On a particularly hot summer day while I was having my customary evening walk in the neighborhood park, I happened to take note of a middle-aged man. My curiosity was aroused to see the man carrying water in a big polythene bag. There was an unmistakable sense of mission in his gait. Yes, he was on a mission to provide water to birds and strays.
I could not help noticing remarkable satisfaction on the face of the humble man as he poured water into an earthen pan lying on the boundary wall of the park. My eyes followed him as he crisscrossed the park from one spot to another to clean the pots and pour fresh water into the bird feeders. There were a couple of pots on the ground too, supposedly placed for the strays. What a noble gesture and an act of kindness!
Summers are harsh for everyone, and more so for birds. Our feathered friends find it harder to survive heat without shade and water. Some end up flying miles to get to a water body, but by the time they reach there, many die due to heat and dehydration. Like humans, birds, too, need fresh, clean water for quenching their thirst and for re-hydrating. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius, birds require water to cool down and also for bathing.
Thousands of birds and other species like butterflies, bees perish and are in despair, having no or minimal sources of water during summer. It doesn’t require much hassle or effort to save flying fauna, just the intent. All it takes is a little effort in placing a shallow earthen bowl of 2-3 inches depth filled with fresh water at a shady place in our balcony, terrace or garden. It is gratifying to see the birds quenching their thirst in intense heat.
Watching birds bathing in water is a delightful sight. It is sheer joy to observe birds dip into water, fluff up their feathers after a bath and flap their wings to shake droplets through their feathers. One moment a bird is perched on the edge of the pan, and the next moment you find it hop into water, wet itself, splash water around and hop out. What an enjoyable sight!
Summers are never easy for birds but this summer is really gruelling with record-breaking frequent and long heat waves over the past three months. The monsoon is still a month away. Let us pledge to keep some water for our winged friends. A little effort and thoughtfulness on our part can help birds in a big way. And in return what we get is huge sense of satisfaction and immense joy. Providing water for birds doesn’t take more than two minutes a day but gives us a chance of watching them closely, even spotting cute rare birdies.
Imagine enjoying your cup of tea on your patio with the birds drinking water and bathing in glory!
(Published in Hindustan Times, Spice of Life column on 3 June , 2022)