If I were to tell you that I’ve spotted kingfishers, two pairs of hornbills, a family of coppersmith barbets along with several crows, sparrows and pigeons, parrots during the time it takes to have a morning tea, you may wonder which green belt I am on.
If I were to tell you that I see these birds from a window while having my morning tea, you may further assume that perhaps its a forest or a nature reserve.
If I were to tell you that these birds were viewed today morning in a busy part of the Mumbai city, I wouldn’t expect you to believe me because I couldn’t believe it myself.
“Have you spotted him yet?” asked mama Hornbill, sporting a worried expression on her face.
“Not yet! But let me call out” said Papa Hornbill and sent out a high pitched call to his missing teenage son.
“Perched atop this Neem tree out in the jungle (read City) is not the safest place for us” said mama Hornbill. “Look at that swinging branch. Is that our son?” Said mama, looking towards the overhead wire crisscrossing the road from one tree to another.
“Naaa…” Said Papa, ” He was swinging there with Crows yesterday, but not today! Bad company, I tell you, exposing himself in the middle of the jungle with noisy animals (traffic) all around!”
“You look this side and I’ll try the next tree.” said Mama Hornbill worried about her missing son and wondering if he had breakfast .
She gave one last desperate call before flying off to the next tree.
It is often strange how a tree can develop a connection with you. Yes it can. Ruskin Bond used to often write about the silence of the night and how it was broken by the rustling of leaves in the wind and some places so silent that the only sounds were the trees and the birds. After staying a year in Mumbai, where the only tree I saw frequently was the decorative Ashoka and the ubiquitous coconut palm, the modest Neem tree was a discovery. Neem, which is distinguished for its medicinal properties by many Indians is given the title of a “useful” tree in our primary textbooks. This particular tree witnessed a host of birds and insects creeping all over it. For shade, protection or food from its Berries.
One day amongst the Mynahs, Parrots and Squirrels which had made this tree their home, there was a strange call of a bird. Many birds fluttered away. Some stayed. Some fell silent.
This bird, I later got to know was a Gray Hornbill. It is around 2 feet long and had camouflaged itself quite well in the grey eucalyptus where It used to stay, but now it was quite evident in the Neem tree. It stayed there for a few minutes and then again was airborne to return back to its home, hidden atop a 30 ft eucalyptus tree.