Volume 9 - Issue 08
August 2011
Other Articles

Posted on: Aug 26, 2011





What is better than a morning walk on the road that runs along the course of the River Chitravati?
The answer is - a stroll along the semi-dry riverbed itself!

Well, that is, if you are a bird enthusiast and photographer. The ground below is riddled with trenches and pits and there are the occasional garbage dumps! (Yes! That is the problem of urbanisation of the town. A few landfills have erupted on the Chitravati riverbed and it really pains the heart to see this.) But a few more steps and you enter the bird fairyland! The day is never the same again after that!

8. Indian Bushlark (Mirafra erythroptera)

Sitting on top of a bush and calling out aloud (to God knows who) is the Indian Bushlark or the Red Winged Bushlark! Slightly bigger than a sparrow and brown in colour, it seems to be singing sheerly for the joy of it. And the variety of calls it can make is simply terrific.

Listen Now to the calls of the Indian Bushlark

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The bushlark can be identified by its brown spots. It spends a large part of its time hopping on the ground, all by itself, foraging on grass, seeds and insects. (It's almost impossible to find a purely vegetarian bird it seems!) The most spectacular trait of this bird however is its parachuting dive! You can see the bird flutter high above the ground and then glide all the way to its perch on the ground or to a bush, singing and holding its wings in an open "V" formation. Its like someone who has bailed out of a plane with a parachute.

Moving ahead, one comes across clusters of tall grasses that shield in their midst many small birds with their homes. These grasses are surrounded by little pools of knee-deep water and thus afford some sort of a ‘moat protection’ to these little inhabitants. The most noticeable among these is the Baya Weaver bird.

9. Baya Weaver bird (Ploceus philippinus)

Like a king, he sits wearing a golden crown. And he is a king in his own right. Few others possess his skill in weaving homes out of grass and fibre. They build hanging, retort shaped nests overlooking a little water body for protection (and maybe the wonderful view too!). These nests are usually clustered and the bird painstakingly and patiently makes it. He makes repeated flights to nearby haystacks and fetches building materials. Once made, the nest can weather the rain and the sun!

The patience that this bird exhibits reminds one of the PUSH story which keeps doing rounds as an email forward.

A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. God then explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down; his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

One day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

The Baya Weaver bird and its nest in the helmet stage  

The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Now I, My friend, will move the rock."

Even Shirdi Baba always asked His devotees of two gifts - Shraddha (faith) and Saburi (perseverance). We can learn both these from this amazing bird.

The female is brown in colour and resembles slightly a bushlark in appearance. We have not yet captured on photograph the female weaver bird but when there is the male and the nest, can she be far away? The male makes multiple nests and is often polygamous. It is only the male that makes the nest and only the female that incubates it. The male takes about 18 days to make the nest and then invites the lady in. The nests can also be found in the intermediate ‘helmet’ stage.

10. Tri-coloured Munia (Lonchura malacca)

Living alongside the Baya Weaver birds are scores of the Tri-coloured Munia. What we call as the Munia is also called the Finch. Thus its also called the 'Tricoloured Nun' or 'Tricolour Mannikin' (as per ‘finch’ nomenclature).

Though there are many of these birds, they are very ‘fidgety’ and keep fluttering about so rapidly that it makes them hard to catch on camera. That makes us modify an old adage into munia terms - a bird in the camera is worth two in the bush. This bird is often kept at homes as a decorative domestic bird and the clear delineation between the black, white and chestnut colours makes it one of the most elegant among munias.

They feed mostly on the seeds of tall grasses and the occasional insects. The males and females look almost alike. They keep whirring and fluttering past the face as one peeps at them in the tall grass.

11. The Spotted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)

The Spotted Munia or the Spice Finch closely resembles the tricoloured finch. It differs in the fact that it has scaly markings on its breast.

They share eating habits with all other munias along with a unique menu - termites. These munias have started to move into the town areas too and make a home in gardens near buildings. And so, one may be surprised with their ‘darshan’ in the balcony or on the window sill in the mornings.

The Spotted Munia is a common site even in urbanised ares

The munias belong to the sparrow family. The common house sparrow is called Passer domesticus and these sparrow like birds are called passerine birds.

Grasses and sparrow like finches bring to one's memory a photograph which is so beautiful in its content. During one of the evening sessions at Puttaparthi, Swami came out walking and sat on the sofa, talking to the teachers and the boys. A sparrow that was carrying a blade of grass dropped it near Swami. Swooping down, she picked it up and went. Later, she returned and Swami began to look at her. She too began to look at Swami. It was such a beautiful moment and it is our fortune that a student managed to freeze that moment for eternity!

On that beautiful note, we shall conclude our walk on the riverbed of Chitravathi which holds many more friends waiting to meet us and we hope to make those introductions very soon. Till then Sairam and all the best from us.


- Radio Sai team

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