Friday, February 19, 2010

Rosy Pastor

Englishmen whiled away their spare time in pre independent India pursuing many productive activities. One of them was watching birds and trees and naming them. This was a major contribution to our knowledge of plant and birdlife around us. Amongst the others was the production of a delightful community of mixed blood called Anglo Indians. Rosy Pastor is the name given to a bird [size of a common Myna] which has a rose colored front with a black hooded head and has a peculiar habit of looking down [appears to do so]. Imagine a Pastor [priest] with his rich robes castigating you for some mischief you have done and You have the Rosy Pastor. What an apt name!

Rosy pastors [I don’t like the new name of Rosy Starling] breed and live in Eastern Europe and migrate to India during the months of September to March. 15 years ago I used to see thousands of them. On one occasion, during the fruiting season, the orange berries of the ficus tree were completely hidden from view by the avidly feeding Rosy Pastors. In the early 1930s a bird watcher observed ‘the sky went dark when a flock of rosy pastors flew by’ such was their number. This has decreased so much that I did not see any last year and thought I would not see them this year too. But I was in for a delightfully surprising experience.

I went golfing the other day to a golf course located some distance away in a semi rural set up. While I was about to putt on one of the greens, I heard the unmistakable chirp of the Rosy Pastor. Looking up I saw a row of these Pastors resplendent in their rose colored front with blackish hoods raised, chirping [praying I thought] for my putt to drop into the hole. There were at least thirty of them sitting on the silk cotton tree branches all looking in the same direction. It took some pressure from my partners to make me leave that spot. The putt of course was missed what with me imagining a row of red fronted and black hooded priests perched on the tree branch in supplication. You can’t putt with this kind of funny images disturbing you. The missed putt was worth the sight nevertheless.

Some of you must have heard of the names Brahmany and Pariah kite. The Britisher who thus named the two widely seen kites must have been well versed with the caste system and the looks of different castes of the country. The colorful white and russet brown kite was named Brahmany [Brahmin] and the rugged dark grey kite the Pariah, though both raptors live on the dead and rotting flesh!

1 comment:

JP said...

Doc,my wife & I are in constant annual anticipation & touch with the RPs which make a brief noisy stop over atop the tree which litters our terrace & clogs the storm water drain, notwithstanding which,which is dear to us & our son, as much to the orioles & green barbets. I think the cloud of RPs roost in the BDA park close by. You have written so well, we share your appreciation of these darling starlings - S R Jayaprakash