Black-Winged Stilts are one of the longest-legged waders in the stilt and avocet family. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you see them. Then, you realize that you may secretly have a foot fetish. Or something which is just as uncomplicated and beautiful.
Every movement of theirs is a dance step waiting to happen. I bet it’s all they do when nobody else is watching them. During lazy afternoons, far from urban kerfuffle, they tap-dance their hearts out. At nights – with only fireflies for neighbors, they move to the sound of flowing water as it kneads through tiny rocks.
Long pinkish legs stretch in strange directions under an opalescent moon. Water droplets precariously hold onto the tips of pencil-thin and razor-sharp beaks. As far as Black-Winged Stilts are concerned, it’s always a good time to dance.
These birds are found in thick marshes, shallow lakes, and large ponds. Some of them are long-distance travelers as they migrate every winter, in search of dance-floors all over the world.
I have spotted them hundreds of times in the outskirts of my city. But I have never seen them remain still for more than a few seconds. They are wading through shallow water, on the way to their nests. Hunting for aquatic insects and small crustaceans. Fighting with other water-birds, given how territorial they are. No matter the time of day, they are always in the middle of whatever can be mistaken for an unearthly recital.
How I wish I could spend enough time to see what else they can do with their legs.
How I ache for their love to haunt me all through the summer.
Her silken beak,
penciling fresh blood trails
and her legs – draped
in technicolor dreams,
(Photographs – Pallikarnai, Ponneri, Pulicat)