Gardening for wildlife

Wildlife in a Desert Garden

-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.

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