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Wild buzz: Eviction of birds

The limping geese, unfortunately, are unlikely to be left with the capacity to make the trans-Himalayan return migration in early spring.

punjab Updated: Feb 11, 2018 12:48 IST
Mote Majra,wetland,Eviction of birds
A bar-headed goose with a broken left leg at Mote Majra; and (right) a dead Painted stork pulled out from cord nets at Maina village, Rohtak. (PHOTOS: SUKHWINDER SINGH & RAKESH AHLAWAT)

Fishing nets are killing and maiming resident and migratory birds. Birders visiting the Mote Majra wetland near Banur have observed migratory bar-headed geese with broken legs. Narbir Kahlon, vice-president of the Chandigarh Bird Club,says this is the result of geese landing on fishing nets put up by farmers near the wetland to protect wheat and barseen (cattle fodder). “Geese tend to fly to crops to feed in the late afternoon. Farmers lay fish nets over crops and when the unwary geese land, the impact on hard nets breaks their legs,” Kahlon told this writer. The limping geese, unfortunately, are unlikely to be left with the capacity to make the trans-Himalayan return migration in early spring.

Haryana panchayats have leased out ponds and wetlands to commercial fisheries. The fishermen have launched an all-out war on birds and even repel avians that do not eat fish. They turn wetlands into impregnable fortresses by spreading synthetic Chinese cord nets on the water. The trapped birds die or are mutilated. This violates the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and adds up to a denial of the natural habitat to birds for resting, feeding and nesting. But the mighty governments care little for our feathered friends, and so, stringent wildlife laws go abegging for want of enforcement.

Haryana’s director, fisheries, RK Sangwan, told this writer that the department “advised” fishermen to place colour strips to ward off birds rather than lay killer nets. Sangwan also sought amendments to the Fisheries Acts to make protection of birds obligatory in the exercise of fishing rights. On the other hand, wildlife officials are bullied and repulsed by fishermen/panchayats when they venture to remove bird killer nets.

Fire, beastly beauty

Stubble fires, smoke and mesmerising clouds at village Kubheri. (PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH)

Sunset is metaphorically evoked as a fried egg spilling over from the cosmos. In that golden hour before earth turned its face away from the sun, farmers set ablaze fodder stubble in the agrarian belt meandering along the Shivalik foothills in Punjab’s Kubheri village, a 25 minute drive from Chandigarh. The smoke rose to wispy clouds of magical formations and invited the imagination to travel afar across the seas and draw a soulful comparison to the ceiling art of the Vatican’s lofty domes. There were rich pickings in the stubble fire for five black drongos. The agile birds dived, flashed and weaved within the fires in a sizzling display of aerobatics to snap insects flushed from the hellish inferno. That is where fire’s visual beauty and sustenance of life ends. Stubble fires cause smog in faraway cities. Fires spread wide from burning fields to destroy habitats of ground-nesting birds, insects and micro-organisms. Trees and saplings in scrub jungle strips flanking fields, too, suffer collateral damage.

Partridge tea service

The silver ‘Partridge Tea Service’ crafted by Oomersi Mawji. (PHOTO: BONHAMS)

Few spectacles of the countryside can emulate a black partridge (francolin) flushed from mustard blooms in a contained explosion of black, chestnut and ivory feathers.

Way back in 1870, the celebrated silversmith, Oomersi Mawji, crafted an esoteric Partridge Tea Service of 1,276 grammes that warmed the heart of all those given to a love for the rambling countryside and its natural heirs. Mawji was the son of a cobbler but rose to eminence as a royal silversmith to the Maharaos of Kutchh. The tea service cropped up in a London auction by Bonhams to fetch £25,625 nearly 150 years later.

Mawji was master of animals depicted in dramatic struggles: deer chased by hounds; or elephants, their tusks entangled, engaged in mortal combat Connoisseurs of antique silverware, Harish Patel and Veronica McDavid, rendered an eloquent tribute to Mawji’s partridge artistry when they wrote: “This museum-quality, partridge tea service should not be considered as a set of serving vessels, but rather as sculpture. As Mawji was wont to do in some of the animals he has depicted against foliate backgrounds, he depicts a life-and-death struggle. In this case, a mother bird, a snake having wrapped itself around her neck, is being strangled. Her two chicks, one, the sugar bowl with closed-wing lid, the other, the milk jug with raised-wing handle, observe their mother’s plight in alarm. The teapot has two double-rimmed ivory insulators, and the bases of all three birds are stabilised by snakes beneath their feet. Each feather is rendered and incised individually, as is each realistic scale on the snakes’ bodies.”

First Published: Feb 11, 2018 12:44 IST