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Oct 19, 2018-Friday
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Wild buzz, from nature’s domain of wonder: On wings of rain

The cuckoo, which is otherwise reckoned to be a weak flier, is adept at harnessing monsoon winds blowing from the Horn of Africa to migrate 1,500-2,000km to the Indian coastline.

punjab Updated: Jun 03, 2018 13:10 IST
Wild buzz,nature,wildlife
A Pied cuckoo at Dhulwan Khadri village in Mohali on May 29.(Rick Toor)

The weatherman reports the monsoons hit Kerala early this year. In a parallel announcement, tricity birders flashed the news of the arrival of the ‘monsoon bird’, the Pied or Jacobin’s cuckoo, pretty early as of May 29, 2018. Just four days before, a cuckoo was sighted by Ritvik Singh at the Basai wetlands near Delhi. In most years, the cuckoo has been sighted in the tricity region in the first or second week of June. However, the earliest cuckoo sighting record for northwest India was secured on May 23, 2009, by this writer from the 16th hole of the Shivalik Golf Club (SEPTA), Chandimandir.

The cuckoo, which is otherwise reckoned to be a weak flier, is adept at harnessing monsoon winds blowing from the Horn of Africa to migrate 1,500-2,000km to the Indian coastline. Cuckoos then fly deeper into central and north India and cunningly indulge in brood parasitism. Cuckoos lay eggs in nests of Turdoides babblers, which then incubate eggs and bring up cuckoo chicks like doting, unsuspecting foster parents.

I asked cuckoo migration expert, Suhel Quader, to lend perspective on the early sightings of 2018 from north India. Quader had helmed a pioneering citizen science programme of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, to study the affinity of monsoons and cuckoo arrivals in north and central India. “In general, one would conclude that the monsoon is arriving early if cuckoos are seen early. Or, it might be that the monsoon winds (which cuckoos appear to use to make the ocean crossing from Africa) might have been set up early,” Quader told this writer.

The broad congruence between the two, as perceived since ancient times and expressed in folk tales, was confirmed by ecologist MD Madhusudan. He collected 8,000 cuckoo sighting records between 2011-’16 and matched these with rainfall information from 1981 to 2017. “As the monsoon arrives and spreads, sightings of the species also spread, until the entire subcontinent is covered by both rain as well as cuckoos!’’ declared Madhusudan.

A mouse in my soul

The mouse that launched a poem. (Raja Rajeshwari Nagasigamani)

Not many writers would fashion a poem in favour of a mouse in the house. But Raja Rajeshwari Nagasigamani, a Bangalore-based author and poetess, who writes under the pen name of AR Sara, did precisely that.

A mouse surfaced in the storeroom of her house. The rodent was chased by the maid till Rajeshwari asked her to stop hounding the creature. “The mouse was rather still when I saw it first. I let it be in a cupboard for a couple of days with some water and fruit pieces. Till, I saw it was active and moving around. Then I used a cardboard box to capture the mouse and left it in heavy undergrowth and trees outside my house,” Rajeshwari told this writer.

The mouse gone, the muse visited Rajeshwari. She drew on the empathy residing in the depth of her soul and wove a delicate garland of verses titled, ‘Wonder Mouse’. Let us for a few moments blank our minds to all that we ‘’know’’ of pesky rodents and read Rajeshwari’s verses with the windows opened to our souls.

Tucked under an old rag in the loft,

A curled fur ball fuzzy and soft!

That is how I found you,

Sporting a pleasing golden hue.

A face spiky and impossibly tiny,

Eyes pitch dark and shiny,

Pupils glowing bright,

In curiosity or fright,

Sniffing with a minute nose,

You strike a winsome pose,

A smooth tail slim and long,

To grip the vines so strong.

Ears like fragile leaves,

Swaying like gentle waves,

Sweeping whiskers that softly quiver,

Fingers sturdy and slender,

Like translucent claws they appear.

Draped in a shimmering fur of gold,

Your movement is nimble and bold,

You…little creature are a charm to behold!

First Published: Jun 03, 2018 13:09 IST