Friday, 20 September 2013

Front yard friends!

“Maaaa, come quickly…” I whispered urgently.  I tip-toed to the balcony door holding my breath.
Ma realizing what it was all about came to watch over my shoulder.

Mr and Mrs Sparrow were visiting our garden.  They had just moved into our neighbourhood and were looking for raw materials to build their home.  They were hopping about busily picking at the grass and weeds.  They flew away with some twigs in their beaks and returned after a while for more.

We lived in a flat and we had a balcony where we had managed to grow a small garden which, to my delight, attracted birds and butterflies in good numbers. 

When the sparrow couple had left, I kept ready for them a bowl of rice and another of water, for I knew they would return.  And sure enough they were back and eventually hit up on the treat I left out for them.  They took a break from their nest building business and pecked at the grains and the water!
They came everyday from then on, after a few weeks they brought their little ones along; the happy parents of two little sparrows!  They ate, drank and bathed in the water bowl, and made quite a show.  Within weeks they came in flocks!  Some mischievous little ones also ventured into the house taking off at the slightest sound.  They would scatter around in the balcony and chatter on and I would sit by the window and watch them, getting thoroughly entertained!  Pigeons, mynahs and bulbuls also frequented our little garden.

I have now been blessed with a home in the suburbs of Udupi, which feels like a nature resort in itself!  All I need to do is sit in my front yard and simply watch.  And luckily ample species of birds and animals frequent our garden. Among the birds are the commonly spotted crows, pigeons, bulbuls, parrots, mynahs, humming bird, and kingfishers, to coucals, cranes, drongos, wag tails, eagles (even bald eagles), wood peckers, and occasionally, peacocks, and animals ranging from dogs, cats, rats, squirrels to mongoose, rat snakes and the python (occasionally).  Besides these are the species whose name, I am afraid, I am not aware of, and would not want to offend the poor creatures by naming them wrong.  Then there are those who hail from the phyla annelida, arthropoda and reptilia.  

The other day this cat was sneaking behind a bush.  He was a black and white coloured tom, with a curious black patch on his left eye.  And I enquired, “Hey there! What you up to?”  And the look he gave me was alarmingly stern.  He then gave me a loud meowy cat scolding for disturbing him and walked off in a huff.  How rude!  I was just trying to make conversation, how would I know if he was about to pounce on some unsuspecting bird or a mouse!  We don’t see eye to eye since.  

Another day I spotted a mongoose trotting gaily by the side of the house.  He stopped suddenly, conscious of being watched, so I turned away pretending to examine a flower.  Only after he was sure no one was looking, did he hurry to his hiding place.  Well, I smirked, for I knew for a fact that he was residing with his wife and kids back there!

Monkeys are by far the most entertaining folk.  Though I have had some unpleasant experiences with them, in hindsight I feel it must have been more horrifying to the monkeys!  It was nothing much.  Just that I had a few encounters with the little apes closer than I would have wanted to (one of them where the little devil dared to pull at my dress), and every time in my defense I let out a banshee like scream, no, more like a red Indian war cry!  I suppose you can imagine the terror they must have felt as they fled for dear life!

But for these experiences, I find their agility and activity very attractive.  They sometimes visit us in troops looking for food.  They usually take the most conventional paths to move from one point to another.  Like the electric and telephone lines from pole to pole, or one compound to another.  Say they are crossing an electric line; each monkey goes with its own stunts.  If one goes on all fours, the other goes upside down, crawling like a sloth on a tree while another uses only the fore limbs with the hinds swinging in air and next one would spring like a trapeze artist. I am always fascinated at the sight of a baby monkey clinging to its mum like Velcro.

Snakes form the horror section of course!  Especially this programme on Animal Planet of the world’s deadliest snakes was pretty hair-raising!  Fortunately, I have had just a few momentary uneventful encounters with the rat snake.  

Clearly, the best entertainment I need, I get from nature!  It is amazing how much there is to see once you start observing nature.  You can actually watch like you are watching TV!  And I have the Animal Planet channel in my front yard. The joy you find watching a kitten or a puppy at play, the content you feel on seeing lush greenery or a couple of butterflies fluttering about one blooming flower to another are priceless!  You see it and take a deep breath, take in the sight and fill your lungs, and that feeling is nothing but happiness!


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