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By Douglas Dewar
Birds – India
A Bird Calendar for Northern India
LONDON: W. THACKER & CO., CREED LANE, E.C.
WM. BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND.
I am indebted to the editor of The Pioneer for permission to republish the sketches that form this calendar, and to Mr. A. J. Currie for placing at my disposal his unpublished notes on the birds of the Punjab.
Full descriptions of all the Indian birds of which the doings are chronicled in this calendar are to be found in the four volumes of the Fauna of British India devoted to birds; popular descriptions of the majority are given in my Indian Birds.
Up–let us to the fields away,
Take nine—and—twenty sunny, bracing English May days, steal from March as many still, starry nights, to these add two rainy mornings and evenings, and the product will resemble a typical Indian January. This is the coolest month in the year, a month when the climate is invigorating and the sunshine temperate. But even in January the sun’s rays have sufficient power to cause the thermometer to register 70 degrees in the shade at noon, save on an occasional cloudy day.
Sunset is marked by a sudden fall of temperature. The village smoke then hangs a few feet above the earth like a blue—grey diaphanous cloud.
The cold increases throughout the hours of darkness. In the Punjab hoar—frosts form daily; and in the milder United Provinces the temperature often falls sufficiently to allow of the formation of thin sheets of ice. Towards dawn mists collect which are not dispersed until the sun has shone upon them for several hours. The vultures await the dissipation of these vapours before they ascend to the upper air, there to soar on outstretched wings and scan the earth for food.
On New Year’s Day the wheat, the barley, the gram, and the other Spring crops are well above the ground, and, ere January has given place to February, the emerald shoots of the corn attain a height of fully sixteen inches. On these the geese levy toll.
Light showers usually fall in January. These are very welcome to the agriculturalist because they impart vigour to the young crops. In the seasons when the earth is not blessed with the refreshing winter rain men and oxen are kept busy irrigating the fields. The cutting and the pressing of the sugar—cane employ thousands of husbandmen and their cattle. In almost every village little sugar—cane presses are being worked by oxen from sunrise to sunset. At night—time the country—side is illumined by the flames of the megas burned by the rustic sugar—boilers.
January is the month in which the avian population attains its maximum. Geese, ducks, teal, pelicans, cormorants, snake—birds and ospreys abound in the rivers and jhils; the marshes and swamps are the resort of millions of snipe and other waders; the fields and groves swarm with flycatchers, chats, starlings, warblers, finches, birds of prey and the other migrants which in winter visit the plains from the Himalayas and the country beyond.
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