Spiti-the land that literally means the “The Middle Land”, – the land that divides Tibet and India, is part of the Lahaul-Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh, India. It’s one of my favourite places for various reasons. The culture is fascinating. The barren mountain-scapes are out of this world. Rivers and glacial melts feed the region; it’s snowbound for part of the year and hard to get to. Of course, that means it’s also barely populated.
The state of Himachal Pradesh is a prominent fruit producing state. Apples, cherries, plums, and peaches from here are found in corner stores all over India. The Spiti valley on the other hand technically falls in the rain shadow. The south-west monsoons that hit the rest of India for three full months scarcely reach the Spiti valley. And yet they’re growing apples. And they’re keeping bees to pollinate their orchards. Sparrows, that are have more or less disappeared from our cities seem to have settled in these orchards and are feasting on apples that are just beginning to appear on the trees. It’s amazing. Is this improved irrigation practices or climate change? I’ll have to go back to answer that.
Like summer visitors on the hillside, barn swallows descended on me in troves, unannounced, one fine morning. Then as swiftly (pardon the pun), they shot up, flew past a corner, looped around a tree or two, took a nose dive, twisted and turned and swung by again fleetingly. I stood rooted to my spot for a good few minutes, hypnotized by their acrobatics in the sky. What an air show…and a pain in the neck.
I noticed the swallows didn’t stay together like, say, white-throated laughing thrushes do, instead, they did their own thing, taking random flight paths “tweet-tweeting” without seeming to take a break. Almost like they had left their kids at home alone and needed to get back soon. It is the breeding season. Landour town shops already have swallow-nesting inside.
If there was a pattern to the swallows’ flight, I didn’t get it. It was impossible to stay focused on one bird continuously, let alone a flock. What I was watching was, in fact, nothing but a feeding frenzy. Summer bugs are out as well and the dives and swoops were directed by where the bugs were. Swallows catch them in mid-flight making a competitive reality TV game show look like child play. Not to be left behind, I zipped in and out with a camera and started randomly taking shots of swallows. 50+ blurs-in-the-sky has been promptly deposited in the trash. The rest I’m sharing with you.