Over the weekend I was in Kollam, Kerala and last Thursday I had left a Bangalore battered by rain. On Monday evening it was Kerala’s turn to send us off with thundershowers. And this morning in Bangalore, leaning over the balcony to sniff at the new day, I noticed with delight that winter had arrived.
I had no answers, but I assume it must have sneaked in when one of the negligent janitors left a door open.
Lunch had to be postponed. The presence of an unknown bird — “Is it a sparrow?” queried most — in an office bay commanded much excitement. Calls for a box were quickly answered. I left the bird in and covered the top lightly, allowing ample air. Leaving the troubled bird in peace, I thought I’d head downstairs for a lightning-quick bite when a colleague phoned saying the bird had flown its temporary coop. By the time I got back, someone had returned it to its lodgings, but the warbler appeared to be much weaker.
A call to Salim (who used to run the Bannerghatta Rescue Centre) made us gloomier. He advised us to feed the bird with a saline solution and release it at the earliest. But the bird looked considerably weaker. It tucked its head into its wings in a posture that birds adopt when they are roosting. Salim warned that these could be signs of morbidity. Small birds need to eat constantly to keep their metabolism going. Alarmingly, this battered warbler seemed not to want the rehydrating solution that I fed it with a straw. In fact, its eyes were now half-shut and it made no protest when handled, slumping forward in my palm.
Things didn’t look good at all.
How far this agile and energetic bird had come, in the flight trails its ancestors had followed for millennia, to end up in a sorry mess here in this smog-choked city. How far from its summer haunts in the far east of Europe and the far west of Central Asia, now probably draped in snow, it had flown. All for this – to smash into a thoughtlessly built edifice.
Sympathy poured for the bird. As did counsel. Some folks offered to take it home, put it in a cage and feed it birdseed. That warblers, unlike finches and budgerigars with their seed-crushing bills, have no appetite for birdseed did not strike those hearts overflowing with kindness.
As we watched, the bird stiffened, opened its eyes wide, stretched its wings and legs and then became absolutely still. Dead, just like that. Rigor mortis set in within an hour. I gave my November Bird an unceremonious funeral beside Bellandur Lake, leaving some opportunistic scavenger to perform its appointed role in the circle of life.
An ominous beginning to winter, and one that whetted all over again my hatred for glass-and-steel high-rises.
Lead photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Shankar70
Photographs: Padma Swaminathan
Also read: And swiftly fell the swift
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