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.
When I first sighted the Malabar Giant Squirrel in Kodaikanal, I came back home and changed my life. A chance spotting of the Lion-Tailed Macaque at Parambikulam led me to turn vegan and grow sideburns. I was pretty sure I would do something drastic for this bird. Sell a house. Cut off a toe. Change my first name to make it sound less asexual.
As it turned out, I just sheepishly grinned. I then tugged at my friend’s collar and pointed out the bird to him, before pulling out the camera. I expected a bigger reaction. Perhaps I obsessed about him too much. Or that he was still bathed in the blood of golden peaches; not yet a fully-fledged ivory male adult. I thought about these things only during the bus ride back home.
At that moment, when he fluttered his tail feathers and showed me his perfect crest, I felt my head turn into a pillow. A warm, soothing silence descended upon the thorny terrain we were on. Nothing more. Nothing less.
We had visited a farm in the foothills, which was home to some of the most gorgeous birds I had ever seen. At one point, I saw a Black-Headed Oriole pick apart a caterpillar a few trees away from a Common Iora couple dancing to the heartbeat of the sun. There was also the excitement of planning escape routes in case of elephant attacks. My friend seemed glad that I could swim. I imagine, also that he could outrun me.
But nothing wacky or scary happened. Instead a tough-to-photograph Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, a Banded Bay Cuckoo and a Malabar Grey Hornbill showed up too. And then there was the joyful panic attack of spotting four different types of owls in a single day – the Indian Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Jungle Owlet (two sub-species) and the Spotted Owlet. I cannot even describe the effect that the Jungle Owlet had on me. In a few days, maybe.
A shorter trail the next day in Thekkady was fantastic too with Indian Pittas, Serpent Eagles, Racket-Tailed Drongos and White-Bellied Treepies showing up to say hello.
It was a wonderfully strange birding weekend. In a way it had me convinced that a bird in hand is worth an Asian Paradise Flycatcher in the bush.
But thanks, sweet prince of paradise. The pleasure was all mine.