Rufous-backed Shrike, Vattakanal

Year 1 of birding: This time I went too far

Over the past 11 months, I have spotted and photographed 200+ birds in South India. I have also spent the year working on two documentaries. It means that I was not gainfully employed. So, time was on my side. I got to watch birds every single day. I was on the lookout for bird poop that drizzled from above. The thin branches that swayed when all else remained still. Dancing phone lines, scissoring through cities and forests, on which they perched upon. Quick movements in shrubs and bushes.

But, it was mostly several gigantic strokes of luck. I saw them wherever I went. Soon, I started to believe that the birds found me as often as I searched for them.

Heart-Spotted Woodpeckers, Thekkady

I hounded the scrub forests, marshlands, and backwaters in and around Chennai. Places like Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Ponneri, Pulicat Lake, Kelambakkam Backwaters, Pallikaranai Marsh and the paddy fields in Nelapattu. They are home to a remarkable variety of residential and migratory birds. No matter the season, they never disappoint. I also visited the hills in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, and spent weeks over there in search of birds.

I don’t think much about the number of birds I have seen. I have stopped recording it, as of last month. It isn’t that I am indifferent. It just makes me feel a little less invested in the process.

Maybe birding is a calling but I am not sure. Even now, I try to spend weekend mornings with the birds. I find a lot of love in them. The sort that I don’t want to receive from people. Like Elizabeth Fraser sang, “love is a doing verb”. Expectations. Drama. Lies. Love strained through text messages and linen sheets.

But this was special. Maybe it has something to do with their wings. The sensation of flight. To many, all this may sound like an exaggeration. Some nonsense that may or may not involve egalitarianism and hugging trees.

It is much simpler, though.

Birding reminds me of the Saturday mornings during the Eighties I had as a child. Unless examinations were around the corner or flatulent people were lunch guests, I looked forward to them. I could wake up early, watch cartoons and music videos before going back to sleep again. I could read all day without having to learn anything. I could roller-skate the evening away, and play with my pet dog. And I still had Sunday left. It was perfect. I would have been happy if every day was Saturday. Life would have been wonderful.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Ponneri

Nowadays, I want to wake up every morning, knowing that birds are, in large numbers, next to where I live. I want to applaud the aerial acrobatics of kites. Confuse butterflies with sparrows and falling leaves with orioles. Watch starlings engage in territorial chirping contests with flycatchers. Take a dip in the lake and swim next to the painted storks, although that would be illegal and creepy. And go to sleep, knowing that there are owlets nearby to safeguard my dreams.

I have a pocked-sized Nikon digital camera. Nothing fancy, expensive or worthwhile your time. I have a pair of binoculars that are, like most of my friends, too heavy to accompany me. I really can’t tell you how serious I am about it. But as my first year of birding season comes to an end, it feels as though I had one of my best years yet.

Thank you, my beautiful birdies.

(written in 2014)

(Photographs: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh)

Advertisements

66 comments

  1. What a beautiful homage to birding. I love the line “I don’t know if birding is a calling….” Was that deliberate? What kind of call does a birdwatcher have? “Oh, look! A bird!” Anyway, I love this post and I always enjoy your photos. Glad you’ll have more to share what with the upcoming bird watching season and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i did not realize the “calling” bit before you brought it up. i’d assume a birdwatcher’s call would be “whooaa”, mine’s “awww”.

      …and thank you for saying such nice things, i look forward to bringing more birdies!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yo Christie, it is good to have some feathered friends. Bird watching is the best hobby that one can ever take 🙂 And I heard the Ilayaraja compositions you recommended. They are awesome. Specially the one with the guitar playing fellow 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my god, that was a delight to read. Extremely relatable as well. There’s something about birding that gives me so much happiness. It’s rather unexplainable, really.
    I just bought myself a pair of binoculars, and most of the winter migrants have started to arrive here. It’s wonderful. Grey wagtails and Spot Billed Pelicans, oh my!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. awww wish you many more birdies with the new binocs and all.

      Ooh grey wagtails with their yellow surprises for feathers, they are adorable…quite a few gallantly loitering around near the pulicat lake these days.

      also wish you much more inexplicable happiness!

      Like

  4. Superb. I like birds because they put me smack dab in the moment. It’s nice to be a human being occasionally, instead of a human doing. I do it as often as possible. Happy Birding!

    PS – 234 species in 6 months is impressive. Thanks to a trip to another region of the US (other than where we live), 50 species brought us over 200 by June. We will end this year at 250-something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Human doing giggles, tremendously put. Earlier this year, unemployment gave me the time and space i need, now a job gives me the money to do so. Interesting pickle i find myself in. But i can’t complain at all, birds are worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Birds are definitely interesting. I like birds that seem to trust you. I remember walking in a forest and a bird just landed on me and began speaking to me (in bird language) you could kind of tell it was saying something. I wanted to take it home but I didn’t want to disrupt nature by doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’ll find the time soon enough. i frequently flock to your nest, and you have a very impressive collection of feathered lovelies you have there. Kudos! I can only imagine the coverage if you had the time.

      Like

  6. That is a lot of birds! We’re lucky that we have a few birds near where we live. I’ve learnt the names of only a few though, thanks to my brother, who has a fascination for photographing. Peacock, Rufous treepie, kingfisher, hoopoe come by occasionally. I miss the sparrows – once so common, now almost extinct. The Jungle babblers, though, seem to have increased dramatically in these parts.

    I get what you mean, when you say you can find a different kind of love in birds, as compared to people. Our balcony is pretty much owned by the pigeons. We duck for cover as they fly past! Sure, they’ve made a muck out of the balcony, and we curse them for that, but deep down inside, we need those feathery companions around us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have peacocks nearby! How utterly lucky. And it’s funny that you mentioned sparrows. I lament their disappearance from my city every chance I get. How cruel must this urban jungle be, to do away with the sparrow! And jungle babblers hehe I found them a bit flustering until someone told me about the concept the “seven sisters”. Do read about that, it is a lot of fun.

      My jury is out on the pigeons too. I avoid the blue rock ones that are common in cities. I wish they were cleaner. I really really do!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. wow, wonderful photos, Christy. I liked your thoughts and words about birding. I have been birding for over 20 years now, and I not only delight in the amazing birds and wildlife that surround me in this lifelong hobby; but also the skills it has taught me in awareness, consciousness, identification, and appreciation. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, those are some incredible birds!!! I think it’s the love of God you are feeling from His creation. It reminds me of the scripture that says ”
    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20. That’s that ‘invisible quality’ that I know I sense when I’m birding. So great, what a great site. I had never thought about India for birds, usually think of Australia, but man!! Those are great. Your woodpeckers have mohawks! And do you have a ‘stellar jay’ that is orange?! Fantastic!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww look at the swirling stream of consciousness. I popped right out of my chair after reading your comment! I am not a religious person but gosh, love the energy!

      A few birder friends of mine from down under do remind that some of the prettiest birds are in Australia. But I suppose, each part of the world has its share of unbridled beauty.

      Yes! Mohawks! Orange! Bliss!

      (runs across the street as though head was on fire. Happy fire)

      Like

Tell me about it

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s