A friend once decided to get into bird photography.
He bought himself a good mid-range camera and began shooting birds around his home. He saw, and shot, a wide variety of species, and was both amazed at beauty that surrounded him and shocked that for decades he was totally oblivious of it!
For months he was one happy trooper, spending much of his free time at home, camera in hand and itching to click. Thrilled by the fact that almost every day he got to experience that wonderful rush of excitement that accompanied the spotting of a new species of bird.
Then, inevitably, the number of ‘new’ sightings began to dwindle. And with it the intensity of the buzz each sighting evoked.
And he wondered if he had reached the end…
August, 2016. 7am.
I’m here in Goa, on the first day of my monthly weekend visit. It is a beautiful monsoon morning. Midway through sipping my coffee on the front porch I see a blue-faced malkoha perched out in the open on a branch barely twenty yards away.
My mind goes back three to four years to my first sighting of this bird. That day I caught only glimpses of it as it hopped from branch to branch some distance away, deep in the undergrowth.
Those snaps were far from ideal. Yet I was so excited at having seen the bird that I took over a hundred images and the number of times I viewed the them on my computer over the next couple of weeks, is almost too embarrassing to mention in print!
The sightings have since stacked up and I presently have a whole set of nice images of blue-faced malkohas to show for it.
So now, though it’s a real pleasure to watch the bird I’ll be the first to admit that the rush is nowhere near as intense as it was back then.
The same holds true for a number of other birds I saw this weekend. Birds that would have had me hopping with excitement in the past now cease to generate the same degree of excitement.
Below are some of the images I took this weekend and examples of a few of the birds I am referring to…
In fact on this trip I did not see a single bird species that I haven’t seen or photographed before.
And yet, just like all my other visits, month upon month, year after year it was still unique in it’s own way.
For starters I got this unusual shot of a greater coucal (crow pheasant) in a sinister Darth Vader-ish pose! The sun had just come out after a long spell of rain and the bird perched on a bare branch spreading it’s wings and tail feathers to dry them.
And then there were the bees.
I arrived late on Friday night and I took a walk around the backyard with my torch hopeing to catch a glimpse of some nocturnal wildlife.
The next morning standing at the porch I was shocked to see a large beehive on one of the lower branches of the Gunpowder tree at the far end of the yard. Buzzing around it were thousands of bees almost defying me to come as near as I did the night before!
Memories of my recent encounter with bees at the Bondla Sanctuary came flooding back! Not at all helped by internet references suggesting that these bees will aggressively defend there hive and are known to be capable of killing a human being.
The decision on whether or not to step out on the lawn for the entire duration of this trip was a no brainer!!
Watching the hive activity – from a distance – was fascinating. Bees would leave the hive collecting nectar from the flowers in the garden and then return to deposit it. A baby squirrel ventured near the hive and got one of its first lessons in life: These strange buzzing, yellow and black flying creatures are not to be messed with!
This Greater Eggfly butterfly (below) kept approaching the hive almost as if it wanted in…attracted by the honey perhaps?
Talking of butterflies, the air was full of them.
This is the middle of the monsoon season and from now till December butterflies will be seen in abundance.
I saw this large, beautiful butterfly flitting among the flowerbeds that I subsequently googled to be a Southern Birdwing.
This is what Wikipedia had to say: “The Southern Birdwing…with a wingspan of 140-190mm… is the largest butterfly of India…It is much sought after by collectors…and is the highlight of many butterfly-tours in the Western Ghats.”
It really made my day that I was able to take this shot sitting on my front porch!
Two common woodshrikes put up quite a comic sideshow. One of them had what looked like the body of a butterfly and refused to share it.
My mother alway said, God punishes those that don’t share. The video below proof of just how right she was!
Looking back, despite the fact that there were no exciting new bird sightings I did thoroughly enjoy the weekend.
It also highlighted a couple of birding laws.
The first is the Birding Law of Inevitability:
The initial persistent, jaw-dropping, spine-tingling, pulse-racing rush will not last. It will gradually be replaced by a warm pleasurable glow with the occasional spike of excitement when a bird strikes an unusual pose or puts on an unexpected show.
The second is the Birding Law of It’s-Not-Only-All-About-the-Birds!
Simply stated: There is so much else around us that is equally beautiful and as entertaining.
Birds, bees, butterflies, flowers, insects, trees… it doesn’t matter. It’s all out there, and for free. The only requirements being time spent and eyes open.
And if we are willing to accept that then we will always find ourselves wanting to stay that little bit longer, and will always, always be counting the days till we return!
And I guess the same principles hold true for life itself.