Oriental White Eye 

It is a very small sized bird. It is immediately noticed by its greenish yellow colour plumage with its whitish breast. But most prominent feature is the white rim around its eyes. The bird is widespread in Asia. Both sexes are alike in appearance.

It is very timid and restless bird. It mostly resides in the thick branches where it hides itself. It eats insects which are deposited on the leaves. It also eat the nectar of some flowers.

It is either hiding in the shade of branches or is so restless that it takes great patience to take good photographs. Only when it comes in open  momentarily for few seconds is the your chance to take good pics.

There is a bush in the herbal park in Panchkula, which has its leaves covered with insects larvae and deposits. These birds gorge themselves on these insects and it was here, I could manage to take some good pictures.


Advertisements

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

I first spotted this bird perched on a electric transmission wire. The area underneath was all shrubs. It was in the hot monsoon season. The bird has a very strange plumage pattern of brown and cream stripes.

It’s name is Eurasian Wryneck and here it comes on migration. It belongs to the woodpecker family although it’s beak is not as large and dagger like as the other woodpeckers. It subsists on ants and insects which are found in the dead wood.

It can rotate it’s neck by almost 180 degrees. When it senses danger, it makes a hissing sound. The word Jinx has its origins in the bird.

After that, I spotted it few times. The latest encounter being in the month of December although it has become very cold here. I took some beautiful pictures of this bird.

img_8573img_8577img_9242img_9269

Land Stories 

Land used to be like one’s mother in India as more than 70% people were connected to land. Before the introduction of modern agricultural equipment like tractors, bullocks were used virtually for agricultural jobs like tilling the land, pulling the cart which the farmer used for bringing the produce and fodder home for cattle. Agriculture was completely manual and commerce was not in force. Farmer produced only enough for his family needs. Agriculture was dependent on the surface water available through rivers and rains.

Now the story is different. Even small farmers own the tractors which is economically not viable for small pieces of land. But it is a rat race. Many of them take the loans which become difficult to repay. A tractor can do many days work in a few hours. Need for manual labor arises only during the sowing of the crops. Bullocks have been faced out and are facing the same fate as the girls faced: they have become unwelcome.

Land is so much precious to the owner that hawks are on the outlook to grab any piece of it by hook or crook. Wars had been fought over the land. Most prominent example is the epic story of Mahabharata in which cause of the biggest battle between cousins was about the possession of land and women.

But as the cities are expanding at a furious rate, the value of the land is increasing. What the land can do to its owners will be illustrated by three scenarios.

Scenario No.1

State of Haryana was carved out from Punjab. It is a fact that people of Haryana were neglected by Punjab and so the state was separated from Punjab. But city of Chandigarh, which was the capital of Punjab was not given to any one of these states but made a union territory. It was also made the capital of both the states. The reality now is that the capital of both these sites is located nor in the centre but in one corner of the states.

As Chandigarh could not be expanded more, both Haryana and Punjab decided to construct the extensions of it on their own sides. Haryana thus acquired the agricultural land adjacent to Chandigarh. There were many villages in the area with farmers having small land holdings. All were given a meagre compensation. Overnight they become lost what they were dependent on. Being conversant with agriculture only, they faced difficulty to carry on their lives. They migrated here and there and on their lands mushrooms the concrete buildings with their owners being outsiders who could afford to buy them.

Scenario No.2

This one is a really interesting and shows how in same country but at different time points, the fortunes can turn for some. District of Mohali in Punjab was carved in such a way that it’s one side touched Panchkula district of Haryana. So some villages which though were very near to Panchkula became part of Punjab and their lands were not acquired by government.

These villages are situated near the ghaggar river and land is very poor for manual farming. The reason is that where the land is situated, the river flowed once and thus has left huge amounts of pebbles and sand covered with alluvial. Thus it is full of pebbles and bullocks were unable to till it.  Additionally there were uneven land surfaces which again posed challenges for farming.

Thus the land owners eked out a pathetic life. They lived hand to mouth. But somehow, barring a few they didn’t part off with their land which in any case no other farmer will buy due to poor quality.

But the demon of city expansion and opening of information technology parks and some pharmaceutical companies resulted in the large influx of people from interiors of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,and so on resulted in the construction frenzy. There was no scope for expansion of Panchkula. So these adjoining areas became the focal points of building activity. Overnight, the land which was useless became the gold mine for the owners. They sold portions for a windfall. The farmers who have not seen money were dazed and it took them days to come back to reality from dream.

They constructed palaces for living. They became educated suddenly. As the money came, so we’re associations with powerful people like politicians. Some of them even began to grab the unoccupied or reserved lands. With a part of money bought tractors and modern equipment for remainder of land and procured cheaper land in the nearby districts. The elderly still can be identified to have done back breaking work but new generation is all like managers and leaders.

Scenario No.3

This story is similar to previous one but with small difference. It is from Sanand district in Gujarat. As the Tata nano car factory relocated here, the villagers nearby had windfall. Their used to be working as labors, peon and other lower rung jobs in the future Factories and manufacturing units for monthly wages like rupees 6000 to 15000 as their land was not fertile or due to lack of resources was not providing them with enough. Suddenly the arrival of entrepreneurs they became millionaires overnight by selling their land. After the initial excitement, Many of them have decided to carry on with those peanut wages jobs to keep themselves busy. More than hundreds of millionaires are working as helping hands in the factories there. The interest on their fixed deposits is enough for their requirements.

Thus as the Mark Twain once advised someone who came to him for investing the money to “invest in the land because they don’t make it anymore”, land can catapult your future.

Black Drongo

Although the onslaught of building activity is devouring the agricultural lands everywhere,Fortunately there is still greenery around the place I live. There are wild shrubs, fields where crops like wheat, rice, maize and cattle fodder grows and the woods in the reserved areas.

There are a number of birds which live here. One of them is black Drongo, jet black bird. It is an expert insect catcher. It is very aggressive towards crows and other marauders like eagles and falcons. Many other gentle birds try to be close to this bird for protection. Here are some pictures. These pictures have been taken by me while on walks and sitting in the balcony of my home from where the open land is visible.

     
  

     

     

Baya Weaver

It is very small sized bird which fabricates beautiful nests. These nests hang from the fronds of trees which have thorny in nature to ward off the predators like snakes which are a threat to their eggs. The entry of the nest is near bottom. So the nests are generally made in large groups on trees like Acacia and Palm fronds.

These birds generally live in large groups as can be seen from the number of nests made on a single tree. Secondly they prefer, in addition to the type of tree being acacia or palm, the location where food is easily available and also pools of water are there. They prefer to be near fields of Bajra ( pearl millet), jowar (sorghum) and teosinte which grow seeds at thr top. One can see, these birds making visits to these fields and back to the nest and listen to their chirping standing near the fields

Baya weaver is scientifically called Ploceus Phillippinus. It is found commonly in South East Asia. Flocks are found in the cultivated areas, grasslands where food is available in plenty and and raw material for construction of nests and specific trees are standing.

Like the humans, female of the pair dominates. There are intersting sequences while making the nests. It the male who make many template nests. These are then inspected by the female. Female destroys the templates which it does not like. When finally, the one is approved, both of them complete the rest of construction together. One can see birds in frenzy during the nest making activity is going on.

In North Indian states like Punjab and Haryana, the conditions for making the nests are fulfilled, nests can be seen in the rural areas. With the building activity the habitats of these birds are being destroyed and one has to go deep inside the rural areas to locate these nests.

I live in the area near Panchkula in Haryana where all around were grasslands and cultivated lands. But now these are being gobbled by buildings. Still there are some spaces where I found these birds and their nests. I used canon camera to take some pictures.

 

Nests hangings from the palm fronds
  



Baya weaver exiting from nest
  
Bird preparing to enter
  



A completed nest
 
  

Nahan Kothi in Panchkula: Heritage in Shambles 

Panchkula is the extension of Chandigarh. Once upon a time, it was a small village on the road going to Kalka from Chandigarh. There was a truck market there and a number of stone crushers which crushed the stones from Ghaggar river into different sizes and shapes to feed to the building activities.

From Panchkula a few kilometres away are famous Pinjore Gardens. Panchkula is surrounded on its north by Shiwalik hills which overlook it from Himachal Pradesh. A number of princely rulers ruled small areas in the hills. Mostly these rulers belonged to Rajput clans. Unlike their counterparts in the plains of North India, these states were very small and less powerful. There were some rulers whose rule sometimes extended up to Panchkula area.

There were a number of villages in the area where modern Panchkula has been built. At some of these localities memories of the past still exist.

One such historic building is situated in Village Railli, near Sector 12A of Panchkula. It is called the Nahan Kothi. Nahan was an princely estate near Pinjore in Himachal Pradesh. This Kothi or small royal dwelling links the place to Nahan.

This Kothi is a significant and only remnant representing the British architecture of 19th century AD. This monument was built by two brothers Prince Surjan Singh and Bir Singh, the sons of Raja Fateh Singh (1857-63 AD), the ruler of Sirmour State. This region including Morni and other adjoining hilly areas of Haryana was then under the jurisdiction of Sirmour State, the capital of this state was Nahan. Hence the name Nahan Kothi was given to this building. It was generally used by the rulers to keep watch on the activities of their territory. Sometimes it was also used for overnight stay during hunting expedition. This monument had a garden and servant quarters in the beginning, the original architecture of this monument has been marred by the renovations and alterations at various times, even then, its original characteristics of architectural style are still intact.

Now as is the case of many such historical buildings, this place is in very bad shape. Although it has been overtaken by the state government but has not been treated as a monument. The area has been encroached and the peripheral area has been after encroachment sold as residential plots. The place has never been maintained and repaired.

Times of India Chandigarh carried out a story on it describing the pathetic condition of the buildings. The place has been occupied by encroachers who despite the recent directives of the high court have not moved out.

The Kothi has been used to house the offices of district consumers forum, mining and geology departments. The broken windows, damaged furniture, loose electric wires and trees sprouting in the walls are testimony to the state of ruins.

The following pictures of the Kothi has been taken from the website of Haryana tourism.

   
  

Haryana government must take the serious steps to restore the place it’s past glory.

Travels along Morni Hills Road

Morni is a hill station about 55 kilometers away from Chandigarh. Morni in local language is referred to peahen. The name is derived from the name of girl of a local ruler. There were many small princely states all over Shiwalik hills. The rulers were mostly Rajputs many of whom owed allegiance to Mughals.  Morni hills were ruled by Rajputs from Sirmaur which is near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh.The place is situated in Shiwalik hills and can be reached through a road from Panchkula. The map of the road is given below:

The road is serpentine because hilly area begins just after crossing the Panchkula and after a continuous climb for about 20 kilometers from Panchkula, the path begins to descend. I have gone up to point where this descent begins.

There are hills covered with wild shrubs and trees including teak. When you begin the journey towards Morni from Panchkula there are hills covered with thorny acacia trees. Hordes of monkeys roam along the road. All day they are there squatting on edges of road and climbing on the adjacent trees. People who came to visit Shiva temple near Berwala, gave them banana and other eatables. This causes the menace to normal visitor who is afraid to get down.

On the way, is Gauri Shankar temple which is seldom open. It seems more of a private property of some Guru who enjoy immense clout over politicians rather than a public place as the temples are generally opened to public. After about 8 kilometers there is small bridge on a seasonal branch of Ghaggar river which is dry in the summers. There is a place with dense trees and foliage along the river which is marked as a bird sanctuary. But you have to be very patience for sighting the birds.

There are few fields where farmers can be seen working. The area beyond Panchkula suddenly takes on an idyllic character. Hills along gorges seem like walls of brown mud completely devoid of greenery except the exposed roots of some trees at the top. In these walls, one can see parrots clinging  on to the holes which they must have dug for raising their nests.

One can also come across, the men and women sitting in the cars stopped at different spots engaged in cavorting activities from the city giving slip to their legal partners. Groups of young boys and girls can be seen drinking and making merry. Due to the drunken driving in the hills many a times fatal accidents have been reported.

There are Langoors also hiding in the bushes and occasionally coming into open on the road or to cross the road. They seem to be shy of humans and avoid humans unlike the monkeys. There are many birds and trees which bear flowers and adorn the landscape.

Birds


Trees


Animals