— Haseeb Shaikh
Nalsarovar is a Ramsar site frequented by visitors & dominated by birders, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. This bird sanctuary is a wetland no less than utopia for all wildlife enthusiasts who cherish taking on their wings.
It was one such Sunday’s on 13th July 2014 when I accompanied a close friend Mukul Chand from Delhi who is an avid Birder and an inspiring wildlife enthusiast to Nalsarovar. An early morning start in the dark hours and an hour’s drive brought us to our destination where the birds in thousands awaited the delayed monsoon as eagerly us.
Nothing enchants a wildlife enthusiast more than a poetic view of wilderness or wetland and the eyes are put to introspection immediately. Everything that took to the air was fresh and blended with excitement as we climbed into a flat boat and set adrift with expectations on a high. The crisp fresh morning air took to our heads like alcohol as we enjoyed the wading grebes, ducks, water hens, moorhens, herons, darters, storks, kingfishers and above all the enticing flamingos which are responsible for pinning the Ramsar site of Nalsarovar on the world map.
There are occasions when time drags but particularly when one cherishingly makes the most of what he likes, time inevitably flies. Unaware that we had been on the waters for a few hours now in the midst of the magnetic & heavenly birds, we realized the rising sun was intimidating us by challenging our reluctance to turn back. Inevitable change, of sailing directions were smoothly maneuvered by the boatman and we found ourselves heading back towards the banks.
Nature can be full of surprises and what we witnessed on our way back was no exception. Pandemonium broke loose as a Pheasant Tailed Jacana which was about 6-7 meters away from our boat caught our attention with its calls without a pause, getting jittery and restless for what we thought was some inexplicable reason. Mukul Sahab with his usual admiration for the birds lost no opportunity and with a reflex resumed his camera acrobatics as the Jacana depicting a magician’s trick ran across above the water on the floating layers of thick water weeds and aquatic plants. Unsurprisingly we were amused with its nonstop & restless chattering, when it taking to the air darted towards us, purposely missing us by a few feet. It flew pass us from behind & landed back on the floating layer of weeds a few meters away on the other side of the boat. This was truly inexplicable and surprising as we figured out that the little Jacana was virtually threatening us with a mock attack for some reasons best known to it. Realization came in late until we saw it landing next to a young hatchling walking on the floating layer of weeds. The boatman pointed out the hatchling to us, which took no note of us or its jittery mother and gaily taking on its feet and continued its walk. The Jacana had not misconceptions on its point of attack, and got busy discussing the never seen before behavior, it again ran over the water skirting around the boat and took to the air from the same point of launch as before, this time targeting & purposely missing the standing boatman by a few feet.
Surprises in the wild come in satisfactory packages. The mystery of the restless Jacana behavior was solved, but importantly we realized that on the day, we were out for some birding and unexpectedly we witnessed a bird behavior through which Mother Nature in its sublime classroom imparted us with more wisdom by testifying yet again, that a Mother is a Mother who necessarily doesn’t have to be a human to be fearless and courageous when it comes to protecting her young one from an impending danger of any sort wherein the size and shape of an aggressor is immaterial.
The author is a naturalist, conservationist, artist, and an avid blogger. When not in wild listening to birdcalls, Haseeb can be found at the Serenity Library in Ahmedabad, where he is a naturalist, spreading the message of conservation far and wide. He can be reached at email@example.com and his Twitter feed is at @haseebsiddique