Hypnotized by a Frogmouth

It isn’t easy to spot Sri Lankan Frogmouths in the wild. The colour of their plumage makes them impervious to eager eyes scanning green and brown thickets. Years ago I saw a portrait of one, and imagined that our first meeting would be a grandiose affair. Or at least a poignant one.

We finally met last weekend. I spent some time with a female Frogmouth. She looked like a autumn leaf frozen in flight. She just stood there, untroubled by the matinee sun. It should have been love at first sight. When I spot a particular species for the first time, I go through the seven stages of happiness. It starts with childlike wonderment and ends with creepy obsession.

This time though, things were different. There was confusion. Some happiness too. But mostly, confusion.

I was out birding with a family of four from Luxembourg during one of my recent trails. Google had led them from a vacation in Sri Lanka to a quaint little cottage in Thattekad. We had a Southern Flying Lizard, a Rock Agma – the happiest-looking lizard I have ever seen, and Malabar Grey Hornbills – for neighbours,

They had discovered the joys of birding only a few months prior. It was lovely to see them get excited; always a thrill to be around people who feel passionate about the things they do.

Malabar Grey Hornbill, Thattekad

They had spotted a pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths the day before. And they still couldn’t find the words to describe how the experience. They seemed a tad beguiled about the warm luminescence their heads were filled with. The mother, a lady with a kind face and a delightful pronunciation of the word ‘mynah’, looked a bit sad. She told me how she felt that she should have started birding earlier. I reassured her though that it was never too late, and swiftly vanished from her sight – embarrassed at my own cornball response. Maybe I should have added “never give up” and sang the first verse of ‘Eye of the Tiger‘.

We managed to find a Sri Lankan Frogmouth near a temple in Adimali. A local birder, who was traveling with us, had located her. The father, a quiet man with a sunny disposition, pointed out to a thicket and mouthed, “Oh, there she is again” as the kids crouched behind a bush, holding their binoculars.

Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Thattekad

My chin was up, and my heart beating – fast. My eyes darted back and forth, trying to catch a glimpse of the frogmouth. The excitement was overwhelming me. With sweaty palms and shivering knuckles, I asked one of the kids to point me towards her again.

With every passing second, I was getting more and more worried that she might fly away. Thirty long and winding seconds later, I was still confused about her whereabouts. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t see her. Finally, she moved. Just a tiny bit. But it was enough for me to see her in the clear light of day.

She was gazing at us, with a great deal of curiosity; probably with the knowledge that she will never understand why a bunch of people are intently staring at her. She seemed neither confused nor frightened. And I doubt that she knew that we meant her no harm. I am pretty sure she is unaware of the love she had for her, in our lungs and our hearts.

It’s just one of those fundamental differences that I have noticed between birds and human beings – they are just as good in picking battles as they are in keeping calm.

She’s the eye
of a lighthouse –
the one that fell in love
with a whale.
She is light,
she is luminescence,
she is my wicked flame.

Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Thattekad

(Photographs: Thattekad)

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13 comments

  1. Ah, I think birds do know more about us than we give them credit for. Here’s the thing: they are reliant on sounds some of which we can’t hear but they can, they are reliant on movement that has more meaning to them than to us, and which ensures their survival. Their eyesight is keener than ours and they notice more. And I’d take a guess that they have other senses we don’t know about and most certainly haven’t got, ourselves. Lovely post and I’m glad you got to see the frogmouth. I wonder what the bird calls itself? Smiles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful recitation of their skill sets, Val. Thank you!

      I ve noticed that a few birds such as white eyed buzzards go hell bent for leather even if I take a step towards their direction. They know enough to pick their battles, don’t they!

      The European (or Eurasian?) Nightjar in UK looks a little similar to this beauty, me thinks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The peering eyes, the heart pounding search, the flailing hope till you see the object of your affection. Ah! the mere sight is enough. Glad she obliged you with an undisturbed eye full.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Never heard of such a bird! But what a name. Surely, she’s used to be stared at by now. That oversized mouth doesn’t belong to such a dainty lady. Thank you for sharing your trail perspective! I so wish we could all go out birding together. Maybe one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so happy I could introduce you to one you didn’t know existed. I have met so many beautifully-Texan birds, residential and migrants, in your blog. It’s only fair that this happened. And I am kicked about it (big smile)

      One day, we all shall, Shannon. And we will demonstrate one of the katas to our feathered friends!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We get tawny frogmouths hereabouts. I see them fairly regularly on clotheslines at night as they scan the yard for scurrying yummies but I hardly ever see them in trees, doubtless due to their camouflage.

    We had a big storm about a year ago that knocked over some very old trees. One was a huge eucalypt that harboured many birds but it was only the day after the storm I discovered one was a frogmouth. It was sitting on a fence – out in the open in broad daylight – gazing very glumly at the fallen tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bird looking so clearly depressed before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just googled tawny frogmouths. Ooooh which page of a post-romanticism novella did they leap forth from! Beautiful.

      “Gazing very glumly” – there’s an apt way of putting it.

      You write wonderfully, carbogal. Love your musings.

      Like

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