Monday, June 22, 2009

Once upon a bird-bath

Its been one long, boiling-hot summer in Mumbai this year. The gul mohur is in full blaze and the monsoon winds which would've lashed these petals to the ground, are nowhere in sight. I love these fiery blooms but I'm not happy about the monsoons playing truant.
Neither are the feathered folk who call my garden theirs!

At one corner of the grassy patch which I euphemistically call a lawn, is a rocky area.
Actually almost the entire garden is a big sheet of rock. In some places it is just deeper down in the ground but in vast areas, it is just a few inches below the soil. Since digging out the rock is not practical, I have resorted to converting these spaces into a lawn. It looks very impressive to someone who's visiting but few realise that my 'luxury of having a lawn' is just an eye-wash.
Correction ... I need that grass there to hold on to the last few inches of soil before the next monsoon washes it away!
Some of the rock got exposed ages ago and the elements have carved out a small depression on one. I keep this filled with water and my 'bird-bath' seems to have become popular among the birds. Famous even, I would say, considering the number of migratory birds who stop by every year !
So you can imagine what the scene was like yesterday with the temperature shooting sky-high.

First I had a Bulbul telling some sparrows to wait their turn

while he fluffed his feathers and samg in the bath .
I love the Bulbul's song... there's something so liquid about it! And his perky-looking crest and red cheek mark him out as a real character, dont you think?

Then the Spice Birds showed up and took over the bird-bath.
I rarely get to see them sit still. they're usually flitting in and out of the garden with long grass strips in their beak busy building a nest in my Nursery Tree (don't bother looking it up ... it's just a tree I got when I tried to buy a Bottle Brush tree but ended up as something else. We call it that because all the birds love building nests in it) and trying to fool me into thinking they're not.

"Do you mind! It's my turn now. "

Then a weaver bird decided to join the party and add some colour. A lot of colour, actually! Love that cheery yellow.
I personally think these little guys are amazing. Have you seen their nests? Come on, think of it ... they only have their beak to construct these intricate structures! They'd put any architect to shame.

And, of course, the Mynah! They play a leading role in my garden theatre. They're my official pest-killers, snake-spotters,watch-birds... And they're bossy as hell!
They strut around, keeping an eye on everything that's going on, generally acting as if they're Mr. Boss. So if any other bird is already in the bird-bath when they're walking up, they'd better clear out. Fast!

This Pied Mynah is new to my garden. I've never seen him there before. Maybe he's visiting his cousins or he just found the bird-bath too tempting in summer.

The Babblers always arrive in groups, hopping around among the leaf litter and skraaking and calling to each other. Strangely enough, for all their aggressive volubility, they're very mistrustful and rarely allow anyone to get close enough. The lure of the cool water put an end to that !

Then, every once in a while, the bird-bath is taken over by the non-feathered too. By the looks of it none of the birds stayed long enough to complain!


  1. It is sweltering out there! There is something seriously wrong with the weather system, as I would have expected a mumbaikar to be crying hoarse about the incessant rains and not the lack of them. The pretty feathered ones are keeping you in good humor though, and the K-9, despite the heat, is right on his job.

  2. Sunita what amazing birds you have to come bath in your garden !
    It is wonderful when we have the time and patience to watch them .. take pictures and mull over how delightful they truly are. I love hearing the birds in the morning .. especially when we come out of winter to Spring .. I can't imagine not appreciating them or worse .. not hearing them !
    A very nice post ! Thank you : )

  3. Hi Sunita,
    I'm sure none of the birds have any complaints about their(natural?)birdbath.They seem happy being there turn by turn:)


  4. sooo schöne Vögel und ein bischen kann ich den Text lesen. Mumbai ist warm bis heiß, hier ist es so kalt, nur 17 Grad obwohl Sommer ist. Was macht ein Deutscher Schäferhund in Mumbai?
    liebe Grüße Dörte

  5. Those birds are so cool. And the rock made such a nice natural spot for them to bathe. I don't blame them in the heat!

  6. Sunita that was clever of you to create a garden feature out of the natural rock. Your bird are amazing and that lovely big bird is just too cute! This is a fun post, I enjoyed it very much..

  7. Sweltering is a perfect word for what we're going through, GT. I hate what Summer does to my garden. Even the grass looks grizzled!
    Crying about the rains? Not this Mumbaikar! I love the monsoons! Okay, I dont like walking around dirty roads. But in my garden... thats a different story.

  8. Hi Joy! I missed out on some of my garden regulars like the Coucal and the Koel because some of them are so shy they dont show up if anyone is watching.
    And others like the Magpie-Robin, were missed out on jst because it got too hot for me to sit outside waiting for them :P
    Others like the crow were deliberately dropped because I'm angry with their tribe for pulling out my orchids from their pots.

  9. Hello Dorte. I had to go to a site which translates German to English to read your comment.
    I wish I was in Germany right now... just 17* ! I think we're over 36*C but the humidity makes it feel even hotter.
    About my dog, you're right... I'm sure she's wishing she was in Germany right now too ;D
    I love the German Shepherd dogs. They're so intelligent and loving and very good watch-dogs. My other dogs are not as hairy as this one though so Summer is easier on them.

  10. Hi Shantana! The birds follow the 'might is right' system. All the smaller ones make way for the bigger ones. Sounds very much like school, doesnt it? ;D

  11. Hey Sunita I forgot to mention tha our flamboyant your gul mohur are also flowering here and it is also sweltering here. I've been looking for the rain just clouds up and a sprinkle for 2 minutes. My garden is still green but I have to water all my plants which is a drag and costly.

  12. me again her Sunita, I have been looking at all that rock in your garden and came up with a brillant idea at least I hope so. Why not excavate using a jack hammer with a chisel bit a large enough area for a pond. It will fit in beautifully with your garden. It will have to be sealed in case of leaks but that will be minor and you will have your lily pond! I wish I was there to help if you liked my idea...sigh. I love a garden challenge.

  13. Wow, love that bird-bath of yours! And so many visitors too! The bulbul looks different from the ones who come here. The red is only at the rump. The red-cheeked ones look striking! With that many birds, I'd be outdoors too, heat or no heat! Loved the pics!

  14. Thanks for visiting my garden Sunita so that I have now found you... lovely seeing all your exotic birds... good thing you have such a natural looking bird bath... but does your doggie not chase the birds? Love your water lily post too... it is chilly here in Massachusetts and we are wet wet wet! Perhaps not as much as you but I do hope for sun and not too hot temps for us all. Happy Summer!

  15. How nice... the birds, the pretty garden.. and the fact that they are posing for you... and you enjoying yourself (heat or not!!) with your camera..

    *sigh* how nice!!

  16. I guess I can't complain about the heat here compared to you! The variety of birds that visit your garden is amazing; most obviously unfamiliar to me. I love the look of your rock outcrops. I've had to buy rocks to add to my garden, so it's clear that all of us are always longing for what we don't have!.

  17. Such beautiful birds, I think it would be great if you have a bird feeder as you may have a constant company of all the species coming frequently. Amazing waterbath.

  18. Hi Tina! You know, if that bird-bath were a bit (okay, a lot) bigger, I would've made my way there myself ;D

  19. Helen, I love your lily pond idea... and yes, I wish you were here to help me with it too.
    A couple of years ago, I tried growing a waterlily in a huge ceramic urn. The crows thought I had set it up for their exclusive benefit and before I knew it they had not only pulled out my lovely plant but also ripped it to shreds! Aaaargh!
    Now it looks like I'll have to worry about my dog too... she may just decide I've gifted her a new bath-tub! :D
    But yes, I am going to give it one last try. Maybe not in that same spot because it has a large cashew tree growing over it and I'd be clearing leaf litter from it the whole day!

  20. Kanak, I think what you have is a Redvented Bulbul while the one I've shown here is a Redwhiskered Bulbul. I have the Redvented Bulbuls visiting me too but I forgot to add their photo. My mistake.
    But you're right, the Redwhiskered Bulbuls do look more eye-catching.

  21. Hi Carol! Glad you liked my natural rock birdbath :)
    I did have some plants near it but that happened to be in the flight path of my dogs! That didnt last very long.
    Actually my dogs only chase crows because they've stolen their food too often. They're quite peaceful around the other birds.
    Hmmm... I know what you mean. Chill and wet really dont mix, do they? I wish I could share some of our summer sun with you . And hopefully reduce some of it here :P

  22. Patricia, I'm not so sure about the "heat or not" part :D
    But yes, I do enjoy myself in my garden.

  23. Ms.Wis., I wish you could see more of our birds. Some of them are lovely, like the Golden Oriole and the Sunbirds. Others are quite quirky like the Hoopoe. Others like the Parrots can make you laugh out loud.
    LOL! You're absolutely right about longing for what we dont have ... I wish our laws didnt prohibit us from raising peacocks (our National Bird) while Meems over at The Hoe and Shovel is trying her level best to get rid of some which have moved into her neighbourhood!

  24. Hi James! A bird feeder is a great idea but I'm sure that it'll be taken over by the nasty crows and I just don't want that. They're so destructive !

  25. Looks like your dog has the right idea on a hot day, lol. ;) What a great natural birdbath, I'm sure the feathered friends appreciate the break from the heat & a cool sip.

  26. Raquel, I always knew she was one smart dog! :D
    Just as much as the birds enjoy the water, I love getting the chance to photograph them.

  27. Hi Sunita,
    With that amazing narration ... I almost felt like asking your dog to roll over ... its my turn :)...
    Thank God ,the monsoons have arrived in our part of Mumbai ... though I can see the sun shine bright over at your end ;)

  28. What wonderful visitors you have there, Sunita! I didn't even know that such birds do exist in India like the Spice Birds! Whoa! I loved reading this post an d watching the birdies cool off their feathers.

    Hurray! And Yahoo! and five sommersaults... :) :) :)
    Rajee, its raining here too! Isnt it the most wonderful thing ever! I love,LOVE, L-O-V-E the rains! I'm in bliss right now :)

    Hi Chandramouli! Yes, these are very welcome visitors at any time of the year.
    You'd be surprised at the number of birds that frequent our cities but we're not really aware of them. I'm sure you'll find all these birds in Chennai too (I'm not too sure about the Babblers though). Grab your camera and go over to the IIT campus or any of the other wooded areas there.

  30. That's a beautiful shot of the gulmohur tree!

  31. The birds at your bird bath are so pretty, my favorite is the bulbul! The love the picture of the delonix regia. I have one as a bonsai, it is about a foot tall and it has never flowered! They are beautiful!

  32. Sunita,
    I showed the photos of your bird-bath to my wife and this was her comment “It seems she lives like a Queen in Mumbai to have such a big place to accommodate a natural bird-bath”. Need I say more!

  33. Lzyjo, I love the bulbul too. He's such a colourful character and I love his bird-song.
    I wish you would post a photo of your bonsai. I love the feathery leaves of the gulmohur and have toyed with creating a bonsai of it but somehow never got around to doing it.
    Does it get full sun? Sometimes that could be the reason for its not flowering.

  34. Nebu, thats really funny... I was just grumbling to myself over how I seem to be slaving over the garden and have only rocks to show for it!
    Different perspectives, I suppose. And, of course, the ultra-hot summer had a huge hand in my general snarky mood.

  35. Wow! I love your bird bath photos! And here I thought watching the finches in my bird bath were exciting... beautiful!

  36. How delightful! And just when we were all feeling parched and hot and dry!

    I love the bulbul's song as well!

  37. I know I m a bit too late to write out a comment, but let me still go ahead.

    I have never seen these many specis of birds at a single location even in the wilderness. The sheer variety is incredible. Well observed and shot Sunita. Congrats

  38. Thanks, K Dilley! I think it was the extreme heat that brought all of them out to play.

  39. I know just what you mean, Flower girl. If I were smaller (much, much smaller), I think I would've dived in too!

  40. Never too late, Thomas :)

    I know I missed my calling... I should've converted my garden into a wildlife reserve and raked in the tourist rupees! Heck! I've even got snakes and birds and butterflies and some very primitive people living here;D

    About the variety though, there're so much more that didn't make it to that post. Especially the sunbirds and tailor birds and parrots and Coppersmiths and hawks and ... well, you get the idea, right?

  41. All this, in a city? Wow! Fabulous post and photos, they brought a smile to my face.

  42. So typically Mumbai isn't it, Kamini? Always surprises you and there's always room for everyone ! ;)

  43. I love your little bird bath pool :) You have such interesting and amazing birds, and such a nice variety coming to bathe. Oh yes, including the handsome canine :)

  44. Kerri, you should see it in winter with all the migratory birds queuing up too. These are some of my garden regulars and I love sitting on my verandah and watching them. Do you wonder that my verandah is the most lived-in room in my house!

  45. Hi Sunita,

    That's an absolute fabulous post. Loved the birds and their bird-bath. The narration is just fantastic for a moment transported me to your garden.

  46. Thanks, rajsmusings! I'm glad you liked this post :)

  47. So many birds and all in your garden.

    Can I make a suggestion? A good zoom lens would make taking close up shots all the more fun. If you are thinking of upgrading your camera ...

  48. Mridula, I yearn for a camera with great zoom lens that'll let me photograph every individual feather on a bird sitting at the other end of the garden (because that's where they always are, no matter where I stand!). Do they make any like that or will I need to borrow a telescope from NASA or ISRO?
    No, but seriously, I'd love to hear your suggestions .


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