Month: July 2015

Following a flycatcher to paradise: Part 1

I have obsessed over spotting the Asian Paradise Flycatcher for years. She is one of those birds who looks as extravagant as her name might suggest. That’s not the case with let’s say the Streaked Fantail Warbler. Her name may suggest that she looks like Captain Planet’s arch-nemesis. In reality – she resembles a house sparrow wearing a shawl, just having a bad hair day.

The Asian Paradise Flycatcher looks like an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. She sounds like one too.

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A case for the commoners: Kingfishers

Growing up, “Kingfishers” represented a brand of beer more than it did a family of birds. I still know more people with alcohol issues than I do birders.

I can’t recollect ever seeing one until after I got into birding. Not even the White-Throated Kingfisher – a shy yet widely-distributed residential bird in my city. The first time I photographed her was many miles away from home. It was a memorable incident but not just for the photograph .

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To believe is to see: Nilgiri Flycatcher

Love dwells
in our hearts
as eagerly as
it does in our eyes;
no man, woman or child
is an island, much
a bird sanctuary
in paradise.

I have seen the Nilgiri Flycatcher only in pairs; several times in different parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Never though has the male or the female shown up solo to enthrall me.

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Birds aren’t chained to our skies

The crack of dawn goes unheard
even though it is drizzling songs inside.
No matter the crooked ways of the world –
birds aren’t chained to our skies

For a few years now, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary has been a nesting spot for the birder in me. It was where my love for birds grew a pair of wings. In November 2013 I had revisited the sanctuary after two decades. Before that, I had been there just once during a school trip in the late Eighties. I remembered nothing about it other than queuing up in front of its rusty front gate .

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A fruit basket of a girl: Common Kestrel

He tongues
the creamy sweat
on her custard apple neck,
leaving no legacies,
just the littlest and most
cherry-kissed of lakes,
as she plants sugar plums
inside his cheeks, and drapes
her arms over him, like scar tissues
peeled off dried plantains,
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To believe is to see: Common Hoopoe

A mother and her daughter
in hot pursuit of
a runaway hearse,
with hairpins for memories –
picked right out of
grandma’s purse – tucked in-between
their thighs, poorly advised,
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No such thing as too much yellow

A golden oriole appears,
sepia-bathed and freckled,
as does her song in silos;
she dips her beak
in crumbling lemon clouds,
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Be a woodpecker

A noisy summer’s
swansong as crooned
by a woodpecker
down on his luck,
perched above a traveler,
with hiccups and toenail clippers
to accompany them at dusk.

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Thereafter there flew a raptor

An eagle undresses
the clouds after the
summer rain, seducing
the wild blue yonder
to show a little skin
and a tattoo of the moon
on its cream cheese cleavage.

I freeze a little every time I spot an eagle. Ever since I heard that they fly above the clouds to avoid the rain, I have been hopelessly smitten by then. But it hasn’t been easy to spot them. (more…)

No more Mr. wise guy

After finishing a solo trek in Tada Falls last February, I saw physically-disabled man begging for change at a local tea stop. Govind couldn’t have been older than 45 years. He looked disheveled and desperate. The men at the tea shop seemed to either ignore him or make impolite gestures.

I offered to buy him a cup of tea and struck up a conversation with him. Govind was reluctant to say much at first but after a while, we sat down on the bench to talk. It wasn’t an act of kindness. I had been walking alone all day. The weather was hot and humid. I was feeling a little miserable. And we know what misery loves.

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