Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Winged Residents of Jalvayu Vihar - "The birds in JVV sing Merrily"!!!

I had written about the colony, how it is managed, its people, flora and fauna. I noted that, the essence of JVV is best captured in a poem written by poet and writer John McLeod, from a small fishing town near Edinburgh, Scotland which beautifully sums up what the it is all about; a colony where all of us live and spend our retirement in joy and happiness.

If home is where the heart is
Then may your home be blessed
A shelter from the storms of life
A place of rest,
And when each day is over
And toil put in its place
Your home's dear warmth
Will bring its smile
To light the saddest face!

Merrily Tobin, visited Jalvayu Vihar for the first time in 1993. JVV was then just three years old. She recalls “There were hardly any birds out here. The trees were just about picking up and the campus had a dry, barren look about it”.

Figure 1 -  1989 – Barren Main Road and water tower

Over the next few years, JVV grew greener; the birds began to take notice and slowly moved in and so did Merrily Tobin along with her mother, who is a proud owner of an apartment here.  Between her home and never ending demands at the work place, she still finds time to indulge in ‘Bird Watching’. Now a confirmed birder, she adds “My very first friends in the world were the birds and animals in our garden.  I used to spend hours with the squirrels, the sparrows, the bulbuls, the magpie robins and the numerous other birds that shared our garden with us. Birding to me wasn’t just a hobby but my very existence.  Wherever I  go , wherever I am, the first things I notice are birds!”

JVV over a period of time has become lush and green with more than 700 trees in an area of 22 acres. Today we boast of variety of trees such as Neem, Ashoka, Gulmohar, Jacaranda, Honge, Pepal, Sampige, Silver Oak, Bamboo, Teak, Tabebuia ,Akash Mallige, Spathodea,Mango, Basavana Pada,Nagalingam,Parkar Palm,Tecoma,Gasa Bela, Eucalyptus,Pine, Coconut, Jack Fruit, Pomegranate, Badami, Tamarind, Berry, Butter Fruit, Papaya, Banana etc.  A dedicated crew of 19 garden and conservancy staff ensure the trees are well looked after and nourished.

Today, JVV is lush, green and beautiful. It is no wonder that these tiny, noisy creatures we call “Birds” have found a home here.

Figure 3 – Tree lined main road

Figure 4 - The area in front of water tower

Armed with just a pair of binoculars, and a passionate desire to be one with nature she has diligently kept note of the “Winged Residents of JVV

The number of birds that have made JVV their home is truly amazing.  Some are residents while others visit us regularly and a few make guest appearances. She recently posted a documentation of the birds that can be seen in Jal Vayu Vihar on the colony group E mail. I found her work not only interesting but an eye opener to most of us. Today we live in cocoons, enclosed in our own little make believe worlds – rushing to and fro, meeting the never ending demands of work and home. We have no time to reflect and ponder about life and nature. A hobby such as ‘Birding’ or for that matter any hobby, can be very therapeutic, especially in this day and age of high speed internet, instant communication, fast cars ,fast food and faster pace of life. I strongly feel one should seriously inculcate some hobby and set aside some time to pursue it. Being a part of the nature around us will certainly help keeping one’s body and soul together.

With a view to making her work reach wider audience, I have reproduced her effort in my blog. Hope this will enable JVVians in particular and Bangaloreans in general to become aware of our surroundings and help preserve the green cover of our city. May be one day we will be truly the “Garden City” once again. When I requested her to give me permission to publish her work - with all humility and grace she e mailed -  I went through this document... but would like to ask you to please tone down the "Merrily" bit... it's fine if you say "The birds in JVV sing merrily"!!!

Extracts from her E mail in -  jvvbangalore@googlegroups.com (Photographs are from net)

1.     Barbets
Our Gulmohar and African Tulip trees have little nest holes, cut out by the“Barbets”.

2.     The tiny “Tailor Bird”
They sew the leaves of the mango tree near the West Gate each year to create a tiny nest and manages to have quite a brood, a really noisy one at that; it also nests in the Ashoka.

3.     Our other residents are the “Sunbirds”

The Loten’s Sunbird.Like the Tailor Bird, the Sunbirds flit in and out of trees noisily and even visit our potted flowering plants in search of nectar. They are usually in company with “The White Eye”,

Figure 5 Loten’s Sunbird

Figure 6 Purple Rumped Sunbird

4.     White Eye
The sunbird is usually in company with the White Eye

5.     The Spider Hunter

6.     Thickbilled Flowerpecker
One of India’s tiniest birds, quaint in its ability to manipulate large berries in its tiny bill to extract pulp and juice.

7.     The Brown Flycatcher

A bird too shy and gentle to make too much of an impression

8.     The Grey Tit

9.     The Warblers

Particularly the Ashy wren-warbler, a noisy creature but gone missing from
JVV. Cats?

With cooperation from the residents and organizations such as CUPA we have been able to run a ‘Stray Dog’ free colony for the last 18 months. It has taken a lot of effort on our part to prevent ingress through gates, drains, broken fence etc. We also have a tough job convincing residents not to feed the strays. Consequently the population of cats in the colony has increased considerably with its own fallouts. Rodents and cockroaches are on the decline. We have once again appealed to all the cat lovers not feed the stray cats. Humans cannot balance nature.

10.            Koels
They are common sight

11.            Spotted Doves

12.            Barn Owls

The Barn Owls that cheer JVV through the night and help keep it rat free

13.            Jungle Myna

14.             Shikara

15.             Pariah Kite

16.             Brahminy Kite

17.             King Crow

17 A Grey Drongo

The Sunbirds, Tailor birds, Tits, Flycatchers, and Spider Hunters can be seen at almost all hours during the day flitting in and out of our Singapore Cherry trees and our other flowering trees. The two spotted doves near the school coo and coo all morning and then go about their business the rest of the day. The others you can see and hear off and on.

18.            Now for our visitors

The Rosy Pastors flock here in huge numbers and create quite a ruckus as they zoom in and out of our Silver Oak and Pepul trees in huge swarms every winter (incidentally, they come to visit us all the way from Eastern

 Rosy Pastors

19.            Bulbuls

She notes the danger from cats and says, “ The majestic bulbuls would love to find a nesting place here and do come in regularly looking desperately for a roost, only to find grave danger in the form of the numerous cats that lurk around all our Singapore Cherry trees that attract these beauties. Their fluty calls are unmistakable and you know the bulbul has come a-calling the minute it enters our campus. Unless JVV is freed of its numerous cats, it is highly unlikely that these birds will take up residence here. They nest in shrubs and our shrubs are too close to the cats for their liking!”

20.            Golden Oriel

The Golden Oriel comes in once in a while and like the Bulbul gives its unmistakable flute in water call… don’t know how to describe it but for those of you who would like to hear it, here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s21FgJKZSrc

21.            Crow Pheasant

The Crow Pheasant used to come in once or so in a month. It used to lurk around the bougainvillea creepers near the West gate and give its quaint call. I haven’t seen it in a while, especially after a fire ruined that canopy there. For those of you who would like to hear its call, here’s a link:

22.             Rose ringed Parakeet

23.            Alexandrine Parakeet

24.            Tree Pie

25.             House swifts

House Swifts and also Swallows may be seen in and around JVV. I have seen all these birds and many more in JVV, at some time or the other. Some stay on for a month or two and then disappear while others are content with giving us a weekly or an annual visit. Birds favour those trees that offer them food, nesting sites and roosting places.

26.            Swallows

The trees in JVV that fit this equation are the Peepul, a hot favorite of all birds; the African Tulip Tree and the Gulmohar are magnets for Barbets and Parakeets as the soft trunk of these trees can be burrowed into easily; The Singapore Cherry, for its juicy fruit; The Silver Oak for its flowers full oftasty nectar and for its height that keeps these birds safe from the dangerous ground dwellers

On a serious note Merrily adds, “But birds love all trees and so do we. To see even one chopped down is heart breaking! The myriad other creatures that dwell in these trees are sustenance for these birds. The first step to the extinction of a species is the destruction of its habitat. The once immortal sparrow is long gone, the others are soon to follow suit. JVV has thus far helped these birds and animals fight a losing battle, must we now withdraw our support?”

In closing she has a little advice to makers of the city.Bangalore has lost what it was once known for; JVV is a semblance of that old Bangalore; let’s try to keep it that way. A more practical option would be to trim the very large trees so that they cease to be dangerous and yet continue to support this huge life system they harbor!”

In the end she says, “This poem, I guess, would help express the sentiments of those who love trees and birds and animals and who are constantly charmed by Nature and feel utterly helpless at the eventual fate that awaits us… dry barren landscapes, concrete jungles, extinct species of birds, animals and trees!

 On Killing a Tree
~ Gieve Patel

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it.
It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out if it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.
So hack and chop
But this alone won't do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.
The root is to be pulled out
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out-snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.
Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

No matter where you live, you probably have birds of some kind, where you can go bird watching. It is probably the cheapest hobby one can develop. It requires no money or investment, just a desire to watch God’s creation enjoying the bounties of nature in its own habitat. On our part we can help by being respectful to nature and provide an environment which supports bird life.

We in Jalvayu Vihar are extremely lucky to have nature lovers like Ms Merrily Tobin who have devoted some of their precious time in cataloging all the birds in JVV and in turn educating us, raising our knowledge levels and helping us to develop an interest in birds.

I for one have been impressed by her work and have started spending some time looking up at the trees, trying to get a glimpse of the
Winged Residents of JVV”.

All is fine, as long as "The birds in JVV sing Merrily"!!! 


  1. Amazing collection of birds...

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