It's the peak of Summer here in Mumbai and the brain-broiling Sun has been merciless on just about every living creature (not counting the flowering trees , they seem to be loving it!).
I have my natural rock bird-bath filled up as usual and it has been seeing rush hour from sun-up to sunset. All the birds from tiny spice-birds to the Pariah Kites come here for a quick sip-and-dip to cool off.
Then, yesterday I saw the strangest sight.
On hot summer days I make sure that I water the orchids early in the day. I had stopped to hose down a nearby banana plant too and was getting on with my work when a slight movement caught my eye. I turned slowly (I've found out the hard way that quick movements usually result in lost photo-ops) to see that the 'rain' I had created had just turned into someone's water-park ... in the nicest possible way !
There was this tiny little sunbird slipping and sliding, whirring her wings and wiggling her belly among the tiny little drops of water clinging to the banana leaves.
If you've seen water on banana leaves you'll know that it doesn't drain off in a wet patch like it does from other leaves. It clings to it like tiny little silvery drops , defying all laws of gravity. And every once in a while a couple of tiny drops roll together to make a big fat blob.
And the Sunbird (I think it was a Purple Sunbird but it's not easy differentiating the female Sunbirds) had found this readymade waterslide created just for her enjoyment.
You should've seen how much fun she was having! She would slide around, soaking in all the drops of water, and every once in a while she would stop to look around nervously.
I was worried I would frighten her off so I didn't move in too close. Plus, the chain-link fence separating us was a major barrier that didn't make for easy photography. Still, I did manage to click a few snaps and these are the better ones of the lot.
Her splashing about did advertise the presence of cool water to other birds too. A curious Paradise Flycatcher showed up to check out the action but fled when she saw me.
A male Purple Sunbird wandered by too but by the time I had got my camera ready he was already in a neighbouring property and was busy gorging on nectar from an Ixora. (I added this photo to give an idea of how pretty these birds are. You can see just a glimpse of the metallic gleam of his feathers. But do check out more photos here and here. )
The female Sunbird though was still splashing in her bath and I could almost imagine her glee. It was almost as if that water, just a few drops though they might've been, was like a magnet gluing her to that spot until caution prevailed and she flew off refreshed.
Which got me thinking that maybe I should do this more often. Those few drops on a leaf might just make a world of difference to a parched bird in Summer when the temperatures leap fierier than ever. And will, hopefully, make those flying jewels stick around more in my garden.
Maybe you could do the same? It doesn't take much, as Indian Homemaker can tell you ... a shallow bowl of water is perfect for the smaller birds. If you place it among a few shrubs or potted plants, that will make them feel safer and more confident that they can linger. And I'm sure the Sunbirds would love to slip-slide on some wet leaves. Not much to ask for, is it?