowering supplies on Siachen’s Saltoro heights. The trigger is pulled, the bird hurls itself at fish coming within striking depth, plunges its dagger-like bill and takes off with the sliver flash to a suitable rock where it can be ‘pounded mercilessly’ to death!

punjab Updated: Jan 14, 2018 13:26 IST
Siachen,Sukhna Lake,wildlife
A Pied kingfisher at Sukhna Lake; and (right) a White-throated kingfisher at Botanical Gardens on the Panjab University campus.(PHOTOS: GUR SIMRAT SINGH)

When strolling along the Sukhna lake’s promenade, often is observed a bird hovering about 10 m above water. It will stay stationary, standing as if on its tail in mid-air. The handsome bird appears speckled, and barred black and white like a tuxedoed Clark Gable. Imagination’s connectivity would summon to mind parallel images of a helicopter hovering while lowering supplies on Siachen’s Saltoro heights. The trigger is pulled, the bird hurls itself at fish coming within striking depth, plunges its dagger-like bill and takes off with the sliver flash to a suitable rock where it can be ‘pounded mercilessly’ to death!

It kills lizards, rodents, large insects, small garden birds and even snakes!

Then, as your drift leads leftwards along the ‘Bird walk’ bundh, a brilliant turquoise-blue bird with a deep-chocolate brown head and ‘white shirt-front’ will be perched stoically on a leafy tree. Like a sniper concealed, the bird will fire as a rainbow missile. The wings hug the sides and a plunge into water with the velocity of Arjuna’s arrow piercing the fish eye.

The hovering one is the Pied kingfisher and the tree ambush avian is the White-throated kingfisher. Both are residents at Sukhna and nest in the catchment area by drilling horizontal tunnels in steep mudbanks over water and dry rivulet cliffs. Nest building begins with the couple flying hard into a suitable mud wall until an indentation is made where they can find a perch and continue deeper with drill-bills.

The White-throated is the least dependant on water among our kingfisher species and can be observed in the heart of cities and miles from wetland. It kills lizards, rodents, large insects, small garden birds and even snakes!

On a safe tree perch, a chameleon slumbers under the stars. (PHOTO: MANDAR GHUMARE)

Asleep in the deep

What a benediction would humanity bestow upon nature were we to leave forests untouched so that creatures like the Indian chameleon could sleep peacefully under a loving and benign cosmic gaze. Nature photographer Mandar Ghumare came up with this soul-stirring photograph of an Indian chameleon asleep under a starry night. “This shot was taken at Naneghat, Maharashtra. We were searching for a spot for a galaxial photo shoot. We came across this tree that did not have leaves and we found this sleeping beauty on a branch edge. So, I decided to shoot the galaxy and a habitat shot of this sleeping beauty,” Ghumare told this writer.

Bingo! The Gods blessed Ghumare! His image left the jury so entranced that it bagged first prize in the ‘Nature and Wildlife’ category of the Maharashtra Kaleidoscope 2017 Photography Contest, declared last Wednesday.

Emptying the jungle

The Shivaliks hills of Ropar-Hoshiarpur are rich in trees and bush jungle but are being robbed of their noble gentry. An abstraction of a ‘Silent spring’ hangs in the air. The robbers are a section of the Bangala and Sikkligar tribals, whose skills in tracking and hunting is the stuff of jungle lore. Were it not so blemished by the fact that they poach virtually 365 days a year, and without deference to breeding seasons, females, the young or rarities. This came to the fore when raids on three Bangala bastis in Ropar district last week yielded recoveries of five snakes and 384 body parts culled from diverse, slaughtered species.

Traditional bush meat trappers are unlike gun poachers or VIP shikaris, the latter restricted in their destruction by culture, season, arsenal costs, fear of law and controversy, and target species. But bushmen are economically dependent on poaching and even extract personal nutritional requirements, such as protein-rich python and peacock meats. Wildlife officials apprehend that species like Golden jackal and Pangolin face local extinctions.

Tribal poachers can slither down python burrows with flashlights, wade through icy waters to grab migratory waterfowl and place 15-20 iron traps on a single game trail. Extensive nets trap ground birds like partridges for sale at Rs 50 to Rs 60 a bird while peacocks are murdered with pesticide-laced grains. Cross-bred hunting dogs ferret animals from their lairs and poachers clobber and butcher them with sticks and spears.

Though a section of the judiciary and social activists decry, in a very well-meaning way, that wildlife officials tend to “prosecute poor hunting tribals and spare VIP shikaris”, the deepening silence of the Shivaliks speaks otherwise.

vjswild1@gmail.com

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 13:21 IST