The mornings are beautiful in New Delhi these days as winter is knocking ever so gently. Its cool feathery caress is felt in the mornings and evenings. During the day, winter gives way to the demands of a receding summer. In the green patch around our house, mornings are enhanced by the dance of peacocks.
When we shifted in a few months ago, a peahen had given birth to five chicks. Watching her and the chicks navigate the world around had become a daily ritual. Our engagement with the family was complete and total. However, as the months elapsed, the vagaries of nature and the food chain claimed the chicks one by one. We watched sadly as the mother walked around first with four, three, two and finally only one chick. Then one fine morning there were none. The desolate mother sat on a tree, and from her perch seemed to wail for a day or two.
As if in answer to her calls, a peahen with one small chick suddenly descended in the garden. Our bereaved mother came down from her perch and roamed around with the other two for a few days. Then she got around to life as usual, and the other one left.
I tried to find out on the internet the memory span of a peacock, but could not discover any information on that. Observing our resident mother’s behaviour it does not seem to be very long, or they have a really robust mechanism for coping with loss!
As autumn is giving way to winter, we find a number of peacocks descending around our house. A large number of males and females amble around. One morning we counted seven. On a regular day there are at least two males and three females pecking around the house.
They seem to be roaming more as couples these days, and we wonder if mating season is starting. According to the internet, the mating season of peacocks peaks around the rains, but is generally spread out!
Amongst the males we try hard to identify Runi and Blue – the two in attendance when we had shifted in. It is an uphill battle because they all are at the same level of maturity, in terms of feather growth! Our daily observation makes us conclude that Runi is not around these days – because the males around are extremely shy. Runi was the bold one – not scared to eat out of our hands! Maybe he is courting a female in some other place and will be back soon!
The new visitors also make it a point to be present at mealtimes. If there is no response from the kitchen side, they troop to the front door and wait around patiently. They also call out persistently for a while, but disperse if no attention is paid to them.
With the peacocks around, following the sun is easy. We just have to spot where the peacocks are. They are true followers of the sun. In the mornings they are on the rooftop where the sun falls. As the day progresses they recline in the part of the garden that is sunny and bright. By afternoon, they move to the back of the house. The last light of the the day lingers in the backyard as the sun drops into the horizon. The peacocks apart from lazing in the sun, also raise their tail into a fan to take in the sun.
I enjoy doing a bit of kitchen gardening and planted some seasonal vegetables and flowers. But soon realized that our beautiful feathery friends will not let anything grow. Peacocks graze on the gentle small growth of new plants mercilessly. The only way for anything to survive is for it to be planted after it has reached about one foot height! Then they prey on its leaves and let the plant be. Consequently, on a small patch of the garden I have put a net, and grow the plants to a height before planting them. Our peacock friends are incredibly wise – they never venture near the net. They know they cannot get at the small plants growing there.
Every day the peacocks reveal an insight about themselves – their intelligence, survival skills and social behaviour.
Their beauty still enthralls, but what engages more is the drama of life that plays out around us. We share the space around in an amicable manner, and sometimes I wonder if any of them recognizes any of us? Do they also peer from the door and try and see if the person is familiar? It’s a complex interaction between the peacocks and us. Who is watching and observing whom is difficult to discern!
Images courtesy Dnyaneshwar Mulay. @navnirmiti