Anand Pendharkar Column: Wild windowsill

The last few days have been oddly windless and afternoons were lost in a limbo. Hardly any bird called, the speckled yellowing leaves of the copper pod, too, were waiting to be flit away into the dream world. Maybe my fatigue after the two-day hectic Earth Mela was reflected in the mood of the weather. And just when I was about to slip into slumber, a red-vented bulbul landed on my windowsill. I rushed to get my camera so that I could capture this common bird visiting my feeding post.

A yellow sunbird
A yellow sunbird

My window has witnessed a fair amount of common and uncommon visitors. The daily reporter is definitely the house crow, who makes timely appearances to claim the breakfast, lunch or snack I leave on a regular basis. The three-striped palm squirrels are not far behind, always sounding an alarm with every passing cat or dog. They not only come for the morsels but also to bask and for some fun on the grills with friends and foes. Then there are those destructive rock pigeons, who trample every seedling and harden the soil in pots and are capable of killing every sapling that they come in contact with.

Although bold and raucous, the common mynas are shy to drop by the windowsill, though they hang out fairly close by. I’m hopeful that some day they will use the nest box I have installed. Currently, only sparrows and squirrels seem to be arguing and squabbling over the nesting hollow.

Then there are some shy visitors, flitting in and out. The tailor bird and purple-rumped sunbird fall in this category. Generally, the tailor birds shun my windowsill pots but visit once in a while, eager to grab the common mormon or lime butterfly caterpillars. The purple-rumped sunbirds generally come in to collect cobwebs to line their nests and are persistent and repetitive in their visits. Sometimes they puncture a hole into the base of my hibiscus flowers and suck its nectar. This behaviour of the sunbird doesn’t seem to bother me, but many of my horticulturist friends look upon it as a destruction of the flower’s beauty. To this I argue that flowers produce nectar to satisfy the hunger of nectarivores and in return, effect pollination. If the sunbird is fulfilling this service, we must accept it as a natural fall-out of this ecological process.

Besides birds, there are many other visitors. Last month, a blue mormon butterfly came and checked out my Ixora plant. I was hoping it would lay eggs on my passionflower climbers. Common mormons, tailed jay, blue bottle and the occasional common jay butterflies also feed and check out my plants. When I had a thriving Kalanchoe plant, red pierrot butterflies were regular visitors. Around 20 years ago, I had grown a Pithacolbeum dulce, also called jungle jalebi, sapling in my windowsill. Over the years, over 100-odd grass yellow butterflies have bred and emerged from this plant. This may seem like a rosy picture on my windowsill, but my open feeding station also attracts nocturnal visitors, such as brown rats that climb up and down all night. But to my utter delight, my habit of disposing overripe fruit right in the planters has occasionally brought fulvous fruit bats. These lovely large-eyed bats are not always looked upon with delight by family and guests, who are shocked out of their wits watch them emerge out of nowhere.

My windowsill is a playground for bats, rats, bees and ants, spiders, squirrels, birds and sometimes even the rare garden lizard. Such is the fun of a wild windowsill. Would you like to have one of your own?

Write in to Anand Pendharkar at sproutsonline@gmail.com

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