About Purbasthali Ox-bow Lake:
It was late December, 2014. I was dawning my 2nd winter plumage as a birder (after being introduced to birding and the world of birds in October, the previous year) and it would my first time at Purbasthali. I had heard about the place from my brother-in-law who had been there the previous year. ‘Lifer fever’ had struck with the thought that migrants had once again flocked in large numbers to the marshlands/wetlands in the lower course of the meandering Bhagirathi, a major distributory of the Ganges in South Bengal.
The shallow waters of the lake is also the lifeline of fishing/farming communities living by the lake. They actively conserve birds as a part of their lifestyle. This of course includes gathering substantial knowledge of their wild neighbours as well as taking good care of the lake. I have personally witnessed boatmen having discussions regarding controlling of the pest-plant, water hyacinths, which multiply in the metaphorical blink of an eye.
The migrant birds also provide a good source of employment for a few fishermen/boatmen who keep their stable jobs aside in winters and help birders roam around the beautiful lake in search of their avian friends. I have always felt that the birds at Purbasthali, feel more at home and less threatened by humans than any other place I have visited.
While we were having a great time with so much variety and abundance that the lake’s rich Eco-system could support, we spotted the struggle of a duck from a distance when the winter sun was directly overhead.
Our boatman and guide Alok Da promptly rowed the boat towards the bird. As we got closer, it became clear that the bird had got badly entangled in a fishing net. It seemed that it had struggled for freedom for quite a long time already. Alok Da got hold of it, untangled it from the net taking utmost care not to hurt the bird. I was lucky enough just to put an arm across and reassuringly pat the oily back of a female Cotton Pygmy Goose, a guest during winters.
The bird, though rescued, was shocked to be in the presence of 4 humans on the boat who could be deadlier than the deadliest of fishing nets. It lay there for a few seconds under a lot of stress stress, then mustered up some energy and managed to set its wings free. Putting myself in the bird’s webbed feet (if that was possible) I think she must have been elated having escaped these substantially ‘troubled waters’ that even a duck can imagine.
Her flight was hurried and scrappy. She landed on the water about a hundred meters away from our boat. I am quite sure that she learnt her lessons and will be much more careful of any alien object in the water in the future. I learnt a lesson too, from the great Alok Da, that two keen eyes, two caring hands and one good heart can affect a lot of lives positively.