One early May morning this year, in the bushy croton shrub in our garden, my attention was drawn to an unnatural stirring frequented by a pair of red vented bulbuls and their conversational noises. I moved near the small bush and tiptoed there to peep into the deep foliage. To my utter delectation, I saw three purple spotted eggs of bulbul waiting in a small bowl-shaped nest to be hatched. Needless to say, my unabashed inquisitiveness to peep into their hut, however humble it may be, infuriated the couple to the point of extremity.

The livid bulbul couples sniffing some danger and raising their tails almost touching the black crowns of their heads burst into cacophony. Even the mother bulbul slightly smaller in size than its male counterpart, swooped past by my ear to bid an attack. However, I restrained my inquisitiveness lest the eggs should be brought under the purview of other predators especially crows that perhaps because of its inability to build beautiful nests seem envious of other birds that can do so.

After a fortnight or so while I was sitting by the window adjacent to the croton shrub, a mild chirping noise reached my ears. I guessed that the sound was coming from the nest. I once again paid a visit to the nest and found three nestlings with their beaks open wide trembling tremendously. Their reddish skinny bodies were featherless. Even they could not unfurl the eyelids to see anything. They were expecting their parents to fetch some food in the form of worms and insects and feed them. For few days the adult bulbuls were seen bringing something to eat for the nestlings.

Gradually, I got interested in the raising and nurturing of the bulbul nestlings. But I prevented myself from going near the nest. I just noticed through a ajar window adjacent to the tree. Feeding operation continued for days. I was looking forward to witness the training of the first flights of the nestlings. The nestlings had already been covered with dark feathers. They were busy pruning their wings when the mother bird was maintaining distance with something like food to entice them as reward for their first flight.

One morning one of the three siblings was found trying to fly. It was fluttering its feeble wings to raise its body in the air. Several attempts went futile. The mother bulbul was hovering over it and screaming desperately as if giving instructions how to fly. Several hours passed. At last, the young bulbul with its utmost effort could fly up and rest on the lofty boundary wall successfully. Both the parents had been flying encircling the young one still sitting on the wall with the wings stretching and making low chattering noise.

The patents seemed to have been celebrating the success of their child. After recuperating from exhaustion, the young bulbul flew up to the branch of a mango tree. Then it flew from one branch to another for a while under the strict vigilance of its parents. I followed its flying tracks until it disappeared into the nearby bush. Next day, it was another bulbul’s turn. Almost like the same way, it also won the sky.

But for the third one, the journey from the nest to the air was not smooth. It was reluctant to come out of the nest. The mother bird was flying with a bit of food between its beaks. There was a terrible tug of war. Mother bird strained every nerve to infuse courage into its offspring. The young bird perching on the brink of the nest most slipped in excitement and compelled to fly from its nest about 6 feet above the ground. But it dashed down on the ground with its wings wide open and lay there half dead sans its eyes blinking after long intervals. The mother bird hoping nearby was chirping at her shrill voice to encourage the almost dying young one.

After a while, the nestling seemed to recover. It started moving its wings in quick succession. The mother bird became hopeful. In the mean time, attracted by the unwonted noise a crow intervened. It swooped down and made several attempts to lift the nestling up. But the father bulbul watching everything from the nearby bush appeared with livid disposition. Despite being smaller in size, out of deep affection to its chick, chased the raven aggressively. He was also joined by the mother bird. There was a great pandemonium. The crow took its heel after a few futile attempts.

I was watching everything from the window. When I was thinking that the chick would not be able to fly in the sky and join with its other siblings, to my utter bewilderment, it got up from its almost dying state. The nestling employed its utmost exhaustion and flew up a few feet to perch on a branch of an unknown plant and then another upper branch and then another….. It flew up at the top branch of the tree which was about 20 feet from the ground.

Success Achieved at Last: I climbed on the roof of our single-storied building to have a better view of the apprenticeship period of the young bird. I saw the young bird flapping its wings terribly and chattering noisily. It was going to bid a giant dart from the top of the tree. The young bird hesitated several times. All on a sudden, the male bulbul to the utter horror of the chick flew past it with a shove. The young bulbul lost its balance and was about to touch down on the ground. But a couple of feet above the hard ground that might hurt it, the wings of it unfurled automatically. It moved some distance horizontally parallel to the ground and then started soaring. It could. I followed the flying track with my eyes until it disappeared into the foliages of the trees of the garden.

Several days after their flight training, I very often came across the three young birds hoping, marching and chattering behind their mother with their wings semi-furling and beaks open wide to be fed something. But I could not recognize the particular offspring that had to apply much exertion before learning the first flight.     

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