We were busy on our rice fields, happily working in the sun baked fields with our sickles harvesting whatever the rains of this year have left for us. The fields in the neighbourhood are also alive with people working, everyone spreading out their cut harvest to dry for a couple of days, then carrying the bundles to a safe place near their house for threshing etc.
Suddenly Amol, the 10-year-old son of Prakash & Vimal comes running to me & says…. mama, mama, ek gidhad varti baslela ahe ! (uncle, uncle there is a vulture sitting on top of our land), so i leave my sickle, make a dash to our shack, grab the camera & jog along uphill where Amol is taking me. We hear their calls, so then we sit down & crawl on all fours. We can smell a carcass & there are flies all over but we cannot see anything. Unfortunately, the Vultures spot us first & start to take off one by one. We counted 15.
Local people have told me that till as recent as 20 years, it was a normal sight to see hundreds of them sitting together, but now we hardly see any. It is hard for people here to even imagine that the veterinary drug that is commonly used- Diclofenac (given to animals to reduce joint pains & to allow them to work for longer hours!) is the cause for the mass deaths of vultures in the Indian sub continent. When vultures feed on the carcass of the animal administered with diclofenac it leads to kidney failure & death ! Endosulfan residues have also been found in the vultures.
There are unconfirmed stories locally that the British used to dump dead bodies of executed prisoners here in Madheghat for the vultures to feed on. Well there is an abandoned police out post built by the British in Madheghat !!
Coming back to the present, I’ve always seen vultures flying & soaring somewhere in the stratosphere. This was the first time one was up close & personal….
Here are some pictures I managed in those moments of frenzy. At times i feel when the birds start to move the camera can blur one’s vision so I get caught just looking through the camera lens or watching these awesome birds with the naked eye……….