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13982Shaheen in Kandivali east

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  • Kiran Srivastava
    Jan 1, 2014
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      My New year begins with an enthusiastic expectation of my rendezvous or tryst if you wish for another word, with the Shaheen Falcon in Kandivali east. I plonked myself in the balcony (17th floor) in the evening at around 5 pm with binoculars, notebook and a mug of garam chai somehow knowing the Shaheen would keep its appointment. And it did for a much longer period than the previous days that my wife has been spotting it on and off. For about 10 minutes it was soaring and circling around my building, sometimes unbelievably close when it flew at eye level.

      There seemed to be a purpose in its circling and I could sense that it was in a hunting mode. Three Black Kites were soaring around at a higher level and at one point in time when the Shaheen was flying higher it suddenly dove at a kite driving it away from its space. Its stoop continued downwards at a faster speed towards some pigeons causing them to scatter immediately in different directions. However, it didn't press home its attack perhaps knowing these pigeons were too fast and not easy prey. At around 1730 it disappeared from sight.

      At 1815 hrs whilst waiting for the elevator we saw pigeon feathers floating down past the window with the bigger feathers spinning rapidly as they descended. We immediately knew there's been a kill. I knew then it had brought its prey to the aircon in my building. I quickly rushed down to the the refuge area on the 14th floor and peeped upwards to barely get a peek of the Shaheen's head with its kill on my neighbour's aircon on the 17th floor. I joined my wife downstairs on the podium and we looked up to see that the Shaheen, sometimes only the tail and wingtips visible, apparently feeding. Approximately 20 minutes later we saw it carry its prey across to the next high rise building. By then evening light was fading and we were losing sight of the Shaheen.

      I must add that on 24th Dec I saw the pair on the electric pylon. The sighting was brief as one of them circled around the pylon and flew northwards in the murky winter haze of Mumbai. Its not often that I see the two together.

      For me there is still the mystery of their breeding ecology. I have observed them mating in March and April but the pair disappear soon after and I don't know where and how far they actually go? Meanwhile, my neighbours next door are totally unaware of a raptor sitting and feeding on their aircon. There is no way that they can know because there is no other window on that side.

      May you all hear the rustle of wings louder in 2014...

      Cheers,
      Kiran Srivastava
      Mumbai

      p.s. Mumbai's winter haze is getting worse with the pollution. Its dismal and depressing...

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