Curlews of Stone

great thickknee

Great thick-knees are distinctly odd birds – a combination of a shoebill stork, a sandpiper, an ostrich, a bustard, with a hint of a brief, scandalous dalliance with a chessboard around the eyes. They move stiffly and slowly through the days, breaking out into short runs if hurried, moving deliberately, as if trying to hold all the different pieces of themself together.

The IUCN lists them as near-threatened due to the rapid disappearance of their riverside habitat. This one appeared on the bank like a ghost, landing silently, staring at us carefully for moments as we drifted away across the river.

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Portrait of a Cockatoo

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Umbrella cockatoos come in screeching numbers, bright white forms streaking across the sky: angels blasting death metal. Continue reading “Portrait of a Cockatoo”

In Otter Disbelief

They come in a shout, a brief cry of astonishment – something emerging from the water, sleek and brown and running across a small island before slipping back in with barely a ripple to form gravestone to their presence. We blink and it is over. The one picture I manage to snap is ridiculously over-exposed; not even one body is visible. A field of white.

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I sigh. I have waited to see otters for years, it feels. The Bishan 10 did not abandon my Facebook feed for several weeks. Articles of residents complaining at Sentosa perplex me: what does one care for a few fish with the pleasure of having otters in your backyard? (The thousand-dollar price tags of said fish, of course, are of little consequence.) Even in Valparai, someone studying otters kept pointing out places to me: oh, I saw them here once. Oh, I saw them there.

I am a little frustrated. And now I have seen them, and it is hardly enough.

Continue reading “In Otter Disbelief”

maybe my heart is full of sky

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so maybe the only thing

separating loving and living

is an oh of amazement – the

breathless sound the sky makes

when falling the final gradient

from dusk to twilight and back

again, the way your eyes keep

searching for stars only an

evenmist away, how your fingertips

keep feeling for worlds closeted

within atoms, and maybe

that difference really isn’t as

much as we always thought,

like how your breath can be a

song and a song can be a kiss

from the universe saying you are

here you are here you are here

over and over in seven quintillion

different ways.

This is a chestnut-headed bee-eater I spotted flying over a field in Valparai earlier this summer. I’ve always loved bee-eaters – almost as much as I love kingfishers, actually. The first time I saw one – a blue-throated bee-eater in my condo – I actually could not stop smiling for a solid half-hour afterwards. There’s a sort of exuberance they inspire, the way they swoop and dance over the sky, their quick rests on the bare branches, their confident grace. They’re also pretty damned beautiful, no matter which way you cut it, and the sight of their bright colors darting across the blue is enough to make anyone convert.

On some weeks I’m going to be reposting old photographs and posts. This one is from nearly a year ago, and I thought deserved a fresh glance.

Painted Bush-Quail

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Sometimes you don’t get the photograph.

Continue reading “Painted Bush-Quail”