I first saw Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers inside a reserve forest in Kumily. But, love was not in the air. Maybe, they were in a hyperactive mood. Or just camera shy. Because every time I tried to photograph them, they would fly away to some other spot. No matter how closely I tracked one, it simply refused to stand still. Disappointed, I left them in a hurry.
Later, I spotted them in Megamalai. Once again, they escaped my camera’s frame by fluttering about, like a kamikaze fleet getting ready for a fight. And I walked away with my head hung low.
The third time was the charm. Two years ago, I stumbled upon them during a rocky climb in Thattekad. They were hunting for crunchy insects inside the bark of a tree. While they continued to be quicker than hiccups, I wanted to try something different. So, I decided to give them an hour or so to warm up to me.
I sat down on a large boulder and got into a staring contest with sun-kissed treetops. But I kept making sure the Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers were still around. I could not lose them again. As time went by, another descent of woodpeckers joined them for breakfast.
Together, they scurried up and down the branches, as fast as their tiny talons could carry them, chirping incessantly. It was quite a spectacle. As though, the branches had the most beautiful zits ever. These pocket-sized portions of polka dots, music, and digested insects.
Much to my delight and surprise, many of them were kind enough to pause for 3-4 seconds in-between frantic flights. I was finally able to take a couple of photographs.
Only then did I notice how gorgeous each one looked. Robed in spotted black-and-white overcoats, they boasted of crests that resembled top-halves of question marks of the Helvetica persuasion. As I was still admiring them, a Heart-Spotted Woodpecker showed up. It was seeking a comfortable spot to sunbathe and clean its wings. And it seemed to be fine with being photographed too.
At that moment, I felt glad that I had waited. If I had been impatient like before, I might not have experienced this very precious moment. But in hindsight, I have been more perplexed by why it took me that long to do the right thing.
Because I don’t think that good things happen to those who wait. Patience means precious little if it is not backed by effort and persistence. If we really want something, we must go out there and see if it exists – the way we think it does. We don’t need an audience to cheer us on. Or a marching band to play an inspiring tune.
If Nike could get it right in 1988, so can we in 2017.
Make this year count.
A noisy summer’s
by a woodpecker
down on his luck,
perched above a traveler,
with hiccups and
to accompany them at dusk.