Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Help in the garden

One of my favourite pastimes is to lazily sit on my verandah and watch the mynahs busy at what I should be doing .... getting rid of the pests in my garden. And very conscientious they are too. When I wake up early in the morning and come out, they're already at work. Pacing up and down the lawn or any grassy patch, they suddenly cock their head and I know that's the death warrant for one more bug.

Here's one checking over the cricket pitch which went out of control during the monsoon. (Just in case you're wondering, the cricket referred to here is not the insect but the sport which has cult status here in India)

The Common Mynah, also known as Indian Mynah, mates for life and I usually see the happy couple hunting together. Pa takes over one part of the lawn while Ma scrutinises the other, and sometimes the youngsters join in too if they're not partying elsewhere. The family that eats together, stays together?

They seem to enjoy caterpillars and bugs but apparently their favourite food is grasshoppers. Which gave them their name - Acridotheres tristis. Acridotheres meaning "grasshopper hunter", according to Wiki. Now that's more than enough to endear them to me!

The bright yellow skin patch around their eyes always makes me laugh. They look as if their off to a masked ball any minute now and chose that bright colour to make up for their rather drab brown apparel. Oh yes, and they got boots to match too!

My father was once gifted a pet Jungle Mynah and it was one of the best mimics I've ever heard. They're considered one of the best 'talking' birds and they're really amazing! Now these shy black birds are a protected species and so they're not seen much except in the jungles which are their natural habitat. I can just imagine them driving the other birds in the jungle nuts, though :D

One of the advantages of having a garden where the use of chemicals is severely restricted is that Nature takes over. For every pest there are predators around the corner or under the next leaf. This has such a wonderful sense of rightness that I almost don't mind the odd cut petals if it'll attract a Fantail or a Bulbul. Almost.
And, yes, most of them even sing for their supper too. Others, however, will just stare as if considering this strange creature that's got nothing better to do while everyone worth knowing is slogging away, catching their daily bugs .
(The resident Oriental Garden Lizard)

Garden lizards, skinks, mynahs, .... I have so many natural garden assistants that I dont really need any other, do I?
Okay, maybe someone to do the digging would be nice, though.


  1. Sounds like your garden has a permanent welcome mat for the wildlife. That is interesting about the Mynah Birds. I didn't realize they mated for life. :)

  2. You bet! I love watching all the animals and birds in my garden. Beats going to the mall any day.

  3. Wonderful post, Sunita. very interesting about the Minah birds. We have a native Minah to. It is quite an agressive bird chases all the others away. It is also fun to watch, they live in big families. They clean up the spiders around the windows but are also after nectar. Your resident Lizard is a cutie.

  4. Thanks, Trudi.
    Is your Mynah identical to the one in my photo? I know there are a few different types.
    They do have a loud complaining squack, dont they?
    I've read that mynahs eat fruits too but I've never seen one doing that in my garden. Says a lot about the number of bugs in my garden, I think : )
    My lizard gives me a start every time he runs between the orchid pots. I usually see only his long tail zipping past and I think its a snake.
    I think he deserves a post of his own. Maybe sometime soon.

  5. Hi Sunita - I'd take the garden lizard any day over the snake!

  6. Me too, Kim . Though snakes get rid of rats on the farm, I could do without that kind of help.
    Our Rat Snake is harmless and great at climbing up coconut trees to get at the baby rats and crows but she startles me because for that instant, I keep thinking its a cobra.
    They would have to be the deadliest assistants in the world!

  7. Your mynahs habits are similar to our Robins after a rain...prancing up and down our grasses looking for worms!
    I enjoyed seeing lizzards first hand while wintering in the Arizona many varieties and colors!

  8. Sunita, thank you for your visit.)
    Our Mynah is soft silver grey with white. Has also some yellow around the eyes. It is a very social bird, likes to party! It is also called "Mickey" bird because of its mimicking abilities.) The indian Mynah was introduced to Australia, Victoria and Northern Queensland to eat pests bothering crop like sugarcane.I have not seen them in my area.

  9. I was visiting The Perennial Garden Lover this morning and clicked on your name. This is my first visit. I love reading about your "garden assistants." I need an "assistant" to rid my garden of the nasty Japanese Beetle. Could you lend me a Mynah?

  10. Nature Girl, I do think the robin looks cuter, though. I've never seen one except in pictures but do they always look so ball-like or is it just when they fluff up their feathers to keep out the cold?
    We do have an Indian Robin and a Magpie-Robin too but they look very different from yours.
    Trudi,I must google for a picture of your Australian mynah. It sounds like a Photoshopped version of our Indian mynah : )
    Ha! I can just imagine the fun the immigrant mynahs are having, bossing all the other birds in the sugarcane fields. They are handy birds to have around because they usually squack out when they spot a snake and keep at it till they feel it has moved away far enough.
    Balisha, I'm so glad you dropped by. I'll loan you all my mynahs and bulbuls and fantails ... actually, come to think of it, I do have a lot of insectivorous birds hanging around my garden. I wonder why? LOL!
    But seriously, have you tried using Neem oil? It is the most wonderful thing in my opinion. Yes, you will find them chomping on a few more leaves initially but the neem kills their appetite and also apparently kills their libido! Goodbye, next generation of beetles.
    Tell you more about it in another post, okay? Do visit again soon.

  11. Hi,

    It is fairly easy to plant renantheras here in Malaysia. I usually use either bricks, charcoal or a mixture of both. Thanks for the suitable whether here.


  12. i got to your blog through maddys
    i loved the photographs in urban gardner ,cant believe it is in mumbai but the monsoons there is similar to kerala
    the fotos are splendid ,taken with ?
    most of mine in blog are from a mobile which is handy at any moment
    tks for your comments

  13. Harimohan, I use a Canon IXUS 950 IS camera. Its perfect for me because its a transition point for me from my old point-and-click film camera to the DSLR that I hope to graduate to some day.
    One of the many advantages of being a woman is that one can carry around practically the whole house in one's handbag! So what's a teeny, tiny camera? : )
    There's plenty of greenery in Mumbai if one knows where to look for it among the greying, rain-stained, old buildings and the steel-and-glass facaded monstrosities just coming up. Luckily for me, I have this little patch of paradise to call my own .... it even has its own resident snakes!
    The monsoon here is wonderful but the one in Kerala is so dramatic! I dont know why the tourism guys dont promote it more.


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