Life in the city for people is tough, but it is tougher for birds and other animals. I have seen more life in temperate regions of America, near the apartments, than in tropical India’s cities. People have become scared of any kind of life. Shrubs are cleaned, dry leaves, and twigs burned, and bare earth exposed. Houses occupy the entire plot of land, any open space is cemented over. No one wants any insects, frogs, spiders, scorpions or snakes. Birds are probably ok. Unfortunately most birds feed on a diet of insects. Even the tiny, sweet sunbirds (equivalent of humming birds in America) require insects. Birds like babblers require a large amount of insects. Dengue, mosquitoes, fear of water (source of mosquitoes!) and promotion of “hand-washing” after touching anything, pretty soon the population becomes demented, and like America, will scream in fear, at the tiniest spider. Those good old days, a puddle of water, was an invitation for the boys to look for insects, tadpoles, frogs, and sometimes fishes.
Under these circumstances, there are only a few types of birds, that can be seen in the city. We are away from the heart of the city, in the suburbs. Still there is lot of construction going on. Butterflies, honey bees and other types of insects, seen five years back, no longer visit our small balcony garden. A few sparrows stay about a quarter kilometre away, where there are some old style tiled houses. Even there, both the sparrows , and tiled houses are disappearing, replaced by “pucca” concrete heat traps. There are a few babblers, they do come to our house, for the cockroaches (black ground roaches), which breed in the compost. Mynahs and parrots, can be seen in the coconut farms, or on the banyan trees. Crows, which have to be fed, as part of various rituals, don’t show up. Yes, crows, one of the most resilient scavengers, are rare. Is something wrong with our FSSAI approved “food”?
Tailor birds (Ashy prinia perhaps), can be seen, once in a while, catching insects in the garden. During the summer, they poke leaves, to test whether they are strong enough for a nest. We noticed the holes on a plant, so moved it to a slightly sheltered place, where the birds built a full nest. Cobwebs, cotton threads, and fibre from coconut husk were used to tie up the leaves. Inside it was lined with twigs, threads, and what looked like polyester fibre.
Our activity near the nest, however, made them abandon it. These birds had previously built a nest on a “money plant”, but did not complete it. They now went back to the old nest, completed it, and a few days later, we saw three eggs.
Eggs hatched into pink featherless babies, blind, eyes visible as black blobs.
A few days later, they got their feathers, and opened their mouths, when you went near.
Both the parents fed them a varied diet of spiders, ground roaches, caterpillars, and other insects. If the parents saw us, they would let out a volley of high-pitched cheeps, until we moved away. But for the most part, they pretended we didn’t see the nest, and we pretended to be not interested in the nest and babies.
Soon, the feathers fully developed, and before we realised it, they were ready to fly.
Fortunately we were able to get a few pictures of the babies outside the nest, as they took their first flights.
Here was life, joyous and free.
No Millennial Development Goals, no UN 2030 Agenda, and no dubious pentavalent vaccines. For a brief moment, nature’s intelligence, charming and magical, provided a respite, from the march of grey, drab concrete and glass cages of progress.