Strolling along a side street in Juhu (I should explain, I'm spending the term teaching in Chennai but this was on my mid-term break in Mumbai), I chanced upon a step well or baoli.
And there sunning themselves, or swimming in the pea green water, were ... turtles. Dozens of them! I have always had a soft spot for these creatures, and it's so rare to see them in the wild in quite this profusion. ...
This is Brahma Kund on Gandhigram Road, a minute away from the world famous Iskcon 'Hare Krishna' temple and close by where many Bollywood stars live (I was on my way to visit one such star, I'll have you know, when I spotted the turtles). The step well seems once to have had a religious function, but no longer.
Locals are concerned that the stagnant water is a breeding place for mosquitos. But I guess people must be feeding the turtles, as I can't see there's enough food in this tiny pond to support them otherwise - so they do have some Juhu allies. Long live turtle power!
What I remember most from my first visit to Agra, almost twenty years ago, is the parakeets. At Agra station as dusk gathered, parakeets roosted in their hundreds just the other sides of the tracks. I'd never seen such birds in the wild, and their raucous assembly and vivid colours lodged in my memory.
Fast forward to the present, and parakeets are one of the more common birds on Hampstead Heath. I've seen them on occasions from my kitchen window in NW5. The exotic is now at our doorstep.
But this globalisation of fauna didn't prepare me for what I saw yesterday at Waterlow Park, one of north London's more hidden away and entirely glorious open spaces. I've seen herons there, and on one solitary occasions a kingfisher - but turtles?
There on a log peeping out of the top pond was a basking turtle, about the size of a side plate. On the bank a few yards away, another one lazed a few inches from the water's edge. So, what's the back story? I didn't think there were any indigenous turtles in these parakeeted isles?
Not that I'm complaining. It's wonderful to have turtles in Waterlow Park.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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