Watching the Birdie Theatre
Early risers usually don’t have to set a mobile alarm to wake them up. Nature especially provides them with its own morning alarm device – the birds. Yes, the cock has been man’s age-old wake-up caller. Today, if cocks are no longer heard in most urban areas, there are flocks of various other birds doing the job collectively, sparrows being among the most regular callers. They punctually arrive with their chirpy ‘good morning’ message.
Waking up apart, birds are great fun, indeed a blessing, to have around in the early hours. If one is able to shake the sleep off soon after, and there is no binding schedule to rush for, sparing a small precious slot for birds could be a happy investment. It is indeed a treat to coolly watch sparrows, mynahs, bulbuls etc. performing their acts, through your open window amidst the morning breeze. I am saying this because I myself fell into their trap some time ago.
Last summer, touched by a Save Sparrow Campaign run by birds lovers and various NGO’s, my wife started placing a small wooden bowl of water for thirsty birds on our boundary wall. Our compound has a thick Jasmine vine in one corner and a large Harsingar in the other. So it happens to be quite a cool corner, especially for birds. Some even make their nests and lays eggs in the branches.
Soon, many birds, especially sparrows started visiting the mini pond all day long. One morning, having tea with biscuits in my room, I thought of sharing those with the feathered visitors, for a change. I crushed a couple of biscuits and served them on in an earthen plate (big diya).
With that, a new scene started. One sparrow came down, took a few dips of water at the tub, brushed its beak against the brim, then hopped up to the the biscuit plate. It took a couple of picks and flew away to devour at some distance. It was immediately followed by the next and the next and the next, and soon there was a queue of sorts chirping and waiting for their turn.
That day, I learnt that the birds too had a system of their own. They would come chirping merrily, sit for a while, go to the water tub and have a couple of dips/gulps, rub their beaks clean at the brim, and then proceed for the food. After gobbling some crumbs, they would once again rub the beak clean against some branch or wall edge and fly off. So much for hygiene, I suppose.
Sometimes, there are unusual scenes. Once, incessant chirping started quite early, in the darkness of thick jasmine vine. I was amazed what it could be. I waited for a while but when that didn’t stop, I took two biscuits, crushed them and put in the plate on the wall. Soon after, I saw four sparrows popping out from the jasmine and collecting at the plate. On closer look, I noticed they were two kids and their parents. The kids couldn’t hold their hunger and chirped desperately. They sat with their tiny beaks wide open and the parents took turns to put the crumbs into their hungry mouths.
In the meantime, some other visitors also started arriving, but the protective father would pounce at them and they would fly off. It became virtually a protected plate and nobody was allowed to approach it. That went on for more than a week, until the kids became fit enough to fend for themselves. However, squirrels happen to be the bully of the area who obey no birdie command. There are many of them and they would pounce at the plate the moment it is set. They would sit on the hind-legs, pick the food and start gobbling greedily. I feel bad for the birds. Then I started going out and driving them off to allow the birds have the stuff meant for them.
As of now, this birdie theatre has been going on uninterrupted for more than an year. Gradually, more and more feathered characters – kinds of birds, got attracted to the biscuit joint. Each announces its arrival in its unique melodious voice and the morning air is charged with their spirited, delightful notes. Early rising, I’d say, is not a bad idea, is it? * * * * *
# Ashok Misra