Today in New Delhi, India
Jul 19, 2019-Friday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Wildbuzz | The lost loafers of Sukhna and respecting nature

Return migration has gripped the Sukhna Lake as new flocks are arriving and will stay for short, varying durations using this waterbody as a staging ground for the long haul across the Himalayas.

punjab Updated: Feb 26, 2017 11:38 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Wildbuzz,Sukhna Lake,Mahashivratri
This iconic photograph from January 2000 captures the silted isles of Sukhna lake and an abundance of Greylag geese.(PHOTO: SANJAY KAUSHAL)

Return migration has gripped the Sukhna Lake as new flocks are arriving and will stay for short, varying durations using this waterbody as a staging ground for the long haul across the Himalayas. Some of the waterfowl that stayed through the winter at Sukhna have already left for summer breeding grounds in the northern latitudes. On February 20, the Sukhna was graced by the arrival of 72 Greylag geese, which stayed only for a few hours and by the next day, only two remained. Though migratory bird numbers and diversity at the Sukhna this winter have risen in comparison to previous years due to shallow waters and weed abundance, it is a far cry from the heydays of the “siltation” era when the regulator-end was an inviting mosaic of marshes, sandy isles, tall reeds and plenty of food.

This writer counted 500 geese in the early spring of 2002 at the regulator-end, and the geese stayed for a couple of weeks. This very wary species had then felt comfortable with the Sukhna and even flocked to the “lotus pond” along the walking promenade where anyone could take a dead-close look at these powerful flyers. For Dr Asad Rahmani, a globally-known ornithologist and former director of the BNHS, the Greylag is his favourite wetland bird.

“The Greylag is the indicator species for the health of a wetland. The call of the Greylag would send a thrill through the shikaris of yore as it was a favoured gamebird due to its meat and sporting challenge, and it exerts a similar and powerful attraction on bird-watchers. This species likes to roost, forage and generally just loaf around a wetland where it is not disturbed. The presence of Greylags tells us something positive about the wetland. You will never find Greylags in a village pond,” Dr Rahmani told this writer.


A cobra spots the nest of the swallow in a hole; (centre) enters the hole and a swallow attacks its tail hanging outside; and (right) the cobra turns and looks outside from within the hole nest. ( PHOTOS: SONU DALAL )

One of the beliefs associated with the festival of Mahashivratri is the onset of warm weather and the liberation of insects, lizards, snakes, etc, from their winter hibernation. Though climate change has rendered awry such seasonal changes, I did see the first house lizard in action on February 23! Nature lover and field worker for the Nature Conservation Foundation, Sonu Dalal, was wandering in the ‘tibbas’ of his village Mandhauthi (Jhajjar) on February 18 when he witnessed Shiva’s beloved serpent in action for the first time this season. A Spectacled cobra had laid siege to the nest in a ‘tibba’ embankment of the Streak-throated swallow.

The cobra entered the nest-under-construction and was pounced upon by the swallows, who heckled the mighty serpent. The cobra did not find eggs or chicks as it is yet too early for that but turned around and sat in the hole for 30 minutes. True to his passion and respect for nature, Sonu did not seek to interfere as he understood that the cobra has full rights to prey on bird eggs and chicks, howsoever cute the chicks may be or cruel it may appear.


After a bird had eaten this pear, the ruins resembled a human face. ( PHOTO: ARUN BANSAL )

When introducing children to the wonders of nature, it is best to desist from the classroom method of making them mug up names of birds and blooms. Children dread comparison when they recollect lesser number of names correctly as compared to their peers, and nature teaching then evokes the dread of classrooms and rebukes. If a child’s curiosity is aroused in a subtle, suggestive manner, the seeds of a lifelong interest in nature are sown in the soul. Arun Bansal, a tireless conservationist of the tricity’s biodiversity, takes sons, Eshit (8) and Dishant (5), on nature rambles and the kids are left to merrily click pictures with their own camera.

On one such odyssey through the Dr PN Mehra Botanical Gardens (PU), Dishant glimpsed a pear fruit in ruins, which had been eaten by a bird. Dishant’s imagination was spurred and he exclaimed: “Who is this kid?” But Eshit was not convinced and snubbed his sibling with the haughty air of a wise elder by declaring: “Pagaal, ye to kuchh aur hi hai...frog jaisa.” But beauty lies in the human eye and others may find even more ingenious comparison for the pear in ruins, such as resemblance to a voodoo doll.

Bansal took his sons home, enlarged the picture on the computer screen and patiently explained it was a fruit eaten by a bird. The kids were just not willing to believe him and declared: “Aisa kaise ho sakta hai!” But the purpose had been served --- the kids’ imagination had been fired, a sense of wonder had filled their hearts and the pear in times to come would bear sweet fruits in their intellectual enrichment and personality progression.


First Published: Feb 26, 2017 11:34 IST