An urgent tug at my sleeve, jerked me out of a well-deserved nap take I was taking after a hectic day at the office. Irritation on being awakened in this manner instantly disappeared, as the upturned, excitement-filled, cherubic face of my two year old granddaughter came into focus. It took a few seconds to realise that I was being ‘directed’ to accompany the little tyke somewhere. Our destination turned out to be the guest room window framed by the bougainvillea climber. A tiny finger ordered me to be silent, while another tiny digit pointed to a point outside. In a flash, all remnants of sleep fled me, as I made out a tiny ball of feathers perched on an extended branch, with its head and beak tucked inside its fluffed plumage. With our faces glued to the window panes, we saw a tiny eye blink open, look at us and then shut itself, as if telling us to “buzz off”. This happened a fortnight ago, but the whole family now gathers by the window daily at sundown to gaze and marvel at the regular punctuality with which our ‘overnight house guest’ (which I discovered, was a female sunbird) arrives at her branch to preen and then go to sleep. It appears that this tiny creature knows that an audience is watching her and delightfully enough, she plays to the gallery without an iota of fear.

My long interaction with wild creatures (furry and feathered) has taught me many lessons, one of which is that animals and birds are gifted with an uncanny ability to sense danger. I have therefore developed the practice of always approaching them without malice or fear. Some of my animal expert friends say that I can make this strategy work better on predatory beasts if I also lock my eyes fearlessly with theirs. I don’t relish the possibility of doing the ‘eye’ thing, but can say with confidence born of experience that humans can develop a relationship with wild beasts. Take the example of the ‘feathered world’. The first step towards enjoying a connection with them at close quarters, is to build a bond of mutual trust - the best tool for which is sustenance and support. I began by scattering bread crumbs and other left overs on a large flat rock protruding from my front lawn. This natural ‘bird table’ had cup like indentations on the surface, which were filled with water, enticing birds to use them as bathing and drinking spots. At the very extreme limits of patience, I was rewarded with results, when a family of wagtails did not take flight at my approach. I now walk amongst my winged friends, who ignore me as long as I do not show aggression, do not make sudden violent movements nor raise my voice. I also fixed a number of bird houses in the trees around my home. These serve as refuge and nesting spots for a variety of bird life. My greatest triumph however is manifested in the fact that successive families of the Himalayan Yellow Fluted Bulbul and Crimson Backed Sunbird have raised their young amongst the Lady Banksia Rose that covers my verandah pillars. Then one day I was told by my better half that I had changed (for the better). I had stopped being angry and loud with people around me – in fact I had become very pleasant company. I could only mumble a soft “thank you, my feathered friends”.

One night, I noticed that tiny spots of green light had appeared on the stone walls and shrubs in my compound. These were glow worms, which had emerged to mate or feed. Their numbers and presence created an almost unearthly ambience, unequalled by anything manmade. The night produced other surprises, like the pair of owls that patrol my premises looking for rodents and flying insects or the almost invisible night hawk that rises in front of the car to escape the headlights. A pair of large eared foxes regularly visit my boundary wall to feast on table scraps that we put there. They announce their presence by the ‘yip yipping’ sound all foxes make. We once forgot to place their snack at the appointed place only to be reminded of our lapse, by an unending chorus of their ‘yips’, which only subsided, when we provided them with food.

We once nursed a wild hare that was badly cut up by barbed wire, back to health and have been rewarded by his regular visits to our front gate. He squeezes under it and then helps himself from a terracotta pan full of lettuce or cabbage leaves that are left out for him. He is the only wild hare in my books that appears to be unafraid of our car lights.

My animal experiences are enough to convince me that these creatures are uncanny judges of human behaviour and frailties. They recognise affection, kindness and compassion. In return they give us unadulterated love.