I took a 6-hour detour to visit the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. I wanted to see the Malabar Trogon. There were supposedly many of them in plain sight in certain areas. I longed to spot just one. Just to be double sure, I booked a local birder to be my field guide for a morning trail.
I woke up at 5 AM, got stung by a wasp hiding in my left shoe, and had the worst tea in a long time. The sky was overcast. I was losing confidence about spotting the Trogon. Negativity was starting to bubble inside me. A short drizzle had me panicking.
To distract myself, I stared at the banners outside the sanctuary gate. They showcased the brightest, bluest and most bewitching of endemic birds. Each looked like it fell out of a dream and straight into a paint bucket.
The birder, jostling a cup of sorrowful tea in-between his thumb and middle finger, walked over to me. He asked about which one I was most interested in that morning.
I felt like leaping in the air and crashing down on him, fangs baring, with my fist pounding on the ground – on either side of his head – screaming, “All of them, you hear?”
“Every single one”.
Instead I smiled and pointed at a portrait of the Trogon on the compound wall. I told him that I wouldn’t ask for more. He did a little Beatles head-shake, and said “no problem, 99% chance sighting”. I contained my excitement, and muttered “oh, that’s nice”.
“DO YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
It turned out to be one of the most fruitful birding trails I have ever been on. At one point, I clicked the back of my heels together with my knees half-folded. At least I tried.
From Malabar Barbets, Plum-Headed Parakeets, Heart Spotted Woodpeckers, Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers and Jerdon’s Leafbirds to Dollar Birds, Crimson-Backed Sunbirds and a Crested Goshawk, they looked gorgeous in the morning mist. You will get to read about a few more interesting ones over the next few days.
After I had my fill, we moved on to a rockier terrain. The sun had beaten the dark clouds to an orange-y pulp by then. It was growing in confidence, and making us sweat. And still there was no sign of the Malabar Trogon.
I wasn’t sure how I felt during that moment. It had been a wonderful and emotional experience thus far. The new birdies broke my heart in such beautiful ways that it wouldn’t need fixing. It was meant to be a scrapbook anyway. Still, I ached for a sighting of Malabar’s best-dressed prince.
Within an hours of walking under the sweltering sun, the birder heard their calls and sprung into action. He saw a couple hiding in a thick canopy of trees, and called my attention to them. I didn’t get a good look since they kept shifting positions. We had to tip-toe like cartoon burglars behind them. Finally, we found the male perched above us. And the female – on an adjacent tree.
I didn’t get any good photographs of them. But it didn’t matter then. The thrill of seeing them in the wild filled me with all the good stuff that makes birding so special. Moonbeams, sun rays, waterfall baths or orgasms of the soul…I don’t know what to call it. It just feels special.
Sometimes I just want to hug lady luck and thank her for being a dear to me. I know there are others who need her more urgently. For more life-ascertaining matters too. I have friends who could use some luck in their lives. Every day I see people fight tooth and nail for even bare necessities. Nobody wants to do that. It isn’t a choice they make because their neighbours googled it before they did. Life just works out like that. I guess, it worked out alright for me over the weekend. I got to see a bird that has been haunting me.
It’s sort of awful how I still complain to myself, at times, how bad luck follows me. And I feel a little angry about it. But all I really need is a kick in the shin, and an uppercut to the jaw, to get me off my posterior and seek out a direction. People don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Here I am, in knowledge of the whereabouts of a lovely pair of Malabar Trogons.
Life isn’t fair, I suppose. Just not in the way I thought it wasn’t.
I will never
fit to describe
how it really feels
to see a Malabar Trogon
sing to me,
from atop a tree