NATURE STUDIES: KASH & THE MUNIAS

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Kash has undoubtedly remained a flambuoyant sprout around autumn in Bengal, leading to the ultimate euphoria ‘Durga Puja’- the great annual extravaganza of the Bengali clan. We have rejoiced Kash right from our childhood.

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Interspersed with nature, Kash is photographically highly stimulating, making me undertake at least one full day of photography each year. And each year I encounter unexpected bends and twists of Kash to get mesmerized all over again. In short Kash remains a never ending mystery.

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The wind flowing through large tracts of land creates so many aero dynamic designs among the Kash flowers, that some time in future I would like to concentrate and write something on the aero dynamic part itself. In fact it can be quite intriguing an exercise.

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People have their own utility of Kash. Unlike the usual thatch from paddy fields, which has to be bought, Kash is a natural product to cover roofs quite efficiently. Unlike paddy thatch, the dried Kash storks can sustain the onslaught of more seasons. To stop seepage of rain water, usually Kash storks are laid over a polythene sheet, and one can be safe for two to three years. As a nil cost roof cover, Kash is extremely popular with usually those village folks who are either landless or perpetually cash starved.

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From pure photographic delight, coming face to face with the utility part of Kash was naturally a bit disturbing for me, as it reminded me of the struggles people need to go through in rural India. On the other hand it was nature’s bounty for the people to use for free.
Nature’s bounty? Oh yes, for sure, I would soon discover how fascinatingly Munias are hooked to the Kash flowers!

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The dried up Kash flowers become a playground for all variety of Munias from December to throughout January. This finding for me was rather accidental, as I was loitering around the banks of Kopai near Goalpara in search of smaller birds, as I was keen to compile a photographic data of birds of Santiniketan. Suddenly a batch of Spotted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) whirled around me and settled on some Kash storks. I already had a stock of photographs of the Spotted Munias, and hence I was not too interested in them.

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But then I started watching their love affair with the Kash flowers (seeds to be precise) with some keen interest, and photography was activated. The photograph above is of the Spotted Munia only, but of the immature one. Soon scales would appear along with maturity as will also be apparent in next photograph. Interesting, once Munias get the feel that the photographer is not harmful, they can be extremely photogenic from a very close distance.

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So Kash flowers, at the end of its circle with seeds, are a delight for the Munias. I was really fascinated by this end utility of the Kash flowers; and really marveled over nature’s bounty.

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Other varieties of Munias are also very fond of Kash seeds, like the White Throated Munia (Lonchura malabarica). Naturally, anyone interested in photographing Munias can visit the vast tracts of Kash flowers about too seed around December or January. I was encountered a new variety of Munia hitherto unnoticed by me (snap below). Those lovely looking pint sized birds are either immature or female Red Munias (Amandava amandava). I shall need to visit the Kash fields a bit more to photographically track the Red Munia.

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So, Kash and Munias are a beautiful story interwoven very elegantly by Nature. From now on a nature studies series will be published in Muktodhara, this website, as and when available, trying to explore the inter relations in nature. This is the first such installment. This makes me remind Lt Sri Barin Muolik, our Nature Studies teacher at Patha Bhavana, our school at Santiniketan. Those were really the wonderful times, re-discovered around 40 years later! Intriguing and delightful!
Thanks,
Shubhashis

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