The lockdown reminded me of a poem:
“Leisure” by WH Davies,
What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and Stare,
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
I have been spending every single day of the lockdown just staring and watching in wonder at the world of birds, bees and butterflies, trying to capture them in photos, their ordinary activities and poses, which looks extraordinarily beautiful if we observe closely and at leisure. The close attention gives way to a rapt attention and it becomes an addiction. The canvas of Nature presents innumerable vignettes of sights and sounds every day. Each day of the lockdown is a different show of sights and sounds. With no noise and human interference, the birds, bees and butterflies are having a ball of a time. This being a mating and breeding time, it’s a nature lovers dream come true to discover, watch, gaze and wonder at the delightful activities of the avian beauties.
From my study window, I hear the high-spirited trill of the Purple Sunbird and its partner as they descend on the Tecoma creeper in my garden announcing their arrival for a swig or two of the nectar. I dash out of the room, grabbing my camera to capture the birds. They swing and sway on the hanging flower laden branches, puncturing the flowers to take a long sip, follow it up with a satisfied trill, flutter for a few seconds in the air like humming birds to settle on another bunch of flowers for another drink before flying back bobbing up and down gaily. One can make out that they have a family on the way, when the female is seen ripping thin threads from palm fronds for weaving its nest. In a stroke of luck one day, I witnessed the young ones being fed by the female and learning to sip while waiting for the mother to return for the next feed.
Indian Silver Bills
A group of Indian Silver Bills can be heard softly chitter-chattering in hedges. A gregarious bird, it arrives in flocks to my garden throughout the day to feed or drink.
The tailor bird makes an appearance as soon as I have finished watering my garden to hunt for insects disturbed from their hiding.
Oriental White Eye
The oriental white eye, with the distinctive white ring around its eyes, is a small pretty bird, a cool summery yellow-green-white in colour. It comes to my garden to forage and quench itself, its pleasing colour more than making up for the glaring angry-bird kind of look. I chanced upon a nest of oriental white eyes and couldn’t help marvel. It was intricately woven and resembled a soft cosy hammock. As I stood for a while, I noticed how a pair took chances to incubate. The reliever would announce its arrival with a soft whistle. In a jiffy the one inside the nest flew off and in came the reliever and settled down comfortably after fluffing itself.
White Throated Kingfisher
The white throated kingfisher, a regular in my society, comes with a loud screeching call and perches royally on a lamp post or on the roof parapet for its recce. Once I was caught unawares as it flew down silently just a few meters from me on a Champa tree and at another time, on a first floor balcony, both uncommon perches in inhabited surroundings. Needless to say, it was a sight to behold. Bright turquoise blue wings, white throat, a brown belly and an enormous tong-like red beak,. It is even more captivating in flight, the blue and white wings give a blinking effect as it flaps its wings.
In the lull of the afternoon, the red vented bulbuls and red whiskered bulbuls, sing a short melodious, almost luscious ditty from atop a tree branch that sounds like honey to ears. The neat crest of the red vented bulbul and the unkempt crest of the red whiskered bulbuls, both look fetching to ones eyes. Catch them anywhere and they give you a picture perfect angle anywhere every time.
When the perfect beauties are around, can the beast be far behind! The Shikra, a hawk like predator, keeps a sharp vigil from its vantage point for a birds eye view. With small birds in plenty and the more vulnerable young ones, it can be often seen glaring intimidatingly at likely prey before making a swift dash to pounce and pin its prey or chases a hapless bird. In one such attempt, I caught it perching inside a branch of a tree frequented by small birds.
Red Wattled Lapwings
The cacophony of the red wattled lapwings is unmissable. One late afternoon, I observed, a duel by two contentious males to win a female. The saga provided me ample opportunity to snap up action scenes which revealed how striking this bird can be and how often ignored despite it being so conspicuous by its call. it sounds like “did you do it, did you do it”.
Finally in my pursuit of birds I have even encountered anthropods like a bumble bee or a grasshopper and a butterfly in picture-perfect poise.
One sunny pleasant morning, to my utter joy, I happened to catch sight of a pollen laden bee, getting inside one Tecoma flower after another in my garden. Once done, yellow pollen loaded on its feet and wings, it took off like a helicopter and returned sometime later. It was fascinating to watch it and recalling what one had read in school books. Pollination by bees and making honey.
The world of wonder of birds, bees and butterflies reinforced the maxim: Keep busy like a busy bee and dance like no one is watching, the butterflies and birds seem to say, as they flitted about and fluttered merrily making the most of their short life span.