I’m writing this piece cooped up in the stuffy confines of the living room at the farmhouse when I’d much rather be out on the front porch where it is cooler and far more pleasant. Outside in the car park, looking very much like a parsi in prayer, is my rental car, thanks to the couple of bedsheets that I threw over it earlier this morning. Now I know you are wondering if I am beginning to ‘lose it’. But let me hasten to add that there are logical explanations.
I arrived late last night. The heat and humidity were sky high and, not surprisingly, I awoke this morning to thunder and lightning.
It must have rained somewhere for the temperature had dropped considerably and sky was dark and overcast. Usually, the first thing I do the moment I surface is set up the camera. Today the poor light meant that photography, for the time being at least, was pointless and I reached for the binoculars instead.
The first bird was an Asian paradise flycatcher. A young rufous male from the looks of it, his tail still relatively short and stubby. The next hour flew past thanks to waves of golden orioles, oriental magpie robins, white browed and red-whiskered bulbuls, Blyth’s reed warblers, black and ashy drongos, baya weaver birds and white-rumped munias.
It was going to be a good day. I could feel it in my bones!
By now the light had improved and while the water boiled for my coffee it was time to set up the camera.
First the lens. The 1.4x TC III teleconverter is coupled to the Canon EF500mm f4L IS II. Next the camera body is locked on to the lens composite and then, using an Allen wrench, the Wimberly P50 quick release Arca-Swiss style plate is secured to the lens foot. Setting the camera aside the GH-2 gimbal is assembled and screwed on the carbon fibre tripod legs. Finally the camera is married to the tripod and, after quickly checking the battery, memory card and settings, we were good to go.
My phone pings with a WhatsApp notification. A friend is up early and at a lake elsewhere in Maharastra. The birds around him are amazing, he messages!
A flock of white-rumped munia that were playing hide and seen among the hibiscus stop to have a drink. Orioles are out in numbers this morning. Both the black-hooded oriole and the Indian golden oriole.
Despite having hundreds of pictures of these birds I will still shoot off a quick burst each time I see one in the hope that it turns out to be a black-naped specimen. A species that I have yet to spot in Goa.
A pair of red-whiskered bulbuls keep showing up with nesting material in their beaks. Their nest is definitely nearby but a careful scan of the surrounding bushes with the binoculars reveals nothing.
My phone pings again. This time with a FaceBook notification. A fellow goan has posted an image of an unusual bird taken from her house.
Over the past couple of years there has been a steady increase in the numbers of regular Goan citizens that have awoken to the beauty in their backyards. It is really heartening to see that many of them taken it upon themselves to highlight the incredible diversity that this tiny but unique Indian state is blessed with. Hopefully it will help convince the city fathers to be that little bit more attentive to the repercussions of the decisions they make in the name of progress.
What looks like pale-billed flowerpecker feeds on a nearby tree. A quick post on a birding site suggest that it is more likely to be a juvenile Nilgiri flowerpecker.
A crested serpent eagle circles the sky. What I thought was nesting material in its beak actually may very well be a small snake! As I review the images on the camera LCD my phone pings again.
This time it is from a group that is birding in Uttarakhand. The list of sightings including khaleej pheasant, black-chinned babbler and lesser coucal has me salivating.
A reddish movement directly in front of the porch catches my attention. A red spur fowl has hopped onto an exposed branch. These are normally very shy birds but I do believe that they are breeding somewhere in the vicinity and very, very occasionally they’ll honour me with a sighting like the one below. This one is lacking in ‘spurs’ and is probably a female.
A quick burst is all it allows me before disappearing. A short while later a female Asian koel puts in a guest appearance.
A loud, persistent tapping sound emanating from the car park gets me curious and I go there to investigate. 5-6 jungle babblers are perched on the sill of the car windows pecking away furiously at their reflections in the glass.
I caught these two clowns below looking daggers at their virtual doppelgängers! The one on the left showing a very human-like trait of a show of aggression from over the shoulder of another.
I try to shoo them away but each time they return, hammering away at the glass. The car is brand new, barely a few months old, and belongs to someone else. The last thing I wanted was to return it with scratches or even a broken glass.
And so I fetched a couple of bed sheets and covered the vehicle. That stopped the babblers from attacking the car. Seconds later they turned their attention to my window panes!
The phone goes off for one last time. It’s the wife. She couldn’t make it this trip and wanted to know how the garden was doing.
I begin to take images of the various plants on my iPhone. First the hibiscus and bougainvillea. Irrespective of the season they alway look good! Next the musanda and the ixora beds, and so on to include all of other flowering plants in the yard.
Finally I turned to our personal favourites: a couple of cycas palms growing just outside the porch. One of them had a new whorl of leaves and wonder of wonder, the catterpillars of the plains cupids butterflies had actually spared it. (Follow this link to see what I am talking about: Beauties or Beasts)
That was when I noticed that the plant had a temporary bodyguard.
A tiny, but perfectly built nest was partially hidden among the spiky leaves. Moments later a red-whiskered bulbul comes to it. I’ve been standing a few feet away the entire morning but never noticed! Not wanting to disturb the nest I move indoors away from the porch but not before sneaking a quick image.
And so here I am. Cooped up in the now hot and humid living room with the comically capped car clearly visible through one of the living room windows.
God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world I’d say!