Volume 9 - Issue 08
August 2011
Other Articles

Posted on: Aug 05, 2011




Tread untravelled paths, meet forgotten friends and feel His Love... one more time.

A gentle amble early in the morning or evening along the Chitravati river bed is a rewarding experience. A main road now runs along parallel to the course of the river at Puttaparthi and this path skirts the erstwhile village. A few tractors, bullock carts and motor vehicles use this road instead of the now congested main road through Puttaparthi. Other than that, it is a largely peaceful walk on this stretch.

As you go along, you will notice clusters of medium sized birds, travelling in little flocks. Grey in color with pointy beaks, these birds appear to be grazing on the ground. They can be found eating grains from a hay stack and foraging for insects. They seem to keep in touch with each other using long nasal calls! They hop and bounce off the ground and look highly energetic. Let us welcome into our midst another feathered friend, the Large Grey Babbler.

3. The Large Grey Babbler (Turdoides malcolmi) -

 One can find this long-tailed bird sitting on a barbed wire fence, moving its tail up and down for balance. Fences may keep away humans and to an extent, animals too, but the birds are a real epitome of freedom. The large grey babbler has a brown body with creamy white outer tail feathers which are easily visible as it flies with fluttery wingbeats, low over the ground. Its lore is dark and forehead is grey with white shaft streaks on the feathers. The rump and upper-tail covers are pale grey. The wings are darker brown.

It is its eye that often catches our eye! The iris is of a very distinctive yellow and the upper mandible is dark brown while the lower mandible is yellowish. The tail is faintly cross barred. Abnormal specimens showing albinism or leucism have been reported, though such birds were not seen in Puttaparthi. Its call is something very distinctive and animated. See for yourselves.

Watch the call of the Large Grey Babbler

Of course, the sounds it makes come in different variants.

Listen to another variant of the Large Grey Babbler's call

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This species is mostly seen in open scrub country where they forage on or close to the ground. They feed mainly on insects but also on small lizards, molluscs (snails for example) and arachnids (i.e. eight-legged creatures like spiders and ticks). They also eat seeds, grains and berries. During nesting, the usual clutch is four eggs. The nest is a shallow cup placed in a shrub often of thorny species and their nests are parasitized by the Pied Cuckoo and the Common Hawk-cuckoo.

Individuals in a group may indulge in fun. One can find them cleaning, pruning and playing with each other so lovingly. See these mesmerising scenes below:

These sights are so beautiful that they fill you with joie de vivre. They are therapeutic too - almost an instant cure to sorrow, frustration, loneliness and irritation. Watching the birds chirping, calling out to each other and happily going about their daily grind takes us away from the monotony of our daily grind. It is such a natural way to revitalize and feel a refreshing quiet at the same time. In fact Ms. Joy Thomas in her book, Life is a Challenge, Meet It records an interesting episode of how a little bird helped an unfortunate mother out of her depression. Here is that extract: 


It is frequently at a time of personal crisis that circumstances bring the unsuspecting person close to Sai Baba. Such was the case of a mother whose daughter was about to be married. The young girl was happy, healthy, and beautiful and the wedding seemed to promise continued happiness for all involved. But soon the mother learned to her great horror that her daughter had ended her life in a drug related suicide. The shock was too much for her; she could not resolve the sudden dramatic turn her life had taken. She sank into a deep depression.

In the depths of her despair she was told of the presence on the earth of a great spiritual healer that some people called an Avatar - Sathya Sai Baba. She learned that He helped people who came to Him from all over the world. Although there were no guarantees that He would indeed see her among the thousands of visitors, she decided to take the chance and go to India to see Him. When she arrived at the main ashram in Puttaparthi, India, she discovered He was not there and was away at Kodaikanal. So she proceeded there as she was keen to have a meeting with Him.


On arriving at Kodai she learned that Sai Baba came out twice a day to be amongst the devotees and give darshan. She waited for her chance and as soon as He was near enough to speak to, she asked for His help. Baba told her: "I will see you tonight" and then went on to visit other devotees. She was happy that He had agreed to see her but was confused as to how it would take place. She was staying in a hotel and was taking a taxi to and from darshan. Moreover it was raining heavily. She had no idea when to come back or where to go to see Him since there was no darshan at night and all the entrances were closed. She returned to her hotel thinking about the various ways through which devotees made contact with Sai Baba such as visions, dreams, timely appearances of unknown persons, etc.

When she returned to her hotel and was walking in, she noticed that the doorman was holding in his hand a small bird thoroughly soaked from rain water. He asked her if she would be willing to take care of the little bird. She readily agreed and took it up to her room. There she placed it on a dry towel and checked it over for injuries. Finding no obvious wounds, she held the bird in her hands in order to raise its body temperature. After a time it started to revive. She opened her hands and the bird fluttered to the floor and hopped under the bed. She felt that since it was warm and dark under the bed the bird would be well off there, so the woman too decided to retire for the night. The next morning she looked for the bird and when she did not find it anywhere, she looked under the bed. It was still dark and she couldn't see it, so she tried talking to it. After several attempts the bird still did not emerge or respond in any way. So she changed the tone of her voice and said with firmness: "Now you must make an effort to come out of that dark place you are in, so that I can set you free."

As soon as she spoke these words to the little bird, the very same phrase echoed back to her in Baba's voice just as if He were present and addressing her. Suddenly she realized the truth of His words: "I will see you tonight". He had even managed to convey His message to her putting His words into her own mouth.

Then the small bird hopped from under the bed out into the light. She picked it up and released it back into the daylight letting it fly free to the destination of its choosing. The woman too emerged from the darkness of her depression and put herself into the hands of Baba, soaring off into new spiritual heights.

Let us now introduce you to a very ‘happy’ member of the birds family! This small pigeon has a distinctive coo that sounds like a human laughing and so it has been named the 'laughing dove'.

4) The Laughing Dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis)

The Laughing Dove is a resident breeding bird in the tropics in Africa (south of the Sahara), the Middle East and South East Asia. In India, it is also known as the Little Brown Dove. This is a quite common bird around Puttaparthi and it is seen in the fields, forests and even near building areas. Its cooing adds a pleasing melody and balming to the ears! The chuckling call is a low oo-took-took-oo-roo, with the emphasis on the took-took. Listen to it yourselves:

Listen to the coo of the Laughing Dove

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Occasionally a nasal scream at one-second intervals is produced in flight or when landing.

It is believed that this dove is also found in a localised area of Western Australia as the result of stowaways from Africa or India. The Laughing Dove is typically 25 centimetres (10 inches) in length. Its back, wings and tail are rufous or reddish-brown with some blue-grey in the wings. In flight, the underwings are rich chestnut. Its legs are pink to red.

The sexes are similar in plumage, the female being slightly paler than the male. Juveniles are more rufous than adults, and have reduced throat spotting.

It is a common and widespread species in scrub and dry farmlands. This species builds a stick nest in a tree and lays two white eggs. The incubation period is about 14 days. Its flight is quick with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general.

Laughing Doves eat grass, seeds, grains, other vegetation and small insects. They are fairly terrestrial, foraging on the ground in grasslands and cultivation. They are monogamous and pair for life. This stable relationship forms their major social structure.

These doves sit for long periods of time on rooftops, exposed branches or telephone wires. The one you see below is sitting on a stone planted in the ground as part of a fence. This bird is usually fearless and easy to capture in a camera.

We complete our morning walk with these two new friends today. But there are many more friends to be made. Please be with us for our future journeys too into this beautiful birdland of Puttaparthi!


- Radio Sai team

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