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Published: November 24th 2007
This entry brought to you courtesy of the need to hide from the midday sun during the time the Palace is closed for lunch.
Wildlife. Well of course it's all different from the UK. Even in urban India, what I noticed in Bangalore were the wheeling and circling eagles. In Mysore it was the enormous fruit bats coming out in the evening to find food near our hotel, and by day the chattering, noisy bovva- boy hornbills behaving much like magpies do in England. It's back to eagles here in Thanjavur.
But at the Rainforest Retreat it was above all the frogs and their surging choruses by day and by night.
One day while we were there, at a tea plantation nearby ( I WILL talk about that soon, it was fascinating) when we were talking to its owner at about 3 o'clock, we suddenly, and I mean suddenly, heard the cicadas in the trees. The noise grew and grew, peaking at a crescendo so loud we had to raise our voices. Then as suddenly it died away. Extraordinary.
When we went to Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in Kerala ( I need to talk about that too.....) again it was frogs. We could see them this time, in the ponds near our lodgings, burping away on their lily leaves by day and by night. The only thing that shifted them one morning was the appearance of a rat snake, slithering round looking for breakfast. Down in thejungle there, were monkeys (macaques and , er name forgotten), a rare rufous-bellied eagle, pond herons, and ....leeches. They seemed to feast on those who hated them most, leaving angry red weals on the victims who, against advice, picked them off. Those of us who didn't mind them that much they pretty much ignored. I draw no moral points from this, it's just the way it was. Still, I copped for the thoroughly nasty biting ants.
We had a night in Nagarhole National Park. A boat safari brought sightings of wonderful birds- the glossy chestnut Brahminy kite with its snowy white head, various sorts of kingfisher, some as colourful as parrots, eagles ....this could easily degenerate into a list, but the Kabini River suports so many birds, many of whom make their homes on the dead trees sticking above the water. We also glimpsed wild boar, spotted deer, and an elephant, silhouetted against the sunset.
I thought I'd give the early morning jeep safari a miss (too touristy I said), but in the event, I was awake and went anyway. Am I glad! A young elephant, delicately selecting young tree leaves to eat, common mongooses dashing across a track, so many spotted deer we became quite blase, a herd of bison grazing, warthogs, and the early morning sunlight slanting through the trees of the jungle. The terrain was such that a certain Andrew Mason, 4x4 off-roader extraordinaire, might have baulked at the challenge.
And urban wildlife? The sight of cows rooting through rotting rubbish to find something to eat is quite upsetting. There are so many, sauntering apparently careless through the mayhem of day-to-day Indian traffic. Gwen says they mainly die young, having eaten one too many plastic bags, drunk too many pints of dirty water. Don't even think about the milk they produce.
Goats. If you ever wonder why so few posters and hoardings in India are intact enough to remain legible, I'll tell you. Goats have stripped them off for breakfast.
I have no idea what the sheep eat. Haven't seen one doing so yet. Hens however scratch around in the usual way. And bullocks are usually yoked to a cart, one horn red, the other blue, working hard.
Wild dogs are common. They all resemble one another, attractive tan fox-like creatures, generally affable and many quite well fed by neighbours who semi-adopt them. I decline to get too close however.
So different from our moggies, pooches, bunnies and badgers!
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