I have complained about being victimized by Captain Edward Murphy’s Law. And I have felt very silly about it. Bad luck is subjective in the long run. The timing is often random too. It doesn’t deserve to be mulled over. We choose to obsess over what we are denied. We pay attention to neither love nor luxuries that come to us on silver platters.
We are all lucky in some way or the other. For instance, two weeks ago – I spotted a vulture. I didn’t know I had until a few days ago. A friendly birder identified it as the Red-Headed Vulture after seeing the photograph. It was my first vulture sighting.
I realized that the best things in my life are not free. But sometimes, lady luck has me covered.
I travelled twice to the Upper Palani range this month. The first time around, I saw a giant raptor in flight – near the forest entry point of Adukkam road. I didn’t pay much heed since I assumed it was a Serpent Crested Eagle, which frequents the area.
As it flew closer towards me, I noticed it had a reddish-orange coloured head. I jogged down the forest road, panicking a little, for a better view. I saw it soar again in-between a canopy of trees by the edge of a cliff.
I managed to take a single photograph before it disappeared behind the clouds. Unbeknownst to me, it was a Red-Headed Vulture – one of the species of Old World vultures found in the Indian Subcontinent. The widespread usage of Diclofenac, a veterinary drug, is said to have caused its sturdy decline of vultures in India.
I tried, in vain, to find out if anyone else had photographed it in the same location. Maybe my googling skills aren’t that good. For now, I would like to believe that it was a special encounter, made sweeter by the fact that it was a rare sighting. I am also glad that I wasn’t aware then of its identity. I might have comically (and tragically) toppled over the cliff in excitement and joy.
After finding out that it was a Red-Headed Vulture, I wanted to cry a little. I ran my fingers over the phone’s keypad, like a small, six-legged insect suffering a nervous breakdown, as people confirmed its identity. I even used more than two exclamation marks. I was out of control for a minute or so.
I was happy.
A lot of silly things happen too while I am birding in the wild. During the same trip, I spent over half an hour, under the sweltering sun, photographing the base of a tree. I thought it was a Spot-Bellied Forest Owl with bloodshot eyes.
I climbed up a boulder, scratched my knee against prickly bush, and baked the soles of my feet. I told myself that it had to be an owl. When the truth dawned on me, I felt silly and ignorant. And I deserved the embarrassment as much as I did – the magnificent surprise of a vulture sighting.
I don’t belong to birding communities that study and track birds to help conserve them. They do wonderful and selfless work; often unappreciated for the amount of good they contribute to a common ecosystem.
I am not one of them. I am far more selfish in my birding endeavours.
I love the process and the outcome. The failure and the success. I am addicted to how it makes me feel. Maybe someday I will be in a position to dedicate time towards the conservation of biodiversity in the Indian subcontinent. Even then, I doubt if it would be a selfless act. But I am sure that luck still would follow me.
Hello, mister Vulture, we will meet again.
You and I… dearest vulture,
we just aren’t the same.
You choose life, and
I chase love that
goes, each year,
by different names.
(Photographs: Upper Palani range – Kodaikanal)