Wild­buzz

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Live - - CITY - Vikram jit singh

Car­pet Sahib New king for Sukhna Rare birds are not al­ways dis­cov­ered by ex­perts. A mer­ri­some en­trant to the Sukhna Lake’s party of fish hunters has been the Stork-billed king­fisher. One of the largest king­fish­ers found in In­dia and one that launches am­bushes from trees, the Stork­billed is armed with a blood-red bill as pow­er­ful and steely as that of a stork. As luck would have it, a housewife pho­tog­ra­pher with a nascent in­ter­est in birds cap­tured this new record for the Sukhna while it was perched mo­tion­less on its machan on a kikar tree along the row­ing canal on De­cem­ber 20. The pho­tog­ra­pher ini­tially con­fused it with a White-throated king­fisher, which is an old Sukhna res­i­dent along with the Pied and Com­mon king­fish­ers. Break­ing news of the dis­cov­ery on cy­berspace led to the birder pa­parazzi mak­ing a bee­line for the kikar tree. Stork-billed sight­ings are rare in north­west In­dia. The other time a Stork-billed was spot­ted in the re­gion is a claim at Mirza­pur dam in 2006 win­ter. The Stork-billed hunts not just fish but ro­dents, young birds/eggs, frogs and crabs. This pug­na­cious fel­low even takes on larger rap­tors like ea­gles in ter­ri­to­rial skir­mishes. It nests in a hor­i­zon­tal tun­nel in river­side cliffs or rot­ten trees and even ter­mite mounds. Such was the charm ex­uded by Jim Cor­bett (1875-1955), the leg­endary ter­mi­na­tor of man-eat­ing tigers/leop­ards, that it was said he was as wel­come in the hut of the lowli­est na­tive as the Vicere­gal Lodge. Af­fec­tion­ately mis­pro­nounced as ‘Car­pet Sahib’ by ador­ing le­gions of Ku­maon vil­lagers, he also played a role in nab­bing the feared Sul­tana daku, an In­dian Robinhood of sorts. In this rare 1920’s pic­ture from the col­lec­tion of the Jalilpur fam­ily of Bi­jnor (UP), Cor­bett (seated on ex­treme left) is lunch­ing af­ter a duck shoot at the Ganga Khadar while on the ex­pe­di­tion to track down Sul­tana. In later years, Cor­bett turned against wan­ton shikar. A par­tic­u­lar episode had left him deeply re­morse­ful. This was in 1931 when he and three army of­fi­cers dropped 300 ducks in a day’s shoot, ob­vi­ously many more than ei­ther they or their as­sis­tants could eat. That un­re­strained slaugh­ter for the crude plea­sure of it trig­gered Cor­bett’s drift to­wards con­ser­va­tion and a re­solve to use his jun­gle skills to shoot pic­tures. That duck pogrom left him a more dis­ci­plined and need-based shikari. Blood on the whiskers A frisky fel­low has shifted in as a non-paying guest in our Chandigarh home’s garage. It is a mon­goose, whose grand en­try into our garden is greeted with hys­ter­i­cal shrieks of birds. The mon­goose is de­light­fully cute and a dandy to boot, who vis­its our neigh­bours’ houses more reg­u­larly than my­self. Since there are no Ki­pling’s ser­pents for it to out­wit and chomp upon, the mon­goose makes do with garden birds and house rats. I was rudely jolted from my af­ter­noon nap re­cently by bird alarm calls. I rushed out to see a moan­ing jun­gle bab­bler gripped tightly in the mon­goose’s sharp teeth and dis­ap­pear­ing un­der­neath garage trunks. There were wails ga­lore and much cackle from the bab­bler’s kin, bul­buls and Tai­lor birds. The Mag­pie robin was full of sing-song blus­ter. But it was the dom­i­nant Com­mon my­nas that led the protests. Like pro­vin­cial ma­trons, the my­nas marched up and down the garage roof, hurl­ing gut­tural abuses at the mur­der­ing mon­goose. Af­ter the ex­hausted mourn­ers re­treated, the mon­goose was out again smack­ing his bloodied whiskers. This time he chose to cheek­ily sprawl on a foot­mat out­side our ve­ran­dah, bask in the sun and burp rudely. Such im­pu­dence! The my­nas were back and hop­ping mad, scold­ing the ob­sti­nate mon­goose like frus­trated teach­ers. Bit­ter half begs Lady wildlife en­thu­si­asts will giggle at the fact that male rap­tors (birds of prey) are of­ten smaller than their bet­ter halves. Male rap­tors can also be made to whine and beg for food by dom­i­nat­ing Madames! A bizarre feed­ing be­hav­iour, which un­der­scored this im­bal­ance in power re­la­tions be­tween the rap­tor sexes, was ob­served at Tal Ch­ha­par wildlife sanc­tu­ary in Ra­jasthan’s Churu district. A hand­some Red-necked fal­con killed a Eurasian Col­lared dove at dawn and du­ti­fully brought it home to the fe­male perched pret­tily on a ‘ke­jri’ tree. Read what hap­pened next in the in­dul­gent, passionate words of wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher, Soma Ateesh Tri­pathi: “The fe­male took con­trol of the dove and started to clean up and dis­mem­ber it, tak­ing out chunks of meat. Feather by feather, the act con­tin­ued till the male tried to grab a bite. But he was pushed back by the fe­male, who moved a few inches away from the male, all the while re­tain­ing the dove in her strong talons. The male did not show any fur­ther ag­gres­sion and in­stead begged for food in a typ­i­cal ju­ve­nile-like pose, open­ing his gape. The fe­male then pulled out a morsel from the dove and fed her part­ner, just as she would feed a hun­gry ju­ve­nile. She would eat a few bites her­self and again feed her part­ner. This cy­cle of beg-feed-beg-feed con­tin­ued.” (The writer can be con­tacted at

vjswild1@gmail.com)

PHOTO: AL­PANA NP SINGH

PHOTO: SOMA ATEESH TRI­PATHI

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