Archives for the month of: June, 2021

                                 PORTRAIT OF A BUDGIE

I have kept Budgies since i was a kid and still do at 80. These cage birds, originally from Australia where they are to be found in the wild, have always fascinated me for their intelligence, beauty, variety , poise, response to humans and their extraordinary behavior. Their relationships, love affairs, rearing of young by both parents and teaching them  how to enter the world of adult birds, their jealousies conflicts, flirtations, animosities, faithfulness to spouse  and even appearance strangely remind me of human traits and behavior. This post is a saga of a few protagonist birds in my aviary and their amazing story illustrated by photographs.

                                         MY AVIARY

My birds were some 30 in a fairly spacious aviary in the backyard of our house and visible at all times from within. While we were all confined because of the Covid  pandemic and lock-downs, a parallel infection of Bird Flu suddenly hit my aviary. Birds started dyeing  on a daily basis and i was quite alarmed. I had two pairs of Skyblue budgies that had mated and were now rearing their young in two earthen nest boxes on either end of the cage with five fledglings each, which both parents diligently spent all their time laboriously feeding and grooming in the nests.

                       A SKYBLUE BUDGIE

Apart from these two pairs the other two dozen were green , the colour found in nature in the wild in Australia. Over a century or more breeders have developed them as cage bird pets very responsive to humans with a wide range of colours through mutations.

Within days most of the the green were wiped out to my horror. The bird version of the Covid Pandemic had entered my cage. I wanted at least my rarer Skyblues who were with young fledglings to survive. After consulting a vet. I bought the recommended antibiotics and other medicines and as directed began mixing them in the seed and water. But it was too late and before long all the green perished and then the Skyblue got infected as well.

One pair of Skyblues had a fledgling that had begun to emerge into freedom from the nest into the aviary. and had learnt to feed and drink water on its own. She must have imbibed the antibiotics just in time and looked as if she was unaffected. But her parents were dead in two days and all her siblings in the nest as well. In the other nest the mother Skyblue and 5 fledglings also perished. Only the father survived. Apart from these two survivals a third also did, a canary yellow recessive pied beauty, a male. Thus the bird flu holocaust took all my birds except these three survivors,  two males and a fledgling female, not dissimilar to a handful of survivors on a ship wreck.

This aviary had become my Titanic. Fortunately the medicines continued to work with the three and they showed no signs of bird flu. The crisis had passed for these lucky birds.

Its then that the Avian  saga  began in my aviary. I named the three as Skyblue (the surviving Skyblue Dad), I called the pied yellow beauty male Casanova Blondie and the young female Opal, as she was an Opaline grey wing mutant. These became the protagonists of my saga.

    BRAVE OPAL THE HEROINE OF THE SAGA

 BLONDIE THE VILLAIN OF THE SAGA

      SKYBLUE & OPAL HERO AND HEROINE OF the SAGA

The three birds left alone in a large cage had to interact with each other. Budgies are very social birds and are perpetually in a state of interaction. Skyblue became fond of Opal and began chatting with her often -this is usually done by knocking beak to beak. He also sought to kiss her and in the process offer her regurgitated food which in Budgie language is the friendliest of acts. A male begins his courtship with this act. If it is accepted by the female it signals acceptance of the proposal but only for friendship. In other circumstances it is merely an act of friendship and two males or any two budgies will make this food offering to indicate friendship and attachment. Opal’s acceptance was at first only a signal that she was not offended by his overtures but would more than tolerate his proximity and friendship. While Skyblue began to secretly pursue his prime goal of making Opal agree to go as far as mating not just budgie friendship, and kept persisting with his wooing to gain that end.

Blondie left to himself became curious about what the other two survivors were up to. Opal being a just emerged fledgling, say a teenager in our terms and therefore had no conception of sex, mating and what follows. Skyblue some 30 years in our terms, aware of her innocence began the strategy of arousing the appropriate feelings in her by making her curious of the earthen nests. He would poke his head in the opening, then encourage her to do the same, as if this were a kind of game they were playing. Most birds show reluctance to enter a nest out of fear, but once having entered they like it there, reminded of their own infancy in a similar nest. Then from familiarity arises maternal feelings and both eggs and desire begin to get generated. Skyblue aware of this, being a mature male stud, finally succeeded in making her enter the nest. This went on for several days to a week. Now whenever she felt any insecurity on approaching humans etc she would promptly enter the nest and remain there till the ‘danger’ had passed. Skyblue now felt secure in his intended purpose and would possessively sit on top of the nest, nursing his secret ambition, while she was inside. Birds get very excited when they see a nest – a basic instinct gets aroused in both males and females.

                        Skyblue on nest when she is in

Blondie grew more and more curious and excited when he saw Opal enter the nest and like Skyblue was aroused by the entry. When she emerged from the nest and flew to a perch he promptly followed her and began to propose regurgitated food as an offering of love while knocking his beak against her for greater familiarity and to open her mouth and accept his offering of food with an intimate suggestive ‘budgie kiss’  Opal angrily resisted and rejected this offer, not knowing him at all, by pushing him away and flying to the perch where Skyblue was located mainly to get away from his unwanted soliciting.. Blondie  followed her in flight and persisted with his overtures. Skyblue then attacked him and made him fly elsewhere.

Soon, a couple of days later Skyblue’s attempts at mating grew more aggressive while it became plane from her repeated acceptance of beak to beak regurgitation that her system had begun to feel a certain arousal. They flew together to the nest and she boldly entered it. When she returned to the perch at his entreaties shown by strong beak pulling towards himself she finally adopted a posture of submission allowing him to climb on to her back and commence mating.

This was interrupted several times by curious and excited Blondie, but Skyblue responded by frontal attacks and chasing him from point to point in the cage to establish his physical superiority. There were no more interruptions and the mating continued to a completely successful end. These two lovers now spent most of there time mating about four times a day and immediately thereafter she would retreat to the nest and remain there not coming out even to feed, a sign that she was about to lay. Skyblue, a mature male who knew all the signs of a female’s cycle, then fed for two and entered the nest to feed her regurgitated food. About a week later she laid an egg and then became inseparable from the nest as a consequence. As the days passed the number of eggs grew to five. She diligently incubated her eggs till they began to hatch one by one.

                    Hatch-lings and eggs the first clutch of five

 Under the tender care of both parents the chicks developed fast growing by the day with a full plumage of feathers.They began peeping out of the nest and in another week emerged and found perches, took flights tentatively and learnt from demonstrations by parents how to forage for seeds and find the source of water in the cage. Blondie continued to interfere at every stage but once the chicks were all out he lost interest.

                      FIRST CLUTCH OF FIVE FULLY GROWN

Barely had the first clutch emerged from the nest and been taught to feed and drink that Opal started getting curious about an empty nest. Seeing this Skyblue  joined her with growing enthusiasm and began to seduce her again. Blondie noticing these developments joined in as well, trying to ‘beak to beak’ with her and Skyblue resenting the flirtation tried to drive him off.  Whenever she entered the nest he would fly and sit over it and try to peep in. The conflict with Skyblue had resumed in full force.  Once again the loving pair began to mate several times a day, with Blondie interrupting their act. Now she was more often confined in the nest than outside. Ceasing to feed by herself. Skyblue took up the duty of feeding her in the nest. Blondie was always nearby excited with curiosity and jealousy. This time within weeks Opal had broken all records by laying eight eggs!! With the hatching of her first egg the tension in the cage exploded into fights between Blondie and Skyblue. It must have been like love on a deserted island after a ship wreck. He tried several times to enter the nest to the protesting screeches of Opal who was now a fearsome mother as well.

Opal with first born and eggs of second clutch

Blondie’s jealous interventions now assumed alarming proportions. I noticed that Skyblue looked depressed and did not feed Opal as often as he should have. If Opal was not provided food in the nest by her spouse she would not be able to feed the new born and it would die. It required to be fed every few hours or the nest would be a disaster.

        OPAL WITH TWO CHICKS HATCHED, SECOND CLUTCH

 If Skyblue did not recover after fights with Blondie who was getting the upper hand and with daily more mouths to feed as the eight eggs hatched one after the other the result would be mother and brood all perishing. As a first step i introduced another yellow, a  beautiful female acquired from the pet shop, a rare Lutino with red eyes to distract the lonesome Blondie and help the pair with growing number of chicks to succeed in rearing their young. I named her LUTINO. Blondie immediately took to her but she as any self respecting female fully resisted his advances. He then thus rejected, renewed his intrusions into the affairs of Skyblue and Opal with greater vigour and there were daily fights between the two males. If Skyblue got fatally wounded or even disabled it would mean the death of Opals family – a great tragedy after the earlier Bird Flu tragedy.

The pics below shows vividly how the quartet were faring. we see Opal with an assertive Blondie flirting beside her while she is helpless to get rid of him. Skyblue is on the nest desperate to get rid of Blondie and Lutino now showing interest in Blondie is kind of curious to know why he is soliciting Opal if he wants her.

    The quartet rather than a triangle

       Skyblue holding vigil while Opal and brood are fearful within

 Skyblue defends the nest as Blondie wants to claim it as his own

After Skyblue fails, Opal with maternal fury confronts Blondie and drives him away.

The helpless  terror stricken chicks and remaining eggs while Opal was forced to go out and defend the nest. There was a perceived danger that Blondie in fury would enter and harm the chicks as they were not his own.

The sad result of all this was that opal was not being fed and was hard pressed to feed the growing chicks, Skyblue was fighting what appeared to be a losing battle and poor Opal with immense responsibilities and fear had virtually lost her mind and balance. In the days to come this resulted in some terrible consequences. Opal had already four demanding chicks to feed while not being fed herself and unable to go feed herself leaving the nest unprotected. There was also not much help from Skyblue and danger was ever present from Blondie’s aggressive behavior.   As if this was not enough she hatched another egg and now had to start all over again devoting all her time to this youngest fledgling.

The very next day to my horror I found that fledgling on the floor of the cage dead!  I needed expert advice.

On the net i found that such advice was available with  expert Forums on budgies . I placed the facts before one of the forums and sought help in the shape of advice as to what should i do next. Their opinion was firm. A rogue Budgie like Blondie should be separated from the Dad and Mum with responsibilities of rearing their young, else this kind of tragedy would be repeated. I sought their opinion on who could possibly have perpetrated this act. After debate they came to the conclusion that the distraught mum had done this because she was just unable to cope with the tension of feeding yet another chick and threatening the lives of the other four who were developing quite well as she just did not have the resources.  In addition the presence of Blondie and his antics had virtually blown her mind with little help from Dad who himself was facing a crisis when he should have been busy feeding Mum and kids.

I protested that this went against all norms of maternal instinct which i had been given to understand was the primary instinct in nature!! The eminent members of the Forum clarified that in nature it was NOT the maternal instinct that was supreme though it was high up on the scale of instincts. What superseded that was ‘THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST’ instinct. And mum had to concede her maternal instinct in favour of the superior choice, leading to her eviction of the last helpless chick . I was told that this was not uncommon among birds in the wild. They chose to help the fittest if resources were lacking. Further  that Raptors could even go to the extent of feeding the helpless chick to the largest surviving chick!!!  Shocked though I was I came to the new realization that Nature, God’s handmaiden was ruthless when it came to helping God preserve his creation as He had conceived it, and apart from procreation and maternal instinct what alone could do that was to ensure the ‘Survival only of the Fittest’ even if it meant some  unfortunate choices.

I then hastened to separate BLONDIE to save the breeding pair and surviving four and confined him in a smaller cage at least till the loving pair had achieved their goal of feeding and rearing the four almost grown ‘fittest’ and teaching them how to forage and find water without the need of being fed beak to beak by their parents till they learnt the art of survival. The only concession i made was to give him the company of Lutino while in confinement. Here they are shown below confined.

                             BLONDIE IN CONFINEMENT

But the tragedy did not end there. Shaken and confused, but with nature helping her to choose the supreme instinct of ‘survival of the fittest’ and not quite aware that the danger had passed with Blondies separation, considering the stress she had undergone, the two remaining eggs were dutifully hatched according to Maternal instinct, but the new born chicks were ruthlessly evicted  and in the days to follow i found them dead at the bottom of the cage. I discarded my earlier notion that Mum had done the inconceivable only because they may have been still born and dead, for the sake of not endangering the lives of the others through , say infection. No one wants the company of dead beings even ones own progeny. But this was not the case here. She had indeed followed the rule that when resources are limited the fittest alone have the right to survival. Of course i am sure that among humans with intelligence and its corollary morality, and our human maternal instinct, this natural ethics does not apply, at least most of the time i hope.

After the separation of Blondie and his now equally interfering hen and further the cruel but ‘NECESSARY’ eviction and death of the three newborn, peace returned to the cage.

    growing plumage

                      peeping at the sun no fear anymore

               First out a real beauty – cobalt opaline greywing

Skyblue resumed his role as devoted father feeding Opal and the kids both within and on emergence from the nest, outside in the cage till the remaining four learnt the art of survival, able to locate the food and water and able to fly to perches and roost

The first out had only to call and Dad dad promptly arrived to feed it

The sacond called out and Dad responded by arriving to feed it while two remained inside awaiting their turn to emerge

eventually the remaining two also emerged and the nest was empty..Outside in the cage Opal, Skyblue, their first clutch of five and second clutch of four all merrily were fine and together with continued guidance from the successful parents.

I was also advised by the Wise Forum that I should not allow the pair to breed again a third time as Opal would be too exhausted. But within a week she began to search for a nesting place with the encouragement of Skyblue now that their preoccupations with the second clutch had come to an end. I noticed Skyblue  making affectionate advances and Opal readily responding. Before long this translated to mating!! I recalled the Forums warnings and had all nests removed. The matings nevertheless continued. This time the forum advised that I isolate her for her own good till she had fully recovered her strength.  The next day i discovered an egg on the floor of the cage. I then decided to isolate Opal.  with her first born beauty the cobalt Opaline for company,to prevent further mating and laying of eggs, for her own sake.

The happy couple wanting to mate again but abortive on account of the curiosity and intervention  of a son from the first clutch!!. Looks as if opal is singing a love balled.

Opal was isolated with her opaline daughter for company and Blondie and Lutino restored to the Aviary.

         Opal in isolation

Blondie and Lutino wasting no time on return to the aviary to find a suitable nest.

OPAL WOULD BE RETURNED TO THE AVIARY AFTER RECOVERING HER STRENGTH AND ONCE HER BREEDING CYCLE WAS BROKEN.

One other thought occurs to me since the blog essentially springs from spirituality and is called Search for the Soul. While we have moral responsibility for what we do as humans with intelligence and conscience, it is not as if animals are without responsibility or that their acts go unnoticed by the Universe. indeed in my view they too have responsibility and are judged for what instinct they find preferable. No punishment for choosing Survival of the Fittest as that is natural ethics but when they defy that  to favour maternal instinct which need not lead to survival of the fittest, then they have graduated from animal status and are probably allowed rebirth as a human. for their advanced sense of morality and ethics.  However in this Saga our heroine OPAL does not fall into that category since her instincts did not go beyond natural ethics. No problem, she displayed enough maternal instinct to qualify as a great Budgie.

            END  OF SAGA IN MY BACKYARD

The Ball cactus that transformed into a Hindu tremple

Of all plants the cactus fascinates me the most because it is quiet pensive like a Muni undemanding as required by the Gita, able to face challenges like drought and heat without complaint, able to defend itself from predators with its Armour of spikes and finally because it is capable of surprising you with sudden spectacular blooms that leave you breathless.
This time it was not gorgeous flowers. Some time back I had bought a Ball cactus, thus called because it is round and in the shape of a ball. During the monsoons it suddenly produced six bumps on its side which grew into smaller balls attached to the ‘mother’. then the dome of the cactus began to grow till the shape of the ball began to change and become more oval. This continued till the dome grew higher and more pronounced and the six ‘buds’ also increased in size. One fine morning it was time to water the cactus. I just stood back aghast and realized that the ball cactus had transformed into the shape of a Hindu temple!!! This was the ultimate gift and surprise from my cactus friends.

The Great Lord Perpetually Deep in Meditation to Perfect His Creation Shiva Adideva The original Being Almighty God.

Sometimes strange thoughts assail you and force you to think deeper. Some whats and some whys. We begin to observe with insight. Quite ordinary phenomena suddenly require examination. One is the phenomenon of love and procreation. the other related to it – the Maternal Instinct.

Looks like the Creator introduced the two phenomena with deep purpose and implanted them into His amazing creation. He is after all the master strategist and is always preoccupied in sustaining and developing His creation, much like a great artist would his canvass or an inventor his invention. The need to perfect a work of genius whether a work of art or science and technology.

Beings are basically hedonistic and self centered keen to survive and do whatever it takes to do that. Also for that to gain the upper hand and dominance over all others. Such a world would have  an in built tendency to pit each one against the other and eventually to have within it the seeds of its own destruction. In such a set up rather than procreate, entities would destroy and consume one another. Thus the Immaculate Genius who conceived and then created the world sought to introduce the great concept of LOVE and PROCREATION to sustain and perpetuate  what in his deep contemplation He had conceived, a splendid diversity of form and shape in a LIVING world of diverse beings and life. It would not have done any justice to it if it self destructed soon after creation – like a momentary dream that impressed but vanished before you could even hold on to it in wonder at what you had conceived in a moment of creativity and brilliance. 

To make creation remain eternally, He introduced the concept of PROCREATION. Beings would procreate themselves time and again in their own image enabling His creation to continue and be sustained as in the beginning. Procreation began with the concept of division which He conceived for starters – that is a being produced another like itself by splitting in two before the first could deteriorate and perish. Cellular division as in the Amoeba. But this  while sustaining His creations longevity did not take care of the hedonistic weakness at its heart – the need for dominance and its sequel, mutual destruction in perpetual conflict  which would then end creation and it would again become only a beautiful but momentary dream. The procreative act needed to have an element of cooperation and selflessness. Therefore He moved forward from self procreation to one requiring two opposites, similar yet different, a Male factor and a Female factor. Now they could only procreate by joining as one to produce a third. But in the inherent hedonism of creation such cooperation was inconceivable and again the issue of sustaining creation eternally  received a setback. Why should two self willed beings  bent on domination engage in such cooperation at all  – tedious, time consuming and endangering their supremacy. It would be easier to just split in two and create ones likeness to survive and dominate as it did? Creation once again in danger of being a momentary thought quite unsustainable. The Master Creator then having already produced two opposites with his incomparable genius, proceeded to implant  intense attraction  in one opposite for another and gave it the name of LOVE. Love which would finally limit hedonism and bring two beings together to procreate to produce a third. Love which created a hankering in the one for the other because of His creative genius in making them alike and yet different, the difference being the source of attraction as together they would once again be complete as originally – ONE. He also in his deep strategic wisdom added the insurance of  unique PLEASURE in Love not merely attraction. Now with greatly diminished hedonism under the rule of Love and pleasure heightened by differences which did not exist originally, the brilliant evolution of concepts from oneness as in Amoeba  to sexuality as in Male and Female differences finally ensured that His creation would neither self destruct nor be without procreation in creation.

Yet something was missing to make His creation eternal and sustainable. To sustain it, it was necessary to ensure that the procreated being which would supplant the ones before, when they deteriorated, enabling His creation to continue just as when conceived, remained viable. So the Great  Master conceived of Maternal Instinct not merely love for opposites and implanted it in the Female of all species He had created. this fountain of another aspect of love (His original Genius) put the stamp of eternal on His creation. The maternal instinct would ensure above all else that the procreated entity would be ensured survival and thus His creation would survive as a perpetual dream rather than a momentary inspiration.

The innate Hedonism of his creation, quite necessary also for sustaining it, because if entities did not have the supreme instinct of survival all else would be irrelevant, now had been suitably tempered by both Love for procreation and Maternal instinct for survival, together they would create a world as He conceived in his primal dream and like an inventor He had brought to perfection with amendments to perpetuate for all times. applause from all of us His beloved creatures.

 

 

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