Posted tagged ‘natural history’

THE SPOTTED OWLET (Athene brama) – Natural history in verse!

2 January 2011

by

Ashwin and Aditi Baindur

 

Spotted Owlet (Artist: Aditi Baindur)

 

When I go for an evening walk
along the tree-lined CME street,
there is bound to be an interesting creature
or two that I am sure to meet.

Sometime its a palm civet
or nightjar with chuff chuff call
mostly its just a little owlet,
grey-spotted but half foot tall.

Not just in Pune is he found
In South Asia wherever he can be
From sunny Mekran to rainy Indo-China
and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

From sunny Mekran to rainy Indo-China, and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari

People in our North call him chughad,
Khussatia or even oodloo.
In Bengal he is called Kuture pencha
And in Sindh he is known as Chibiru.

Some foolish people think him a bad omen;
he is named after wise Athene.
Bobs his head to Brahma for his name,
in mythology he carries Laxmi.

The Owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit), seen at Laxmi's feet, is the traditional vehicle of Goddess Laxmi. (Click image to reach source. Reproduced under fair use).

An owlet pair are always found
on the signpost of 253B,
from where they are perched in shadow
but the lighted path they can see.

On this road they aren’t quite alone,
I find them on ‘most any tree,
every fifty yards or outside each garage.
We indeed have an owly colony!

The little ones of the field and garden
are welcome guests to their feast –
mice, centipedes, insects, beetles
even snakes and scorpions they eat.

Spotted Owlet and prey! (Owl Image:J.M. Garg, on Wikimedia Commons)

Their house is in in a little shelf
between the rafters and my bungalow roof.
From outside there is very little sign,
some pellets on the floor my only proof

that a quaint little family dwells in my bungalow
quietly along with me
and helps look after my interests
by eating small rodentry.

November to April is their special time,
to start a little family
beginning with four white spherical eggs
the fledgelings away in weeks three.

Fledgeling Spotted Owlets with squirrel (© Jagdeep Rajput / ardea.com)

A noisier pair I’m yet to find
so bold and confident are they,
chirruk chirruk they screech at dawn
and chirwak chirwak ending day.

I like the owlets very very much
though they watch me very closely!
Now he bobs his head, she turns hers around.
I’m sure they also like me!

NOTICE  –

  • Text of poem under Creative Commons 3.0 Unported.
  • Image credits – see individual images.
  • This poem appeared on CME Weekly on 25 Dec 2010. Copyright rests with author.
  • Information: Spotted Owlet. (2010, December 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:19, January 2, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spotted_Owlet&oldid=403714746.

Image: J.M. Garg (from Wikimedia Commons)

Ye old looke at naturalists!

22 August 2009

One comes across gems hidden amongst the deadly prose of scholarly tomes ; though no one could say that of  W.J. Holland‘s  popular “The butterfly book” published in 1902 meant for encouraging young American turn-of-the-century aurelians. This was discovered in one of his digressions as he liked to call them.

A naturalist on the prowl!

A naturalist on the prowl!

UNCLE JOTHAM’S BOARDER

“I ve kep’ summer boarders for years, and allowed
I knowed all the sorts that there be;
But there come an old feller this season along,
That turned out a beater for me.
Whatever that feller was arter, I vow
I hain’t got the slightest idee.

“He had an old bait-net of thin, rotten stuff
That a minner could bite his way through;
But he never went fishin’ at least, in the way
That fishermen gen’ally do;
But he carried that bait-net wherever he went;
The handle was j’inted in two.

“And the bottles and boxes that chap fetched along!
Why, a doctor would never want more;
If they held pills and physic, he ‘d got full enough
To fit out a medicine-store.
And he ‘d got heaps of pins, dreffle lengthy and slim.
Allers droppin’ about on the floor.

“Well, true as I live, that old feller just spent
His hull days in loafin’ about
And pickin’ up hoppers and roaches and flies
Not to use for his bait to ketch trout,
But to kill and stick pins in and squint at and all.
He was crazy ‘s a coot, th’ ain’t no doubt.

“He ‘d see a poor miller a-flyin’ along,
The commonest, every-day kind,
And he ‘d waddle on arter it, fat as he was,
And foller up softly behind,
Till he ‘d flop that-air bait-net right over its head,
And I ‘d laugh till nigh out of my mind.

“Why, he ‘d lay on the ground for an hour at a stretch
And scratch in the dirt like a hen;
He ‘d scrape all the bark off the bushes and trees,
And turn the stones over; and then
He ‘d peek under logs, or he ‘d pry into holes.
I ‘m glad there ain’t no more sech men.

“My wife see a box in his bedroom, one day,
Jest swarmin’ with live caterpillars;
He fed ’em on leaves off of all kinds of trees
The ellums and birches and willers;
And he ‘d got piles of boxes, chock-full to the top
With crickets and bees and moth-millers.

“I asked him, one time, what his business might be.
Of course, I fust made some apology.
He tried to explain, but such awful big words!
Sorto’ forren, outlandish, and collegey.
‘S near ‘s I can tell, ‘stead of enterin’ a trade,
He was tryin’ to jest enter mology.

“And Hannah, my wife, says she ‘s heerd o’ sech things;
She guesses his brain warn’t so meller.
There ‘s a thing they call Nat’ral Histerry, she says,
And, whatever the folks there may tell her,
Till it ‘s settled she ‘s wrong she ’11 jest hold that-air man
Was a Nat’ral Histerrical feller.”

Annie Trumbull Slosson

Note

Annie Trumbull Slosson (1832-1926) was an important short story writer who epitomized the American local color movement that flourished after the Civil War and ended at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is widely acclaimed for her book  ” Fishin’ Jimmy “,  about which noted angling story teller, Henry Van Dyke said:

“The loveliest of all her simple narratives is that which I have chosen to stand near the end of (my)  book,–a kind of benediction on anglers.”

The butterfly catcher!

The butterfly catcher! Collage by Ann Gorman

Image credit: