Satchari National Park, a small protected area just about 180 km from the capital Dhaka, holds a special place in my heart. The name—each time I recall—summons tsunamis of memories; each of the waves is a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable.
About a decade ago, this small mixed evergreen forest patch was the first to introduce me with the language of wilderness. It was the very same jungle where I had met an apex predator, the Asiatic wild dog. The park often took a real test of trekking miles of permanently dried up stream-beds, seldom rewarding me with decent wildlife photographs. But, none of these is the case of today. Take this as a faint attempt of a budding naturalist to narrate a colour riot.
Progression of spring revives everything, yes. As with the rule, elements of Satchari flare up, shrug off the cold stiffness, and become festive. With festivity, colours follow the trail—red, green, yellow, blue paint the forest in full spectrum. Even, black and white turns outstanding and otherworldly. Birds are the media for these hundreds of shades, if not thousands.
Since the last couple of years, I captured a handful of these Satchari springtime specialty birds (read colours) through the viewfinder. Today, let me try to bind them in words.
Red summons the fair
The show at Satchari begins with Ferrari red and burnt cerise produced respectively by coral tree and cotton tree flowers. The flowering soon reaches a level as if the forest appears aflame.
The red flowers call in stronger reds. Scarlet and crimson declares their presence. Scarlet minivet, scarlet-backed flowerpecker, and crimson sunbird feels drawn to nectar and insect bloom in these springtime trees.
To the red diversity, common rosefinch and Mrs. Gould's sunbird are recently tallied up. My first encounter with the latter happened earlier this March. Watching the bird under dawn light felt like a trail of red flash.
But, I have brought red here for a particular reason. It is for a special coral tree, adjacent to which a watch tower is cleverly placed, exceeding the tree height and offering some tremendous view (yes, including the sunbird). So, the onset of flowering calls in a rush of bird-watchers, photographers and nature-enthusiasts—a befitting opening of a grand fair.
Greens stand as champions in terms of diversity. Scores of parakeets, barbets, pigeons, doves, bee-eaters hold the green flag high. From light parrot greens to darker shades in barbets, from turquoise hue of bee-eaters to psychedelic green patterns in woodpeckers, you will have a full course of this colour.
The contenders of the crown-jewel under this category put up a very close competition. There is a not-so- common green magpie with the best portrayal of lime green hue. There is a hooded pitta that has the bottle-green colour of our national flag. There are two more which are of the colour of a gemstone: emerald dove and emerald cuckoo. Who do you vote for?
Always remember yellow can be the colour of flame. And, the park has flameback woodpeckers and orioles with the brightest yellows. The best tinges of the genre are offered by bulbuls: Black-crested and black-headed bulbul. Spotting them will meet you with mustard and olive-yellow colour.
An even darker olive-yellow, you will see in olive bulbul. Lime-yellow tints are perhaps the most common and softest yellow in this festival, readily available in the Oriental white-eye, common iora, some warblers, etc.
I made a quick count. Blue is only attributed to specialty birds, which are difficult to find or require a special angle of light to reveal their true bluish base. The rarest watches under the category are fairy bluebird, violet cuckoo and niltavas.
Other blue-based members are blue-whistling thrush, white-tailed robin, Siberian blue robin and blue flycatchers. All of these prefer undergrowth and bushes requiring extreme photographic prowess and sheer luck to get one under true iridescence.
Shades of black
There might be colour that deserves a place in this feature but I cannot recall at this moment. And, there are colours that can hardly be described in words. Yet, black must get a special mention.
In this springtime fair in Satchari, black can change the perspective of a viewer, thanks to black baza and about six species of drongo. While these are nearly black, there are two birds that offer a mesmerising combo of black-and-white: One is one of the smallest, little pied flycatchers, and the other is among the largest, the Oriental pied hornbill.
A monotone note
In 2009, I first visited Satchari, also my first visit to any forest. I was a fresher at university attending a picnic. I made the best and likely a risky use of the opportunity. I trekked the three-hour trail alone skipping the 'cultural programme' of picnic.
Before stepping deep into the trail—I still can remember and it might sound unbelievably coincidental—I heard someone performing 'Odvut sei cheleti'. This all-time hit song of the band Aurthohin recites a boy's attachment with music and connection with nature.
While others were having a good time with the staged performance, with every step, I was delving into the wilderness (the irony was undeniable). An inseparable bond was built between a forest and a boy on a hot, humid, nearly summertime afternoon.
Since then, I visited the park multiple times. I grew up. But, on each round, Satchari seemed withered, devastated by so-called 'development'. Each short-lived spring left with a discomfort reminding the numbered days of the habitually ignored north-eastern forests.
Even the discovery of the dhole could not give me enough respite. To make my worries true, on the first days of 2021, nearly 100 break-wire snares were retrieved from a 2.45 sq km park area.
I try finding hope. But, to further dismay, I saw every waterhole in the park area, the bird-watching hotspots, had been littered by irresponsible photogs with papers, cigarette butts, polythene, bottles and what not.
Recently, Dr Reza Khan, an eminent zoologist and a role model of many generations of nature-watchers, raised an urging to create a special wing for wildlife. To watch the springtime colour riot for our lifetime and beyond, shouldn't we gear up our actions? Or, will the connection be relieved in memories only?