Nature

Pipits, the rarer kind…

Pipits - Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis)

Pipits are ubiquitous, and pipits are confusing… among conspecifics and congeners like larks, they mercilessly expose the novice birder… drab plumage, scrappy flight, there’s nothing to make them stand out, one muses, but for that restive disposition they move around with, bustling busybodies rummaging through the grounds, loath to fly and trying to compensate by standing upright, irking fellow birds and amusing the bystander…

Pipits - Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis)

We were sort of focusing on avoiding leeches – not that one can do so easily in a tropical landscape saturated by the monsoons – as we strolled around a patch of montane shola grasslands in the Kerala being restored after a serendipitous pre-COVID forest fire laid the invasive wattle plantations to waste – good riddance – the journey from commercial to conservation forestry has been a long road and it’s comforting to see the shift in mindset… although the monies will take their own sweet time to follow, but a start nonetheless…

Pipits - Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis)

And it brings fauna back, perhaps the most tangible sign of revival, with avifauna leading the charge… casting greedy glances at the bright green carpet of grass, a corner of the eye caught a dull coloured bird flitting about its afternoon chores… a couple of photographs and some internet research later revealed it to be a Nilgiri pipit, endemic to these parts and deemed vulnerable due to loss of habitat, with some studies suggesting that it’s range is highly overestimated and the threat status might need to be re-evaluated… 

Pipits - Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis)

The thing with these dull coloured birds is, one would miss their sounds more than their sights, and that loss takes a bit longer to realize… and all of this is at the mercy of a discourse that might take a one eighty degree turn within no time… for decades grasslands were burnt to make way timber and in the last couple decades we are now seeing trees being decimated in a desperate attempt to woo the grasslands back… ’tis not that there’s been a change of heart and humanity now upholds biodiversity in high esteem… water scarcity, human animal conflict due to lack of wild fodder… the spillover impacts have had people scurrying back… and one never knows, a few landslides here and there or disease outbreaks from marshlands, and a battle cry for trees may rise again…

Montane shola grasslands

These fifty odd hectares though were a respite from the doomsday scenario… swathes of grinning grasslands and more being restored… local youth ready to get their hands dirty… painstakingly digging, planting, uprooting… taking pride in a form of manual labour whose impact is usually not that easy to quantify or display… but with the pipits arriving, what greater validation could one ask for…

Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis)

Musing on a Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), Anamudi Shola National Park, Kerala

Author: Parth Joshi

Mountain lover ⛰️ | Hiker 🥾| Runner 🏃‍♂️ | Cyclist 🚴 | Photographer 📷... allured by the outdoors, the author is a quintessential lost soul craving for the outdoors while suffering in a desk job...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.