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:: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 ::


It was sometime in early February. I got the news that River Tern eggs have hatched and the chicks are just about learning to fly. I was there around two weeks back and had seen the Terns guarding the eggs. The eggs were quite openly placed on a rock surface and I had wondered how it would survive an attack from crows or any prey birds. When I asked the guide from forest department, he laughed and said "hatthira barli nodoNa"! He indicated that the tern couple are good enough to shoo them away. He must be right, he is probably seeing the terns for quite a few years now.

Rightly as he said, the eggs were unharmed and now, a few-days-old chicks were learning the ways of their new world. The caring parents were still hovering around guarding their new generation and feeding them as often as they can. And the babies themselves were working out with their feet and the feathers - trying to take small steps and short flights from rock to rock, and stopping by the mother demanading for their share of food. But the chicks were still a long way to go from learning the graceful sinusoidal flights of the parents. As we were sitting on the boat and watching, there was some trouble coming by. There came a newbee tern looking for a place to stay and was eyeing on the habitat of the residents. Territorial instincts kicked in and a fight broke out. It ended as quickly as it started - just a couple of encounters in a few seconds and the war was over. Residents had won and the new guy had to go away and look for some other place. Life was back to normal and it looked as if nothing had happened.

We moved on from there to say hello to rest of the avian community. There were painted storks with the colourful pink plumage who were still building the nests. Some open billed storks were sitting without the slightest movement as if to mimick Buddha. Night herons were enjoying the late evening sunlight. Some crocs had eaten too much and were spending the time basking in the sun. They did not seem to be bothered or disturbed by our presence.

As we finished out visit and walked back, nature had much more beauty to offer us. We saw a dozen or so beautiful rose ringed parakeets perching on dry branches against the backdrop of sunset. As the sun was setting, there were some cuckoos announcing their presence, grey hornbills flying home with some fruits clenched in their beaks and egrets flying high in formation...

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