25 March, 2011

Queen of Summer

Bougainvillea!! Shrubs that add a lot of colour to the summer months! A native of South America, the bougainvillea is one plant that has really taken to the Indian climate.

Strictly speaking, the 'flower' is the small, white, well...flower- like thing you see in the picture. The surrounding bigger petal-like thing is some kind of a leaf variation. During summer, when the rest of the plants demand water, the bougainvillea shuns water. Excess watering encourages the green foliage. So, during the monsoon months here, this plant is just an ordinary, thorny shrub. There are some varieties with dual coloured leaves for such times...they look ornamental even when not in bloom (unfortunately, none in my collection).

Here's another beautiful bougainvillea .... where the flowers aren't visible.

One nice thing about the bougainvillea is that it can be grown in pots and trained to nice shapes. Since the plants are very hardy, available in 40-50 different types and resistant to pests, they are popular among gardeners and landscapists. Pruned bougainvillea in well maintained gardens look very aesthetic.

Speaking for our garden, our very modest collection of 5-6 colours also serve as a hedge....so, we have allowed them to be a little reckless! Even so, they look beautiful!

I remember reading about some botanical institute in the country (in Lucknow, I think... not so sure) where different types of bougainvillea are evolved and released for landscaping/ gardening purposes. You know someone actually names them too! I remember a couple of odd names..... 'Thimma', 'Wajid Ali Shah',....
One nice name I remember is 'Shubhra'.... for the white bougainvillea :)

18 March, 2011

Cuckoo, Cuckoo

These days, I wake up...no,.. am woken up... at 5 - 5.15 in the morning...by the cuckoos. Such noisy birds! I'm sure, all the poets who praise the cuckoo's 'melodious' voice have never had to live near them! Or, maybe, they're sound sleepers!!

You know, the cries of the male and the female cuckoo are different. While the male's is the extended 'koo....ooo' (the celebrated cry!), the female's is a quick, curt, 'kukukukuk...'. And, though you can hear them, it is very difficult to catch sight of these elusive birds, especially the female. And, they are birds that seem to stick to a regular routine - a sort of a time table. Maybe, that's why, the clock makers decided to make a 'cuckoo clock' instead of a 'parrot clock, 'sparrow clock',... :)

Every year, during Feb-March, around 8.00- 8.30 a.m., I see them from our kitchen window... having a breakfast of chikoo fruits from our neighbour's tree! I like to watch them while I'm cooking our breakfast (no, I don't burn ours in the process!).

Slightly bigger than the crow, the all black male has striking red eyes. The female, of the same size, is a dull shade of spotted brown with brown and white striped feathers and the same red eyes as the male. Very neatly, they open their respective fruits, have their fill and fly away. What remains, is hogged through the day by the squirrels, smaller birds, insects,...

All my attempts to take a picture of the cuckoos have flopped since they are very sensitive to human movements. I have given up trying. But, here's a bulbul feeding on the remains...

It is the nesting season for birds...and, I simply love the sight of the birds moving around busily - carrying twigs, dry grass,... for building their nests. The cuckoos supposedly don't take time off from their singing for mundane activities like building nests. They are believed to encroach on the poor crow's shabby nest.

There's probably some truth to this belief. You know, crows chasing cuckoos is a common sight during the nesting season. Curiously, it is the male cuckoo that the crow seems to be chasing away!! So.... is this their ploy?? Maa cuckoo uses the crow's nest while Paa cuckoo diverts the crow?

Cuckoos are believed to be bad at parenting too. And, since this crows - chasing -cuckoos behaviour carries on for a few weeks, I have even wondered if the cuckoos conduct routine checks on the eggs/ chicks.
Now, that's so unlike the other definition of 'cuckoo' !!

Century on the Bronze Anniversary!

This is my100th post, and today is the eighth birthday of Alter Idem !! That's an average of a post per month......1.04 to be precise!!...