Monday, January 20, 2014

Bird-brain among Birders

A trip to Sunderbans only evoked a pleasant feeling of going out into wilderness and, maybe, manage to see a few wild animals while I was at it. Little did I realize that my first sighting of a new species would happen at the Howrah Railway Station. I had heard that such beings existed but it was, nevertheless, a fact that I was shocked and surprised by the fact that Birders were not mythical beings. Worse still was the discovery that the harmless beings, that I had hitherto trekked with, also morphed into these awesome (or is it awful?) beings when I met them at Howrah.

For a person who could not see any difference between a sandpiper and a sand plover, this was a huge shock. (Confession: The only sandpiper I had known till this trip came in a bottle). I can still hark back to my first lesson on birds - that the black one was a crow and the brown one a sparrow. I capped off my learning about birds and was proud to have mastered the theory on the day I realized that the hen, which is still not convinced that wings can be used for flying, and the eagle, which soars so high always that it seems unconvinced that the legs are of any use at all for locomotion, are both birds. That my pinnacle of achievement did not even mount to a respectable amount of bull excreta was driven into me in the course of this trip.

Three days spent in a launch (I skip the nights at the resort - drunken revelry is not a fit subject for this blog) surrounded by bazooka sized cameras, machine-gun like binoculars and frenzied cries off "There! There! Look at that ibis" and the like! In the intervals when the launch took to the middle of the waters and no sightings were possible, the conversation revolved between the Greek of photography esoterica and the Latin of rare birds like the Great Indian Bustard. Having no experience of looking wise and interspersing apparently knowledgeable questions that concealed the absolute vacuum inside, I was reduced to gawking and looking the perfect imbecile (NOT looking my natural self, thank you!).

Matters were compounded for me when I discovered another of my uncanny abilities. When people were excitedly looking at that collared Kingfisher, I discovered that I had this knack of looking everywhere else except where it was. When they helpfully handed me the binoculars and said, "Look 2 O'Clock", I had to curb my urge for lifting my wrist for a look at my watch and compute what direction it meant. By the time I had done these trigonometric computations, the launch would have moved on, the bird would stay put and I would have to rework it all for 3 O'Clock. The net result was a Suresh spinning like a top (well - only 180 degrees, since even I had not gone so far as to look at the other bank of the river for a bird on this bank) on the deck of the launch with the birds looking on with grave interest, rather than the other way around.

Did I forget to mention? The Sunderbans is a lot of islands at which you can look on but not step on. So, you traveled in boats and tried to sight animals and birds that could be seen - if they deigned to come - on the banks of the river. This river too, incidentally, was one of the confused lot - it had not made up its mind whether it was a river or the backwaters since the water was brackish. The clayey soil ensured that trees had to adopt the ingenious means of poking their roots out into the air to breath - the so-called breathing roots. THAT was the only satisfactory part for me. Thankfully trees are large enough to be more easily located and also stayed put in one place so that I could take hours to locate them and still expect to find them.

Despite my super-abilities, I did manage to sight three crocodiles sun-bathing (I know - not the most brilliant feat of observation), a couple of monitor lizards and one jungle cat that swished a disdainful tail at me as it vanished into the woods. There was one monitor lizard that had blended so well into the trunk of the tree it was resting on that it was nearly impossible to locate. I did manage to sight it (AT LAST!) - a feat of which I was inordinately proud.

Some sights that will linger in my mind - a tree so hung with parakeets that it seemed to have more birds than leaves; a sandpiper taking a floating crocodile for a log and trying to alight on it only to recognize what it was at the last moment and hurriedly flying away; and, above all, the serene waters and lush green woods that were a balm to the eyes and the soul.

The wild has always exercised a fascination for me - and my own joy comes merely from soaking in the ambiance. I must, however, admit that this frenzy to locate the next bird found lodgings in me too and I was running around the boat and peering (in exactly the opposite direction most of the time) to sight the common kingfisher (something I disdain to notice even when it dances a saraband in front of me in Bangalore) and being sorely disappointed when I failed. The infection is wearing off now - but, who knows, I may yet morph into one of those mythical beings - Birders. Then, indeed, would you see a bird-brained Birder!

P.S: I am no photography buff and, so, no photographs till I get some from one of my companions on the trip.

PPS: About the only good news on my return from the trip is the fact that Blogadda seems to have shortlisted my blog for its awards in the Humor category. (Surprising, I know but these things do happen sometimes)

http://win.blogadda.com/view-blogs-voting/humor_satire/Life_is_Like_This/

46 comments:

  1. "Bazooka sized cameras "..hehehe..:-D . Jokes apart , I've visited Sundarbans four times and every time as my friends and co-passengers shouted indicating at something " oi je , oi je " ( there there) I found myself completely lost in the wilderness as I failed to spot anything ..even once the Royal Bengal Tiger which they demanded they got a glimpse of ! Till now, I used to curse myself for not having an eagle's ( or vulture's ? ) eye but after reading this..you know.. it feels nice to have companions ..even in failures.. :-P

    Congrats for the BlogAdda shortlisting..voted for it.. :-) Good luck

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NOW I know I have good company too :) Thanks Maniparna!

      Delete
  2. LOL ! so you had a taste of what I undergo :) Bird-brained birders are sure not a new thing for me, I will check on you time and again to see whether you still exist in the world of humans :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! Ash! I was expecting this from you :)

      Delete
  3. I admire the people who can reel of the names of birds including their 'horoscopes". I can imagine that parakeet laden tree. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! Looking forward to more. Congratulations for you nomination. We would have demanded an inquiry if your blog was not shortlisted. Voted for it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha Ilakshee! Thanks! Of course I know you voted for it - you did even before I knew I was shortlisted :)

      Delete
  4. machine-gun like binoculars!! really Suresh only you can write this :D

    Looks like you really enjoyed yourself !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! More like double-barreled guns actually :) I did enjoy myself - I invariably do in the wilderness.

      Delete
  5. My interest in Suderban was piqued after I read Amitav Ghosh's - Hungry Tide. Its still a dream to visit the Sunderban's. And this is the perfect season.

    But you came back and didn't upload an album of 567 pics titled 'To Sunderban and back'! What an epic shame :p

    Also, congratulations on your nomination. Goes without saying, you have my vote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must be about the only blogger in the world who writes a travel post without a single picture in it, Purba! :) EPIC Shame indeed :)

      Thanks! How can I forget the ringing vote you gave my writing in your introduction to my guest post on your blog? I assumed that your wishes were with me as much as mine are with you.

      Delete
  6. Loved it!!! Glad you are back Suresh! and yes awaiting the pics, esp. if there is one of the Bazooka sized cameras :P

    ReplyDelete
  7. interesting read. congratulations on your nomination. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Looks like you had fun on your Sunderbans trip Suresh, although you didn't quite 'strike out' with the 'chicks' I gather from your post.

    Welcome back :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not at all - never did, in any sense of that term :)

      Delete
  9. Memorable potshots on bird photographers in a manner unique to Suresh. The bit about the hen and the eagle set me thinking. I am sure you had a gala time. Thanks for directing some reflecting glory this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Uma! I, too, seem to be falling into the trap of poking fun at things that i am secretly ashamed of being ignorant about :)

      Delete
  10. Wild is truly fascinating. Good that you are able to indulge in what you like to do.
    I have no clue about birds except that I know who Dr Salim Ali was.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Last year, I had a similar experience when i visited Bharatpur bird sanctuary....I had a tough time spotting the birds while the richshaw-wala who also doubled up as the guide was seeing them like a football...

    PS- Congrats for your nomination

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to know I have so much company - Thanks Ritesh!

      Delete
  12. Your Post reminded me of my Kerala Backwaters trip this Winter. I spotted the 'Kingfisher' with much difficulty and just when I tried to click a pic, it decided to fly away! Also spotted many birds! No clue about their names though :)
    Suresh ji, Congrats for getting nominated! Best wishes :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Congrats on your well deserved nomination .
    You at least know the names of so many birds, and this
    '2'0clock bit had me in splits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Indu! I just picked them up on this trip - the bird names :)

      Delete
  14. My best wishes on your nomination

    ReplyDelete
  15. I remember being shown a lot of birds on my Corbett trip. There were no tigers to see anyway :). Yes, I have hardly any knowledge of birds either. And, why did you not take any pictures? Sunderbans sounds exotic. Some day perhaps I can go there too. And good luck on your nomination. My best wishes are with you!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am the only person I know who can take a blurred pic with a digital point and shoot camera :) Thanks for the wishes, Rachna!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I read the post yesterday but could not comment.
    I have never been to the SUNDARBANS
    And now I am imagining a tree full of parakeets!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ah, the only person I know who writes travelogues without any pictures but with such brilliant eloquence that the reader can picture everything for his or her own self! As for the birds, I hardly know or can recognize any names other the regulars, have to always be content admiring them. Glad you had a great trip, CS :) I wish to explore this part of the world someday too. And all the very best for the awards, my best wishes are always with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Arti! May you visit it soon and regale us.

      Delete
  19. 'The only sandpiper I know comes in a bottle' Hah! Vintage Suresh. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hahhahahah Suresh, you definitely know how to write a hilarious post. You know usually posts on "travels" and stuff are kindaa blaaahhh , but you have done a wonderful job on keeping the reader hooked till the very end. The thought of Sunbathing crocs ...ughhh ..:P .. not a fan of those esp after "Khoon bharii maang" :P Loved the way you described people with 'amazing' knowledge on birds :P .. You are funnyy!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Menachery! I am also the only one who writes travel posts without a single pic, I think :)

      Delete
  21. I guess we can do without pictures. There are already so many on the net for almost any place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Loads of them so why overload the place with my amateur efforts :)

      Delete
  22. Congrats for bloggadda shortlisting. I became more aware of the ibis, flamingo and kingfisher after my son came along. One day he said about macaroni penguin s and I thought he had made it up. But actually there are macaroni penguins

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jaish! Hope your son is not asking you to cook macaroni penguins for him :P

      Delete