Sunday, 8 March 2015

Small wonder

There are fewer guests at Svasara today, so this morning I did not go to the park. Instead I rose with the dawn and walked through its exquisite cool towards the Kolara gate, the one-day-waning moon fat and bright above.

In tiger parks both local staff and visitors are often too focused on the tiger, to the detriment of everyone's experience of the tiger's vibrant habitat. This morning, as I walked along the road to the park, through paddies and stands of brittle bamboos, the small folk of the forest and farmland filled my ears with their talk. Grey francolins sang from the fields, their bright repetitive cheeseburger cheeseburger ringing to the road from both sides. From the scrub at the fields' edge came the sci-fi chime of tailorbirds and the rising breathy whistle of an Indian robin. Overhead an Indian roller spat out harsh calls, its string-puppet display dark against the coming light of day.

On a bamboo picket a plain prinia - tiny - twitched its big tail and and gave its snappy buzz, telling the world that in its heart it was quite as big as the tiger. Its neighbour the long-tailed shrike rattled like a wound watch from the top of a bamboo kingdom.

Further, inside the park, I could hear the deep contented sob of the langurs, letting the forest know that all was well, that no leopard was near. Or so they hoped. From by them I heard the plummeting booms of greater coucals, and the disapproving purrs of spotted doves were all around.

Wind-up white-rumped munias whirred from the rice stubble and green bee-eaters hunched on the flimsy wires, waiting for the sun - their element - to heat the day before they flew. Under them was the small snarl of a red-breasted flycatcher and overhead bounded a grey wagtail, its sharp note taking me home to a clear river in North Norfolk, far away in space and thought.

There were hoopoes and paddyfield pipits, rose-coloured starlings cast in great flocks over the fields like fishermen's nets, coppersmith barbets and red-vented bulbuls too. In the park, perhaps, my new friends and their guests were watching tigers and leopards, sloth bears and wild dogs. But I smiled in the company of the forest's small folk on a rare morning of quiet and of song.

An Erythrina in flower at Svasara

Another Svasara resident, a bronze-backed tree-snake which caused
consternation among the staff by trying to enter my room

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