FEW INTERESTING BIRDS OF SANTINIKETAN

A variety of the Salikh, this one is probably called the “Dhusar Salikh”, as poetized famously by Jibanananda Das. This bird was found in large numbers inside the Ashrama Complex, atop the famous Banyan tree near Santoshalaya. The surprising element was, I could never recall seeing this bird when I was a student of Patha Bhavana from mid 60s to mid 70s. Though at that time, and in fact still today, I am not a strict bird watcher, but in those days of childhood hardly anything missed my eyes. I really wonder, if this bird is later input to Ashrama life? Can anyone of that era in Patha Bhavana clarify on this? This one is called “Bramhini Myna”, another variety of Salikh. In a sense it is pretty rare, as I found it only once in Sree Pally area. Naturally I do not recall seeing this bird in my childhood either. The basic body colour being grey for both the Dhusar and Bramhini Myna, this bird might miss the eye, but both are of equal size to the common myna or the regular Salikh, so quite a big bird to miss within visible range. I was actually rather surprised locating these two birds in Santiniketan, with the Dhusar Salikh in great abundance. In fact our nature study teacher Barinda never mentioned these birds either, I can distinctly recall, as that particular period was always absorbed pretty curiously by me. This particular Munia, the “Teli Munia” has now become almost a domesticated bird of Santiniketan. You can find this one in every locality, usually in fairly large groups, sitting on electric wires. They even make nests there. These birds are pretty fond of tiny seeds, like grass seeds say. With a lot of grass cover now in Santiniketan, where lands now are converted from agricultural lands into domestic ones, these birds have made Santiniketan their home. I also don’t recall seeing this in childhood, though as the bird is too small I might have missed this one. But it has certainly increased in great numbers. On the other hand the house sparrows have simply vanished in absence of ventilators mostly in houses, but they are very much present at the peripheral areas of Santiniketan. The hue and cry about vanishing sparrows due to mobile towers is a big hoax, they have vanished as they cannot make a home in a modern house now, ventilators are not available, and I think the householders also do not like them much! They have taken refuge in thatched roofs wherever available. Well Papiya is always a regular of Santiniketan. I feature this one, as it is on a full throated call just in front of my house. That is cool. But this awesome bird often shot me up from sleep right in the middle of night, often my wife also woke up all of a sudden, and her famous reaction would be “tunti chipe mere dite icche hoy”. The English translation would be “want to kill it by throttling”. We shall wake up at the dead of night, all of a sudden, and the repeated call of Papiya would not allow sleep to restore easily. Of all things, one early evening the Papiya went too high pitched and broke its voice, that irritated the bird more and it went on vigorously and desperately calling for the girl friend with a broken voice. It was a hilarious evening for both me and my wife! This bird “fatikjal”, a locally migratory bird, is pretty important in Santiniketan context. It has a very sweet sounding call ‘Twee Tee’. When I can hear this call in my garden, suddenly one day, each year, I recognize that Basanta, the spring is about to set in Santiniketan. This bird is the earliest cheer leader of Spring, the most fabulous season in this place. They also leave early when the temperature begins to just rise discernibly. I don’t recall seeing this bird in my childhood either, maybe they were there, maybe not. Being of sparrow size however the bright yellow is very difficult to miss, so I think it might be a late entrant in Santiniketan as migratory visitor along with the increase in foliage cover. These birds mostly seek insects in and around just sprouting buds and flowers. This November visitor “Dama” is a lovely looking fatty bird, arriving from somewhere in search of insects on ground. They come silently, and leave equally silently. I do not recall seeing this bird in my childhood either. In any case it is a swift vistor, maybe only for weeks, and hence easy to miss. Dama also moves in single and hardly makes any noise, never heard its tweet. This one, the red throttled flycatcher, has been spotted in my neighbour’s garden just a few months back. Being just about the size of a sparrow, or even just smaller, it is difficult to spot as it doesn’t get down from the tree. A thick foliage can easily hide the bird from visibility. I did not find any Bengali name for this bird, so no idea if this is a new one to this state itself! We shall talk about birds of Santiniketan, maybe from another context, some other time. The last one is Red Minivet, also don’t recall seeing this bird in my childhood. Regards, Shubhashis

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