I am pretending that summer isn’t in a fierce mood. I am ignoring the sweat dripping down my forehead. The constant buzzing of air-conditioners. The humidity in the air. But I am painfully aware that birding season is over. Many of the migratory birds are gone. The endemic ones are vacating regular nesting grounds in search of water. Last summer, I felt really bad about it. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait until November for the next season.
This year, things are looking up. I know this because a birdie told me so. And not just any birdie. But one with tail-feathers so curvy that it can be mistaken for a dance recital that came to life.
A few days, I was fortunate enough to spot a pair of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas. I saw them towards the end of a dry birding trail in the villages surrounding Ponneri town. They were foraging through water lilies, with herons and plastic cans for pond-mates. It came as a big surprise to me. I had seen them just once before.
These jacanas can be found in tropical areas in parts of India, Indonesia, and Taiwan. And it has been reported that they are a vagrant species in Australia too. They belong to the group of waders that are easily identifiable by their huge claws and unmistakably long tail-feathers.
Also, they look like anthropomorphic teacups all dressed up for some dance performance.
I stood on the edge of a temple pond and watched them hunt for insects. I was in awe of the finesse with which they scooted from one lily to another. And the way they cocked their heads, assuredly, back and forth – as if to tell me that things are going to be alright.
It‘s always special to connect with birds that I don’t get to see often. But these jacanas helped me in reaching two important conclusions. One is that if I ever make a list of heroes who inspire me – it will start and end with ‘The Little Engine That Could‘. The other is that I will get through the summer, sedated and uncooked .
Thank you, dear Pheasant-Tailed Jacana, for making life easier for me.
She’s the queen of lilies,
a milky-white damsel,
with cappuccino stains on her neck.
She’s a dream sequence in short supply,
with salty lullabies on her breath.
(Photographs: Ponneri – Chennai)