Better than all treasures that in books are found…

The terrace of our cottage in Navilu Kaadu is spacious and almost as big as the little cottage itself. An awning supported by a trellis of hollow metal tubes protects the terrace.

A drumstick tree and a pair of young neem trees flank the house on either side. We have a Mysore trumpet vine spreading over a bamboo trellis behind the awning and a purple allamanda creeping up the metal post on one side of the patio.

Whenever I get a breather from the hectic farm schedule, I sit on the patio with a book, my binoculars, and a camera by my side. Guess which ones are used more!

Winged fauna present a serious obstacle to my reading activities on the farm. I’m barely getting through a paragraph when I’m distracted by the trill of a bee-eater, the delicate melody of a lark, or the soft tsee-tsee of a sunbird, and gravitate towards one of my two optical gimmicks grab.

Purple-rumped Sunbirds (Leptocoma zeylonica) hunt for nectar among the sparse flowers of our young Mysore Trumpet Vine. They dip their long, downward-curved beaks into the tubular red-and-yellow flowers to suckle.

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These birds exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females of the same species are as different as chalk and cheese. The males are stunning, sporting a metallic green crown and shoulder patch with a purple throat, deep rust coat and purple rump with custard yellow underparts.

They glitter like gems in the sunlight. The females are plain in comparison, with dull grey-brown bodies and pale yellow underparts.

In December 2019, a pair of scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) has made a nest under the eaves of the house, just above our main door. These sparrow-sized birds have chocolate-brown tops with black speckles on a white breast, resembling scales, hence the name. Their powerful conical beaks are designed for a diet rich in grass seed. Munias also like insects, making them granule and insectivorous birds. The adorable couple darted between the drumstick tree and the awning as they put the finishing touches on their brand new nest. The male is usually a shade darker than the female. The pair may have laid a clutch of four to eight eggs.

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In July 2020, another cute species of finch, a pair of Indian Silverbills (Euodice Malabarica), occupied the same nest. It was the season of pink natal grass, and the male bird courted his lover with a gift of a single blade of soft pink grass clutched in his pale gray beak, made for an ethereal sight. They are also called white-throated Munias.

Like all finches, these small birds have short, powerful beaks and feed on seeds and insects. Silverbeaks are monomorphic, meaning both sexes of the species look alike. They are known to be community breeders and there is a likelihood that the eggs in a nest could belong to more than one silverbill mother.

As I sat on the patio in early April this year and made a valiant attempt to read, another feathered distraction flew about. This time a cinder tit (Parus cinereus) eagerly explored one end of the hollow metal tube that held the awning.

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The bird plucked dried grass from the ground, flew to the neem tree and perched on a slender branch for a few seconds. It then made a short sprint to the metal tube on the tree, balancing on nimble wings as it stuffed the grass into the tube’s cavity.

Just as our little house accommodates us, its nooks and crannies accommodate many a ménage of birds.

With captivating natural history moments like these performed throughout the day at Navilu Kaadu, am I to be scolded for giving up my book for the camera?

rooted for nature is a monthly column about a bohemian urban family’s tryst with nature on a natural farm.

The author embarked on a career in software marketing before moving into independent consulting and natural farming. She posts as @ramyacushik on Instagram. Reach them at [email protected]

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