It seems as though it is only our species that is fixated on celebrating its ability to adapt. We treat it as though it is a triumph of the human spirit. We sometimes feel entitled to it. Most tellingly, we pretend like it is within the realm of our control. As though our instincts are not governed by laws set in motion millions of years ago.
We swam away from the ocean, learned how to walk upright, invented the wheel and even decided to use currency to climb atop the food chain. If we had not changed, periodically and holistically, we would not have survived.
Irrespective of the dark places such endeavors might have collectively taken us as a species, we are already in a situation where change is more than a buzzword. We can’t even call it an evolution. It is more of an eventuality. Something we are inherently capable of, whether that damages the environment we live in or disrupts the harmony we strive for.
It baffles me sometimes why we celebrate the process of overcoming adversities so much. It is akin to throwing a party because that scar in your leg from the accident went away. Now you can assume the crane-foot karate stance in your sleep and you presumably want a cookie for it.
The Indian Shikra or Little-Banded Goshawk or the Sparrowhawk changes its plumage so often that it looks like a different bird every few months. Added to that, the male and female have distinctly different patterns. At least to me (to an experienced birder, perhaps not). Two years ago , when I had just started birding, these beauties confused the daylights out of me. Whenever I would spot them, in my city of Chennai or elsewhere, they would look a little more different. The patterns on their wings would change and so would their colours – so much that I have mistaken them for other raptors.
I used to post photos on a Facebook Group, asking for help in identification, hoping that someone would tell me that I had seen a Red-Necked Falcon. Perhaps a Shaheen Falcon or that majestic winter visitor – the Montagu Harrier. But nope. It turned out to be the Shikra every single time. It even used to annoy me but over the two years, I have learnt to admire the way they adapt to the changing weather, landscapes, water levels and the damage done by our species.
Last Sunday, during an early morning drive on the faithful Old Mahabalipuram road, I caught a glimpse of a small-sized bird. It had a curved beak, a reddish throat, a speckled breast and dull grey wings. I had crossed the fencing the bird was perched upon by the time my instinct to stop kicked in. So I had to drive about a kilometre and take two U-turns to reach that spot again. I did this because I was convinced that I had spotted the Eurasian Kestrel.
Well I had not. It was the Shikra again. And while she may not have seemed particularly proud of her new clothes, she sure looked extremely comfortable in them.