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RV Matters!

 After a gap of Two years and four months, the Indian Roller has returned to the campus!
Last week, a pair was seen perched on a coconut frond in the Vegetable Garden area as seen from the bund of the Percolation Tank. They looked perfectly at home and looking at them one would never guess they were absent from the campus on a long sabbatical!
One wonders where these birds had disappeared over this long period and again what prompted them to come back (certainly not the COVID scare as someone suggested!). It was possible the severe competition for cavities on the coconut trees among Rose-ringed Parakeets, Common Mynas and the Indian Roller may have forced the Rollers out.

Hugh Whistler in his “A Popular Handbook of Birds of India - 1941” writes about this bird:

this Roller is one of the best-known of our Indian birds. It is a bird of open country, avoiding heavy jungle and preferring cultivation. There is very little variation in its habits; except in the breeding season it is found singly, but is so common that single birds will be met all over the countryside every quarter mile or so. It chooses an elevated open perch on which to sit, a dead bough of an ancient tree, the woodwork over a well, a ruined building, a telegraph post or wire, or in default of something better, a thorn bush or stone heap. On such a spot it sits motionless, the bright colours concealed or blending with the variegated tints of an Indian landscape; but all the while the large dark eyes are watching the ground in every direction; and a grasshopper has only to walk along a blade of grass, or a cricket or mouse to emerge from its burrow, and the Roller has launched itself straight at the spot to capture the toothsome morsel, settling on the ground beside it, and then fiying back to its perch. To my last day in India I shall never lose the thrill that comes to me every time that I see the sudden transformation, as the dark lumpy bird reveals the banded glory of its wings and tail.

In early February the Roller betrays the secret of its name;  its sedateness is exchanged for the love flights in which it rises and falls in the air with wildly flapping wings and harsh grating screams, advertising to all and sundry that Spring is in the air. The ordinary flight is strong and buoyant with slow but continuous flapping of the wings; occasionally it pursues insects on the wing, but this is not usual.

This bird is sacred to Shiva, who is said to have assumed its form.”

We have, since, been seeing them on all the trips to the Percolation Tank. Last evening around 6:15 pm, I could not locate the birds on the coconut trees. Casually, I ran my binoculars over an east-facing cavity and there, perfectly framed, sat the Roller, posing for my photograph. I took a shot even though the light was poor since the sun had just set and I was shooting against the light.

- Santharam
5 April 2022