During the Christmas weekend, while in Ponneri, I saw the flycatcher breakfasting on a large moth. It was a breathtaking sight. How beautifully its iridescent crest glistened. The whirling dervishes that were its milk-white tail-feathers. Unable to contain my emotions, I cried. Not in a way that makes passersby smile at how kind and wonderful this deranged blue planet can be. It was sort of awkward. Weird-sounding. There was definitely some reverse-blowdrying of the nose. I had been waiting for the moment since 2013, after all.
On January 2, though, bad news arrived. I was diagnosed with a disc prolapse in my lower back. And it had struck a nerve that is connected to my left leg. There isn’t a cure for the condition. However, with the right treatment, I may be able to return to my routines.
I discover beauty, in physical forms, while birding. I try to cup its essence like palm leaves do a heavy shower. Most of it spills out of my hands. I hold hostage the thimbleful that remains through poetry, prose and photographs. I seek out boxes to put them into and admire them. Perhaps, even introspect about my own semi-charmed life that led me to these moments.
Yesterday, a few Coppersmith Barbets and a hyperactive Asian Paradise Flycatcher reminded me that beauty in birding is neither an art form nor a science. It is a backpack I can sling over my shoulder as I mosey towards the horizon. They made me realize that, in the absence of harmony and clarity, it is just extra baggage.
I have obsessed over spotting the Asian Paradise Flycatcher for years. She is one of those birds who looks as extravagant as her name might suggest. That’s not the case with let’s say the Streaked Fantail Warbler. Her name may suggest that she looks like Captain Planet’s arch-nemesis. In reality – she resembles a house sparrow wearing a shawl, just having a bad hair day.
About two months ago I had written about the Asian Paradise Flycatcher. I lamented about having never seen the white-morphed male. Just a few days after that, during a trail in the Thekkady foothills, I saw an adult male (orange-morphed) land on a tree a few feet away. Like a curious bystander, he flew from branch to branch until he was directly above me. The timing was exquisite. A minute or so before I spotted him, I was talking about his continued and inconspicuous absence from my life with an experienced birder who was accompanying me.
I told him how I might do something ridiculous if I ever saw a fully white-morphed Asian Paradise Flycatcher.