I share tempestuous relationships with the birds of the Western Ghats. We find each other in strange, comical and beautiful ways once a month. I fall in love with them at the speed of crepuscular light. Then, off they go – as swiftly as they came.
I am left with heartache of the unreasonable kind. It’s silly. For all they know – I might be a giant lizard with portly tongue girth. Or a mongoose without any mobility. I bet they don’t even like me given how often I stalk them.
At times though, some give me the impression that they don’t mind having me around. For instance, one such love story of mine, featuring Rosefinches, had a happy ending.
I was out birding, this weekend, in the Western Ghats. From Rajakaddu and Thattakaed to Theni and the upper Palani section. I saw many birds for the first time. I will tell you about them as this week goes on.
On the last day of the trail, I was taking a morning walk down the Adukkum road in Kodaikanal. I didn’t think the dawn owed me anything. I would have been at peace even if I hadn’t spotted a single birdie. It had been a wonderful weekend with so many bejeweled discoveries.
I was gazing at the sun’s slow ascent behind ghostly peaks. A few Ashy Drongos came in to steal the shadows on branches of trees. I found a Vernal Hanging Parakeet catching some shut-eye. I was thinking how all mornings should start like this.
A solitary Rosefinch then appeared from a canopy of trees, and perched itself a few meters away from me. It was a male, bathed in crimson pink, wearing a white polka-dotted sweater. I had only seen him once before while on the way to Munnar.
He looks like the tip of a paintbrush – dipped in the wildest and reddest of hues. His songs are the stuff that makes stardust theories insufficient to explain just how beauty this world can be. He was off in a flash, leaving me feeling a little diminished. I wanted more.
Later than morning, I spotted feisty Canary-Headed Flycatchers at a nearby stream. Along with a couple of Yellow-Browed Bulbuls, they had me woozy with joy. A Malabar Giant Squirrel showed up too, and showed off his acrobatic skills.
And then they came. A flock of Rosefinches in search of honeyed and protein-rich treats. I photographed them, against the rising sun, on a tree filled with pink and burgundy leaves.
It was a dream-like encore. Intense and hard to tread lightly upon. When they finally left, I had a bad case of neck cramps. And a bunch of photographs I was happy about. Most of all – they left me with enough reason to believe that they will come back again.
If that’s not love, what is?
Love can be
a passing phase.
But rosy will be the colour
of my paramour’s plumage.
(Photographs – Kerala, Tamil Nadu)