The rose-ringed parakeets are out and about, squeaking and peeping at an increasingly frantic pitch. Delicate lime-green wings beat energetically amidst the frondy palms, and a spotted dove coos mournfully. It’s funny how doves and pigeons – one with an elegant name and the other…not so much – make the same, doleful sound and waddle about in the same, vaguely-drunk fashion.

A rose-ringed parakeet perches on a tree (Image by Priya Ranganathan)

There is a rustling in the palm tree and a small palm squirrel pokes an inquisitive nose out to investigate the ruckus. The parakeets squawk at it but the squirrel is not in the least deflated; it bobs its tail invigoratingly and scampers down the slender trunk of the tree, its tiny clawed paws giving it the necessary traction to not fall flat on its head. The dove startles as the squirrel materializes beside it and flaps a few metres away. There is a big grey cat about, and the dove has its beady eyes on the predator. The squirrel is only a minor annoyance in comparison to the threat of becoming a meal.

Asian koel (Image by Renuka Vijayaraghavan/eBird S37481855)

There’s always at least one koel hanging about the eaves of the villa, and today’s resident is the Asian koel, a pesky little bird with an angelic voice. “As sweet as a koel” was considered great praise when I was a child, but honestly, the only redeeming characteristic of this cocky little bird is its singing voice. Behaviour points…not very many, I’m afraid! The koel watches me, its head tipped jauntily to the right as though it can hear my not-so-complimentary thoughts. Birds are eerily human at times! I nod at the koel, though I would rather find the blue-faced malkoha I had spotted last week. It was a far prettier bird, with its blue-black plumage and dainty hopping gait.

Little green bee-eater on a power line in Rajasthan (Image by Priya Ranganathan)

Another familiar visitor is the little green bee-eater, sometimes accompanied by its relative the chestnut-headed bee-eater. True to their name (though not quite as specialized), bee-eaters are insectivorous and will violently thrash their prey against rocks or branches to remove the exoskeleton, stings, or other unpleasant hindrances. Sometimes, I see the bee-eaters splashing daintily in one of the little ponds that forms during the monsoon months. When the bird’s shadow appears over the clear water, the frogs, tadpoles, and tiny fish that call these ponds home vanish beneath the surface and wait for the hullabaloo to die down.

Common Indian toad (Image from Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons)

Rainy season is toad season, and the Indian toad is a common visitor to our colony in the late evenings. As the moon rises and the streetlamps flicker to life, I keep my eyes peeled for these good-humored creatures. They don’t make the most aesthetic companions on an evening walk, but they are certainly entertaining, especially when caught in a lusty mood. Some unfortunate pairs are caught unawares by cars while in the throes of passion and I have to avoid the sight of their flattened, still-intertwined bodies on the tar road. Such are the perils of passion on the street, I suppose…

Black kites (Image by Shashank Palur)

Black kites and shikras dominate the predatory scene, sweeping in great circles high in the blue sky. When the rain clouds hang low, the birds swoop down to perch on roofs and high trees, sentries before the storm. My sisters once found a black kite hatchling huddled in the eaves of the roof and spent hours cooing over the downy, squawking baby. The girls were dissuaded from picking up the baby – luckily – by the sudden, unceremonious arrival of the mother kite, who wasted no time in carrying her chick to a less trafficked spot. Shikras are tinier birds of prey but formidable to rats and other rodents, as well as to other birds. The mother cat dislikes them intensely, having almost lost a newborn kitten to a hungry shikra once.

Wandering through the abundant greenery and lush flowers that make this part of Bengaluru so beautiful is a naturalist’s delight. City wildlife abounds here, and I can always expect to hear birdsong from the trees and bushes as I stroll by, a kitten on my shoulder for company.

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