w w w . i n d i a w i l d s . c o m
home
about Sabyasachi Patra
diary
forums
image gallery
contact IndiaWilds
Home
About
Diary
Forums
Gallery
ContactUs

User Tag List

Page 2 of 5 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast
Results 41 to 80 of 175

Thread: Country notebook:m.krishnan

  1. #41
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default Chousingha........M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 28 October 2012

    "NOSTALGIC memories flooded in on me when reading Vic Rosner's account of Four-horned Antelopes in The Sunday Statesman of 20 July; memories of eight years spent in a Deccan hill range where these antelope were almost common.

    Those hills are flat-topped and covered with light deciduous jungles and lush grass- they are amongst the oldest hills in the world, scarped along their shoulders and with boulder-strewn crowns. The rainfall averages about 36 inches a year and the area holds sambar, pig, panther and occasional tiger, but no bear (though bears lived here once upon a time). I mention these details as Chousingha (Four-horned antelope) abound in these hills, and their distribution is somewhat capricious.

    There are Chinkara in the rocky, open country immediately outside, but they never come up the hills; and the native Chousingha never strays into adjoining Chinkara territory. I was struck with this strict addiction to beats. Few people realise how vital suitable grounds for wild animals, how quickly they perish when driven out of their homes into strange countries.

    The Chousingha is unique, Not only it is the only living thing, bar freaks and fakes, with four horns, but it has also adopted some of the habitats of deer, living in the woodland habitat favoured by deer. Those who want information about this remarkable antelope will find it in Dunbar Brander's 'Wild Animals in Central India'. I will not quote from the classic- and Vic Rosner's excellent article leave me with very little excuse for the writing of this note.

    However, I may justify this in some measure by referring to the Chousingha's abilities as a jumper. Except for the largest ones, antelopes are nimble on their feet and in Africa (the true home of the tribe) there are little antelopes that leap high and effortlessly and live in steep places. Our Chousingha is our own, and distinguished from all others by the buck's four horns, but it is related to the African duikers.

    The Chousingha has a high stepping action and carries itself with a crouch- it is higher behind than in front, and walks in cover habitually. Its hooves are long along their treads and slightly splayed, ensuring a firm grip on sheer surfaces. Altogether it seems equipped for climbing up and down and moving furtively and fast through the undergrowth. However, it can jump when it wants to.

    I have seen a doe clear a seven-foot hedge with utmost ease, almost taking it in its stride. I was posted as stop in a frantic beat for a pair of Chousingha that had slunk into a patch of thick bush. The doe came galloping straight at me, saw me very late, spun around at right angles and with the same movement rose into the air and clear the hedge by my side. On other occasions I have seen Chusingha in flight go sailing over obstacles in their path, like bushes and small boulders. It is well known that this forest loving antelope bolt at considerable speed when alarmed, though they usually pull up and go into hiding pretty soon. But their leaping abilities seem to be less known.

    Its love for undergrowth and steep rocky slopes offers the Chousingha a certain natural immunity from the shikari. There is not much risk of this most remarkable little beast being shot out, but man can threaten it in another way, incidentally. During my last visit to that Deccan hill range I noticed that it was getting rather thin on top, and I, who have personal knowledge of such things, know what that portends- I know it surely, in my scalp. The incipient atopecia that I noticed will thrive on neglect and spread apace. Then the deer and Chousingha go, from lack of suitable cover, and human indifference will kill them more ruthlessly than the gun can. But let us hope that I am mistaken, that man's ancient and primitive love for forests is really resurgent today, that it will move governments and survive their routine."-M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 10 August 1952 in The Sunday Statesman

    *Sketch not reproduced
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 29-10-2012 at 01:46 PM.

  2. #42
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    New Delhi
    Posts
    15,585
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    2 Thread(s)

    Default

    Wow! Wish I see a chousingha leaping. Never knew it had this ability. I wonder what is their total population in the wild these days.

  3. #43
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default Lone sentinel of the puddles :M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 11 November 2012

    "LIFE has grown wet and plastic during the past week. Visitors bring in footloads of mud, which they scrape against the stone steps or distribute over the verandah- being given to pretty joys, I note with satisfaction that when they go away the sodden gravel leading to my gate shakes of at each step from their shoes and that I have gained soil. The ditches flanking the road are turned into brown rivulets, and the dip in the field beyond, hardly perceptible in September, is now a miniature pond.

    All these wetness is different from the somewhat formalised depictions of wetness that we are so used to. There would be white glints and dimpled blue patches in an artist's picture of these October puddles and flooded drains, and turbulent streaks of red, perhaps, to denote the freshets. Actually the lowering skies yield no highlights; everywhere the water is a torpid, deep umber, thick with mud and squirming with infant life. Almost as if by magic, innumerable mosquito larvae and tadpoles have appeared in the pond of the field, even little fish. Life began in the slush, according to biologists, and the slush is very fecund still. As I bend over its squelching rim to peer into the peer's teeming depths, I am conscious that I am not alone.

    Another huddled watcher is on the other side, acutely aware of me. My cautious advent had driven it to several yards away, now it seems on the point of flight. I retreat to the roadside and squat immobile, and the Pond Heron returns to the water, step by deliberate step, its apprehensive head stretched out in front of its long neck. It stops at water's edge and is immediately harder to see. The extended neck is doubled up and drawn in between the shoulders, so far in that the bird is neckless; the streaked brown of its humped back and yellowish greys of its legs and beak blend with muddy background. It walks carefully into the water, lifting each foot clear of the surface and carrying it forward through the air before immersing it quietly again, and now its neck is again outstretched- it is withdrawn once more as the bird halts, and take its stance in the shallows.

    For long two minutes it stays utterly still, only the hard, yellow glint in its eye betraying the avid life in the dull, slumped body.

    While fish that pass by,
    Till the destined fish comes in,
    Great is the heron's dejection

    - says a cynical couplet, in Tamil. Presently, and without the least warning stir, the dagger-billed head shoots down on the extensive neck, a tadpole is lifted deftly out of the thick water and swallowed in the same movement. At once the neck is drawn in, and the morose, huddled pose is resumed, so quickly and completely that I could have sworned that its waiting had been unbroken had I not watched the movement.

    The "Pond Heron" or "Paddy Bird" is probably the most familiar of our waterside birds. Wherever there is not too rapid water, a puddle or a pond or any shallow stretch, you will find it there, an unmistakable little heron with dingy plumage, a humped back and sulky habits. When alarmed it emits a harsh "kra-ak" and is instantly transformed into a dazzling creature on broad, white wings- its pinions and underparts are white, but hidden except in flight by its earthy mantle, and in flight it seems an all-white bird. Americans in India used to call this heron the "surprise bird" from the sudden contrast between its drab, unobtrusive repose and flashing whiteness of its flight; I believe the name is no longer in fashion.

    Though roosting and nesting in company, pond herons are unsociable by day. They are lone hunters; occasionally you may see three or four near one another, but they never seek prey in common, and even when going home to roost do not join together in large flocks. They are strong flyers, and though they look rather like Cattle Egrets in size and whiteness when on the wing, it is easy to tell their firm, quick wing beats from the lubberly action of the egrets.

    Incidentally, all herons fly with their necks tucked in. Wordsworth's-

    And heron, as resounds
    the trodden shore,
    Shoots upward,darting his long
    Neck before

    - might be quite true of a heron shooting up into the air in alarm, but once it settles down to flight the neck is not darted before, but is doubled up and drawn in- that, in fact, is the token by which one may know members of the heron tribe from other waterside birds on the wing."- M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 19 October 1952 in The Sunday Statesman

    #Sketch of the bird not reproduced here.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 13-11-2012 at 05:38 PM.

  4. #44
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    New Delhi
    Posts
    15,585
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    2 Thread(s)

    Default

    The description of Shri Krishnan is so lovely, the imagery so vivid, the scene dances in front of my minds eye. Flawless observations and lucid style. One can learn from him that to write or photograph wildlife, it is not mandatory to go to the jungle. I am writing this because yesterday I was talking with a friend from bangalore who told me that he had been to Jungle Lodges in Bandipur and he was cramped in a jeep with four other people all of whom had long tele lenses, each elbowing the other to get more space. We all can learn from Shri M. Krishnan.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default Hoopoe: M. Krishnan The Statesman 16-Dec-2012

    "I USED to know a Mahratta head-mali with decided ideas on seemliness. He would come to work in a crisply-starched khaki coat and a magnificient turban of tiger-striped mull, and was superior to messy digging or work on rough shrubs- such things he left to underlings. Each day he would spend hours on the lawn, quartering it systemetically to locate weeds, inspecting each blade of grass with a dignified, critical decline of his beturbaned head. I have never seen a man look and behave more like a Hoopoe.

    You will not find hoopoes away from open spaces. They seemed to suffer from a mild form of claustrophobia, for though given to perching on trees and the occasional reconnaissance of shrubs, they will not enter thick cover and are happiest pottering about some stretch of unconfined turf. What they like is short grass, and just now with plenty of it in garden and scrubland, hoopoes are common birds.

    Most of the time they are on their feet, looking for grubs, worms and insects in the grass. The zebra-patterned wedge of the horizontal body and tail hides the trotting feet, so that a curious, clockwork effect marks their movements. Other low-to-ground creatures, whose short legs are hidden by the bulk of the body, also convey this impression, but perhaps it is most noticeable in the hoopoe. The jerky mannerisms of the bird and its habit of scuttling over the ground in brief dashes, accentuate this illusion of mechanical propulsion.

    The very full crest is spread out into a flamboyant fan, and suddenly shut tight into a spike counterbalancing the curved line of beak, this gesture being repeated again and again, as if to relieve the tedium of the long, pedestrian search for food. There are many birds with highly emotional tails, but here it is the head which wears the crown that is uneasy. The folding and unfolding of the volatile crest express the entire emotional range of the bird, and each passing mood.

    I have seen a hoopoe indulge in this play with its crest six times within a minute, for no reason I could discern, but there are rules regulating its conduct on certain occasions. When the bird probes the earth in search of prey, or when it takes of from the ground, the crest is shut close, and just before alighting from flight it is fanned out as fully as it can be.

    Some of the most fantastic frills and fancy touches are to be found among birds- great casques, racket-tails, grotesque wattles and spurs, streaming pennants, bright bibs and redundant tail-coverts- as a rule these barbaric ornaments are associated with love, and are on display during courtship.

    But the hoopoe on the lawn is as strikingly decorative as any bird of strange plumage, though it is fulfilling a daily need and being useful to us- how rarely does beauty go with routine need and utility! As the bird moves forward on invisible feet, the slanting sun touches it, turning the fulvous sienna of its breast and crest to liquid gold, revealing fully the emphatic contrasts of the black and white in the back. Then suddenly the crest is shut and the bird shoots up on slow, fluttering, broad wings, patterned even more rhythmically than its body.

    Yes, hoopoe has claims to remarkable looks, and like others with such claims it is at its best in public. For its domestic life is a shocking contrast to what one might expect from a bird so richly plumaged and such a patrician love of lawns. It nests in some recess, may be in a crevice in the roof of an outhouse; the less said about the foul mess that is its nursery the better. The phrase is often used in a prefatory way, to hold forth at length on an unsavoury topic, but I shall be literal- I shall say nothing about that nest."

    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 25 January 1953 in the Sunday Statesman

    #Sketch of the bird not reproduced

  6. #46
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default Thuggery in the treetops : M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 23-December-2012 atesman

    "FOR the past month. I have been hearing the thin, high, petulant "Ki-kiyu" of the SHIKRA and occasionally I have seen the bird in the dazzling midday sky- whirring along on quick, blurred pinions, then sailing in an ascending circle on still, round wings, the long tall spread like a half-shut banded fan. There are two of these hawks about that call and answer in the same querulous tone, though they seem to keep a certain distance apart.By these tokens they are a courting pair that will later nest somewhere near, probably in the clump of mangoes a quarter mile away.

    Ordinarily, the shikra is not given to high jinks and public appearances, for it lives by thuggery and thugs do not proclaim themselves. It lurks in obscuring foliage, waiting for the unsuspecting victim to approach before pouncing down on it, and when it goes from tree to tree- its passage announced by shrill twitters of little birds and alarmcheeps of sqiurrels- it keeps low and flies direct and fast. Even when it goes coasting the fields, as it does at times, it hugs the contour of each dip and hollow and takes good care to keep below any line of trees so that it may arrive unexpectedly at the next field.It is capable of determined pursuit and speed over a short distance, but furtive means and attacks from ambush are what it favours.

    But just before it pairs and breeds, it takes freely to the air and goes soaring on high. Its harsh, grating voice then changes to a high frequent "K-kiyu", a call that is exchanged all day from the wings and even from perches between the courting pair. To human ears, few bird calls are more expressive of tantalised impatience at a slow, tedious progress of love imposed by nature! However, the call is used at other times. I have heard an angry shikara, attacking crows, repeatedly indulge in this call- it seemed louder and less plaintive then, with a challenging ring in it, but this was probably because I heard it from so near/ When the sun sinks behind the trees and night is imminent, sparrows and other small birds flock to their roosts and the shikra is well aware of this opportunity.

    It lies in wait, huddled in some thick-leaved trees, and if a little bird alights nearby it makes its plunge, flinging itself bodily through twig and leaf. Often enough the quarry escapes, and then the hawk may fly swift and low to another tree, or lurk on in the same ambush. There is no rule governing its behaviour on such occasions, except that it fails quite frequently in itsdusk hunting. One February evening I followed a shikra from 6.25 p.m till close on 7 O'clock- it made three attempts to snatch its dinner in that time and, having failed, flew away over the horizon when it was almost dark.

    The shikra is capable of fine courage, too, when there is need for courage. It can tackle mynahs and birds almost as big as itself, as the old-time falconers knew well, and it will fight even larger birds on occasion. Once I was watching a shikra eating a bloodsucker on the branch of a neem, when first one jungle-crow and then another came up and settled on a branch close by. The hawk resented their covetous glances and their sidling closer, and abandoning its prey it flung itself at the intruders with a torrent of "Ki-kiyus" - I was amazed at this onslaught, for the crows were larger birds and by no means incapable of fighting, moreover there were two of them.

    So impetuous was the attack that all three birds came tumbling down in a frantic ball of black and barred feathers, that rolled about on the ground below for a moment before resolving itself into two crows that fled for dear life and an angry, open-beaked hawk. Both crows must have been grabbed simultaneously, one in each taloned foot, for this to have happened, but incredible as it may seem, it did happen.

    I would much like to tell you how the victor returned to the hard-won meal and consumed it in triumph, but in fact this incident ended more like a story. For while the hawk was routing its enemies, a third crow made an unobtrusive appearance on the scene, by a rear entrance, and flew away with the dead lizard, even more unobtrusively!"
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 8 February 1953 in The Sunday Statesman
    #Sketch contained in the article not reproduced

    Please post this one as the last word has been edited.

  7. #47
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default White Wings :M. Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 30-Dec-2012

    "EVERY evening at half-past six, the CATTLE EGRETS fly southward over my roof to their roosting trees by the water.They go past in a broken string, five or six in a compressed Indian file, flying low, then a long break, then five or six again following the same diagonal course over the roof and trees, picking up threads of the flight that went before. Their flight is round-winged and leisurely, heads drawn in, yellow beaks pointing forward and black legs trailing behind: the full curved wings never stroked in vigorous flaps but moved in a unhurried rotary action, like boats rowed slowly with broad, bent oars.

    There is grace enough in their slow white flight against the slaty sky, and a steady aim, but no hint of power or speed. Twelve hours later, soon after sunshine, they are back in the sky again, flying no longer in a set direction but circling in small parties, for they are now seeking feeding grounds. Their flight seems even weaker now, as they row around indecisively on hollowed, dazzling wings, gliding occasionally before settling in some field. They look even more like curve-winged white birds of Japanese screens in the sun than they did at dusk.

    Bird flight can be very deceptive. Butterfly-winged hoopoes are capable of steep speed when pursued and long-distance migrants, like wagtails, often have a weak-seeming dipping flight. But the lassitude of wings of cattle egrets is not illusory- they have not even fugitive speed.
    ..............
    ..............

    It is true that the cattle egret is far less dependent on frogs and fishes than its cousins. It belongs to the tribes of egrets and herons, professional anglers, and has the wading legs and dagger bill of extensive neck of the fraternity, but it lives mainly on the insects of green field. It is a pastoral bird, much given to following in the wake of grazing cattle; it is adept at seizing grasshoppers and other insects that their hooves scatter, and everyone has seen it picking ticks and flies off cattle. Still it has not lost its tribal love of water, as its nesting and roosting trees will show, and occasionally it reverts to angling for tadpoles and small fry at puddles.

    One would think that the birds that seek their meat in the air, like the peregrine, would find this slow-winged egrets easy prey, but I believe it is not often that a cattle egret dies this way. The POND HERON, which flies faster and higher, sometimes meets this fate- the ancient Tamil curse, "May you fall headlong like the pond heron struck by shahin", is best on the fact. For one thing the cattle egret never flies far except going out to feed and when returning to the roost, and even at such times it flies low- the hunters of the air prefer prey that will seek escape in flight, providing a depth of air below to make giddy swooping safe. Moreover, when the air is cold and slow, early in the morning and late in the evening, that cattle egrets undertake their flights- birds of prey are rarely on the wing then, for they like plenty of light, and warm air currents for soaring.

    I must make it clear that I make no suggestion of intelligent apprehension, or dominant motive, in saying this, but I have been watching peregrines lately, and it seems to me that cattle egrets choose their journey safely. There is no need to presuppose reasoning in a bird for development of a habit that is beneficial to it, but, of course, it is quite possible that the flight habits of cattle egrets have nothing to do with the habits of birds of prey."
    - M. Krishnan


    This was first published on 1 March 1953 in the Sunday Statesman

    #The sketch as contained the article not reproduced
    A small portion marked (...) not reproduced

  8. #48
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    Bangalore
    Posts
    15,234
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Amazing observation of the details of the flight pose of the egrets. It is interesting to know that even due to its slow flight it is not preyed by birds of prey. Thanks for sharing.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

  9. #49
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Spring in the jungle:M.KrishnanThe Sunday Statesman13 January2013

    "SUMMER has taken us by surprise in these parts. Usually this advent is both gradual and sudden; it creeps up through February and March with occasional halts during showers, and then in April, leaps in with a formal little pounce. This year, however, the pounce was early and savage. In the last week of March we were congratulating ourselves on a slow summer, in spite of dry weather, when one day the temperature shot up by almost 10 degrees, overwhelming us with a grasping lassitude. The optimistic, their senses enervated and lax, talked of a heat wave- but with the coming of April and little abatement in the heat, it is clear that this is no passing wave, but summer in all its glory.

    And, quite possibly, it is also spring, the loveliest and least defined of seasons in our hill-dotted plains. We know when it is the rainy season- it is when the monsoons arrive, and their tardiness or prematurity only changes its timing. There is a brief winter in December; even autumn, if one goes by a certain mellow serenity in the air, is a definite season in many places, about October. But when is it spring?

    The vernal season:

    Mere botanical knowledge cannot answer this question, and knowledge of the flowering peaks of garden plants is even less helpful since we are not concerned with a horticultural season. Spring has symptoms celebrated in the classics, and it is futile considering it apart from its classical background. The setting of a gentle fragrant southern breeze, a restive amatory urge and blossoming of certain trees and the voice of koel are the accredited tokens of the vernal season. The gentle southern breeze is a reality more refreshing than poetic fancy can ever be, as those who have been out on a sweltering day in April will know, but it is local in its balmy range.

    Other trees like 'Asoka', and even shrubs like 'jesmine', are listed in description of spring but undoubtedly the 'mango' is most symptomatic of them. And this year, in places far apart, I found the wild mango in lavish bloom in the middle of February, when the numerous koels of those tracts were resting their voices for a while! Nor are the Hindu festivals more specific in fixing the season- right from Holi (end of February), to the Tamil New Year Day (in the second week of April) each of them has some vernal connotation.

    Peak in flowering:

    Perhaps this gives us the clue. Spring is an extensive season, marked by a florescent urge in nature. The herbaceous vegetation is in bloom for many months, but probably December-January marks a peak in their flowering. By March most herbs are drying up, and from February to June a number of forest trees burst into flower with dramatic extravagance. The voice of the koel, also representative of the season, varies with locality as much as the flora, but I have never heard the cock in full voice before mid-April. Spring proper seems to begin before summer, and to coexist with its earlier months.

    Not all trees that flower in summer are conspicuous, and some, like the 'neem', commence to bloom in February and go on till April. The chaste, white blossoms of the neem are used in vernal festivals, but it is red flowering of certain forest trees that seems most expressive of sultry, provocative spring. Some of these red-flowered trees are traditionally associated with the season, and quite three of them are known, vaguely and descriptively, as "flame of the forest".

    Recently I was in a block of jungle which has its own character, no doubt, but which is so wholly uninfluenced by climatic extremes or any attempt at forestry that one can take its naturalness for granted. The jungle was dry and brown, most of the trees leafless, but there was vivid declarations of spring here and there. All the three trees are called or miscalled "flame of the forest" are found here- and hotter flames as well. Forest fires, unchecked except by the conformation of hills, water courses and prevailing winds, take toll of the under-shrub every year. There was an extensive fire on the night of my arrival here, a magnificent and saddening sight.

    The 'Asoka (Saraca indica)' is the most delicate of all red proclamations of spring, and is intimately associated with the season traditionally, but the tree is not to be found in the jungle. From early in February the 'Indian Coral tree (Erythrina indica)' was in blossom- an ugly tree, to my eyes, too florid and thick-branched, but the pure scarlet of its flowers is probably unmatched for brilliance. The Coral's bloody crown is enhanced by lack of leaf- but then, most trees flowering in the heat are leafless. The true "flame of the forest", 'Butea frondosa' is unforgettable when seen in the jungle. It was later in bloom than the 'Erythrina', but by mid-March it was in full flower and, of course, without leaf. The rounded crown of orange-red flowers, with dark calyces, looks Chinese vermilion against the sun-brown hillsides, seen from afar- somehow, in an avenue, the tree never has scope for its vivid charm. The 'Gul Mohur (Poinciana regia or delonix regia)' was still in leaf when I left. In May it will be in extravagant bloom, its flat flaming crown spread on outflung branches, blazing fiercely in the forest. This, too, required a wild setting for its flame- I have always thought it a pity that people should plant it along the roadside. Incidentally, the 'Poinciana' has no association with spring in poetry or tradition- but the flamboyant 'Butea' has.

    I will mention only one other tree that I saw here. Late in February we were going up a hill-road laboriously. A recent fire has scorched the earth, there were heavy, black rocks on either side, and the sparse jungle was brown and seemed withered beyond redemption. Round a bend in the road we came suddenly upon a group of 'Yellow Silk Cotton' trees- three crooked little trees, with burnt, gnarled trunks and tortured branches, the very tips of which alone were purple and turgid with life, and bore great, opulent yellow flowers of the purest aureolin, with hearts of red-gold stamens. I cannot describe the contrast of gracious, unstinted beauty of those flowers against that ground of charred and twisted desolation- we stopped wordlessly in our tracks to stare, unmindful of all else. To one blessed with greater faith than I, the experience could have been a revelation; surprised by such loveliness, a poet could have found a lasting joy in the sight, in a recollective, Wordsworthian manner.

    But after the first glad stare, what came to me was no sense of rapture or thankfulness, but only a sharp memory from a painful past, when I had been at the foot of the systematic botany class. I turned to my comrades in triumph; "Cochlospermum gossypium," I announced to them, with finality. However, they did not hear me, or if they did, they were wholly insensible to the bathos of my remark- they just stood there, staring. There are times when the impercipience of others is merciful."

    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 12 April 1953 in The Sunday Statesman
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 03-02-2013 at 04:18 PM.

  10. #50
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: W-A-A-K : M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 17 February 2013

    "IN a story that I read recently,the climax is reached when the narrator, in his boyhood, has to cross a haunted pathway in the dark. The suspense mounts as he nears the place. Then, unable to face it, he turn away from the horror and walks backwards, his senses taut with apprehension. "My ears were pricked up, ready to listen to the slightest rustle. A leaf dropping, the NIGHT HERON darting into the still night with its shrill call 'tweet, tweet, tweet' would have seen me dropped on the ground."

    Having done most things the hard way all my life, I fear I will have no easy death, but even I would get a pretty considerable jar were I hear a night heron rise into the obscure silence with a shrill "tweet, tweet, tweet!" But were its cry far more eerie, a sudden, raucous, floating "w-a-a-k!" from above, I wouldn't turn a hair, for that is the bird's call.

    In many Indian languages, the night heron's name is onomatopoeic- in Tamil, for example,, it is called "Vakka". Perhaps it is most identifiable of the lesser herons and egrets, a dumpy heron with a black crown, nape and back. There is a silky crest of long black feathers drooping over the humped shoulders, but neither this nor the colour of the back is visible as one views the roosting bird from below or eye level, though the black crown is prominent. In fact, it is after sunset when the sky turns a neutral tint, that one usually sees night herons, and in that light it is a wholly dusky bird with even the characteristic white of the under parts a lighter shade of grey.

    However, it is not by observing details of plumage that one knows this bird- the heavy, dark contours of head and beak, the blunt hollowed wings rowing a steady path through the dusk, and the hoarse, airborne "w-a-a-k!" are unmistakable.

    Being nocturnal and crepuscular, night herons spend the day in heavy repose in their chosen roosts. But when they breed, they are day herons as well, for the ceaseless yickering of the young drives the parents to seek food for their insatiable brood throughout the night and day. Breeding is a wearing pastime with most birds- with night herons, it is positively exhausting of all concerned, including neighbours.

    Usually the breeding sites and roosting trees are well away from human habitation, and often near water, but the birds do not hesitate to locate their nesting colony in a built-up area if other conditions suit them. In June 1946, a colony of some 150 night herons nested in mango trees in the backyard of a house in the heart of congested Madras- there was a tidal creek not far away and a sluggish canal right at the back, ample inducement to the hard-worked birds to pitch on the spot.

    The sustained clamour of the young and continuous arrivals and departures of the adults rendered sleep almost inpossible for the occupants of neighbouring houses. After futile private attempts to move the birds, the residents lodged a complaint at the local police station. Our unsung police force, which are capable of dark feats of public duty, rose nobly to the occasion. A constable with a shotgun visited the scene of the offence and fired a few rounds into the loud and thick trees, bringing down a number of birds, and the rest of the colony took wing in a hurry, never to return to the homestead.

    In contrast to this feverish whole-time activity of the breeding night heron, I must add that occasionally the bird sleeps soundly through the night, in spite of its name- when the hunting has been good in the evening and early hours of darkness. One of the most vivid recollections of my youth is the capture of a slumbering night heron on the parapet wall of my house, around midnight.

    It stood on one leg, its head lost in its huddled shoulders and fluffed plumage. It was so fast asleep that when I switched on my powerful terrace lamp, right above it, the sudden glare failed to get through to its drowsing senses. Only when I took it in my hands did it awaken with a loud croak of protest. I held it as one holds a pigeon, with its flanks and feet pinioned between my fingers so that it could not use them, but it got away by an undignified and smelly manoeuvre, being abruptly and fishily sick.

    Best to let sleeping night herons sleep."
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 28 June 1953 in The Sunday Statesman
    *Sketch of a flock of three birds in flight not reproduced.

  11. #51
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Asoka's Lions - M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 3 March 2013

    "To one familiar with the India's fauna the choice of Sarnath lion capital as the national emblem must seem somewhat remote. Even to one familiar with Indian art and the Mauryan period this must seem far-fetched. Only those who know the political history of the country during the last decade can find justification for the choice.


    ***************

    The lion is by no means an unfamiliar animal in Indian stone, and the lions of the south may be safely taken as typical of the Indian conception of the animal. That they are far removed in time or place from Sarnath and the Mauriyan period does not detract from their value as types- their is sufficient fundamental affinity between South Indian and the undoubtedly indigenous Mauriyan figures.

    Strangely enough, none of the critics mentioned seems to have compared Asoka's lions with other lions of our art. Such a comparison reveals striking differences at once. The Sarnath lions are slimmer in build and have noticeably thin necks in a front view, their heads are smaller and the tongue-of-flame patterning of their manes of typically Indian lions and Yalis are rendered in formal, circular curls, or else in parallel wavy lines. The large eyes with natural similitude, the unfurrowed forehead and nose, the pronounced down-face and the squarely angled lips are all foreign.

    The feet are even more revealing than the heads- in their taut modelling of muscle and tandon, and specific, detailed depiction of each toe and nail, they are very Greek. The innermost toe, raised well off the pad and attached laterally, somewhat in the manner of a dog's dew-claw, is a feature of the feet of the greater cats- this detail is displayed in the feet of the Sarnath lions, though the half-sheathed nails are semi-heroic and not natural. Show me a single undoubted Indian lion whose toes are anything like equally realistic and I accept the defeat.

    *************

    Lion is a magnificient animal. Its looks and proportions are so superb that art can do little to improve upon nature in adopting it as the symbol of kingly might and majesty.Many countries have exploited the leonine figure effectively in designing their symbols of State- but not the carvers responsible for the highly polished, svelte lions of Sarnath, they just had no appreciation at all of the beast."- M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 19 July 1953 in the Sunday Statesman

    Note: NOT REPRODUCED HERE ARE:
    1) A few paragraphs
    2) Sketch of Sarnath Capital Lions (tracing from a plate)
    3) Sketch of Typical Lion from a South Indian Lion corner piece
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 06-03-2013 at 07:18 AM.

  12. #52
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    New Delhi
    Posts
    15,585
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    2 Thread(s)

    Default

    This shows his meticulous observations. Most of the times we don't give a critical look at our national symbols as they have been ingrained in our minds since childhood days and we take those for granted. Similarly, the sculptures in our temples also don't attract our attention. I guess our bureaucrats and politicians are too busy to notice this writing when it originally appeared.

    PS: I wonder if Nehru mentioned anything about the Sarnath lions in his Discovery of India. I think I need to read it now.

  13. #53
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Egrets m. krishnan The Sunday Statesman 10 March 2013

    " WHERE the water is shallow and not too still, in estuaries and by sand-spits and the margins of lakes, the LARGE EGRET seeks its patient living. It is a solitary bird and likes a fair stretch of knee-deep water - but so do other waders more sociably inclined. Even when it finds a quiet creek, away from ibises and spoonbills and storks, it is rarely altogether free from the companionship of its cousins.

    From these cousins it is distinguished by its size and carriage. Our egrets differ from herons in being all white - one of them, the Cattle Egret, has turned pastoral and moreover it does not belong to genus Egretta. But the Large Egret, the Smaller Egret and the Little Egret are all waders and all white, with exquisitely dissected plumes adorning them during the breeding season.

    It is not easy to tell the two lesser egrets apart at a glance, highly sociable birds both and often found in the same places. Indeed, the difference between them is especially slight when they are not breeding, and the Little Egret lacks the Smaller Egret's distinctive, drooping, nuptial crest. The yellow feet of this bird contrast sharply with its black legs and are conscious in flight, but this may not serve to distinguish it always. However, there is no mistaking the lone Large Egret.

    If you see a gleaming white bird, the size and shape of a grey heron but more daintily made, stepping warily over the shallows by the shoreline, you may safely put it down as a Large Egret. Its long, slim neck is thrust well forward and even in repose it stands less upright than a grey heron - when it walks, the horizontal leaning is more pronounced and at times the bird seems almost on the point of toppling over!

    Not that it is ever in danger of losing its balance. It is a canny bird and knows that fish and tadpoles and such underwater things that it hunts, are suspicious of sudden splashings. So it lifts its black feet clear of the surface and moves carefully forward through the air before setting its legs down gently through the water again: it cranes forward and prospects the shallows ahead and, when the prey is near enough, a lightning plunge with the poniard bill secures it.

    After summer, this deft bill turns from black to yellow and with the plumes of love fallen, the humped back and abruptly tapering end of the tail are plainly visible. A Tamil poet who lived some 2,000 years ago has likened the shape of an egret standing huddled in the water during the rainy season to the bud of the water-lily - from afar and from June to November the simile seems strikingly true to life.

    Incidentally, the aigrettes that were once so much in demand among fashionable ladies in Europe are the nuptial plumes of egrets - the Smaller Egrets being the most abundant provider. The plumes were collected humanely, without injury to the valuable birds, at egret farms near villages. With aigrettes going out of fashionable in the West, probably on account of a false sentimentality, egret farming has ceased to be thriving industry. The birds, however, continue to thrive and are rarely disturbed at their breeding sites by villagers, who consider the water fouled by a nesting colony excellent for the fields."

    - M.Krishnan


    This was first published on 9 August 1953 in The Sunday Statesman

    *The sketch of the bird not reproduced here.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 10-03-2013 at 10:41 AM.

  14. #54
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK:The Leopard and his spots:M.KrishnanThe Sunday Statesman7April 2013

    "Lord, suffer me to catch a fish
    So big that even I,
    In telling of it afterwards,
    Shall have no need to lie.

    So runs the Fisherman's Prayer. With two words substituted for "catch" and "fish" this could also be the prayer of all big game hunters. Many of them, of course, may be unaware of the wish in their hearts- till the have bagged something near record size.

    I am no big game hunter; only a naturalist. The difference does not lie merely in my comprehensive lack of skill with gun and rifle. I am apt to find a smallish tiger quite as exciting as one that would be (when dead) a clear 10 feet between pegs and, worse still, a jackal equally interesting on occasion. The compensation for my lowly estate is that I am unlikely to magnify the proportions of an animal that I watch or of one, shot by someone else, that I measure or weigh. this personal and defensive preface is necessary because I am writing of the most versatile and varied of big game beasts, the leopard or panther (the terms are synonymous now, and the Indian and African leopard, identical specifically).

    Which is the record specimen of the panther? This is a question that is simultaneously easy and almost impossible to answer, with certainty. If newspaper reports can be trusted, the Hyderabad monster puts all others of its kind, and almost all tigers to shame. According to a news agency report widely circulated in South India, Mr. MK Vellodi, then Chief Minister of Hyderabad, bagged a man-eating panther at Narsapur on 13 May 1951, that was 10.5 feet long.

    However, if we are to limit ourselves to prosy facts, the question is hard to answer. In assessing the size certain difficulties arise with panthers that are less difficult with other creatures, including the tiger. For even where length between pegs and weight are both available (which is unusual), the length of the tail varies so much in panthers that unless it is also specified one can get no idea of the bulk of the specimen. Dunbar Brander, a most trustworthy authority, says the tail may vary in length from 28 to 38 inches, and since it is independent of body size, one can never say that even a 7.5 foot panther is a large specimen without knowing the length of the tail.

    Again, weight is affected by the condition and whether or not the panther has killed and fed recently. A big panther weighs about 150 pounds, and some 25 pounds of this weight may depend on whether it is gorged or unfed- in a tiger there would not be the same proportionate difference on this account.

    After stressing the variations in size and coat that can obtain in panthers, Brander says, "Purely jungle leopards, those living entirely inside the forest and never resorting to open country and villages, are often of larger size and adopts the habits and ways, and to some extent the colourisation, of tigers. They have yellow tawny coats, relatively fewer spots and rosettes, and are distinguished by jungle tribes as 'gol baghs' or 'spot tigers'. An average specimen of this type "measured 7 ft 5 in and weighed 152 lb".

    This distinction between the larger and heavier forest-loving game killer and the panther haunting the purlieus of villages has been reiterated by most subsequent writers. A recent note in a scientific journal refers to this difference and mentions a panther " 8 ft 5.5 inch in length" (between pegs?). Rowland Ward, I think, records longer animals and one that weighed 160 lbs. I remember reading somewhere of a nine-foot panther- but probably this measurement was very much round the curves.

    I have measured the length, between pegs, of certain large panthers shot in the Deccan during the past 10 years, and where there were facilities for accurate weighment I have weighed them. Here are the details from my notes.

    Two males shot within 15 minutes of each other on the evening of 14 September 1947, from the main bus road near Chilkanahatti measured 7 ft 1.5 in (tail 32 inch) and 7 ft 5 inch (tail 36 inch) and weighed 132 lbs and 121 lbs after 24 hours- neither was gorged. The first of these was a very powerfully built old beast, with a big domed head, a close dark coat and no white and all on the face or throat, even the chin and jaws and inside of the ears being yellow ochre. He crossed the road in the light of the setting sun right in front of two experienced shikaris, a few minutes before he was shot, and both identified him as a tiger!

    I should mention two remarkable animals from Sandur hill jungles. Both were chance-met males, shot from the road very near human settlements. The first, shot about sunset on 13 June 1948, was 7 ft 7 in between pegs and was a low, longish panther, obviously old and with the right lower canine broken. It had the most remarkable coat I have ever seen on a panther, with the hair soft and somewhat fuzzy- the ground colour was no shade of yellow or brown, and in most panthers, but a light warm grey, and there was no line of solid spots down the spine, the markings consisting mainly of large rosettes, some of them double rosettes with an inner cluster of fine spots within the outer circle. The illustration* is from a rough sketch of the beast.

    The second panther is probably a record, for South India at any rate. It was shot on the night of 25 July 1951, by the Yuvaraja of Sandur, and had a tucked in empty stomach. Length- 7 ft 8 inch between pegs (lowest of the three measurements), tail (root to tip) 35 inches; shoulder to toes of forelegs, 33 inches; girth behind forelegs, 36 inches; weight 158 lbs. The colouration was normal.

    The interesting thing about these four panthers (and other large animals from the same areas) is that none of them was a pure game killer, a forest-loving "gol bagh". All four were shot very near villages, from the main road, and three were definitely known to prey, occasionally, on village cattle and dogs. In Karwar, where there is real forest (there is only bush jungle in Chilkanahatti) the few panthers I have seen were small and long-tailed- two males I measured were 6.5 feet, and very light, with beautiful, dark coats.

    Whatever may be the general rule in Central Provinces, the "gol bagh" distinction does not appear to hold in the Deccan, and it is unsafe to specify any colouring as being typical of panthers of any region. Heredity seems to play a much larger part than environment in determining the size and colour of the panthers of any area. Sufficient food during the period of growth (and even afterwards) is a vital factor of course."
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 22 November 1953 in The Sunday Statesman


    *The sketch of the leopard not reproduced here.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Sabyasachi Patra; 17-04-2013 at 11:15 AM. Reason: Uploaded image of a leopard from South India (Nagarhole)

  15. #55
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK:Fond recollections: M.Krishnan:The Sunday Statesman 21-April-2013

    " BLACK birds, as a rule, are glossy. Look at the King-crow, the Racket-tailed Drongo, the Cock-koel and Robin - even the homely crows have a shine to their darkness, like a glace-kid shoe. Some black birds are even more fancy, the sheen of their plumage having a iridescence; the Hill-mynah's black is shot with flashes of purple and green, the little Sunbirds have a gem-like purple glow, and many other birds have a watchspring-blue gloss to their blackness.

    But the cock Pied Bush-chat is not like that. Its black is shineless and gentlemanly, and sets off the patch of white in each wing and above the tail so neatly and brings out stubby little figure so trimly. Its mate is even more sober in attire, the colour of sun-baked, brown clay.

    It is scrubby country, given to spiky, stony vistas framed by thorn-bush, that the Bush-chat likes best; and here it will often take up residence, with its mate, around one's home. So will many other birds, but I think that none of them can impart to a modest cottage set in a plot of wasteland and the same sense of cheer. I should know, having lived for years in such a dwelling.

    For seven years, a pair of Pied Bush-chats lived close beside me, till I left. Each year they built their nest in the vicinity, in a cleft in the kitchen wall, in the roof of my goatshed, and once in the axle-hole of an enormous, handleless, stone roadroller that lay permanently unrolling on my wiry "lawn" - that brood, I remember, came to grief soon.

    Robins, many Wagtails, Sparrows, Bulbuls, Sunbirds - all sorts of birds would come to the curious, low circular wall that enclosed my house or to the aloes and the few hardy bushes that I succeeded in cultivating.

    But it was the Bush-chats that were the permanent residents and I was glad this was so; they were such quiet, self-assured and confiding tenants, unlike the giddy, fidgety visitors.

    During summer and even during the cold weather (especially in December) the cock bush-chat would take its stance atop the terrace, or on a mast-like strip of plank from a packaging case that somehow came to adorn the roof of the goatshed, and sing his glad brief song - a loud clear rising whistle ending on a note of untamed sweetness.

    Listening to it on a sultry afternoon, I have often felt convinced that there is more to birdsong than scientists know yet, and there are times when a bird sings merely because it can and feels like it.

    I know that scientifically-minded people will shake their heads sadly over this little tribute to a lost friend; they will tell me that it is a projection of my own emotions, a sickly and unworthy sentimentality that is responsible for this note.

    No matter. I knew these chats for years and they did not - and if science is the elimination of all feeling and perception and an unwillingness to believe what is not printed in a book, then I have no use for it."
    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 20 December 1953 in The Sunday Statesman

    *A nice sketch of an Oriental Magpie Robin in b/w not reproduced here.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 21-04-2013 at 01:44 PM.

  16. #56
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Goggle-Eyes :M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 5 May 2013a

    " THROUGHOUT India and even far beyond, where the country is sufficiently dry, stony and scrub-jungly, you will find a brownish, much-streaked bird with enormous eyes trotting over pebbly riverbeds on long yellow legs, scuttling through the scrub, crouching low and merging instantly with the earth.It is a bird of many aliases, all of the descriptive and non-flattering.

    It is the Stone-Curlew, the Thick-knee or the GOGGLE-EYED Plover, it is the "bastard-florican" of Anglo-Indian sportsman - I have even heard it called "bastard-florican". However it is ornithologists that have been least kind to it. Formerly it was termed 'Oedicnemus scolopax', but apparently it was felt that the second, specific part of the name was too easy; so now they call it 'Burhinus oedicnemus'!

    Thick-kneed-goggle-eyed-bustard-plover-stone-curlew would be completely descriptive. The bird has the three-toed, yellow running legs of the bustards, and carries the body horizontally; when it runs, with quick, mincing steps, its head low, in a line with the body. By day it is inactive, especially when the sun is bright and cover scanty, but as the light fails it emerges singly and in pairs, moving on quick, silent feet through the scrub looking for insects.

    The obliterative plumage is almost invisible in the dusk, but you may hear it, for with nightfall it grows vocal and often keeps calling till quite late, especially when the moon is bright. And listening to its wild, high, repeated "curlew, curlew", a call suggestive of desolate, wide wasteland, you know at once why it is called the Stone Curlew.

    In places it is only less common on the night road than the nightjar. When caught in the beams of incoming car, it scuttles to the shelter of the nearest bush and stays put beneath it, only its big, black-and-yellow eyes betraying it- or else it flies swift and low for a short distance, the white bar in each wing clearly displayed, before touching ground again and scuttling away. It never flies high or far when disturbed, for it is a ground bird that trusts its thick-kneed legs, but I have heard a pair flying fairly high and calling to each other in the cold, clear moonlight.

    Often a bird disturbed at night on the road will fly alongside the car or right over it, before turning away, somewhat in the manner of the nightjars. Once i caught one from an open lorry, putting up my hand as it came skimming over, and what impressed me was the way it went limp and yielding in the hand, and its surprising lightness. Most bird lack weight remarkably in the hand, but I think, the Stone-Curlew (it is definitely larger than the partridge) is exceptionally light, even for a bird.

    I would like to know more about the courtship of this earth-loving bird, whether that is terrestrial. Does love inspire its wings at anytime or was it just the moonlight that exhilarated the birds I heard, more than once, flying high? Growing curious on this point I questioned a number of people who lived where these birds are common. They could tell me nothing, but directed to a gang-foreman whose knowledge of the fowl was said to be considerable. After missing a few opportunities, I met this expert at last, and this was what he told me, "Yes, they can fly, but that's not the point. Sometimes they fly a little, and sometimes a little further, but mostly they like to run. The point, however, is this: try them cold in a sandwich."

    Unfortunately, I am a vegetarian and can add no personal recommendation, but that was the expert advice."
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 24 January 1954 in the Sunday Statesman.

    *The beautiful sketch of a pair of the birds is not reproduced here.

  17. #57
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    Bangalore
    Posts
    15,234
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Nice article. Liked the way Mr.Krishnan has quoted the expert advice given by the fore-man at the end . Thanks for sharing.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

  18. #58
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    New Delhi
    Posts
    15,585
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    2 Thread(s)

    Default

    Very interesting incident. I would not have thought of catching a curlew. However, I had thoughts of catching a peacock. When I was in class 7th, a peacock had come to our colony. Since the Principal's house had a much larger compound, it was moving around there and was perched on a wall and was calling loudly. I could creep close to the wall and was about 3-4 feet away. Our neighbours screamed that the peacock will gouge my eyes which scared me and I turned back.

    M. Krishnan's prose is beautiful. Love reading it. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

  19. #59
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default Country Notebook: Acts of God : M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 2 June 2013 13 n

    " I was far from the recent earthquake that rocked eastern India, but a correspondent has asked me for opinion on appoint. " Several people to whom I have spoken mentioned that just before the earthquake the other day birds in their respective localities were unusually active and restless," he says, and asks if there is anything in this or if I think the observations of his informants is suspect. He adds, " After all, birds are usually active here by 5 o' clock at this time of the year. Dawn is about to break. The earthquake took place at 5:13."

    A truly interesting point, but I must confess that I have no experience of earthquakes. However, I think I know the answer to this query. No, I do not think there is any point in suspecting the observation of a number of independent witnesses. And why should these people ascribe the excitement of the birds that they noticed to an apprehension on the oncoming shock rather than to the everyday dawn? That is the question, really, and it provides its own answer.
    .......................
    .......................
    Tumbled out of bed at a too early hour, a number of people noticed an avian activity that they usually miss, or else half hear without seeing, through drowsy curtains- naturally, in the confusion of their rude awakening and shock following it, they subconsciously exchange the priority of avian excitement and the earthquake which they presumed was the cause. This seems a reasonable explanation to me, because my faith in humanity does not permit me to believe that a number of people in different localities (unrelated even by membership of some faddist cult) were all up and about at 5 am on 22nd March, solely out of deplorable habit.

    However, it could be that the birds did really apprehend the earthquake. In spite of the vast experimental work and the voluminous theories on the instinctive behaviour of animals (especially birds) that feature recent science, we are not very sure of the scope and directions of their perceptions.

    In his detailed and authoritative note (in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, Vol. 50, No.3) on the Great Assam earthquake of 1950, EP Gee has only this brief observation to make on bird life, "It is difficult to estimate the destruction caused among birds. Occurring as it did under nightfall, when birds would be roosting, the earthquake must have paralvsed some of them in fear and swept them with the forest to their doom." The possibility of birds having advance intimation of seismic disturbances does not arise in this case. Mr.Gee estimates the loss of terrestrial wildlife must have been staggeringly heavy.

    We know that birds are sensitive to atmospheric conditions like heat and humidity and to light. They are usually reliable harbingers of seasonal changes. In many parts of India, the arrival of Pied Crested Cuckoo foretells rainy weather, and each year I date the official commencement of summer by the stern ring of purpose in the noontide voice of Coppersmith. Cannot birds also foretell, by a few minutes at least, a heavily brooding earthquake?

    That brings us back to starting point, and again I am acutely conscious of my ignorance. It seems to me that here there is an unforced occasion for the technique that was my standby through so many university examinations, when no inkling of the answer to the question inspired me. I know nothing about earthquakes, but so what? I KNOW ABOUT FOREST FIRES. Let me tell you about forest fires.

    Many of the forest fires I studied were major conflagrations that swept across entire hillsides devastating thousands of tons of desiccated fodder grass and even valuable timber. There were no firelines in those hill-jungles.

    Following painfully in the wake of some of these fires, looking for the animal victims, I found only one dead snake. It was very dead and it seemed likely that it had died of burns and nothing else, for it was in a patch of scorched grass. Heat is one thing that can kill a snake at once and all along its length.

    The other animals have seemed to have escaped, in spite of the pace of the wind-sped fires. The literature I have read about forest fires (largely fictional) suggests that in the face of blazing common danger mutual animosities are forgotten (a thing that is not at all unlikely, for the confusion of large beat, predator and prey sometime emerge side by side) and if there is any water nearby, the animals make for it. It was during a comparatively minor scrub fire, far from water, that I had the good fortune to witness the way animals react to sudden and swift danger.

    I was with a party of guns having the bush-dotted cover beaten for pig. The scrub was level and clad only in ankle-high grass in the more open places, but clumps of bushes and rock dotted flatness and along the dry, sandy stream beds there was heavy cover (mostly belts of wild date palm). There were pig in the beats, but somehow they sensed where the guns lay in wait and avoided them, a few affording shots that were ingloriously missed. As we drove to the scene of the last beat it was long past lunchtime, everyone was tired and hungry, and tempers were frayed.

    One of the beaters noticed the fire first. It was advancing towards us on a wide front, coming very fast and low. There was a patch of fairly open cover between us and the fire, and this ran past the road on which our cars were halted, some half-a-mile downwards- by retreating rapidly the guns could get to the end of the patch and be ready for the fire-beaten animals.

    To me (who does not shoot) that seemed a mean thing to do, and I told my companions so.I also referred to the truce between wild beasts that is said to prevail during fires and floods, and drew obvious inferences. They left me behind in a lorry, with only its massive driver for company(a man whose rugged bulk lent the three-ton chassis a certain slimness), and departed in haste to their evil assignation.

    Our lorry was safe, in an open plot of sand, but I have an old-fashioned dislike of being blown to pieces, and so laboriously climbed a tree some 30 yards away. The driver whose mass and philosophy discouraged simulation, sat in his seat with stoic resignation.

    The fire was approaching at a great pace and was now quite near. It was a hasty, light-footed fire that hurried low over the crackling grass, leaving bushes in the patch unscathed, but the smoke rendered visibility confused. I watched narrowly for escaping wildlife, but saw nothing. Then the fire passed us, jumped across the road and soon racing away from us. It was then I noticed something scudding through the unburnt grass towards the line of fire and smoke. A hare leaped effortlessly over the flaming grass and bounded away through the burnt stubble towards a green bush- a minute later I saw another hare repeat the move.

    Then a small leopard (it was known that the beat might hold a leopard) came streaking through the line of fire and crossed the burnt grass into the green cover in a grey flash- one of the guns told me later that he had also seen it, and both the driver and I had a clear view.

    Nothing else came our way, but what we had seen was remarkable enough. The beast seeking escape from the flames actually ran into it and past the line of fire, so gained the safety of burnt grass and green bush cover. It was much the sensible thing to do in the circumstances- perhaps animal react differently when the fire is slower and deadlier, as in forest fires I cannot say whether intelligence or instinct guided their escape, but doubt if I would have had the sense to do what they did had I been caught up in that fire. I may have realised the safety of rapidly burnt grass only after the fire had pursued and overtaken me."
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 4 April 1954 in The Sunday Statesman

    *Two paragraphs not reproduced here.
    **The sketch of a hare leaping over the flaming grass not reproduced here.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 03-06-2013 at 02:04 PM.

  20. #60
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    Bangalore
    Posts
    15,234
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Very informative article. It shows that animals do have a instinct which guides them during natural calamities. Thanks for sharing.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

  21. #61
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Avian Courts Martial: M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 23 June 2013

    [Page 1]

    "THE "lynching" of one of their kind by Common Mynahs and Jungle Babblers, and the execution of a Crow by crows, have been reported in the correspondence columns of The Statesman recently, and an explanation invited. The resigned passiveness of the victims has been remarked and a comparison to courts of justice suggested.

    I have read similar reports of avian tribunals but shall not refer to them as the "court of justice" is bad, both in fact as in law. I do not object to the comparison because there is no considered justice in these assaults by birds on one of their feather. No serious student of jurisprudence will pretend that rabid injustice has not been dispensed at human judicial tribunals. There have been many bloodthirsty courts in our history where procedure was a farce and everyone knew the verdict before trial opened, but they were content to pronounce the sentence - its execution was left to others.

    "I'll be judge, I'll be jury,"
    said the cunning old Fury:
    "I'll try the whole cause
    and condemn you to death!"

    Lewis Carroll tactfully refrains from what Fury did to the mouse. It is as one interested in law, not as a naturalist, that I object to the comparison!

    AN EXPLANATION GOES

    Having made this helpful contribution, I make another as a naturalist this time. No explanation can cover all intraspecific attacks of individuals by groups, in gregarious birds. Such attacks are known among gregarious mammals also, but are most often noticed in birds. In the old days a moralistic explanation was sometimes advanced that it was a punishment of the culprit by plebiscite, intended to secure social welfare. We know now that birds are quite incapable of moralistic thought or self-conscious appreciation of communal good. That explanation must go.

    My point is not that there can be no explanation; there can be many. But first we must consider what we know of avian social life, for in trying to explain these attacks we are trying to understand bird behaviour better than birds themselves.

    Clearly no question of sexual motive or extraspecific hostility is involved in these attacks. Crows and Mynahs are intelligent as birds go, but we can safely rule out the motive of conscious punishment of a crime. Birds have no critical intelligence. In fact, their social life is totally independent of an intellectual comprehension of rights and duties. Is it because of their freedom from imposition of the carping, petty, analytical intelligence that rules our lives so inexorably that we find birds fascinating?

    EMOTIONAL LANGUAGE

    In a bird clan social function and communications depend largely on patterned urges and responses, which may be visual, vocal, tactile or based on some other sense perception. But we do not imagine for a moment that because communication is not based on intelligence but on instinctive and emotional gestures birds are automatons. On the contrary, so many circumstances condition this "emotional language" (as Dr.Tinbergen puts it), so personal and intimate can these expressions and reactions be that no scientific observer can deny the existence of a bird mind capable of much varied and sensitive apprehension. Thanks to the recent work of scientific naturalists, the idea that birds (and even lesser animals) are automatons whose lives are merely a chain of rigid, mechanical actions has been fully exploded.

    Certain of these responses are released by specific "gestures" (I use the term loosely to indicate both visual and acoustic signals), called "releasers". Releasers are of special value in the social behaviour of animals, particularly in their intraspecific fighting where they may serve to promote or inhibit hostile effort. In gregarious birds, these gestures often become highly personalised and are used only between birds knowing one another. Let me quote Tinbergen on this point: "Not all communication, however, is based on releasers; there are certain complications. As we have seen, many social animals respond to species' social releasers only when provided by certain individuals, which they know personally. In such cases, personal connections, established through learning processes, confine the reactor's responses to signals from one or a few individuals only; they still respond to the releasers of the species, but only after they narrowed their attention to particular members of the species."

    That is the barest possible background against which we can try to understand these intraspecific attacks. In none of the instances reported by correspondents to The Statesman is there any detailed account of the circumstances anterior to the attack. We do not even know that the individual that was attacked by the group belonged to that group - though of the same feather, it might have belonged to another group. Among birds that go about habitually in company, such as Babblers (or Mynahs during certain periods, while feeding), the company is strictly limited. No outsider is tolerated, usually. Here we may note that birds are able to recognise members of their own party exceedingly well.

    Contd.to [ Page 2]

  22. #62
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Avian Courts Martial: M.Krishnan The Sunday Statesman 23 June 2013

    [ PAGE 2]
    (continued from Page1)


    CLANNISH

    Territorial feelings may also account for hostility towards intruders. In July 1951, I was staying at a forest bunglow and the gate of the compound seemed to limit one side of the domain of a party of LARGE GREY BABBLERS - another party of these highly clannish bird inhabited the scrub beyond the gate. One morning, a Babbler from the scrub crossed over to the compound and was promptly mobbed by the bunglow party. The assault was technical; a voluble, excited attempt at encircling the gatecrasher, which retreated to the scrub in haste and was not pursued - there was sufficient threat in the attempt to constitute an assault in law. In could be that if that intruder had come far enough in, if it had not been so near the gate that escape was easy, there would have been more action.

    Flight from what hurts or threatens is such a natural and widespread reaction among animals that the victim's lack of attempt to escape does seem surprising, at the first sight. However, it could be that it does not respond to the threat gestures of its antagonists (this preliminary display by the attackers has probably been mistaken for deliberation before attack by the older naturalists) because those gestures have no compelling force or "meaning" to it, because they do not release either flight or appeasement responses in it. Of course, encirclement, confusion and bodily injuries caused by actual attack may all be reasons for the victim's apathy - illness or injury prior to the attack may also be causes. There is no intelligent appraisal of chances of escape or acceptance of the inevitable - if that bird were capable of intelligence, it could escape.

    A SAFEGUARD

    A group attack can, of course, be directed against a member of the group. There is usually some safeguard to prevent actual fighting in gregarious animals and threat gestures are often sufficient to assert rights. Fighting out of sexual rivalry or over rights of precedence is confined to the rivals and the rest of the clan takes no sides but where a basic "right" is violated the protesting bird summons clan aid and usually gets it. Lorenz describes the amusing behaviour of jackdaws when a stronger bird tries to usurp the nest hole of a weaker member of the colony. The aggressor assaults the rightful holder and appropriates the site by sheer force; the dispossessed bird indulges in a proprietorial "zicking" call which soon changes to an outraged "yipping"; this brings all the jackdaws within earshot to the nest, jostling one another and yipping furiously and this sudden babble usually breaks up the fight, "particularly since the original aggressor participates in the yipping!" Lorenz explains how this is not a cunning move by the miscreant to divert suspicion from itself by crying "stop thief" with the rest, but an uncontrollable reaction - he adds. "I have often seen cases, however, where the aggressor was very definitely recognised by the advancing members of the colony and was thoroughly thrashed if he persisted in the attack."

    CONCEDED 'RIGHTS'

    It is likely that some such communal disturbances, initiated by the outraged calls of a bird defending some usually conceded "right" against an aggressor brought about the "lynchings" reported. But the culprit need not have indulged in violent aggression - its culpability may be accidental and beyond its control.

    That brings us to the CROWS. I have heard the theory that an injured or a sick bird is some times executed by its clan and that this is a communal safeguard, for obviously an incapacitated bird must be a drag on the clan and can not perform its duties by the next generation efficiently. There is, of course, no suggestion of conscious action in all this - the birds act instinctively in this manner. This is not a variation of the "court of justice" idea and is scientifically sound, but still it is a speculative theory.

    I have seen crows pecking a crow to death - I am sure many others have witnessed this happening. I can not attempt any explanation of the murder because I did not observe the incidents that led up to it and had not studied those crows closely enough to know their identities or their relationship to the victim, i.e, it is my ignorance of the "facts of the case" that obscures my understanding. However, I am happy to provide an example to the contrary from my own observation. I have seen a party of crows trying to rouse a member that has fallen to the earth with man-inflicted injuries. They flew low over it, repeatedly flying just over its prostrate, struggling body, evidently trying to induce to follow them; later, they alighted and settled around it, cawing agitatedly; they approached close and then hopped away. That wounded crow took nearly 15 minutes to die and only when it was quite still did its companions fly away.

    I trust I have at least explained why there can not be any one explanation of intraspecific mobbing and how it is useless to theorise unless all the facts are known, especially those anterior to the attack. No little bird can tell us the truth about these things because, as pointed out already, we are attempting to understand motives far beyond avian understanding. However, our knowledge of bird behaviour is much sounder and more comprehensive than what it was, and an expert observer can often account for an avian mobbing - perhaps much more certainly than we can explain why human mobs sometimes react as people did during the recent Kumbha Mela."
    [concluded]

    -M.Krishnan


    This was first published on 11 July 1954 in The Sunday Statesman

    Note:
    A sketch of an avian court and another of a party of crows sitting around an injured member not reproduced.
    The Article came out as as a single one , I have divided into two parts for convenience.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 06-07-2013 at 10:34 PM.

  23. #63
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Forty days SI : M.Krishnan :The Sunday Statesman 14 July 2013

    ......... [ PARAKEET ]
    .........
    .........

    "During the 40 days it spent in my prison, I gained the impression, slowly, that it was a very old bird. It quite refused to make friends with humanity and was idiotically scared if anyone went near its cage, but it was indifferent to the cat - curiously enough, the feline was equally indifferent to the cage.

    Parakeets fly swiftly, but they are essentially climbing birds. Since my bird had no tail, there was no feathers to obscure its legs as it clambered about and I was able to study its climbing technique closely.

    Most birds have rigidly set feet, with three toes pointing forward and one behind, but a parakeet can reverse its third toe and most often its feet have toes in opposite pairs, the better to grasp with. Moreover, its upper beak was not firmly joined to the skull as in other birds but is capable of a certain play - this gives that massive, curved, overhanging book-bill a measure of delicacy and "feel" that that is invaluable to a climber. A parakeet always goes beak foremost, whether climbing up or down.

    It is said that when a parakeet goes to sleep, perching on both feet, it is a sign of poor health and that a bird in good health will perch on one foot. I can testify to the truth of this from observation. After the first two weeks (when it used both feet),# my bird slept perched on one foot. I have the definite recollection that whenever I saw it asleep it was perched on its left foot, with the right foot drawn up, but I can not say that it never used its right foot for perching. Had this occurred to me yesterday, I could have verified my suspicions, but you know how it is with these things - this has occurred to me just now, five hours after releasing my bird ! "
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 15 August 1954 in The Sunday Statesman

    The last three paragraphs have been reproduced.
    The sketches are not reproduced here.

    # NOTE:
    A male parakeet received deep wound on its left side (the kind of wound described as a 'stab injury' in medico-legal books) by a crow during night and was profusely bleeding. Krishnan got up from bed and with the help of flashlight located it in his compound, picked it up ,treated it and kept under his supervision for 40 days and then released it when it was found fully fit.
    Use of 'both feet' was during the first two weeks of the treatment and recovery phase.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 14-07-2013 at 11:22 AM.

  24. #64
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK:An exceptional warbler:M.Krishnan:The Sunday Statesman 4-Aug-2013

    [TAILORBIRDS]


    "THE warbler tribe is the most numerously anonymous of all birds. There are several hundreds of them - wren-warblers, willow-warblers, tree-warblers, fantail warblers and just warblers - all smallish birds, most of them quite tiny, all more or less of dull feather. They are inconspicuously grey, brownish or greenish, much given to playing hide and seek in bushes and no less given to warbling or to feeble call-notes. It is not hard, once you have the hang of family characters, to know a bird as a warbler when you see it. Further identification, is a matter for the warbler specialist, and even he likes to have the bird in one hand and the textbook in the other.

    It is surprising, therefore, to find that one of the most familiar and easily identified of our garden birds is a warbler. It is 'Orthotomus sutorius' - if it fails to mistify you, I might as well use the common name and call it the 'Tailorbird'. There are few gardens in India, however, modest, that are not graced by the presence of a pair of tailorbirds.

    True, there are other warblers that look like the tailorbirds; there are Ashy Wren-Warbler, for instance, another small, slim, energetic bird with a cocked up tail and the habit of flitting airily about bushes. It is more grey or dark brown on top, in any plumage, than the olive green tailorbird, though both are of a size and shape and both have pale undersides, but it is not by their looks that you tell them apart, not even by the cock tailorbird's tailpins, because these are shed after the breeding season. The wren warbler makes a curious, quickly repeated snapping noise, faint but audible and unmistakable - if you hear a tailorbird making this noise, put it down as the Ashy W-W.

    Tailorbirds have many calls, among them a rapid "chick-chick-chick-chick" (I think this is an alarm call or rather an alert). A loud monosyllabic "Tweet" and a louder two-syllabled "Towhee". No other bird of that size has such a bold loud voice. And if you watch a tailorbird while it is calling, you will see a transverse black bar appear and disappear on either side of the neck with each call.

    The beautifully sewn nest is, perhaps, even better known than the bird. One would think that suck a work of sartorial art is the true and unique hallmark of the tailorbird, but at times the Ashy W-W builds an almost identical nest, also slung within stitched leaves. However, if there are eggs in the nest you can tell the builder at once. The tailorbird's eggs are speckled, and wren-warbler's are a deep, shiny red.

    The very first nest with young that I watched was a tailorbird's, in a Hiptage bush just below the varandah of a house. Sometimes these birds build their nests close to human life, even in a potted plant on the varandah at times. So bold and confiding are they that they will continue to feed their tiny, wide-gaped young while you sit and watch the process from two yards away, provided you keep utterly still and don't stare too rudely. No other nesting bird is so easy to watch.

    Off and on, for the past two years, I have been watching a pair of tailorbirds that frequent my garden. They are there all day, and I think, all night as well quite often, for I have often seen roosting in a yellow oleander bush late in the evening. They seem to like my neglected and rank garden, and to feel very much at home, but though there are plenty of insect life here to feed them and their broods they have never nested within my compound walls. Where large-leaved creepers and bushes are available, tailorbirds prefer to nest in them, and there are few such plants in my garden.

    I have taken great pains (what a lie!) - it calls for none to allow the plants here to run wild and fight it out among themselves, and I am reluctant to interfere with the perfectly natural growth, but I think that one of these days, when I can find a lusty seedling and energy, I will dig pit by my kitchen wall, fill it with something less inhibiting than the clay soil of my compound and plant a 'Hiptage' seedling there for the tailorbirds to nest in."

    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 7 November 1954 in the Sunday Statesman

    *One sketch of a Tailorbird with cocked up tail has not been reproduced here.

  25. #65
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan Southern Maneaters:The Sunday Statesman 11,18-Aug-2013

    -------------------
    -------------------
    -------------------
    " CALLING UP

    The comparison with Col Corbett's thrillers is inescapable. It must be said in Anderson's favour that he attempts no one-handed shooting or other fancy manoeuvres, but he is not Col Corbett's equal as a naturalist and nowhere in that class as a raconteur. His narrative style is workmanlike and lacks that sure feeling for suspense and drama, that uncanny communication of atmosphere and circumstantial detail, that are Col Corbett's own. However, Mr. Anderson has been equally lucky in his escapes, and his book raises several interesting issues which may be briefly considered here, for they are features of recent Indian Shikar literature.

    For instance, there is the question of calling up man-eaters. I believe that Col Corbett's 'Man-eaters of Kumaon' was the first book to describe the method. This method usually provokes skeptical banter in Shikar circles, outside them as well. I have even read of the predicament of the bandicoot-hunter who finally decides, when sittings up and traps and poisoned baits have all failed, to call up the Night-Raider of the Nether Regions, only to find he can not because, in his ignorance of the N-R's sex, he does not know whether to use the coarse, rasping grunt of the male bandicoot or the softer grumble of the female. But though I wrote this passage myself, I have never been able to understand why people should doubt the feasibility of calling up tigers and panthers.

    ANCIENT EXAMPLES

    Actually, the calling up of other animals has long been practiced in India and outside. The birch-bark trumpet used by North American hunters to lure the bull moose within range, and the use of leaves pressed to the lips by primitive tribes in India to produce sounds like the distress-calls of fawns to attract hinds (this will also attract wild dogs) are ancient examples of calling up. The greater cats, which "mate as fiercely as they kill", are highly excitable and aggressive during that period. However, their hearing is exquisite (that of the tiger has justly termed "microscopic") and it is doubted whether anyone can imitate them well enough to deceive them. I do not think this is always necessary, particularly in calling up man-eaters.

    If you can bring yourself to bark like a dog, working up a good, staccato fervour into the barking, you will find (as I have found) that you can provoke a violent response in canines both at home and abroad. It is not that the dogs mistake you for one of their kind, for they can see you. But something in the infective urgency and strangeness of your behaviour moves them powerfully. Could it not be that a tiger in a state of fretful excitement is sometimes moved to seek out a human imitator out of sheer irritation? It is significant, in this connection, that slightly wounded tigers are said to respond to calling up as readily as those seeking mates.

    There is another possible explanation, even if one will not concede the possibility of a tiger mistaking a human voice for a mate's. Mr Anderson's book illustrates this second explanation admirably. In his account of the Yemmaydoddi man-eater, he tells how he attracted the tiger to himself by tapping a branch in simulation of a woodcutter - and in telling of the "Man-eater of Jowlagiri", he says the tigress was kept till dawn (when there will be light enough to shoot by) in the vicinity of a shrine which housed the author and his companions by his giving her the answering call of a tiger and also by the prospect of dinner, since she knew there were men inside the shrine. Granted that his calling up after dawn failed to deceive the tigress, it could be that she came up to him attracted, as was the tier of Yemmaydoddi, by himself."

    -M.Krishnan


    --------------
    --------------
    --------------

    This was first published on 14 November 1954 in The Sunday Statesman


    Note:
    (1)The Article was re-published in two parts in The Sunday Statesman on 11.08.2013 and 18.08.2013 and I have reproduced only a portion of it.
    (2)Sketches of 'A tiger actually killing a bull (taken from a machan)'
    and 'The killer of Jalahalli' not reproduced here.
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 27-08-2013 at 11:34 AM.

  26. #66
    Join Date
    24-11-08
    Location
    New Delhi
    Posts
    15,585
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    2 Thread(s)

    Default

    I have no doubt about Col. Jim Corbett's ability or the ability of a few hunters to imitate the call of a tiger and other animals. Jim Corbett was teaching jungle warfare to army men. He has written that among other things, he used to teach "how to make calls to imitate jungle sounds". (My Kumaon - Uncollected Writings - Jim Corbett, page 24).

    I have read in many shikar books about shikari's imitating tiger calls. One of them, Shri Gadadhar Ray from Odisha had written in his book that he wanted to know whether he can imitate the call of a tiger and hence he hid in a bush and called like a tiger when he saw a cowherd along with his cattle in the jungle. Immediately the cowherd picked up his stick and tried to beat at the bush and simultaneously calling his buffaloes for help. He somehow could shout at the cowherd to stop and extricated himself from the bush. Later he said that he became bold enough about his ability to imitate a tiger and had called at a tiger during mating season. He had also mentioned the ability to imitate distress call of birds which is termed in odiya as (peen peenya). Shikaris put sticky substances in bushes and make this call to attract birds who immediately start calling listening to such sounds and get their legs or wings stuck.

    I am ashamed to recollect some childhood experiences, but nevertheless I am doing it, as it will throw some light on the behaviour. I used to try and imitate simple bird calls like that of cuckoo, different dog sounds etc.

    Whenever a cuckoo used to call from a nearby tree, I used to call back and the cuckoo immediately responding at a slightly higher pitch. A slanging match used to start with each trying to outdo the other. It finally used to stop when the cuckoo reaches the top of its voice, as if it is screaming and then it stops. I used to laugh that I won as I had made the cuckoo stop calling. The cuckoo used to call after some time again and I used to start the war again. I have no idea if the cuckoo used to think that I am a competitor or it thought the impersonator should be shouted down. Nevertheless it used to happen.

    I could easily yell like a puppy dog and get a response from my own dog which never tolerated other dogs. So when Shri Krishnan says that canines get annoyed, I agree with him. Today, if there is any authority who can claim to correctly call like a tiger, then I have the wherewithal to examine it scientifically.

    People often doubt the ability of persons. A few scientists today, envious by the reputation of Jim Corbett, obliquely question the authenticity of his ability to read pug marks. All I can say is, when you have to be in the jungle on foot and your survival is at stake, then one will learn ways and means, be it finding food or water from plants or how to avoid leech bites, remove ticks to avoid sores, treat scorpion bites or imitate calls of wild animals and birds.

  27. #67
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan: 'DID YOU DO IT' The Sunday Statesmen 08-September-2013

    RED-WATTLED LAPWING

    "THE winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on earth", but the official opening of the vernal season is still months away. And when it does open, it will be very unlike what English poets say it is in England.

    'In the spring the wanton lapwing gets
    himself another crest;
    In the spring a young man's fancy lightly
    turns to thoughts of love.'

    It is not at all like that here. There is no seasonal limit to the fancy of our young men, and our lapwing has no crest, not even in midsummer when it is the peak of spring in India.

    It is different altogether from the English lapwing, though related in a cousinly sort of way. Birds of the same English mane, in diverse countries, are not necessarily of the same feather. The robin, for instance, is a wholly different bird in England, in America and in India - in fact, most countries have their own distinctive robin. The sparrow-hawk, the grackle and the chat may be only distantly related, or even unrelated, to their namesakes in other lands, and I mention these three merely in an illustrative manner. However, lapwings everywhere belong to the plover group.

    All of them are long-legged and light-footed, and broad and lazy of wing, though capable of strong flight - it is from their flapping, lubberly wing action that they get their tribal name. But there are several kinds of them in India. The one I term "our lapwing" is the Red-wattled Lapwing, commonest of the tribe, the handsome, familiar "Did-you-do-it?", that is one of the few birds to figure in our legends.

    Its call, admirably rendered by the words "Did you do it?" is quite distinctive, even when the black-and-white head and neck, red wattle and yellow legs are unseen. The only other bird for which it can be mistaken from a distance is the Yellow-wattled Lapwing, its younger brother - but the latter does not ask the querulous question, "Did-you-do-it?" as it rises into the air in alarm.

    The Red-wattled Lapwing is not an especially sociable bird (incidentally, there is a sociable lapwing); it is usually by itself or with its mate, though as many as six may be seen together on occasion. It is essentially a shorebird, fond of the shingle margins of lakes and drying riverbeds, but equally at home on plough-land and in jungle clearings. It runs easily about on its neat, yellow legs, looking for its living in the sand and shingle and clods. And its knowledge of human intentions is uncanny.

    It is noticeably less distrustful of humanity when on plough-land or the bare, pathless throughfares around villages where men are on their own ground, but nowhere does it permit a near approach. Sitting in the open, in a dry nullah, I have watched this bird for quite ling periods - it would invariably take wing in loud alarm at my approach, but soon alight some distance away and gradually walk nearer. But any movement, such as the creeping behind cover of a man with a gun towards duck in a lake or some other quarry, is instantly detected and blatantly advertised - the bird circles above the lurker, brandishing the white bar in its slow wings, as if to direction to its strident alarm. I may be imaginative, but when a lapwing proclaims the stalker in this manner its call seems to me slightly longer and more insistent in each syllable and definitely more urgent - a "Don't-you-see-him?" rather than anything else.

    Naturally, shikaris have little love for the bird, and its Tamil name, "Aat-kaatti-kuruvi", is remarkably descriptive - "the bird that points out men", literally translated.

    When you see a pair of lapwings on a pebbly shore or field, and one of them flutters right in front of you, be sure the eggs are somewhere near, a clutch of three or four pointed ones, pointed ends inward in a scrape in the earth, and so like the pebbles in their mottled indetermination that you are not likely to see them till you step on them.

    Incidentally, you need not look for them where the fluttering bird was - they are likely to be near where its mate was.

    Countryside legend credits the lapwing with the habit of sleeping on its back, so that it may catch and hold up the heavens in its feet should they collapse and fall while it is asleep. The legend has been interpreted by scholars as one illustrative of grotesquely exaggerated conceit; their comment is to the effect, "As if such a small bird could hold up in its feet something so huge and heavy as the firmament!" But I believe the legend could be more truly taken as one symbolic of the bird's wariness.

    No naturalist can assert that the lapwing does not sleep on its back, for who has caught it napping? At night, the bird is even wider awake than by day, and I should think its sudden call is one of the most reliable of nocturnal alarms, telling the listener that something is moving nearby, unless, of course, he himself is the cause. I have rarely heard the bird when it was quite dark, but when there is moonlight it calls frequently, and I have heard it by such faint light that though I knew from the sound that it was flying directly overhead, may be 20 or 30 yards above, I was not able to see it."
    -M. Krishnan

    This was first published on 20 February 1955 in The Sunday Statesman

    #The coloured and beautiful sketch forming a part of the article not reproduced here.

  28. #68
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRYNOTEBOOK:M.Krishnan:Of specially pleasing flight:TheSundayStatesman:6-Oct-13

    THE PIED WAGTAIL

    "THE Pied Wagtail is a very likeable bird, wherever you may meet it, unconcernedly reconnoitering the village pool, almost within reach of the dhobi wrecking your clothes upon a rock, tripping along the banks of suburban ponds, or sitting atop a city gable piping its high, sweet songs. What can you want in a little bird to like it? Trim, pied looks, a friendly tolerance of humanity and a gay bearing - it has them all. But though it is the largest of our wagtails, the only resident one and the least frailly built of the lot, it has the rather weak, loose-jointed appearance of its clan when you see it in town or village, and the way it keeps on wagging its tail like a puppy makes you suspect it of mental incoherence as well. To know the bird really, you must see it in its native haunts, beside a rock-strewn, turbulent river.

    Recently I watched a pair of these wagtails for an hour beside just such a river. We had spent the morning in strenuous work and had adjourned for our basketed lunch to an ancient, cool, dark stone pavilion, right at the water's edge. The river roared past in a broad, foaming torrent, hurling itself headlong against the rocks that jutted out of its course here and there. The larger rocks were miniature islands, topped with dry sand and rushes, and on either side the river was likewise flanked with black rock, white sand and rank green rushes.

    After doing justice to the meal, we stretched ourselves on the rock floor of the pavilion. A hundred and fifty yards away a statquesque osprey was sunning its bedraggled plumage on a stone pillar on the farther side of the river, and I lay watching it idly. Suddenly, out of the tail of my eye, I saw something come skipping and dancing across the water, and turned around. Two black-and-white birds were coming across from the opposite bank, making directly for our pavilion. They flew low in their dipping, rising passage, skimming the surface, one behind the other and at each perfectly synchronised dip it seemed as if the angry current would engulf them and suck them right in. I knew they were only Pied Wagtails, just a pair of common birds, but no Bird of Paradise could have looked more fairy-like in that setting. Many times that afternoon I watched them cross and recross the river, or go flitting from one rocky island to another.

    The sheer buoyancy, airiness and abandon of their flight so much at variance with the heavy turbulence of the water underneath - such a contrast in moods!

    In such haunts, these wagtails no longer seem weak in build or manner. For one thing, they spend much less time trotting about the sand and rock and are much oftener on the wing - the undulating flight of all wagtails is pleasing to the eye, the flight of this one being specially pleasing, as with each wing beat the bird seems to grow suddenly brighter and larger, as the wing is opened and more white is displayed, and then to fold neatly into itself.

    As the wagtails came skimming and swinging over the water, they piped joyously to each other. The quick calls clear above the river's incessant, sullen roar. This flight-call was quite different from the usual long-drawn whistles or the cock's song - it was a sharp, eager call, jerked out of the bird every two yards of its flight, commencing, I think, just while it was rising from its dip. It could be that it was only the cock that piped, but I thought, I heard both birds.

    They visited the pavilion several times, but it was only after a while that they discovered the rice grains scattered on the unhewn boulder just beyond the pavilion steps, where one of us had been amusing himself feeding the fish in the rapid water below. It was the cock, the blacker and more dapper of the two, that found the rice first. It pecked eagerly at the grains, unmindful of my presence two yards away; then it flew across to where its mate was, its quick piping calls fading as it went further, and presently returned with the hen. Both fell to on the rice with zestful pecks.

    I spoke to them, in surprise. "Do you know," I said, "you shouldn't do that, according to the books - you are strictly insectivorous!"

    They just wagged their tails easily and in unison without bothering to explain, and flew right away, having eaten up every grain of rice on the boulder. "
    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 10 April 1955 in The Sunday Statesman

    *The sketch of the bird not reproduced here.

  29. #69
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: A quiz on Indian art: M.Krishnan :The Sunday Statesman 20-Oct-2013

    "..................

    Nowhere, I think, has the elephant been understood with more sympathy than in our art. Our master carvers were quick to perceive both the droll, ponderous mass of the great beast and its pliant grace, and familiar with its peculiar anatomy in movement and repose. There are hundreds of superb elephants in our sculpture, from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, belonging to various periods and cultures - at Sarnath, Sanchi, Ellora Halebid, Mahabalipuram, Madura, Travancore.

    It would be hard to name the best dozen elephants in our sculpture even if one were familiar with them all, which I am not. But I hazard the guess that among them would be the young tusker in bass relief shown here. Observe how the sloping forehead, thick tusks, short-coupled body and unfolded ear of the still youthful tusker have all been faithfully remembered here - obviously the beast is almost full grown, but has many years to "furnish" in, before it attains the full majesty of its maturity. Where and across which wall or pillar does this restive adolescent pace, the limbs on each side moving together to give it the characteristic rolling gait of an elephant in a moody hurry? That is for you to guess.

    ......................."-M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 17 April 1955 in The Sunday Statesman


    *Only 2 paragraphs reproduced here
    #Images of sculptures not reproduced here

  30. #70
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: A change of fare- M.Krishnan :The Sunday Statesman 3-November-2013

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: A change of fare- M.Krishnan :The Sunday Statesman 3-November-2013
    (Sparrows Hunting Insects)

    "ANY third form text will tell you why the sparrow has such a thick bill. The better to eat seed with, of course. Most finches have stout, short bills that come in very useful in getting the grain off the ripening crop and in battering people know, the bird is not born with this seed eating bill. The infant sparrow is horribly naked and helpless, just a blob of greedy, pink flesh with a wide, soft, yellow-rimmed gap for a mouth. It cannot thrive on hard seed. So its fond parent brings it grubs and insects with all appendages removed so that it might grow apace on softer and more readily ingested fare.

    Many other seed-eaters, besides sparrow, also feed their young on an insectivorous diet. But sparrow and weaver-birds are, perhaps, more adventurous in their hunting when they have young than even some insect-eaters. The size of the quarry these stout-built birds will tackle then is truly astonishing. They will pounce upon fat, big grasshoppers and batter the prey to pieces till only the soft body, free of all chitin remains.

    Once I watched a hen sparrow kill a large green mantis quite as long as itself. Thebird began the attack with a few sharp sideways pecks that disabled but did not immobilise the insecct; the matis flew around desperately, its hunter following every turn and twist in the air, driving in a peck at every landing, till it was no longer capable of flight. Then followed a slow process of dismemberment. The killing, from the attack to beheading, took almost 15 minutes.

    When you see sparrows hunting insects you may be reasonably sure they have broods. I used to think this an infallible sign of a loud nest somewhere at hand, but am less sure now. It is about this time of the year this sparrows are most given to nesting, but for the past week I have been following activities of three sparrows hunting insects steadily and I have watched them sufficiently closely to know the fact that they have no nests or young.

    These are grown birds, a cock and two hens, but all of them look first-season birds to me. Beyond a lack of fullness in the cock's black bib, and a certain uniformity in the grey-brown of the hens' plumage, I have no reason for thinking that they are not quite mature but that is feeling I get. From the morning till nightfall the haunt the open garage and the many eaves of the two houses next to the cottage where I am now. .................................................. .........#

    Sparrows in this place, by the way, are rare birds. These three start their hunting with the earliest light, and are busiest in the mornings and late afternoons. One of them hangs in the air on quick-beating wings below a skein of cobweb, very much in the manner of a sunbird hovering before a flower; it clutches the skein in a foot and flies away till it is dragged clear of the roof, then just lets go (as we couldn't if we swept it aside - the web will cling to our fingers) and darts up into the cleared space for a quick peck. The bird descends to the ground with a spider in the beak, which it pecks at once and then gobbles up, before resuming its hunting. I think it is the small spiders which spin neat little tents of white across pits in the wall that the birds hunt oftenest, but I have often seen them tugging at the long, dust-laden festoons of cobweb, silvery grey against the dark paint of the roof.

    Another sparrow is looking for termites. It pecks at a crust on the garage wall, hovering on quick wings an inch from sheer mortar, and then pecks up the termites that emerge. The way it goes up and down vertically, chasing a termite on the wall, displays a deftness of wing that one would not normally credit a sparrow with.

    I can give no list of the insects and arachnids these birds hunt, but once I saw one of them catch some prey in the air - this was the only aerial hunting I noticed. And I have even seen them chasing the small grasshoppers on the withered grass, though I don't remember seeing one caught. It could be that living in a place where their natural food is scarce (as is shown by absence of seed-eaters here) the birds have been driven to seek strange meat, and it could be that when they are more mature they will learn to foraging far for grain, but all this does not really account for the quite remarkable adaptability that these young seed-eaters show in getting their sustenance, and their efficiency hunting fleeing quarry."
    - M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 15 May 1955 in The Sunday Statesman

    *The beautiful sketch of a sparrow hanging in the air on quick-beating wings in hunting mode is not reproduced.
    # A few lines omitted.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  31. #71
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan : The Sunday Statesman: 22-December-2013

    ' TIGER, TIGER!'
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _

    " The Indian Tiger is famed all over the world. When the people of other countries think of our wild beasts, they think of the tiger at once, and everyone knows this animal in our country. It is even to be found on our 10-rupee notes. But it did not always live here and there is good reason for believing that it belonged, at first, to the cold northern parts of Asia and came to India long, long ago.

    Even now, after so many hundred years of living in India, the tiger does not like our blazing sun and lives in thick forests where it is shady and cool, and hunts by night. It is also very fond of water and is a fine swimmer.

    However it has lived so long that we can rightly call it ours. It is also found in many other Asiatic countries, in Manchuria and Burma for instance, but there are no tigers in Ceylon.

    It has been said that the magnificently striped coat of the tiger is useful to it when it goes hunting. The stripes, it is said, look so like the streaky, upright light and shade on the tall grass that the animals it hunts missed seeing it. I must say I have never thought this true. For one thing, the tiger hunts by night when the light is so poor that the pattern of its coat is not to be clearly seen and when there is no strong light and shade, moreover a tiger stalking its prey takes very great care not to show itself till it is near enough to pounce. Tigers have marvellously sharp hearing and good sight, especially at night, but their sense of smell is not so sharp.

    There are no black tigers, but there are white tigers, near Rewa. These are not pure white, but very pale, with the stripes in pale brown.

    And not for the important question. If a lion and a tiger fight, which will win? Honestly, there is no sure answer to that question. A large lion and a large tiger are equally matched, but most people think the tiger will win, size being equal.

    It lacks the protective mane of the lion, around the throat, but it is more agile. An American professor has tried to answer this question by going into all cases where the two beasts have fought, in captivity, but it is not a fair way of answering it. We do not know that in such cases both fighter was full-grown and in hard condition.

    The lion and tiger have mated in captivity. The cubs are called ligers if their mother is tigress (the fater being a lion) and tigons when the mother is a lioness and the father a tiger. The liger is even bigger than its parents when grown but there there is nothing remarkable about it. It looks rather like a maneless lion with faint tiger marlings at places, and is wholly a man-made beast. That is why I have not drawn it for you in the tailpiece, but have given you a half-grown tiger cub instead.

    That is only part of the reason. Here is the whole truth. When I had drawn the tigress in the bamboo jungle (in the headpiece-that is to show you the pattern of the coat mainly) I showed it to a fellow artist and he said many unkind thing about my tigress, how she lacked muscle and tigerishness and looked so like a striped cat. Stung to the quick by this, I have drawn a unique tailpiece for you - no one has dared to attempt a tiger (even a half-grown one) in this pose before. Here is a tiger catching a mouse! Tigers, when famished, have been known to eat frogs, and I don't think an young and inexperienced cub is above pouncing on a mouse. Moreover, my drawing will show you how a tiger (like all true cats) can turn its arms and pads inwards, and even upwards and grab all things with outspread claws. You may ask, "But where is the mouse?" No, it is not crushed into nothing between the tiger's paws. Being inexperienced, the cub missed the pounce and the mouse ran far away, well beyond this page."

    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 28 August 1955 in The Sunday Statesman

    # Two sketches have not been reproduced

  32. #72
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan : The Sunday Statesman 29 December 2013


    Crow...Pheasant...
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _

    "THE CROW-PHEASANT is an unhappily named bird for it is neither crow nor pheasant but a non-parasitic cuckoo, the sort that takes posterity seriously and builds a nest instead of foisting its eggs on others. It is as big as a crow but with a longer tail, black with metallic greens and blues glossing the highlights and round wings of pure chestnut, a bird that is unmistakable once seen or heard. It skulks in dense cover or hops about treetops, a habit not at all reminiscent of the crow, and its weak, low flight is no more corvine. But a general resemblance to a crow is there and so the first part of its name is understandable, but why "pheasant"?

    Dewar and many other European ornithologists have justified the name on the ground that, as it skulks long-tailed through the undergrowth, the griffin is liable to mistake it for a pheasant. But I suspect that few novice sportsman have bagged a crow-pheasant by mistake. Pheasants are not common all over India, as the crow-pheasant is, and moreover though this cuckoo spends quite a lot of its time on the ground it is wholly unlike any gallinaceous bird in its deportment and gait.

    I have the feeling that a much sounder reason lies behind expert justification of the name "crow-pheasant", the subconscious recognition of the uncouthness of the only other English name this bird has, Coucal. Incidentally I am unable to discover the origin of the name "Coucal"; perhaps it is African, for the African crow-pheasant is also called by the same name. However it is a useful word for those planning crossword puzzles.

    The vernacular names of this bird are equally incomprehensible. In Tamil names, "Shambakha-paksi" and "Sembothu" are uninterestingly causeless, but in Kanada it is called "Sambarakagi", which, translated, literally means "Spice-crow". Once I asked a Kannadiga why it was named so and he explained the reason - because it looks rather like a crow and because in cooking its flesh, which is valued medicinally, it is wise to use plenty of spices!

    This is the bird that comes out with a deep, solemn "whoop, whoop, whoop" from a clump of bamboo or some thickly-grown corner of the compound, or even from treetop on occasion. The call, most often heard in the morning, at noon, or at sunset, is unmistakable but hard to describe in words. Dewar calls it a "low, loud, sonorous whoot, whoot, whoot, the kind of call one associates with an owl - I must say though the commas he has used to punctuate the call are more indicative of the intervals than the usual hyphens. I have never been able to find anything owl-like in the call. Lowther gives a much nearer rendering, a deep, booming whoop-whoop-whoop, pleasant to listen to, sometimes mistaken for the cry of the black-faced Langur monkey. The resemblance to the normal whoop (not the alarm call) of the langur is there, but no one who has heard the crow-pheasant is likely to mistake its voice for any other creature, bird, beast, or reptile.

    Every large, old-fashioned garden is likely to attract the crow-pheasant, especially the ones planted with a clump of bamboo in a corner; it is equally common in groves and large public parks, well-wooded avenues and in the purlieus of villages. As per old South Indian traditions, the bird is one of the hereditary enemies of snakes, and for once tradition is true, for it will kill and eat small snakes, besides other small reptiles, frogs and insects. I have seen it eating a banyan fig and perhaps it supplements its hunting with occasional fruit.

    I know a rather curious but true story about this bird. I don't think it is one of those birds considered especially auspicious by native superstitions (such as the King-crow or Roller, the sight of which, when one sets out on an important errand, assures success). But some of us started the legend about the crow-pheasant in a small illiterate community, purely for a joke. In a few years it had caught on and spread, and I was solemnly assured by a native that it was exceedingly lucky to see the bird when starting on any mission or quest. When questioned, he informed me that he heard about this omen from his father who, no doubt, had it from his father - which conclusively established its authenticity."
    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 4 September 1955 in The Sunday Statesman

    *The nice sketch of the bird has not been reproduced here.

  33. #73
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: VOICE OF THE DUSK: M.Krishnan : The Sunday Statesman 05-January-2014
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __

    Voice of the dusk

    (Nightjar)
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __

    " WHEN the sun is set and outskirts of the village is lost in the gathering darkness, the NIGHTJARS wake up from their daytime repose and bestir themselves. There is much 'chuck-chuck-chuckering', calls melt together as the birds begin to answer one another and ghostly forms circle around on wings that are soundless, whether sailing or flapping. One evening last week I sat on a clearing outside a village, still as a rock beneath me, watching the circling and settling nightjars, almost invisible in that light even on the wing, and listening to their voices.

    Those who associate fluty tones with birdsong will be pleasantly surprised at the soft rhythm of these voices of the lonely dusk. There is no resonance or "full-throated ease" in a nightjars call, it is a subdued 'chuck-chuck-chukr-r-r-r' that has been justly likened to the sound of a stone sent scudding across ice. But it has a sure rhythm in it that is all the more enchanting for its lack of emphasis; it is so much or so naturally the voice of uncertain greyness. He who has not been alone and listened to the chorus of nightjars and has not inhaled the sudden perfume of the wild night-flowering jasmine does not know the charm of dusk in the Indian plains.

    However, as I sat listening to the nightjars that evening, more prosaic thoughts passed through my mind. Some two years ago, when I wrote in these columns about birdsong at dawn, a correspondent has suggested that it was some actinic property in the early night that stimulated birds organically to sudden and unhappy song - I had heard the theory before, but I have been observing the vocal behaviour of birds whenever I could during the past two years and am now convinced that actinic stimulation (the theory is really as old as Vedas) cannot account comprehensively for birdsong in our country.

    Crepuscular birds, nightjars in particular, greet the coming darkness as diurnal birds greet the dawn, with wings and voices. More strictly, nocturnal birds are vocal and very active for a brief spell after emerging from their daytime retreats and gregarious day-birds, like sparrows and mynahs in September-October, are specially noisy and keep shifting around till it is quite dark when roosting and some like crows and lapwing, invariably call and fly when the moon is bright. It was such things that I thought of that evening.

    When it is quite dark and night has definitely arrived, the chorus of nightjars dies down and the birds appear to drift away from the open gathering ground. Their huge eyes are admirably suited to seeing through the dark, just as their softy-barred plumage and owlishly silent wings, and the ear to ear gape of their mouths, are suited to their hunting of night-flying insects. However, as anyone who has travelled across the country roads at night knows, quite a substantial part of the night is spent by these birds on the ground, squatting in the dust of the roadside.

    You see a pair of ember-red eyes in the glare of your headlamps, eyes that seemed buried in the dust of the road, then you see the mottled, indistinct form of the bird squatting low and then, as the relentless tyres are about to crush it under, it rises on soundless wings to go floating ahead of the car, or low overhead, the sudden white bar on each wing proclaiming its identity.

    Sometimes it flies so low overhead that you feel you can reach up and pluck it out of the air - in fact, I have known a nightjar so captured. And not always is its last-second swerve infallible; once I saw the bird hit the side of the mudguard and fall back on to the road.

    Motorists who know only the hard-surfaced and tarred main roads will probably be less familiar with the bird, but sometimes it is to be seen even on such roads when the scrub adjoins the roadway and there is dust enough at the sides. Why it sits so constantly on the roadways I do not know; other birds, like finch-larks, also love the earth-road, and perhaps the loose-plumaged nightjars likes a frequent dust bath - or perhaps it finds the road convenient for the hawking of insects. The only thing I can say is that if I had to spend much time reposing on the road, I too would prefer the cushioning dust to the metalled surface.

    -M. Krishnan



    This was first published on 2 October 1955 in The Sunday Statesman


    #One photograph not reproduced here.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Mrudul Godbole; 06-01-2014 at 09:59 AM. Reason: added image

  34. #74
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Puff Ball - M.Krishnan : The Sunday Statesman :2-February-2014

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __

    Puff Ball

    ( Iora )


    "PUNDITS have been puzzled by the IORA's taxonomical position, whether to place it with the Bulbuls or the Orioles or in a class by itself, but no one has ever doubted that it is one of the most charming of our garden birds. In the breeding season the dapper little cock wears a vivid livery of black and yellow - the hen is on less attractive, all the year round, in green and yellow. The cock has a variety of loud, clear calls, some of them remarkably like a human whistle, and its courtship display is justly celebrated. It shoots up into the air and descends on slow wings - "all at once the long, white downy plumes that keep its ribs warm will start out on each side, then, like a white puff ball dashed with black and gold, it will slowly descend, quivering and glittering in the rays of the morning sun".

    However, it is the nest and the hen that I write. Let me quote "Eha" again, on the nest. "A beautiful piece of work, a little cup, the size of a small after-dinner coffee cup, compactly woven of fine fibres and bound all round on the outside with white cob-webs." It is as dainty and almost as white as best china, but of course it is much lighter, being made of fibres and gauzy cobweb, not heavy clay.

    In September this year I found a Iora's nest in a mango tree, some 13 ft. from the ground and in the ultimate fork of the lowest bough. The only way to get on terms with the nest, for photography, was to build a machan-hide beside it on four stout poles, but I had no time for elaborate constructions so used a packing case on the top of a stool, which gave me almost an eye-level view when I stood upright upon it. However, there were difficulties. The cock, which took the afternoon sessions at the nest, would not come anywhere near while the undisguised photographer stood by. But the hen, which covered the eggs during the forenoon and at night, was a close sitter and was prepared to suffer my proximity, so long as I keep quite still and had a dark-khaki bush-shirt over my head.

    There were other difficulties. The tall library-stool and rickety legs, the packaging-case had very limited stability and I weigh close to 160 lb - a combination of circumstances ill suited to one another. In fact, in the attempt to rise gradually on my toes so as to get the lens level with the nest, I came down precipitately, but after assuring myself that both camera and self were whole, I learnt the excruciating trick of the feat. Throughout the hen sat tight, indifferent to my ludicrous fall. Its only response to my nearness was to turn in the nest so as rudely to present its tail to me, however, I shifted the stool and altered my angle of approach.

    You should have heard the hen calling to its mate, which keeps within hearing distance, when it was cock's turn to take over - a torrent of quick, musical notes that seemed, to the human ear, to be fired with impatience. This call was also used when the hen, returning to the nest spotted me on my precarious packing case, head and camera bowed and the sweat running in a steady trickle down my chin. The temptation to look up at bird was great, but very soon I learned the wisdom of wanting till it was well settled in the nest before raising the camera.

    On the evening of 14 September there was sudden downpour. A friend wondered how the little bird and the frail exposed nest could survive the drenching. Later in the night, the rain changed to an exquisitely fine drizzle and a cold wind set in. At 10 pm I visited the nest, with the paraphernalia for flash photography. The nest gleamed whiter than ever in the beam of my torch, but where is the bird? I mounted the packing-case and gradually stood up - and saw a remarkable sight. A soft deep pile of white topped the nest, like a roof of silk-cotton - that was the hen covering the eggs, so lost in the fluffed out down that no trace of head or wing or recognisable bird feature could be seen. After taking my photograph I climbed down, but accidentally touched the bough in my clumsiness.

    At once the lid of the fluff rose up till it was a ball of fluff with just a tiny bird-face visible on top, then slowly the down-feathers subsided till the Iora was recognisable as a bird, though still much puffed out. Then it hopped on to a twig above the nest, puffed itself out again till it was once more a ball of fluff and went to sleep. The head and feet, and even the twig beneath the feet, were completely lost in the down, and the bird looked like a larger, puff-ball nest above the cup-nest in the fork that held the eggs.

    I retired quietly hoping the bird would return to its nest with my departure. At 1 am when I furtively revisited the nest, the puff-ball was still on the twig above the fork and I took a photograph. The fine drizzle had stopped, but it was quite cold and as I got into bed I could not help feeling guilty, thinking of the exposed eggs. I need have had no qualms, for early in the next morning I found the hen on the nest again and in the afternoon just before I left the place, I watched the cock take over, and settle firmly on posterity."

    -M. Krishnan

    This was first published on 20 November 1955 in The Sunday Statesman
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 05-02-2014 at 04:15 PM.

  35. #75
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________
    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: The Shawk :m krishnan :The Sunday Statesman: 23-February-2014
    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________
    The Shawk
    (Lesser White Scavenger Vulture)
    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________

    "A FEW miles from Mahabalipuram, celebrated for richness of its curvings, is a shrine no less celebrated among the pious. Tirukkhalukunram (I follow the spelling of the railway guide) is one of the 16 (or is it 60?) holy places of the South. It is a temple perched on top of a small, rocky hill, lacking the grandeur of other Southern hilltop shrines. But every day it is graced by the visit of TWO SAINTS IN AVIAN GRAB.

    Rain or shine, shortly after the noon invocation, a portion of sweet, opulent prasad of jaggery and milk, ghee and rice, is brought out by the priest and placed on a shelf of rock. And two large white birds materialise from the skies and partake of the offering. They are, of course, not birds at all but saints in feathers, most rigorous in their penances and rites.

    Each morning they wing their northern way to the Ganges for a dip in its purifying waters, then they fly all the way back to Rameswaram for a further dip in sancity, visiting Tirukkalukumram in time for lunch. Local traditions give the names of these two punctilious saints, and further particulars.

    Unfortunately for those with romantic inclinations, these birds have no claims to looks, in spite of their whiteness and the sail-like spread of their black-pinioned wings. They are not even kites, as the railway guide calls them, but are Scavenger Vultures, perhaps the least prepossessing of our birds. On the wing they look handsome enough, circling with effortless ease or swooping along the skyline at a terrific pace, breeze-borne.

    But the weak, yellow beak and face, the dirty hackles and the clumsy, waddling gait proclaim their ugliness when they are on the ground and near. In their youth they are less hideous, a decent dark brown all over, but even then you can tell them apart from kites and other brown birds of the sky by their wedge-shaped tail. I do not remember the saint-names given to them at Tirukkalukunram, but can give you their aliases - the Neophron, or, more specifically, Neophron percnopterus ginginanus, Pharaoh's Chicken, the Lesser White Scavenger Vulture, and, according to Eha, the bird known to Mr. Thomas Atkins, as "The Shawk".

    The last name, I think, is derived from the bird's habit of frequenting heaps of garbage and ordure. If I am right in my etymology, it is a name truly indicative of this vulture's disposition. Wherever there are mounds of manure or other assorted filth, offal and refuge lying around, you are likely to find the Neophron. It is commonest outside the city and industrial centre, where there are broad acres of what the engineers call "rubbish", and around the hilltop shrines and country marketplaces. It is a very useful bird, indeed, and no one who realises the public good that scavengers do will ever dream of looking down upon it.

    Incidentally, it is not only at Tirukkalukunram that it is sacred; it was venerated in ancient Egypt. Unlike most other birds of its profession, it is not gregarious, but usually goes about with its mate, in a close pair. Like all vultures, it is long-lived and has wonderful powers of sight and flight.

    It is likely the pair at Tirukkalukunram have long been residence, and it is a fact that they are most punctual in their attendance at the shrine. But there is nothing remarkable in all this. Many birds have an instinctive sense of time, and these vultures deeply appreciate regular provision of food I have seen several pairs of these birds in and around Tirukklukunram, so that it is quite conceivable that when the seniormost pair dies, their territory and prasad is taken over by the pair next in order of precedence among local Neophrons - that way one can understand how, for generations, these birds have been attending the shrine each day, and set up the tradition of immortality. Irrelevantly, it occurs to me that the phoenix must be some sort of vulture.

    I can even testify to the fallibility of the daily visits of the pious birds. One day, in the winter of 1935, no birds turned up at the feeding rock, in spite of the priest's loud invitations and widely waved arms. No vulture of any sort was visible in the skies, and I concluded that a cow must have died on the hillside beyond, that day. The priest made no comment, beyond pointing to the slight drizzle that there was, but an elderly gentleman by my side volunteered a complete explanation. He was a native and assured us that the absence of the birds was most exceptional; in fact, they were absent only when some major sinner, who should never have been admitted to the precincts, was there. And I must say I did not like the rather pointed look he gave me."

    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 15 January 1956 in The Sunday Statesman

    #One beautiful coloured sketch of the bird in flight has not been reproduced


    The last posting on 23-02-2014, 05:10 PM may kindly be deleted.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 23-02-2014 at 08:50 PM.

  36. #76
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    __________________________________________________ _______________________________________

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: The Brahminy Kite : The Sunday Statesman : 16-March-2014
    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________

    BRAHMINY KITE

    "AN elderly gentleman from the borders of Hyderabad (Deccan) who has lived as a gentleman should, spending his ample leisure in open-air pursuits, assures me that he has known the Brahminy Kite successfully used in falconry, that, properly trained, the bird can bring down middle-sized quarry both in the air and bush.

    Now, the Brahminy Kite is powerfully built, more like an Eagle than a Kite, and if the size is the criterion, it is large enough to bring down a pigeon or a partridge. Moreover I went into the matter not only with my landed informant but also with his equally elderly, equally sporting tenants and there was good evidence that at least one local falconer has trained the bird successfully for hawking. Falconry is no longer practised in those parts, for the landlords are now preoccupied with deprriving legislation and their camp followers with that hateful thing, working for a living.

    But in my many talks with these old-timers I felt satisfied that the sport has flourished there only 20 years ago. The country is ideal for it, being dead-flat and bush-clad Red-headed Merlins,, Kestrels, Shikaras, Tawny Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Harriers, a buzzard or two and an occasional passing laggar represent the local raptors, but I was told that in the old days Peregrines were imported, and a big, bold, peafowl-killing bird which, to judge from hearsay, was nothing less than the Bonelli's Eagle.

    I am no falconer. In fact, my acquaintance with birds of prey from the other side entirely, that of a man who kept racing pigeons for years and so had to watch the skies anxiously and to get to know their killers. But thinking it over, it seems to me that heavily built as the Brahminy Kite is, it lacks the dash and speed of wing to provide anything more than novelty to the sport of falconry, especially when there are many nobler birds available.

    Mind, I do not say it lacks the heart. The Brahminy has been called a coward by many ornithologists, a chicken-raider that will not face the mother hen, a snatcher of small fry from the basket of the fishwife. That opinion, I feel, is not scientifically sound. We rarely make allowance for avian values and individual variations in judging a bird's "character". Many of the eagles, which this kite resembles in miniature in build and flight, also live mainly by scavenging and piracy. Moreover, the Brahminy Kite may be quite aggressive on occasion.

    Once, feeling curious about contents of their nest and trying to get a closer look, I was attacked with such determination and persistence by a pair of these birds that I had to beat a hasty and undignified retreat, though I knew I was critically watched by three small boys. Though it is true that this kite gets its living picking fish and other things off the surface of the water and by robbing successful but smaller hunters, it can and does kill snakes.I have seen one with a four-foot rat snake in its clutches, but it could be that the snake was killed by some villager and later picked up by the bird.

    That brings to the question: Is this the Garuda (omit the terminal "a" for most North Indian languages and add "n" after the terminal "a" for Tamil), according to mythology, is the most feared enemy of the snake tribe, the bird whose very name strikes terror in the hearts of the denizens of the subterranean Nagaland. Throughout South India the Brahminy Kite is called "Garudan" and even in paintings (paintings of no great antiquity, say about a century or two in age) this bird is shown in depictions of mythological description of the Garuda. However, the Crested Serpent-Eagle, the Short-toed Eagle and some hawk-eagles are much more given to snake-slaying than this kite, and are much nearer iconographic descriptions of the Garuda.

    Be that as it might, I find an unforced occasion for quoting here an old Sanskrit verse that has always appealed powerfully to me (in spite of my comprehensive ignorance of Sanskrit!), so tellingly does it expound the power of circumstances:

    'Do not associate with the lowly;
    If you must with the mighty, make
    friends.
    For the cobra, having Vishnu's
    protection,
    Inquired fondly after the Garuda's
    health!' "

    -M.Krishnan

    (This was first published on 11 March 1956 in The Sunday Statesman)

    # A painting of the bird in flight with its nice wingspread not reproduced here.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  37. #77
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    __________________________________________________ _______________________________________

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan: Little Cormorants : The Sunday Statesman: 23 March 2014
    __________________________________________________ _______________________________________

    LITTLE CORMORANTS

    " ONE way or another, I have been seeing quite a lot of the Little Cormorant in the past few months. Not that it is rare or shy. If you know its haunts you may see it in hundreds, for it is highly sociable and goes about its most personal affairs quite publicly, unlike most birds. Only, it is so very much a water bird and I am so terrestrial that I have had limited opportunities for observing it, till recently.

    Of course, it is not little. Its name does not refer to its diminutive size, but only to larger cousins. I should think it is heavier built than a Kite, though on the wing it looks smaller because of comparatively shorter wings and a short stiff-feathered tail.

    In the evenings the cormorants would come home from feeding grounds to their nesting-trees in the water. In wave after wave of close, quick-winged flights. Most of them came from the West, at sunset. A thin, black, pulsating line would cross the flaming horizon, then another and another. By the time the first flight has passed overhead with a swish of stiff pinions, the next would be halfway across, rapidly resolving itself into birds from a quivering black line and then a pattern of rhythmic black dots shrinking and growing in unison as the wings were moved in perfect coordination. Even when the birds were right above, flying low, one did not see them as so many cormorants but only as a formation - there was that sameness of looks and matched movement in them that makes it so hard to pick out one soldier from the company at a marchpast.

    Isolated flights would come in from time to time throughout the day. Most of these went straight to the nesting trees and vanished all at once as the birds settled. Occasionally, a flight would come hurtling into the tank, hitting the water over a wide area like a scattering of heavy missiles from some old-fashioned cannon. These " water-crows" (an English name that is a verbatim synonym of the Tamil name) swam and dived and fished with easy speed, but were less effortless in taking away from the water,splashing along for a few yards before being airborne. When they left the tank for their feeding grounds,they went singly and in small parties so that one hardly noticed their departure, though their return in packed company was almost dramatic.

    In the evenings they roosted on the topmost boughs in hundreds, darkening the trees before the night. In flight and repose, they kept so much together, in such numbers that one could not see the birds for the flock.

    The young were almost grown up, and sufficiently by themselves for close study - but I knew better than to try anything so messy. Cormorants work hard, frequently flying to distant waters to satisfy their voracious children, and the young are usually chock-full of small fish. And when they are closely studied,there is a conclusive movement of their thick, snaky necks and the contents of their bulging crops are sort out in a stream on the observer beneath!

    Incidentally,in nearly two dozen nests I saw there were only two young per nest (often the bough supporting the nest, for the juveniles were now well able to clamber about), except for two nests that each held three. The pairs, and the sets of threes, kept close together when they moved out to the ends of their boughs, seeing me approach. Yet the 'Fauna of British India' says the number of eggs per clutch is from three to five, and earlier in the season I saw at least three eggs in nearly every nest I was able to inspect.

    The good book also says, of the genus 'Phalacrocorax' to which the Little Cormorant belongs, that the second primary is usually the longest - note that in my photograph of a cormorant in overhead flight,the third and fourth primaries of the left wing (i.e., the wing to the right side in the picture) are the longest; the tip of the other wing, blurred in the print, has been touched up and so cannot be taken into consideration.

    It was as I was watching the paired young from a safe distance that the great idea came to me. I had a loaded camera and by sheer chance two flash bulbs in my pocket - earlier the day I had to photograph a human infant and had used the flashgun to catch the fleeting expression. Here was opportunity, to be seized by the forelock, mane or tail for a truly unique photograph.What I had to do was to creep near a pair of young birds without alarming them, then move in quickly and focus before the rising lumps in their throats reached their beaks, and record the reaction literally in a flash I gave much thought to preliminaries. Reluctantly, I set the shutter to the fastest speed it had, though that meant a wide stop and loss of depth of field - else I could not freeze the shower of small fry as it fell.

    I selected a pair of young on a nest low enough for my purpose - the water round that tree was waist-deep and singularly filthy, but one does not get record pictures by sheer cleanliness. I turned my face the other way and slowly, ever so slowly, backed my way till I was near enough for the part demanding rapid action. As I adjusted the focus in a preliminary way before entering upon the second part of the plan, I noticed a leafy twig, directly between me and my subjects; this twig, just above reach, had not seemed obstructive earlier. however, I also noticed a simultaneous compensation. About three yards from the perch of my original pair, actually standing off their nest in another and lower branch of the same tree, was another pair of juvenile cormorants, better placed for my picture.Only, I should be quick for they were already alarmed and stretching their necks.

    I took one long, splashing, underwater step to get near enough, focused rapidly and squeezed the trigger just as the gaping mouths opened to discharge their regurgitated shot. And as the flash flared up, a glittering little fish hit the lens of my camera with a smack, completely running the picture. I had forgotten all about the original pair of young birds, now directly above, and they had been a split second earlier in their reaction than their fellows. I am afraid I will have to wait till next year for my remarkable picture. I am still cleaning the eye of the camera with tender care, a little area at a time and in gentle installments, so as to remove all foreign matter without damaging the coating."

    -M. Krishnan

    This was first published on 22 April 1956 in The Sunday Statesman

    #The photograph of the bird in flight with full wingspread is not reproduced here.

  38. #78
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    __________________________________________________ __________________
    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: The King Crow: The Sunday Statesman: 11-MAY-2014
    __________________________________________________ _________________

    THE KING CROW


    " THERE were some 30 in the grazing herd, four bull calves and two buffaloes. And once again I noticed that the KING CROWS rode the coloured beasts, not the white ones. For a moment I thought that I had confirmed a trend in the more obscure habits of these bold black birds. Then I realised how easily false conclusions can be reached in the field. It was in the same tract that, earlier in the year, I had twice observed the liking of king crows for coloured coats on their mobile perches. The cattle of this flat scrub land are stunted and black or brown, the brown varying from fawn to a rich deep chestnut, very few of them are white and these, presumably "imported" milch cows, are much larger; the chances of finding king crows on the backs of coloured cows are about five times as good as on white ones, considerably better in view of the fact that the birds like to ride low.

    This latter preference is real. King Crows perch on small cows, yearling calves, buffaloes and even goats rather than on tall cattle, where, choice offers. It is mainly for the sake of the insects flushed from cover by the lumbering hooves that they go riding grazing cattle, and obviously the closer they are to the grass the surer their hunting.

    It is remarkable with what certainty and speed they can take prey in the air. I have repeatedly seen a king crow take a vaulting grasshopper in mid-leap, swooping down on the quarry, snatching it up and returning to the hump of its mount in one smooth movement. But if you want to know with what acrobatic speed and ease the bird can twist and turn in the air, you should watch it chasing some fast-flying insect. The deeply forked tail and broadly triangular wings spread out into translucent brown fans as the bird brakes in the air, half-shut and black again as it dives headlong almost to the earth or shoots up obliquely on the impetus of the dive. You can actually hear the zip and rustle of the tail and pinions being flicked open and shut if you are near enough, but the bird seldom flutters its wings - the entire dizzy and complicated manoeuvre is sustained by initial momentum, till the prey is plucked from the air and the king crow flies off, whirring and swinging by turns, to its perch.

    Undoubtedly, the fishtail helps in this aerial acrobatics, other birds notable for their deftness of wing also depends heavily on their forked tails, kites and swallows for example. It is its speed and dexterity in twisting around in full flight that enables the king crow to attack much larger birds like hawks, kites and crows that venture too close to its nest.

    The chorus of king crows heralding the dawn can be heard in the jungles as well as in rural areas where they roost close to the human settlement. Even, I, who like these birds so much, cannot say that they have musical voices (though some of their cousins do), but the chill, grey clearness preceding daybreak, their calls have an exuberant, confident cheeriness, at least to human ear. A famous set of stanzas by Vaishnavite poetess Aandaal, addressed to a girl still asleep after promising to wake the others early (so that they could be in time for the early morning worship), refers to the pre-dawn chorus of king crows.

    Do you not hear the high-pitched
    conversation of Harsh-voiced king crows!

    Yes, there is a certain harshness in the king crow's calls, in spite of the carrying shrillness, but it is pointless analysing sounds that belong so very much to the open air in cloistered print, incongruous as it may read, it is still true that it is this very vigour and rasping vivacity in the morning voices of these birds that makes the experience of being awakened by them so pleasant.

    Before roosting, the birds fly about actively and call to one another again, and the sharp double whistle can often be heard then. King crows are said to "mimic" the Shikra in this call; it is true that the Shrikes and Drongoes have imitative talent and that some of them are wonderful mimics; it is also true that this double whitsle is exactly like the Shikra's call, except for the lack of tonal quality that I can indicate only by the word "querulous". But all the same I beg to differ from the experts who consider this call imitative. I think it is one of king crow's authentic calls, and that its similarity to Shikra's is purely a coincidence. Otherwise, I cannot understand why this is so frequently indulged in by king crows all over the country, just before roosting.

    Incidentally, the open beaks of the king crows in the pictures donot show them calling. The afternoon sun was parchingly hot overhead when I took the photographs accompanying this article, and the birds were panting. Many birds pant in such heat and no doubt gain considerable relief thereby."
    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 30 September 1956 in The Sunday Statesman


    # Two photographs titled 'King Crow: Front view, showing gradation of the rectrices' and 'King crow on the hump' have not been reproduced here.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Note: The extant article is different from the one titled 'India's King Crows' contained in the book 'Of BIRDS and BIRDSONG' - by M.Krishnan
    Last edited by Saktipada Panigrahi; 11-05-2014 at 11:32 AM.

  39. #79
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    __________________________________________________ _______________________________________

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK : M. Krishnan : LION-TAILED MACAQUE: The Sunday Statesman: 22 June 2014

    __________________________________________________ _____________________________________
    LION-TAILED MACAQUE


    "THE Lion-tailed Macaque comes from where I do - the far South - and it is with pleasure that I introduce it to the readers of The Statesman, many of whom may not know this shy, forest-loving animal. However, I must confess that my pleasure is tinged with regret, for this, the most personable of our monkeys, is now rare where it was not uncommon before, and a naturalist living in the forests of Malabar tells me that it is getting rarer.

    It is to be found in the heavy, evergreen forests of southernmost districts of Madras, and Kerala and the Western Ghats, right up to south Canara. Such forests are getting thinner with the with the inexorable increase of humanity and a creature so restricted in its range and so dependent on a sylvan habitat is especially in need of protection.

    But perhaps my fears are somewhat exaggerated for, unlike most Indian monkeys, this one gives humanity a wide berth, and man has little cause to persecute it.

    The first thing I should tell you about the Lion-tailed Macaque is that it is not lion-tailed. It is a thick-set, short-tailed monkey whose hands, however, are narrow and long and sensitive-fingered; its face is black and it is black-bodied and has a flat, black crown to its head, but its face is fringed all round with luxuriant grey whiskers, the kind of very full whiskers one sees in portraits of mid-Victorian elders.

    My photograph shows a young captive female - in the adult male (which is larger, heavier and more powerful) the whiskers develop into a splendid, silver mane that is set off by the black of the body. Strictly speaking, a mane is elongated neck hair and this is really whiskers and beard, but had this Macaque been called the Lion-maned Macaque, no one could have objected to the name - the male's whiskers do recall a lion's mane to mind. But "Lion-tailed" is ridiculous, for not only is the tail short and convex in its curve and in every way non-leonine, but it is also not tufted at the tip like a lion's.

    I think the term "wanderoo" was once loosely applied to this macaque, but now appears to be restricted to a black Ceylonese monkey. And so we are left with the choice of the unhappy common name "Lion-tailed Macaque", and the scientific Macaca silenus (Linn). What a choice!

    This macaque lives in family parties and small troops, and is respected by other monkeys in its range. It is remarkably free from nervous fidgets for a macaque, climbing and walking with an unhurried dignity as a rule, though capable of speed on occasion. People who have tried keeping it as a pet report that the male get savage and intractable when they grow up. Animals that love forests and freedom so much do not take kindly to cages and chains.

    Not that this monkey is sullen or fierce by nature. It is delightfully playful when young, and even when an adult indulges in rough and tumble frolics with its fellows in its forest homes. An old male, it is true, acquires a mature, patriarchal dignity with age, worthy of its great, hoary mane, but it is deeply attached to its family party and quiet by disposition. Even its voice is unlike the voice of other macaques - not the usual rattling snarls and jabbering, but an almost human "Cooee" - a party of these monkeys call to one another in soft, mellow coos, reminiscent of a bird rather than a mammal.

    I have the feeling - based, I admit, on the slenderest hearsay - that this monkey is perhaps found over a wider range in the South than is now recognised, in many places where there are great evergreen forests. Probably this is just wishful thinking, but I am quite sure that that the Lion-tailed Macaque deserves to be known widely all over India."

    -M.Krishnan

    This was first published on 13 January 1957 in The Sunday Statesman


    #Photograph of a female Macaque not reproduced here.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Sabyasachi Patra; 26-06-2014 at 01:36 PM. Reason: image of Lion-tailed macaque uploaded for representational purposes

  40. #80
    Join Date
    27-05-11
    Location
    Salt Lake, Kolkata
    Posts
    4,262
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)

    Default

    COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M.Krishnan: THE 'WATER DOG' :The Sunday Statesman: 6-July-2014
    __________________________________________________ _______________________________________

    The 'WATER-DOG'
    (Otter)

    "Someone told me recently that he had read in some magazine (you know how vague people are about these things) that the Otter's original home was in Bengal, somewhere in the Sundarbans. That man came from Calcutta and I, who am frequently and powerfully moved by parochial feelings, know how polite and tactful it is to let some remarks pass. Nevertheless, I felt constrained to contradict him, for Otters are of worldwide distribution. In fact, barring Australia and a few other geographically insular places, there are otters in every country, different specifically and even generically it is true, but all unmistakably otters. Nor is their distribution limited to land. There is an authentic sea otter.

    And wherever there are otters, men have felt fascinated by their grace in water and gameness on land, and their obvious enjoyment of what man lacking it so often and in envy, terms "animal spirits". Most men can feel, in a rather undefined and intellectual sort of way, the charm of wild creatures, but when you see an otter the feeling becomes quite tangible and personal.

    Otters are not specially good-looking, as animals go, if you can bring yourself to look at them analytically and forget their vivid entities. The round bullet-head, the fierce, bristling whiskers, the sausage-shaped body, the thick, Labrador-tail, and the short stout limbs ending in broadly-webbed feet - none of these features in itself suggests grace or charm. But put them together and you have the otter, whose vivacity on land and swift, smooth grace in water is beyond question.

    Otter lives mainly on fish and like other fish-eaters, has a prodigious appetite. It is by diving and swimming under water faster than its prey that it lives, so that its sheer speed is not, perhaps, remarkable - but the flow and easy grace and dexterity of its passage through water is captivatingly remarkable. One could say, without exaggerating simile or sentiment, that an otter swimming is the poetry of underwater movement - except that at times, when it twirls and twists and literally effervesces in water, mere metrical elan can provide no comparison.

    Many animals play when they are young, but by the time they are adult the preoccupations of life and survival seem to sober them up. By the time a puppy is a dog or a kitten is a cat, it has lost much of its gawky or skittish exuberance. However, quite a few animals - many more than armchair naturalists realises - do find the time not only "to stand and stare", but also to play. But few of them are so devoted to fun for its own sake when adult as the otter.

    It has been said that the otter's mode of play, tobogganing down smooth banks into water only to run up again for a fresh slide down, is strange for an animal so well adapted to aquatic gymnastics. Not at all. No doubt the otter does enjoy sliding down banks, but it is given to play in water as well. Like other aquatic animals, it likes to sustain something flat and bright on its nose and go twisting and tumbling through the water. I remember "borrowing" a new four-anna bit from a friend to throw to an otter in a zoo, so that it might be provoked into play by the coin's shine. My friend, who was somewhat utilitarian, was quite taken aback to see what I did with the coin, but in a minute he had forgotten all about the money worth of that disc of twinkling nickel that went bobbing up and down, weaving in and out, twirling round and round through the water, balanced on the otter's nose. I expect the keepers get such coins in the zoos, in the end - they are never slow to suggest the game to the visitor.

    In our country, we have no less than three different kinds of otter - the Common, the Smooth Indian and the Clawless. They are all creatures of rapid streams and rivers and are said to have a rather peculiar distribution, being found in Kashmir, the Himalayas, Assam and Bengal, and then only South India (a rather vague specification, the last) - the Smooth Indian being also found in Sind.

    Otter belongs to the Weasel tribe, but in practically every Indian language they are called "water dogs". That is a perfectly sound name, though, and logically justified, not because the otter is any sort of dog (except when it is a "dog-otter") but since it is the rule that when the first part of a compound name is adjectival, that name connotes a thing different from what the noun part of it means: "French-leave" and "German-silver" explain what I mean. The hippo, which is no sort of a horse, is the "river-horse", the muntijac (a deer!) is the "jungle-sheep", and the gaur is the "Indian Bison". No wonder, then, that the otter is the water-dog."
    -M. Krishnan

    This was first published on 17 March 1957 in The Sunday Statesman

    #Two photographs not reproduced here.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Mrudul Godbole; 24-07-2014 at 11:53 AM.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 2 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 2 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •