To catch a flycatcher

Birds are potted plants for rent;
Even if their terrace gardens may change,
the colour of water that kisses their roots
will remain the same.

Old World Flycatchers (Eeppidippan) are beautiful passerine birds. They are notoriously difficult to photograph. It took me about a year to spot the Asian Paradise Flycatcher. The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Black-And-Orange Flycatcher continue to be disastrously fleet-footed subjects of mine.

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Munnar

Also I am not a photographer. I am a birder who documents his adventures using a digital camera. I have a Nikon Cool Pix (60x zoom) that chronicles the love I have for birds. At this point though – it has become an obsession. It isn’t easy given how paranoid, and rightfully so, they are around us. So many of them I end up identifying only by their calls. Even if I spot a bird on the ground, inside a tree or up in the sky, that’s just half the battle won. Taking a photograph is another process altogether.

It isn’t easy for me to photograph any of the smaller birds. Patience has always been an issue with me. The ones I haven’t spotted before are especially hard since I get way too excited around them.

This year a Layard’s Flycatcher surprised me when she appeared for the first time and stayed long enough to let me take a photograph. While I was birding in Kumily, near the TN-Kerala border during last January, she popped out of nowhere by a creek.

Layard's Flycatcher
Layard’s Flycatcher, TN-Kerala border

She had large eyes that sank my heart and a browning suit that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a solemn affair. She never flinched once as I pulled out the camera and pointed it at her. She just looked at me by aching her neck. A full minute later, she remained unmoved, still staring at me.

I took two photographs but stopped after that. I am not sure why though. Perhaps it is my guilt as a birder. I am sure that I disturb birds during my trails. There is a great chance that they haven’t a clue just how much I love them. As far as they are concerned, I am just another threat they have to deal with.

I hope that someday I won’t go beyond spotting them. Maybe one day a heartbeat will be enough.


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