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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Wild buzz: Heart of a home, a charmed life and the face of thirst

punjab Updated: Apr 30, 2017 11:36 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
The parakeet conquers Didi Contractor.
The parakeet conquers Didi Contractor.(Photo: Nitika Tewari)


A male Rose-ringed parakeet could consider himself rather fortunate that upon breaking his wing, he found himself cosy in the compassionate arms of Didi Contractor (87). The latter is a renowned eco-architect and settled in Sidhbhari, Dharamshala, where she designs houses of mud and local materials that impose minimal ecological costs. Didi lives by the dictum: the most valuable things are those we cannot buy, like love and sunsets. If life’s strange twists and turns brought Didi all the way from Texas to India six decades back, where she fell in love with the land, its people, critters and chameleon sunsets, the parakeet, too, benefited from a quite a fateful tumble that resulted in the wing badly crumbled.

Didi has nursed many a wounded and orphaned wild creature as an aside to her resurrection of traditional Himalayan architecture but the parakeet, Mithoo, is quite obsessive in his bondage. Chandigarh resident, Nitika Tewari, recently visited her friend, Didi, at Sidhbhari. As an outsider and fond observer, Tewari was left bemused by the parakeet’s routine antics and imperious conduct of proceedings in the shadow of the Dhauladhars.

‘’This Mithoo is quite snooty. Very possessive of Didi and considers all her friends as his rivals. And quite royal in the fact that he nibbles cashews from Didi’s hand and takes bath in a big brass bowl. The first thing that Mithoo does after being freed from his cage is to scamper onto Didi’s head and chatter and exclaim as if scolding Didi and asking her with a touch of ruffled indignation: Just where the heck have you been, huh?’’ Tewari told this writer.

If parakeets could read this piece, I bet many would catch the next flight to Sidhbhari and feign injury near Didi’s home. It has such a large heart that it dares not hurt the soil.


Kuljeet Singh with the buzzard hit by a bus.
Kuljeet Singh with the buzzard hit by a bus. ( Photo: Nikhil Sanger )

The Oriental or Crested honey buzzard is eminent among raptors for the ability to literally crash into bee hives and feed on larvae, bees and honeycombs. But this juvenile buzzard had a different sort of crash earlier this week. It flew straight into a bus meandering along the foothills near Balachaur and fell upon the road. But the buzzard seemed to be leading a charmed life. Two vehicles passed over the buzzard but not the wheels. The third vehicle to pass by was pure luck for the buzzard. It had an unlikely saviour, Kuljeet Singh, a liquor vend owner, who has a passion for wildlife. Singh stopped his car, picked the ruffled buzzard from the road and informed Nawanshahr-based wildlife conservationist, Nikhil Sanger.

Sanger nursed the buzzard and fed it chicken morsels dipped in water. The bird was released near the spot it was found. It flew 500m before dropping to the ground where a bunch of crows heckled and mobbed the raptor. One of the buzzard’s legs got injured during impact with the bus and its flight was thus limited. Sanger will shift the buzzard to Chhatbir zoo’s veterinary care as the injury has to be treated before the bird can be freed.

A brain-teasing aside to the rescued raptor was the question of its identity. It was initially and variously identified as a Booted eagle, Short-toed snake eagle, Crested hawk eagle etc by bird-lovers who saw the photograph. As the buzz narrowed down to either a buzzard or Crested hawk eagle, the identity was conclusively established after this writer sent photographs to one of India’s leading raptor experts, Dr Vibhu Prakash. His diagnosis is instructive: ‘’It is a juvenile Crested (Oriental) honey buzzard. Its tarsus are not feathered, so that rules out any hawk eagle and it has a weak bill and no ridge above the eye.’’


The thirsty fledgling of the Indian jungle crow at the Sukhna Lake.
The thirsty fledgling of the Indian jungle crow at the Sukhna Lake. ( Photo: Vikram Jit Singh )

There could be no more poignant an image of thirst and piercing heat than this fledgling of the Indian jungle crow that had either fallen out of its nest high on a eucalyptus tree or had been shaken out by a weather disturbance in the Sukhna Lake Reserve Forest’s nature trail. The parents were hysterical but did not have the acumen to get water from the lake, a mere 100 yards away.

The fledgling was not yet equipped to fly and so, it could not regain the safety of the nest or higher branches. I never saw it again, after April 20, but the parents remained hysterical and searching frantically as I walked along the trail on subsequent days. That implied the fledgling had been preyed upon and was dead as it lacked parental guidance, food/water and the safety of a high nest.

First Published: Apr 30, 2017 11:32 IST

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