An Adult Myna

Praying for some Myna magic

The month of June barely starts and two Bird-of-the-Month nestlings fall into my life.

My morning walks are action-packed in several ways but this was certainly not what I expected as I carried munchies for furry friends this morning. I was about to turn back home when I heard that unmistakable chi-chi-chi of a baby Myna. Nothing surprising since it is Myna month in the true sense of the term and baby mynas in different stages of growth are all around us. But the sound came from the ground level and it was the voice of a very young myna. That can be a little alarming for the bird’s safety, since it is more vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. I stepped back and followed the sound: two barely-feathered hatchlings, one behind the other. One was dead. The other was calling out.

Well, the first thing to do was to locate the nest. I craned my neck but for at least 20 feet up into the imposing silk cotton tree there was no sight of a hole or nest of any kind. There was an adult myna peeping through the branches, but it didn’t look too anxious and didn’t let out a single cheep. In fact, it soon moved away disinterested.

The little fledgling continued to cheep. The baby had to be rescued! Someone outside the building opposite was more than helpful when I requested for a piece of soft cloth to take the myna up in since I didn’t want to injure it inadvertently in a bare-hand snatch. He even offered to keep Chi (in Chinese, I’m told, that means, Life Force) till I could get her picked up, since I was quite far from home. As he bent over to pick up Chi, he gave me some good news. The other one was also alive! So, both Chi and Jiya (heart) were rescued.

In less than half an hour, they had been checked and cleaned of fleas and their wounds had been cleaned by the very kind veterinary surgeon but it was obvious they needed some mother-henning. The babies came home in a clean cardboard box lined with dry grass.

Emails and calls flew across the city and country regarding their diet chart that now includes mashed biscuits and mashed fruit. Feeding them by hand was not hygienic for the birds since they had to be cleaned of spills that may have attracted ants. So, now, they are being fed with a syringe. Just to rule out accidental choking from an inadvertent overdose, we fill very little each time, just enough for a mouthful. When you’re talking of a fledgling’s mouthful, it is really a tiny quantity.

The progress has been heartening from the first meal: Chi doesn’t know where she’s going but is busy practicing hopping out of the carton; Jiya, who was too weak to sit when we found her, is now sitting up and eating more heartily than Chi.

Is this the end of a happy story? Far from it; from two generations’ experience with nestlings, we know we are up against a challenge. And those things are precarious. It is just the beginning of a new chapter whose length we don’t know. We are counting the hours since they are so tiny and so vulnerable. Three of the four eyes are yet to open.

So far, so good! It’s time for the next feed…

Please wish them health and a long life!

BENITA SEN

Benita Sen is a journalist and children’s author.  

DIMMA PEACH

Sparrows and me

Written by Estelle Sarkar

I lived with my parents and three sisters in a place called Gyogon which was a few miles away from Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma). We lived in a beautiful teak wood house built on stilts with a lovely flower garden and a vegetable garden. A few mango trees, a tall tamarind tree, papaya and the most delicious ‘martaban’ banana plants grew in our garden.

We lived with nature. Snakes, scorpions, lizards fell on our shoulders causing utter chaos while we studied at night. During the monsoons, menacing leeches hung on to us. We must have loved birds because we were alert trying to save the sparrow nestlings when they fell from their nests. They were featherless creatures and helpless. My elder sister and I used to pick them up, wrap them in cotton wool and take them into the kitchen to keep them warm by the fire. They were fed with drops of sugar water and we hoped that they would survive but alas, these little ones would just slip away from this world.

After shedding our tears we arranged for their burial. Mud was dug up behind our Mali’s quarters and the little one would be laid to rest on leaves covered with mud and flower petals. The Mali cooperated with us in burying the sparrows.

Weeks later, we four children would decide to see the condition of the buried bird as we were told that they became dust. How disappointed we were when on digging up the buried ground, all we saw were red ants! This infuriated the Mali who threatened to report us to my father but of course, he was kind enough not to do so.

Sadly, the war with Japan started and leaving this beautiful house we fled to India in February 1942 to start life anew.

Years have gone by but memories do not fade and now as an octogenarian, I have started feeding sparrows, doves and bulbuls who sit on the trees in my little garden waiting to be fed. Sixteen sparrows come along with at least eight doves, grey in colour with yellow specks on their wings. They feed on bird seed and chapatti. The bulbuls feed on ripe banana although once in a while they enjoy other tit-bits. They drink water, bathe and fly away. Black and white magpie robins come for a bath and then fly off. These birds live in perfect harmony. I watch the fledglings being fed by their mother and also see on bully dove chase away the other doves but it never attacks the sparrows! Tiny honey-suckers who make the most noise, swing on garland-like flowers of a creeper sipping the nectar. With three pale honey-suckers come a dark blue one, a loner.

From early morning till 4 pm these beautiful birds are my companions and these harmless little friends keep the lady who helps me, busy replenishing their food dishes.

We have always had birds in and around our home but my thanks for this love of feeding the birds goes to my daughter Benita who loves animals and birds and feeds a variety of them.

I also thank Mr Mohammed Dilawar for making me a member of Nature Forever Society.

May God bless you all for looking after these innocent, helpless birds.

ESTELLE SARKAR

KOLKATA

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A Lifelong Affair with Sparrows

Written by Apurba Prosad Basu

I fell in love with this little magical bird at the age of 36, in the year 1974, when I was house-bound because of a fracture of my left foot metatarsal, while playing un-habitual football with the local boys. My left foot was then plastered and so I was rather locked in my room with my son of age four.

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