Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Visitor from the Skies

It was when I opened the gate that I noticed the strange bird on the ground. I had wanted to fill the water bowl for the stray puppies.


On closer scrutiny it was found to be an eagle. It was trying to reach the water bowl. It sought rest and a little water, but was unable to even drink from the water bowl. It seemed to have been crippled by heat stroke. Delhi's heat in May spared neither humans nor animals.


Badly hurt, it couldn’t even stand straight on its legs. But that didn’t seem to mellow its ferocity even a bit. When I came too near, it flapped its wings violently and reared up, baring big, sharp beaks.

It was in stark contrast to the zealous display of friendship with which the stray puppies  greeted. The eagle was of an entirely different character. Perhaps it had no acquaintance of humans, being a bird of prey.

We (my wife and I) felt it needed to be kept in a safe place until it heals.There were large dogs in the compound which could harm it. Also the heat was there.

But the bird didn’t seem to appreciate the idea: it reared up on its hind legs, beaks flashing, wings flapping- a picture of menace.

It looked up with its black dotted golden eyes. There was no hatred, though there seemed to be some distrust. 

Cautiously I tried to grab it from behind, but it beat its wings fiercely. It was unnerving, but then it fell back down the next moment, head lolling.

I stealthily moved up my hands from behind and grabbed it with both hands.

It was built a make-shift shelter to shelter from the merciless sun and also from the dogs. 

For three days it rested, not moving, except to drink water, to which we added turmeric. We felt turmeric being medicinal, would help to heal its inner wounds if any.

It drank the water without any protest, allowing us to feed it in teaspoonfuls. But the wariness was always there, never allowing humans to become too friendly.

Occasionally it would gaze intently into our eyes as if trying to say thanks. But it had an air of ferocity about it always. Perhaps it was asserting its independence.

We were not sure it'd become better, for it was really weak. But on the third day it hopped out a few meters outside, and then collapsed. This photo was taken at that time.

I coaxed it to allow me to take it back to the shelter.

A few more days of rest, during which it drank only water. It was risky to try feeding it solid food. Sick animals have the instinct to know when to end the fast. Also, we had once found a small bird's dead body, with the stomach split open, and inside there were a lot of food grains.

The day it left, I was preparing to leave for some work outside.

I needed to open the gate-but was startled to see the eagle perched on top of the gate, in all its majestic grandeur, gazing intently. It was then that I saw its full size, about two feet long, and with a wingspan of three feet end-to-end.

It didn't move when I approached.

Ok buddy, you stay here... I will be back. I very gently opened the gate; the eagle just sat there, not scared, not trying to fly off. It was still there while I took out the car and closed the gate.

All the while it gazed, as if expecting something, but I couldn't get it. Anyway it could fend for itself.

By the time I returned home, it had left.

It continued to visit us for a few weeks afterwards. It’d announce its presence by noisily flitting about on the Neem trees in the frontyard.

This encounter was memorable for the awe this bird inspired, and the dignity with which it carried itself.

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