Text & Photography – Asit Bhagat
Most of us have some hobbies and interests. Some of us are nature lovers who often like to spend time outside. However, as COVID-19 compelled a mandatory lockdown, people have gotten confined to their homes, and given the situation, this is undoubtedly the best option.
Like many, initially, I also got a little distressed with the idea of staying indoors. Being an avid birdwatcher, it was difficult for me to imagine not going out and sighting the avifauna. It was with this feeling that my lockdown stay began. But then I did not have the slightest idea how nature would unfurl its serene beauty at my doorstep.
One lockdown morning, I was exercising in the yard, just when the call of purple-rumped sunbird caught my attention. The excitement drew me near the bird, and I found it busy sucking nectar from the flame vine. The sighting offered me a sense of relief, as I had completely given up on the thought of birdwatching. No sooner had the bird left, when a purple sunbird landed on the West Indian Jasmine. Undeterred by my presence, it immersed itself in satiating its appetite. It was nice to watch the two categories of sunbirds in quick succession.
For the first few days, I didn’t try to take pictures of the birds, because I enjoyed watching them more than photographing them. The sunbirds now became accustomed to my presence, and would allow me watch them from close quarters. Taking the advantage, I finally managed to click some pictures of the birds. The shining rump and the glittering West India Jasmine made excellent shots.
As I began to have birdwatching sessions at home, another two little sweet members in the avian club of our garden became visible. They were the warblers, ashy prinia and common tailor bird. In the evening, when the trees were watered, the mischievous ashy prinia would start emitting the panicky whistle. It hopped amidst the branches, from one tree to another, swiftly perching between the thorns of rose, oscillating its tail, and offering the very poses for my photo shoots. The little tailor bird, would perch vertically along the trunk on the mango tree, and keep singing its melodious tune. Its intermingling green shades, and chestnut forehead made it a cynosure for bird lovers like me.
Just when I had become busy sighting these little mischievous flyers, I happened to spot another few visitors. A plum-headed parakeet now made it its routine to visit our garden to feed on the fresh mangoes. On one occasion, I attempted taking a picture and went closer. With its beak smeared with crumbs, the parakeet was nonchalantly feeding on a mango, as I just stood under it and watched the activity. Just in time, I took a few shots, and left it undisturbed.
The soaring temperatures and sizzling heat compel birds to take shelter in dense trees. As time transitioned from April to May, new calls now started coming from the mango tree. When I looked at it, I discovered two silver bills cuddling each other and chirping. Oriental white eye and common Iora, though rare visitors, camouflaged themselves in the leaves, and kept emitting the mysterious sweet calls.
The birdwatching sessions now became quite exciting, owing to the arrival of new members. Each day turned out to be a new day, and for a moment, I forgot that I was in fact, still at home.
Summer evenings are known for the calls of Asian koels and one evening when I was climbing down the stairs, I saw one. It was a female known for its brown plumage with white and buff spots, and blood-red eyes, stealthily hiding in the twigs of the mango tree.
I had just updated the lockdown bird list when the next morning I heard a beautiful song coming from the backyard. My temptation led me to find an oriental magpie robin! Its soft and sweet tones accompanied with the early morning cool breezes offered a soothing experience.
The birds kept the garden alive all the time and when no one would be there, the two constant companions, the sparrow and the laughing dove, would make their silent presence felt.
As time passed, I didn’t realize when my home garden became an offbeat bird watching destination for me. I preferred jungle patches, botanical gardens or lakes but I had hardly thought of the home garden as a great venue for my hobby.
The experience came as a realization that nature exists around us in many forms. All we need is to see it through our inner lenses and spend some time to understand and enjoy it.