The floodplain connecting Turag and Balu rivers was buried to erect on its coffin an enormous uptown called Purbachal.
The olden residents were evicted quietly as the floodplain was buried under the mounds of sand dredged out of the rivers. The wildlife moved on when the dredging machines and the earth-movers established their dominion over the floodplain.
Being the winged tenants of the floodplain the ducks such as Cotton Pygmy-goose and Lesser Whistling Ducks were the first to leave and relocate in some other places or perish. All the other birds also disappeared soon enough.
Not every bird, however, was happy to leave. It is not always easy to find a new home, even for the birds. Then, one may be too fond of one's hereditary home to be happy elsewhere.
A lonely Grey-headed Fish Eagle is one such bird that has refused to give up its home at the buried floodplain we call Purbachal. We were astonished, happy and sad at the same time to see that solitary eagle sitting on a tree-top in sector 9. That was, probably, the last resident eagle of Purbachal; and we did not know for how long it would be able to survive there.
When we spotted the eagle for the first time it was sitting tentatively at the supple end of a young bamboo bent under its weight. The hefty bird was not at all happy with the swaying perch and looked very agitated. We had no doubt that it was a female eagle. We could tell the sex of the bird from its size.
We guessed that the eagle weighed over 2.5 kg; too heavy to be a male. As in most eagles the male Grey-headed Fish Eagle is about half as heavy as its female. The female is bigger, heavier and better at fishing. Although both male and female participate equally in their household chores the female is a better provider as far as the food for the brood is concerned.
On our several visits we saw the eagle sitting high up on large trees near the surviving water-holes in Purbachal. Turag and Balu rivers seemed to be too polluted and noisy to suit the sombre mood of the thoughtful bird. She was more comfortable near the narrow canals and the residual fens in the quieter area. She seemed to favour the Taal-palms and Chikrashi-trees near shallow water.
We know that the Grey-headed Fish Eagle fed mostly on fish, frogs and snakes. Its feet and talons are designed especially to grip and hold on to slippery and wiggling prey. It has also honed its fishing skill over many millions of years. Obviously, the one thing it did not learn to handle was a total absence of fish, frog and snake. And haven't we been working foolishly to accomplish just that in the wetlands of Bangladesh!
As we destroyed the fish in the wild we expanded our fish culture helter-skelter. Unfortunately, the fish culture did not do much good to the eagles since we preferred our fish culture to remain inaccessible to the eagles. It was not so bad to keep our fish culture out of reach of eagles; what was bad was to keep wild fish accessible to people.
Although a few Grey-headed Fish Eagles live in the neighbouring Munshiganj district today we do not see any in Dhaka except a singleton each in Keraniganj, Savar and Purbachal. We would be delighted to see breeding pairs there instead of lonely individuals. This eagle is considered globally near-threatened; and we do not wish those three individuals to be bachelors for long and let that species be less and less populous in Bangladesh.
We wish to see an ambitious male enter the territory of the lonely female in Purbachal in the coming breeding season. We hope to hear his far-reaching calls and impressive display flights when we go birding in Purbachal in the fall. We need to see the male and the female lock talons and cart-wheel in the sky to cultivate confidence and form a bond to last their lifetime.
We want our poets to see the display flights of the eagles as did Walt Whitman who, in the 19th century, wrote The Dalliance of the Eagles. He saw the real eagles rave and roll in the sky talon to talon, not merely the emblematic eagles of his fancy or fabled eagles foretold.
The potent word-picture of the eagles' boisterous flights Walt Whitman's poem painted was cherished by people generations after generations. And a century later when the lonely voice of Rachel Carson called people to save the Bald Eagle of America the response was global.
Today we need observant poets like Walt Whitman and passionate scientists like Rachel Carson among us.