Friday, May 23, 2008

Summer Visitors

After having spent five months in Antarctica, Delhi’s heat in the months of April and May is terrible even by Delhi’s standard. The mercury was already touching 42 degrees C when I reached Delhi in mid-April. It was as if the Delhi weather was trying to test my endurance after my five month long absence to Antarctica. After having weathered Antarctic summer with temperatures mostly below zero degree C, I am being made to prove my mettle with nothing less than 40. However, Delhi summer brings its own charm and compensation. The summer bloom on the Amaltas (acacia fistula) is just breathtaking. Gulmohar and Jacaranda are giving it a fierce competition. Bougainville bush is just a riot of colours. The markets are also full of fruits seen only during summer time. To top all the fruits is the king of fruits, Mango, with so many varieties that it alone can match the entire list of fruits in the market. But then, there are melons, water melons, cherry, green almonds, apricot etc. Leechi and plum are yet to make their appearance.

However, the most welcome are the summer visitors that are currently frequenting my front and back court yards and perching on the mango and blackberry trees there. It is practically a bird watcher’s delight to spend early morning at the backyard of my house. I do not mind being woken up early in the morning by their noise, calls, and constant chattering. Thus, sparrow, pigeons, doves, wood pigeons, bulbul, myna (three kinds seen – common myna, brahminy myna and pied myna), koel, crows, grey hornbills, tree pie, sunbirds, thumb birds, magpie robins, owlets, parakeet, babbler, barbets all are keeping me busy outside every morning. My morning cuppa tea that normally should take me 5 minutes is now stretching almost to one hour. And I do not stop at one cup. Chitra is of course resenting; earlier it was ocean, snow and ice that were keeping me busy, and now these noisy birds are competing with her for all my attention. But how can I resist the sweet melodious calls of koel or bulbul! And how can you can not admire the valour of a tiny bulbul chasing a big tree pie which has intruded into her territory to rob her eggs! Even the normally docile dove gets into a fighting posture should it see an approaching crow. Later the crow is at a receiving end when koel (a parasitic cuckoo, it does not build its own nest) enters into the crow’s nest to displace the eggs and deposit her own eggs. Parakeets are as ever a noisy group and look like naughty kids trying out their pranks on one another. On the ground many birds are fighting over the twigs to select the best for their own nest-building. Moths and butterflies are running for their lives from the persistent robins and chattering babblers. The snails and earthworms are on their never-ending trails. I am also having a very unusual resident guest this summer, that is, honey-bees. Yes, the Queen Bee has chosen a bush in the front lawn to make her hive there. Mosquitoes and flies are the only unwelcome guests. But the Delhi summer is not complete without their ubiquitous presence. So are the frequent power failures. But then, summer is summer. With so much action going around and wonders of nature unfolding right in the home compound, who minds Delhi summer!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Skua Family - The Final Migration

Guest Blog by By V R Manchem

The story of the migration of the skua family took a different turn in the end. The parent skua left their young skua behind and left for their destination by end of March. The young skua was left alone to look for food itself, practice more hours of flying to get stronger, and learn to acclimatize for falling temperatures. I was quite baffled how it would reach a destination it has never been before. It left our vicinity a week later after its parents had left. One observation that struck me was that it left its birth place only when its entire original plume had been replaced by new set of feathers resembling an adult. A few days later, on the 5th April, another young skua from Trishuli area came to Maitri along with its parents. They left the same day, but the younger one stayed behind till 16th April when it left the station before sunset. During the time it stayed here, it remained very active and agile and was seen flying most of the time. Its plume had also been totally replaced by a new covering of feathers before it left.

It has been five months here since I came to Maitri. Every day the Nature looks different which I enjoy from my window. Presently the sun rise is at 8.30 am and sun set at 1.30 pm.