Curiosity Kills Cats, Not Squirrels

It was morning, not very early though. I was still in bed, neither fully asleep nor fully awake. I could sense my sister was up and was at my bedside jabbering something rather frantically. My half-asleep state didn’t register a word but gathered that something needed my immediate attention. While it appeared urgent, it didn’t seem serious. I turned over and decided to sleep for a little while longer.

A good 30-45 min later as I got out of bed, there were tiny oval grayish pellets strewn all over the floor of the house. It took me no time to recognize these were squirrel droppings. So, this is what my sister was trying to tell me. All the doors and windows remain closed at night. How did they manage to get an entry? And, when did all of this happen? I don’t remember hearing any noise at all. My sister declared that she did hear some mild rattling as dawn was breaking in, but she was too sleepy to bother.

It did not take me long to piece together what could have happened. The chimney in kitchen hadn’t been cleaned for a while. I usually call in for a service expert twice a year. At other times, I do the cleaning myself. So, I had removed the flap that absorbs the fumes, scrubbed, washed, and left it outside to dry. The flap also forms a barrier between the exhaust pipe and the hob.

Tuntuni, the garden squirrel who lives in the tree just outside the kitchen would have once again entered the chimney pipe. Over-inquisitive as she always is, she would have accidentally fallen onto the kitchen counter. I am not sure if she was alone or was goofing around with her siblings. The confusedness that would have followed is only left to my imagination! She would have felt trapped having no idea how to get out. She would have agitatedly gone around the house trying to figure a way out. Droppings all over the floor and the dining table are tell-tale signs of all the commotion that would have happened.

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I cleaned the droppings – dry pellets, nothing messy. Heaving a sigh of relief and not realizing that the mess was yet to begin, I opened the kitchen sink tap. Water gushed right into the kitchen floor and there I was suddenly marooned in a sizeable pool of water. While trying to escape and looking for an outlet, Tuntuni had damaged the sink drainage pipe. That was not the end. Bewildered, she had even managed to extract some kitchen waste from the garbage bin, which is usually kept below the sink. All that foul-smelling unwanted waste material was now floating on the pool of water.

Certainly not the best way to start a day for the cleanliness freak that I am! That aside, the plumber had to be called and dealing with plumbers is something I loathe to the core. With zero knowledge on the subject, I always feel cheated and exploited. It has never been a pleasant experience.

All of this just for some unadulterated and pure squirrel happiness. Phew!

I still have no clue how she might have escaped. The same chimney route is all that I can think of, which would have again been an accidental discovery. And what relief that would have been! It’s all the fault of the Myna, who had built a nest in the chimney. The squirrel until then had no clue about this hideout. In all her innocence, Tuntuni is just a hyperactive and playful little curious squirrel.

[Click here for a previous post on the squirrel.]

 

 

 

Moments of Small Little things

There’s immense satisfaction and happiness in small little things of life, and that’s no secret! The small little things that I could have always done but never did.

Evening Cuppa at the Balcony

It’s nearly evening, or should I say late afternoon. At this time the mellowed sun appears perfectly rounded and has moved to the far west. On the way, it has splattered subtle shades of yellows, oranges, and crimsons all over the western sky. Seated in my living room, I can see the familiar warm comfortable glow fill up my kitchen cabinets as some of the light trickles in through the window.

I put my laptop to sleep and walk up to the kitchen. Soon, I have two cups of hot tea. I call out to my sister, who’s working in the guest room. She just happened to be with me during the lockdown. We leave our laptops and phones behind and for the next one hour settle down in the balcony with tea and biscuits.

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My sister’s pencil sketch of us in the balcony.

The softening yellow ball of fire can be seen from one side. And, it’s time for the birds to go home. There’s the bunch of eagles soaring high up in the sky, the flock of tiny birds that glide a few feet below as if competing with the eagles, the squawking parrots that fly in small gangs one after the other, the unseen cuckoo that sings into the evening whose nest must be somewhere nearby, the cute little tiny sunbirds that perch here and there, the odd bulbul and the kingfisher that comes by sometimes, those few noisy mynas, a couple of ravens, and the irritating pigeons.

Amid admiring the birds and enjoying the changing hues of sunset, we talk about a hundred things – family, friends, books, movies, social media, our anxieties and worries, our travels, our jobs, Covid 19, lockdown, and anything and everything under the sun.

Now, we eagerly look forward to the evenings every single day. My home happens to be in a quiet corner of the apartment. The balcony was always there, so were the birds, so was the sunset but never did we spend time in the balcony. We were too busy, you see!

Mornings of Squirrel Cuteness

It’s about 9.00 AM. Breakfast time. Not just for us but for the squirrel family too.

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Peanuts – my favourite breakfast

A squirrel family has been visiting my home for the past 2-3 years. There are 3-4 of them and all of them look alike except for some minor differences mostly in their sizes. For the sake of convenience, all of them have been christened with the same name – TUNTUNI. They live in the tree that spreads across one side of my house through the balcony, the kitchen, and the guest bedroom.

It’s the common Indian Palm Squirrel, grey-brown in colour with a bushy tail, and characterized by three conspicuous white stripes that run from head to tail. Hyperactive and superfast, they had thwarted all my attempts of clicking them. I had since given up and just enjoyed their company. Not just me, they would entertain my guests too.

My sister had never paid attention to them before. Now she can be found chasing the squirrels and filming every act of squirrel cuteness. The renewed focus resulted in new-found adulation. I got a bag of peanuts for them even in the lockdown. Every morning we feed them in return for some unparalleled adorable and magical squirrel moments.

The Myna Nest

Talking about the squirrels, it’ll be gross injustice if I leave out the Myna couple. For the past few weeks, in fact even before the lockdown had started, we had spotted a Myna couple in and around my home.

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The Myna’s untidy nest. Don’t miss the two roses at the top!

It’s the common house Myna, which is sometimes identified as a pest in certain parts of the world. Little did we know that the couple had built a nest in my kitchen chimney exhaust pipe.

We had been noticing some noise in the pipe for a while now but did not pay much heed as this happens sometimes. We always thought the tiny sunbirds made their way into the chimney pipe. Recently, the activities in the chimney was nothing less than a ruckus. The Myna couple were seen busy with various activities through the day. Once they even angrily chased the squirrel and we could never figure out what what had happened. Two days back the babies flew off and the Myna couple have since disappeared – probably enjoying the graduation of their kids.

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My sister sketches Tuntuni, the squirrel and the Myna

And, I can’t help but wonder that these are certain things that I could have always done but I never did. It had to take a Covid-19 lockdown or else I would have missed it all.

Deepor Beel – A Morning Done Right

“We’ll leave at dawn”, announced my brother-in-law (BIL) in his usual style as we were getting done with dinner. BIL and I are partners in crime when it comes to exploring nature and have our tiny little adventures each time we meet in my hometown, Shillong. This time we were at Guwahati, about 100 Km. away from Shillong as I had accompanied them – BIL and cousin sister – for some work they had in the city.

Whenever in Guwahati, BIL never misses an opportunity to visit Deepor Beel, which is quite understandable given his hobby of bird watching and bird photographing. It was my demand that he takes me along sometime, which he was acceding this time.

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Pic 1: Fisherman are already way into their day’s chores even as morning just breaks in

I was up before dawn. The anticipation and excitement of going for an early morning drive was incentive enough to get me out of the laziness of a cozy bed on a chilly December morning. It was Christmas Eve and the dip in temperature was as expected.

Soon we set off towards our destination, which was a good 45 minutes away. We drove along the well tarred road with easily navigable twists and turns, chit-chatting in the warm coziness of the car accompanied by a light music in the background. The darkness of the night was gradually fading away with the sun peeping in the horizon spreading its soft and warm glow.

A perfect start to the morning it was!

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Pic 2: The sun peeps through giving way to morning light

Located in the south western part of Guwahati city, Deepor Beel is a freshwater lake that is surrounded by highlands on the northern and southern side. The word beel means lake in the local Assamese language while dipa means elephant in one of the indigenous dialects. So, Deepor Beel literally translates as Lake of Elephants.

With a total area of 40 sq.km, it is considered to be the largest lake in Brahmaputra Valley and is fed by Kalmani and Basistha Rivers. A part of the lake has been declared as a wildlife Sanctuary and that is where we were headed that morning.

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Pic 3: A tiny island of a place somewhere in the vast lake

As we drove along, I noticed the lake making its appearance on the right side of the road illuminated by the soft rays of the morning sun. We parked the car and stepped out when I noticed a railway track right in front of us just on the other side of the road. So focused I was on the lake that I hadn’t noticed the railway line until now.

I wondered just how nice it would be to see a train pass by and instantaneously, as if by magic, along came a train chugging away. Taken by sheer delight, BIL and I cheerfully waved at the passengers and made our way towards the lake.

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Pic 4: The train that delighted us

The beel is a natural habitat to many varieties of birds and aquatic vegetation like water hyacinth, aquatic grasses, water lilies and other submerged and floating vegetation. On the entrance was a signboard that mentioned about the lake providing direct and indirect livelihood to fourteen indigenous villages comprising of about 1,200 families that are located in its precincts. Woah! Quite a number I thought!

Another signboard mentioned about this being an elephant corridor making me wish to see a herd pass by right then, which sadly didn’t happen.

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Pic 5: Aquatic vegetation submerged and floating

At the lake, I stared at the vast expanse of water trying to figure out if I could see land at the horizon; I watched the fishermen diligently cast their nets every now and then, wondering what kind of fishes they were catching; I followed BIL trying to make sense of the various birds he was photographing while he tried explaining some of the species to me; and most of all I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the early morning hour with nobody other than the two of us.

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Pic 6: The train line continues as a bridge on one side of the lake

With our Christmas Eve started right, we soon headed back home where my sister greeted us with warm tea and hot breakfast.

Leaving you with pictures of Kites, Swallows, and Herons that BIL clicked that day.