It was one of those trees that one sees and still does not see, hiding in plain sight. I had walked near it many times and often glanced at it when scanning the landscape, but never actually looked at it. Perhaps its size was the reason. It was small for a banyan, barely two stories tall, standing behind a shack at the corner of a village crossroad near a cluster of tea shops. On one side were small patches for growing vegetables, followed by a bamboo grove. On the other side, a rapid descent into a rectangular plot where the earth had been dug out neatly. Underneath the banyan grew smaller trees, weeds and tall grass. Tucked away at a neglected corner of the road to nowhere in particular, the banyan never gave me reason for a second look.
I would have continued ignoring it were it not for a village boy. One day, when I was searching for birds in the village, he appeared at my side. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Looking for birds,” I replied.
“Did you check out that bot tree? It gets many birds.”
“That one?” I pointed. He nodded.
I looked at the tree carefully now, top to bottom, side to side. Nothing was moving in the thick round crown of deep green.
“But it is empty,” I said.
“You just have to visit it at the right time of the day, and look carefully.”
“What is the right time then?”
“Oh, I don’t know… mornings, but afternoons also, and some days at noon…” he said unhelpfully, “but, you can see lots of pigeons in that tree – green pigeons.”
After that conversation I was more attentive to the banyan. One afternoon, I was in the neighbourhood, looking for a coucal – a dark-red bird that looks like a cross between a chicken and a crow – that had ran into a roadside bush. Unexpectedly, I heard the loud flutter of wings and looked up to see a flock of green pigeons descending on the banyan.
I was thrilled. I had been trying to photograph these yellow-footed green pigeons (horials) for a long time. Here they were, playing in the tree, swaying and jumping from branch to branch, gobbling up the banyan fruit. Their meal lasted for a few minutes and they took off, all together, in search of the next fruity tree.
Spending more time at the banyan since that day, I discovered that its fruits attract coppersmith barbets, doves, bulbuls and many other birds in addition to the horials.
One afternoon, while waiting for the horials, I saw something move in the bushes underneath the tree. It was a brown shrike, here for the winter from colder places, hunting for insects. And while I was watching it, a cuckooshrike landed on a plant right in front of me. It hopped around looking for its own insects. Then a drongo appeared – it was probably hunting in the fields – and buzzed the cuckooshrike repeatedly, trying to drive it away. But the cuckooshrike persisted, jumping from branch to leaf to grass, and kept hunting.
And so life played out its ever mysterious moves in and around the banyan. If there is a banyan near you, this winter might be a good time for a closer look.
About Pigeon Patrol:
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
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Contact Info: 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD (www.pigeonpatrol.ca)