Wildbuzz: Some things should never change - Hindustan Times
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Wildbuzz: Some things should never change

ByVikram Jit Singh
Mar 31, 2024 08:22 AM IST

The daughter of one of the silver screen’s most iconic ‘movie mates’, the Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, and Italian filmmaker, Roberto Rossellini, Isabella recently juxtaposed two pictures of her kissing sheep with the caption: ‘Some things never change’. One black & white photo from when she was a three-year old in Italy kissing a lamb and the other, a colour one, on her ‘animal farm’ in Long Island, New York, when she was 71.

Caught in a bewildering world that seems to endlessly change, humans naturally yearn for a sense of permanence. For things that their emotional selves can cling on to, those that have never changed since birth. An actress, filmmaker and farmer, a global stage personality, a super-model and once reckoned among the most beautiful women of the world, Isabella Rossellini drew on her enduring love for animals and birds to echo this yearning. The daughter of one of the silver screen’s most iconic ‘movie mates’, the Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman, and Italian filmmaker, Roberto Rossellini, Isabella recently juxtaposed two pictures of her kissing sheep with the caption: ‘Some things never change’. One black & white photo from when she was a three-year old in Italy kissing a lamb and the other, a colour one, on her ‘animal farm’ in Long Island, New York, when she was 71.

Matthew Rolston’s iconic 1988 portrait of Isabella Rossellini with a bird.
Matthew Rolston’s iconic 1988 portrait of Isabella Rossellini with a bird.

Isabella grew up in Italy in the 1950s among an exuberant group of the seven Rossellini children (from his two marriages). The children had an abundance of dogs and cats to play with. An indulgent father, and one later besieged with the guilt of having to finally divorce Bergman, Rossellini procured a monkey, a lion and a kangaroo joey to add to the variety. The young kangaroo, torn from the mother kangaroo and condemned to a life of captivity and as a plaything for privileged children, proved a “nasty” customer. The joey kicked out wildly at what it may have reckoned as a “wildly boisterous and incomprehensible” Rossellini brood! The unkeepable joey was quickly dispatched to the Rome zoo by Rossellini.

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The unfortunate experience with the joey notwithstanding, Isabella evolved into an empathetic person deeply interested in the lives of creatures and exploring their lives as being something more than just instinctive. Are creatures capable of thinking, taking decisions, feeling? Such thoughtfulness -- that voyage beyond the received wisdom on the natural world -- frequently visits those whose lives are entwined with creatures and are benefited by intimate observations. One of Isabella’s female turkeys adopted a wild turkey chick whose siblings and mother were killed in a car collision. That touched Isabella to the core. Her acclaimed series of short films, Green Porno, explored the seemingly bizarre and unconventional seduction rituals of creatures ranging from cuttlefish to bugs.

At her farm, she maintains heritage chickens and sheep, Spanish Cashmere goats, dogs, ducks and turkeys. She has given them all names, including after Andy Warhol, Meryl Streep and Amelia Earhart. Her parents made the 1953 film, The Chicken. Isabella wrote the book, My Chickens and I, in 2018 that reflected her wry observations, fun facts and hand-drawn illustrations on rearing heritage poultry. She observed that each of her chickens had a distinctive personality. She wonders and takes pride in the “beauty, colours and diversity” of the eggs produced by her array of hens. Though she does not baulk at eating chickens reared by other farmers, she once famously quipped: “I have learnt more from observing my chickens than from eating them.”

Three Barnacle geese (on top) at the Mote Majra pond. (PHOTO: LALIT M. BANSAL)
Three Barnacle geese (on top) at the Mote Majra pond. (PHOTO: LALIT M. BANSAL)

Great news for tricity birders

* Tricity birders often end up on a proverbial wild goose chase. But this chase reaped the richest of rewards. The authoritative study, ‘Indian Rarities’ undertaken by the journal, Indian Birds, has accepted the claim of three Barnacle geese as wild birds and not escapees from a zoo or private captivity. The geese were photographed at Mote Majra (Banur) between January 27 and 29, 2024, before they completely disappeared. The species is otherwise a Greenland-West European bird.

That makes the Barnacles the first record of the species from not just the Indian sub-continent but South Asia! “After careful scrutiny, we accepted that these were wild birds. We will add them to the checklist of Indian avian species due for an update in April next. We assess the Barnacle geese came with a carrier group of Bar-headed geese to Mote Majra. The three could be part of an expanding population of Barnacle geese into the eastern hemisphere,” Praveen J, a co-author of Indian Rarities, told this writer.

No such luck for the over-publicised mute swan spotted in Jamnagar and back vulture in Gurugram. Both were declared captive escapees by Praveen. The spur-winged lapwing spotted in Telangana has not been settled as either wild or escapee as there are records of this species being kept captive in India. “We will wait till December next to classify the lapwing”, added Praveen.

vjswild2@gmail.com

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