My Phnom Penh mornings are chirp-filled, tweet-filled and music-filled. The musical treat starts at the crack of dawn! The everyday musicale takes place outside my bedroom window, on the Longan tree and the Golden Showers tree. Each one of the choristers tries to excel and outshine the other, yet in perfect harmony! Another interesting fact is that all the choir members are generally very punctual. They entertain me with solo performances, duets and chorus singing!
The early birds are the Pied Fantails (Rhipidura javanica). They are up by 5:30-6 am. Their song starts off like a soft musical conversation that turns into a mellifluous high pitched one. The longan tree is their favourite haunt. These madcap little souls can never sit still. They flit from branch to branch, cock their heads, turn from one side to another, display their beautiful fan-like long tails time and again! I’m not surprised they are nicknamed, the Crazy Thrush.
Pied Fantails- my heart warmers!
I could never click a picture of the hyperactive fantails with their tails spread out. Today’s been my lucky day when one of them posed for me, for a split of a second. To me this was as good a sight as a peacock displaying his plumage and dancing! There’s something called telepathy between Man and birds, no doubt!
My hyperactive little friend
The tailor bird, the common tailorbird(Orthotomus sutorius) comes by seven am to the Golden shower tree;she does her usual round of loud ringing ‘chit-chit’ flitting from bough to bough. And she’s always in such a hurry as she has to go round and circle the house, visit every tree chirruping all the time. It is indeed a tough task for her tiny wings, nevertheless she religiously does that. After the golden shower it’s the bamboo tree, then the rose apple tree in that order. Have I told you about her cousin, the little acrobat, who used to sit and knock at a window of mine every morning for two long months? Later, I shall.
The tiny tailor bird
The tailorbird on the bamboo
After she leaves, comes the Scarlet-backed flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) with his shrill rattle-like,chime-like call. Unlike the tiny tailor bird, he is never in a hurry. Being so conscious about his looks ( he’s a real dandy, eh), he cleans his onyx-coral plumes, combs them, makes them shine, spends sometime sun bathing and then flies to the next tree. He never forgets to pay a visit to our pomegranate shrub.
The scarlet-backed flower pecker
Emily Dickinson has beautifully sketched a bird that came down the walk and the lines perfectly suit my little friend, (though he seems to be unafraid most of the time).
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad —
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. —
The sparrows and Bulbuls, not to mention, are omnipresent; this is their home. Our house is home for numberless house sparrows (Passer domesticus). The mango tree and the rose apple tree are homes for the Yellow-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier). When we first came to this house in 2012, there were only two bulbuls and it was the first time I was seeing the yellow-vented bulbuls. The sparrows are the noisiest of the bunch, yet lovable pranksters. They are tireless talkers, as well. In my ‘Saga of A Curry Leaf Plant’, I have bragged about their mischiefs in detail. They are my constant companions. May their tribe increase!
House sparrows, the impish ones
Don’t you think that the bulbuls have that regal air about them?
The bulbuls are a graceful lot. They always have that grave, aristocratic air about them. Their singing is very pleasing and have that bubbly flowing quality. At times they make those shrill alarming calls too. It was such a joy to see the bulbuls’ tribe increasing! Their’s is a big family now…
The robins, the Oriental magpie-robins (Copsychus saularis) bless my days with richly cadenced raptures! Heavenly music, indeed! They are experts at whistling too! I have heard that they are good at mimicking. Soon after heavy rains, when the air is still dark and gloomy, his melodious music flows from nowhere, lifting your wet spirits! I have dedicated a page for these divine singers in my ‘The Robin is the one…’
Is this one Ms Dickinson’s own robin who sings among the ‘astonished boughs’?
The Plaintive cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus) makes its yearly visit by mid November… Her plaintive notes fill our Bassac garden and it can make your moods a bit melancholic, nostalgic and sombre. Ah! this soprano is one of its kind! It’s not easy to get a closer look of her; she hardly comes and perches on the trees around. Looking upwards at the blue skies, sitting on my neighbours’ television antennae, she sings. She has that melancholic look about her. Red eyed, ( is there some untold grief that troubles her and makes her shed a lot of tears?) alone and aloof she is. She can sense my movement behind the curtain and off she flies
The Plaintive cuckoo, determined to throw some plaintive notes
Look at her mournful eye!
It was a surprise yesterday! She came and perched on the Pomelo tree at my backyard, busily eating her breakfast! Today morning I was even more surprised to see a juvenile sitting on the same tree. I’m glad that her woes did not stop the plaintive cuckoo from starting a family.
He did not know I saw
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow,raw- Emily Dickinson
The baby plaintive cuckoo
Recently two zebra doves have come and among the thick green foliage of the mango tree, they too found room for a nest. Their soft ‘vrrr vrrr’ staccato cooing also fills my days now. The two new additions to their family have started socialising. They come and sit on the Golden shower tree, next to the pied fantails and sparrows.
‘ My sister, now our morning meal is done,/Come forth and feel the sun’-Wordsworth
Their mother is a blue-eyed beauty!
These little winged souls make my days brighter and cheerful. The amazing fact that I have noticed is that on some days all the birds would be present on the same tree at the same time, yet they never crossed each other’s branch! There’s something called Avian etiquette, don’t you think so?