Gardening for wildlife
-Contd from last month
The Butterfly Diaries
The white-eared bulbuls (Pycnonotus leucotis) who wake me are not the bulbuls one meets
elsewhere in India but are of the white-cheeked variety but without the pointed crests that
their cousins from the hills sport. Earlier considered a subspecies, I am told they have
been promoted to the rank of a separate species.
The handsome desert bulbul!
They fly around, peck at things, warble in the bushes, or on the fence and provide a running
commentary on all that's happening throughout the day. They, along with the squirrels and
jirds are my constant companions and I love them dearly. Indeed, one pair did try to nest in
the thatch fence but they abandoned the attempt due to a unseasonal heatwave. I pamper them
with choicest grains and by shooing away the 'Bharadwaj' (Greater Coucal) bird when he calls
upon me. They reward me with their melodious calls and assume coquettish postures for my
The feisty little purple sunbird.
The other residents of my garden include sunbirds, sparrows, doves and crows. The sparrows
nest in the eaves, the doves in the storehouse rafters, the crows somewhere in the ad hoc
repairs of the roof in my backyard and the sunbirds I know not where.
Mrs Sparrow comes to call on!
It is during the hot hours of the day when I find my most interesting guests. Sometimes it
is a Roller perched on a branch under the tree enjoying the coolness just under the canopy
where the loo cannot reach directly. On other occasions its a White-browed Fantail, about
whom I am constantly admonished by birdwatchers not to refer as a flycatcher any more. Let
him catch the two-winged insects, but he must NOT be named as such, declares one soul who
fixes me with a glare as if I had just used the much-abhorred 'n_' word in a congregation of
politically correct citizens.
Remember, a fantail, not a flycatcher! Oh forget it, lets just call it Rhipidura aureola
During the hot hours of the garden, the creatures are to be found in the shadiest, coolest
places. Some, for no conceivable reason why, try other methods. The squirrel who lives in my
garden is one such. At this time the birds cling to the shade but off the ground, the jirds
are deep underground while Wally the squirrel, so named because he scarfed walnut kernels
from her one day, insists on remaining on the sandy floor in the dappled shade below the
tree. So to remain in that spot, he resorts to all kinds of tricks. Sometimes, he is on his
belly with four hot feet off the ground. Sometimes he grasps the tree trunk while standing
on his hind-feet. Intent on his cooling tricks, he fails to notice the bucket of water I
send halfway across the garden. Suddenly sodden, he is shocked for an instant before taking
off up the tree but I do hope I have helped him remain cool.
"Maybe hugging the tree is a better idea.