By TS Ganesh, 13 October 2009
Yes, the one-legged Grey Wagtail has returned to the Biligirirangan (BR) Hills for the third year in a row!
I first observed and photographed this bird in 2007. Much to everyone’s surprise, she returned in 2008. Meghna Krishnadas wrote earlier this year on these pages: “Will our hero survive yet another year and two more long journeys to return to Ganesh’s farm at BR Hills? We shall know the answer in a few months, and all of us, Ganesh included, are keeping our fingers crossed!”
Yes, I fervently hoped that the bird I’ve named Kunta (“lame” in Kannada) would make a hat-trick by showing up this year.
I spotted my first Grey Wagtail this year in the forest — in the first week of September — and promptly entered it into my MigrantWatch account. Since then I have been looking out for the now-famous one-legged bird in and around my home here on BR Hills. On the 10th of October when I was returning from a trip to K Gudi (a resort 23 Km south of here) with some friends, we spotted Kunta near a lake just a kilometre from my home, perched on a power-line. Only one of us, (Ms. Pooja Rao) managed to shoot a few photos of the bird, looking as chirpy as ever, and none the worse for wear after the arduous to-and-fro flights these three years!
The weather has not been favourable – it has been raining almost every day for the past month. A pair of Grey Wagtails has been visiting my backyard for about two weeks now, but still no sign of Kunta, who used to wake me up with her cheeping. Is it possible that the new pair has usurped Kunta’s territory? I hasten to add that there certainly are a greater number of Grey Wagtails in this locality compared to the number in the previous years.
One begins to ask questions like – What is the lifespan of these birds? How do they manage to navigate to the same spot every year? What are the dangers they face during these trips? How many of them head towards peninsular India, and how many return?
I have heard that the average lifespan of passerines like the Grey Wagtail is about 3 years – in which case our hero has certainly lived a full life; 3-not out, if I may say so. Knowing that more than 50 percent of these birds die young, I am amazed at this particular handicapped bird!
Is it too much to hope that Kunta makes history by returning in 2010?