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A couple of days ago, I was going down the stairs when I happened to glance over at the window. It's a big window, but with a concrete screen, something like this, which lets air in but keeps the sun out. Generally I don't pay attention to it, but that day there was some fluttering and scuffling, so I peered through the screen and saw this:

Since then I've been peering over every day, and every day the parent pigeon gives me the same suspicious stare, and the squabs immediately stop scuffling and crouch down. I'm not used to such wary pigeons; generally they act like they own the place and you're there on sufferance.

One of my early memories is of a temporary flat we were in for a couple of years; it was very small and all our almaris and shelves were jammed into the balcony, because there was no room. I used to play in the balcony a lot (it was up on the seventh floor and we could go play in the hallways and stairwells only in the evenings, when all the kids came out). So, during the day, I'd be in the balcony and the shelves were FULL of roosting pigeons. More than once I've come back in covered with egg yolk, because they'd flight and mate and nest on the shelves and clumsily knock each others' eggs onto the floor.

Another experience with pigeon nests was one summer when I was a teenager. We had gone on holiday for a few weeks, and the bathroom window had accidentally been left open. When we came back, it was to a calm pigeon usurpation of the bathroom—there were nests in the sink and on the toilet tank (we had one of those old-fashioned toilets where the tank is installed eight feet up and you pull a dangling chain to flush it. The mess of twigs and droppings in the sink was unceremoniously ejected, but the other one had eggs in it, and a defiant parent who refused to move despite her obvious alarm. So, we decided to let them be, little realizing what we were subjecting ourselves to.

   The first problem was the flush—we couldn't. The chain pulled a heavy iron handle that swung down—and would have brained the bird sitting under it. Fortunately, there were always buckets of water stored in the bathroom, because running water would only come for a couple of hours every morning and evening. We got used to judging how much water needed to be poured after every use to clear the pot. The pigeon on duty on the nest would eye us beadily throughout, while the other one would pace up and down outside the window, impatiently waiting for its turn. I used to lock myself in the loo and read for hours on end in the cool damp silence. That habit was broken that summer.

   Eventually, the egg hatched. We were all pleased. Now that both parents had been released from hatching duty, sometimes there were no beady-eyed glares when one wanted to go to the loo or bathe. The squab was a small peeping yellow thing in the nest that shifted restlessly whenever the door was opened. We all got used to doing a quick check for twigs and feathers on the floor and tidying up. 

   But if the parents WERE home, then all hell would break loose the minute the door was opened. I don't understand why, after a solid month of being left unmolested, they decided all humans were out to get them, but the moment the door moved, they'd both start flying around the room in alarm, flapping wildly, while the squab shrilled away. Eventually they'd blunder into the window and fly off to a safe distance, and the squab would settle down, and one could go ahead in peace. We had to drill all guests in pigeon-visiting etiquette because several of them, opening the door unsuspectingly, were convinced that they were going to be attacked by a mob of vicious pigeons. One Bihari friend of my parents joked that they might be rather tasty, but my strictly vegetarian mother was not amused. The worst part  was at night. If you got up and blearily went to the bathroom, you'd be shocked awake by the alarmed pigeons; the thunder of their wings was horribly loud in the silent house, and since it was dark outside, they could never find the window and would perch resentfully on the shower pipe or exhaust fan. The squab would put its ugly grey head up and you'd have to quickly finish your business under the glare of three pairs of menacing pigeon eyes.

    Finally, one day we came home to see the squab hopping around the bathroom. Then it spent a week trying short flights from tank to shower. More than once I found it in the dustbin and had to hold the bin up to the tank, arms aching, while it debated whether to hop over. At least once, I lost patience and unceremoniously dumped it into the nest. The parents would sit on the windowsill and pass uncomplimentary remarks. The day it went and perched on the windowsill with them, my father called a carpenter to come and measure the window. After it finally flew away, we installed mesh net shutters in all the windows. I have never wanted to keep birds after that.     

I've been reading about the decline in house sparrows though, and have been thinking of putting up a nestbox, apart from the water and food I anyway put out. It will be firmly outside though! Here is a bonus photo of the garden, looking much better after the transplants have taken hold:

 The wicker baskets have eggplant and onions (and a lot of grass I haven't weeded), while the big pots at the back all have various squashes and cucurbits. The leftmost and rightmost plants in the back row are lemon and pomegranate. In the foreground are all the ornamentals, and some hopeful basil sprouts. I'm hoping to come back to a jungle of vines and hopefully some incipient vegetables. 


questioncurl: hollow sculpture of words (Default)

June 2017


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