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Mynas sound onset of summer

Early morning golf has regained its charms. This winter it was bad for amateur golfers like us who use the ruse of swinging the club to be in company of nature at its glorious best. Winter in Delhi, this year had a very long spell and it came with usual dense fog and bouts of chill. Early morning fog kept returning in the National Capital Region (NCR) as late as last week of March.

Losing the ball to dense fog could leave an early morning golfer depressed for the day. Sometimes it also gives lesson into the fact that despite all the expertise and concentration, it’s difficult to overcome the whims of nature. Winters in Delhi has its share of winged guests arriving in huge numbers, whose presence play a counter to the usually early morning malevolent environs.

While the foreign guests add to the sparkle of colours, in winter mornings our very own chirpy creatures especially the mynas go into a hiding. Winter leaves them uncomfortable and they come down from the trees and crannies of the tall multi-storied buildings only when the sun starts to shine. With summer slowly but surely stepping into the NCR, the mynas have started to chirp again.

Mynas and the flowering gulmohar trees are integral features of capital’s summer. The brown mynas have replaced the crows and the sparrows as the most ubiquitous urban bird. In the national Capital, with their grey coloured cousins, they dominate the sky. The common myna has a brown body, black head and yellow patch behind the eye. Down South, the brown hue is deeper and it starts to get a tinge of grey as we move north.

With high-rises becoming integral to the city’s skyline, the mynas have found home in these gargantuan concrete structures, croaking, squawking, chirping, whistling, singing and screeching from the nooks and crannies of the tall rises. However, when in pair, they prefer silence and solitude.

Given my preoccupation, like any other journalist, in the office in the evenings, I have seldom been a witness to their roosting but do observe their waking-up activities through the year.

Till about a fortnight back, I would see them getting down the tree in our apartment parking around 8 am, when I would return from a game of golf. Last week, however, I saw them invariably waiting in the fairway of the third hole.

With the sun rising early and the tee-off time having been advanced to 6.00 am, this means that they are up and singing at 6.30 am. This they do to escape hot winds which, as the summer advances, would start blowing from as early as 11 am. What better indicator of the weather when you do not have a thermometer and a barometer to refer to.

I further enjoy their company in my 13th floor flat with its balcony converted into the study. As the days get hotter, I hear them squeak and screech, hanging from the window frames, with great ferocity. I never hear them screech in winter months. Unlike the pigeons, who dirty and destroy anything kept in the balcony especially potted plants, the mynas sitting on these plants add to their beauty.

Delhi looks brightest in the summer and the best when the mynas chirp sitting on the gulmohar trees. A native of Madagascar, this tree which flowers in hot season has become synonymous to Delhi’s summer. Gulmohar gets its name from Gul meaning red and Mohar meaning peacock thus meaning red peacock. In Bangla it’s called Krishnachura or Krishna’s crown which has the peacock plumes. More the heat, deeper gets the red colour of the flower, which grows in a natural bouquet with its green fern-like leaves adding to the beauty.

Over the years, the Government has encouraged planting of the gulmohar trees, which during the summer months gives a flier a view of the national Capital as one big bouquet. Despite all their evils, Dilliwalas have still retained the philanthropic streak of feeding food and water to the birds especially during the summer months. This has helped the Capital retain its avian population.

However, some ornithologists have blamed this habit of Dilliwalas for driving sparrows out of the city. They believe that large populace of the bigger birds – pigeons and mynas – are elbowing sparrows out of their habitat and leaving them without places to nest and feed. They add that till the time feeding of pigeons is brought under control and Delhi gets rid of its termites — the main food for the mynas — the population of sparrows will never find a home in Delhi.

This is quite a complex situation. In fact watching from balcony I see the pigeons occupy the nestling space created by the mynas. With pigeons multiplying much faster than the mynas, the former move in large groups and shoo away the latter from their habitats and nestling places. But then isn’t that true of every community and every habitat.

Do start watching the birds and the tree-line of the national Capital. This you can do without needing to take a trek in whatever is left in the name of jungles in the national Capital. You can watch them even in your neighbourhood park or, even better, just outside your car window, and sometimes find a myna perched on a signal post in super-cop like regalia keeping an eye on the traffic, even frowning at times.

Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor,
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