Tuesday, 13 March 2012

In My Mother's Garden: Part 2

When I talk about birds in my mother’s garden people often imagine a rambling old bungalow set amidst acres of land. So I always end up measuring out the few square feet with my hands: slightly broader than this dining table but much smaller than this living room. The thing that most people seem to overlook is that birds don’t need huge swaths of land; they get by with much less.  Especially birds in the city.

I have had the pleasure of watching house sparrows flock to the seventh floor ledge (barely broad enough for a human to stand on) in our apartment in Bombay. On the tiny balcony in London a bird feeder secured by a shoelace and a few tall plants were invitation enough for the robin, the blackbird, the wren, the great tit and the blue tit and its brood to come visit. The spotted woodpecker to was, well, spotted.

But, yes there is one thing that attracts the birds to my mother’s garden and its vicinity– the garden is allowed to run a little wild. There are a variety of plants, many of them have been around for years and many like the tulsi are allowed to go to seed ensuring that there is plenty of food for different kind of birds, the creepers aren’t trimmed and thinned too often ensuring bird have places to gambol in. And so the birds come.

The point being a bit of water, a little something to peck on and a safe place to perch and preen on is all that the birds look for. And like the merry ramblers of yore, once their few needs are met, they stick around and sing a little song or maybe even share a tale or two.

In My Mother's Garden: Part 1 is here.

Afterword: The Neem tree in the second last picture was planted by my mother in the common area opposite her house some 15 years back. At that time people would look at it and shake their head and mumble, "Wouldn't grow, soil too arid, too many termites, Neem trees don't grow in this region (??) and so on and so forth." However, neither the tree nor my mother seemed to be listening. Today the tree not only gives shelter to a host of birds but seems to be growing so rapidly that its top few branches have to be trimmed every spring as they touch the overhead high-tension wires.

Birds in order of appearance: Brahminy Myna, Black Redstart, Indian Robin (male), Oriental White Eye, Common Myna, Purple Sunbird (female), Red Vented Bulbul, Common Crow, Ashy Prinia, Jungle Babbler, Tailorbird, Little Brown Dove (Laughing Dove), Rufous Treepie, House Sparrow (male)

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