Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A drop for the Sun

Tiny drops of water mighty bath-tubs make!

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?


  1. God Bless
    - maybe they will say silently.

  2. We have a large flat bowl of water hanging in a tree which we can see from our deck. All spring and summer it's a joy to watch as the many different kinds of birds come for their baths. Such differing styles they all have. None as interesting as your sunbird, though. But then we don't have any banana leaves, either.

  3. Lovely images.....do drop by My Dream Canvas when you get the chance :-)

  4. That sunbird looks a lot like a humming bird Sunita. The heat is merciless here as well and rain is non existent. Some days I feel like that bird, just putting on the sprinkler and letting it sprinkle me. :-)

  5. Sunita I wonder what kind of zoom you have in your camera? That is the only difference between my pictures and yours! If you are thinking of upgrading the camera, the mid range ones one with a lot of zoom these days.

  6. Hobo, it's the least I can do in return for the hours of entertainment they give me daily. And for helping me out in the garden by gobbling up so many pests!

    Stephanie, a suspended bowl is a great idea! I'm sure they'll feel safer in that. You're right about the differing styles...I'm sure you must spend hours watching them as I do.

  7. Thanks, Anu :) And yes, I'll b dropping by your blog now. I'd love to read it.

    Yes, isn't it, Raji? You dont even have to stand in line with buckets, waiting for the water tankers in times of shortage! :D

    Thanks, Aaron :)

    Helen, the Sunbird is the closest we have to humming birds.
    You too? The heat is killing here in Mumbai. I wish the monsoons would show up fast.

    Mridula, I use a Canon IXUS 950 IS with just 3x (or is it 4x?) optical zoom which is showing in the quality of my photos when I have to take long shots. Other than that drawback, I love my camera. I've been plotting and planning for a more powerful one, or preferably a DSLR, for some time now. Maybe some day soon...

  8. The sunbird looks so sweet, bathing in the water drops on the banana leaf. I enjoy watching the birds at my birdbaths. Up until a week ago, it was very dry here, and the birds, including the migrating ones, appreciated the drink and bath. Your series of banana leaves look like a bird waterpark.

  9. Sunita, thanks so much for the lovely comment on my blog. Actually I envy you in India.....anytime is a good time for me to be home :-)

  10. Thanks for the glimpse of India. The birds are lovely there. Come check out my blog in Kansas, USA.

  11. If I were a sunbird I would do the same, I love takin' baths. Lovely pictures today Sunita.

  12. Would you believe yesterday for the first time a mynah sat down in one of the bowls I have placed, like you have described, one could feel her joy! Delhi was 44.4 degrees Celsius yesterday so I was glad the bowls were full!

    Loved the pictures and the description (as usual).

  13. Northern Shade, it was so cute that I just wanted to sit back and watch it. You've got a birdbath too! Good for you! The dry season is the best time to birdwatch with the help of the birdbath, isn't it? We get a lot of migrating birds visiting our birdbath too.

    You're welcome, Anu. Drop by again soon :)

  14. Window on the prairie, I'm so glad you dropped by :)
    I'm coming over to your blog now, okay? I'd love to see it.

  15. So do I, Tyra. Especially on hot, muggy days. I could certainly feel a kinship with that Sunbird ;)

  16. Wow! Way to go, IHM! And where one bird goes, more are bound to foolow. Happy birdwatching! :)
    44.4*C ! Am I so glad that I live in Mumbai!

  17. How lovely! This brought a smile to my face. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  18. Hello Sunita, your beautiful words really gave life to the story of this little bird enjoying her banana leaf bath on a simmering hot day for me :)

  19. Thank you for the comment in my blog. It is a bit warmer in Norway at the time. Yesterday 18+C it was wonderful. I spent the whole day outside, but to day 15, windy and a little rain. To day is our national day, when all of Norway is selebraiting.

  20. A lot of blessings are gonna come flying your way.
    The summers are intolerable. The temperatures here are touching 44 degree C. I am sure you are going to inspire a lot of people to do the noble deeds.

  21. What a nice post to read on a hot summer afternoon. How many of us can boast of gardens in the city. Great job.

    If the Sunbird duo is a frequent visitor chances are they might be looking to build a nest.

  22. What a nice thought. I have an antenna wire forming a loop in my balcony, and the birds just fly in there and swing a while. I should try the bowl of water. But am afraid the pigeons would get there first. But will give it a try.

  23. You seem to have had a great time observing these bird antics...Thomas

  24. Yay, banana leaf is just right for the slip and slide fun! Love the post.I look forward to the odd sunbirds in my garden too

  25. how lovely! must have been really amusing and wonderful to watch.

  26. How beautiful!! It does make a lovely birdbath. What delightful pictures. :)

  27. Hi Sunita, you are lucky to have stumbled on them. Even if there are lots of birds in our place also, i haven't seen them doing that after the rain. Here, we really badly need the rain already, i wish i will be in the province when the first rains come, so i can observe for these scenes. They surely are very unique and awesome! However, my lens is short i might not catch the sunbird that enough, they are so small.

  28. It's starting to get dang hot here in Texas too. I have a few watering stations that I usually fill twice a week during the winter...we've come into the everyother day season now...come June I'll be doing morning rounds as well...which is great, it's the best time to see the magic in the garden!

  29. Sorry about the delay in posting but I've been away. Well, not really but I was staying over at my other garden for the last so many days and there's absolutely no internet connectivity there. Too many trees interfering with the signal, I think. Well, I'm back now for a day before I have to go back. My plants need me to baby them through this miserable weather. And yeah, I never get to watch the birds as well as I can now when they all come flying in for a dip in the birdbath.

    Kamini, it was fun, wasn't it? I wish I had thought of setting my camera on video mode.

    Heidi, I wish I could cool off so easily in the garden. Gardening is sweaty work!

    Signe, my best wishes on your national day. Norway is special to me. Partly because its at the other end of the spectrum for me. But mostly because I had a penfriend from Norway called Eivind when I was in college.

  30. GT, I think I'm the one benefitting from all this activity. It's such fun watching them!
    44*C !Well, we're not too far behind. It definitely feels like more than 39*C here though :(

    Thanks, Anil :)
    Yes, I have seen a few pairs flitting about. Looking for the best nesting sites, I'm sure. But the best thing about sunbirds is that they don't need a full-fledged garden to show up. I can see some from my apartment too.

    Yes, please do, Radha. I'm sure that more than one parched bird will thank you for it. Watching birds and their clowning around is fun, isn't it?

  31. Hi Thomas! Oh yes, any distraction that'll take my mind off the sheer madness of lugging a heavy hose-pipe around in the blistering heat, is more than welcome :D

    Keats, you have sunbirds too? What fun!

    Absolutely, Arati! They're definitely the plus points of gardening in summer.

    Thanks, Rebecca :) It did remind me of that old saying, "necessity is the mother of invention" :D

    Andrea I havent see them doing this earlier either. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I'm waiting for the rains too. I just love the monsoon season.

    You're absolutely right, CG! Summer is the best time to watch birds in the garden. They're absorbed with nesting and hunting for water that they dont have the time to be spooked by us humans.
    Good for you! I'm sure all those thirsty birds in Texas know the way to your garden :)

  32. Lovely post Sunita! the birdie sure must have had a treat!!

  33. Oh yes, she was really having fun! :D

  34. A BIG 'thanks' to IHM! She asked me to visit here to watch your sunbird's bath tub! I enjoyed watching the photographs, heartily!

    I have seen two sets of humming birds, who resemble this bird, but the beak is different, a bit smaller and the belly is yellow in colour. They take bath on the tiny leave of hibiscus plant when I spray water on the leaves in the morning to clean the leaves from dust.I have seen a bird just rolling on it, without bending the leaf! Amazing! It was very difficult for me to photograph them, though!

    I had read some of your posts, a few months back, then forgot to come back. Now, I will make it a point to look for your new posts, thank you!

  35. Hi Sandhya! I'm so glad you decided to drop by again. (Thank you, IHM)
    Quite possibly the bird you were referring to is the Purple-rumped Sunbird. (Take a look at http://the-urban-gardener.blogspot.com/2009/09/mumbais-feathered-citizens.html and tell me if I'm right)
    I think this rolling on wet leaves is their way of cooling off. Isn't it fascinating to watch them!
    Hope I see you here again soon :)


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