I have had Casablanca moments with Jungle Owlets. I have wondered why out of all the trees in the world they had to perch upon the ones closest to me. There are two sub-species of Jungle Owlets in the Indian subcontinent – Malabaricum and Glaucidium Radiatum. And I am lucky enough to have spotted them at the Periyar National Park .
One fine morning, I was walking along the edge of a forest. For some reason, I got the feeling that I was being watched. There was a bustling in the thick canopies of shrubs. The wind howled, singing its way through bamboo shoots. I was a hostage to a feeling of heaviness in my chest. My left shoulder started to hurt.
Either I was experiencing the early stages of a heart attack. Or I was in the company of a creature so wild that I became confused about whether I was frightened or excited about it.
It turned out that a Jungle Owlet (Malabaricum) had been watching every move of mine. When our eyes connected, there was excitement and tension. We were seeing each other for the first time. Given how gorgeous it looked, resistance seemed futile.
The owlet was brownish all over, with thick black and white patches haunting her body parts. The eyes resembled open mouths of pistols filled with sunlight; gorgeous and frightening.
My heart was already filled to the brim when I spotted the Glaucidium Radiatum variety later that day. I was bird-watching at a friend’s farmhouse, and I saw a peculiar-looking owlet crouched on a thick branch.
It wore a furry streaked coat of browning white, bearing black tufts across the belly. Like a Fibonacci sequence on a tree stump – both mathematical and mesmeric.
Just a few months later, I chanced upon another near the Kumily-Thekkady border. Only this time – I was actively searching for a Jungle Owlets after receiving information about their whereabouts.
An owlet leads me to her home;
she hides on the front porch
and shows me the window to her soul.
(Photographs – Thekkady / Kumily)