Ne m’oubilez pas?
Ne m’oubilez pas?
So yesterday I gave a TED talk. But that isn’t what I’m talking about now. Wait till Sunday.
What I’m going to talk about now is something completely unrelated: kingfishers.
So when a flash of blue appeared in front of us in an isolated islet in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, I was… a little bit disbelieving. Especially considering the white-throated kingfisher that had just made an appearance literally fifteen meters away. This was… too good to be true.
But it was true. True enough that the lighting was so bad + my hands shaking so much from the excitement only one photograph actually turned out semidecent, with its head actually facing us. One word: gem. Seriously, is it even legal for birds to be that beautiful?
No. No is the answer. And considering how it manages to be so pretty while simultaneously being so awesome (fish. RIVERS. BEAKS.), I think it’s pretty deserving of the title ‘king’. (Though queen would have worked too. Ah well.)
Some of you may recall my recent post of a lilac-breasted roller we spotted in Kenya. If you don’t, refresh your memory. This bird was at the top of my to-see list in Kenya, not despite and in fact because it was so common there. Satisfaction guaranteed. (I also had a second, non-official list, which essentially consisted of the entire Birds of East Africa field guide.)
In addition to the blog post, I also posted the photograph on Project Noah. In case I haven’t fangirled about it before, this site is the best thing ever. (It’s also what got me started on this craziness. In case you can’t tell.) It’s essentially a social media for wildlife spottings. Think Instagram, animal-style. Through it I’ve met so many fellow ‘crazy nature people’ and learned so much about – well, everything. It was a distinct high point for me last year when my spotting of a black rhinoceros received Spotting of the Day, something I’ve been wanting ever since I got started. (Also, on the main page, in the header where all the spottings are featured, click on the fungi icon and scroll a little to the right. You might spot a familiar photograph. STILL NOT OVER IT.) If you love wildlife, and photography, Project Noah is the thing.
I’m not paid by them. Promise.
Anyways, back to the roller. I got a comment on my spotting from Karen Lockyear, a biologist-turned artist, asking if she could paint the photograph, and possibly sell prints of it.
My first reaction: what.
Seriously, I consider my photography to be mediocre at best. I enjoy it, yes, but someone wanting to paint it?
So, yesterday I get an email from Karen with the completed painting. And I’m still in a little shock of how beautiful the thing is.
I MEAN, LOOK AT IT. She has taken my photograph and transformed into something way, way beyond. All things bad about it have disappeared. I do not know this witchcraft.
She hasn’t yet set up her Etsy store, but when that’s up I will definitely link that here. Because. I mean. The above.
So: thank you, Karen. I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and have a good day even if you don’t! I dug through the archives for some vaguely Christmas-sy shots but found nothing. A Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasii), at sunset on the Tirthan River, about to eat some aquatic organism, will have to do instead.
Brown Dippers have the most fascinating (and somewhat terrifying) way of foraging. They position themselves on a rock just above the water, waiting, before all of a sudden plunging their entire body in – thus, the ‘dipper’. They are underneath the water for a few breathless minutes before popping up like a cork some ten meters away, bobbing on top of the water in the manner of a duck. This one had popped up with a tasty little morsel, which it had then positioned on this rock and hammered with its beak till it gulped it all down.
So eat well today, in the manner of this dipper (though hopefully not in as miniscule amounts as it); and merry Christmas and a happy New Year, even if it isn’t for a few days yet. Stop for a moment in the evening and listen to the birdsong. Go out and see if you can find its source, if possible. And if not – well, it doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas, after all.
I came to Africa with one bird, and one bird in mind only: the Lilac-breasted Roller.
Not for I were the innumerable Kenyan endemics, nor the plethora of endangered species in the area. Experience of birding failures had taught me to aim low and land high. I would be best, I decided, with an achievable goal that would make me happy, rather than a too-ambitious one that would leave me disappointed and unable to appreciate the rest. (I modified this strategy for my Kullu trip with three birds I ranked from achievable, definitely not achievable, and never in my wildest dreams. Needless to say, only the former got fulfilled.)
So the fact I’d seen this bird three times before we even stepped foot on the Mara went a long way towards my general enjoyment of our trip. This sighting in particular was of a juvenile, who surprised us by landing right next to our jeep. This prompted, of course, a storm of photographs of the fluffed-up thing from yours truly. But I still wasn’t satisfied. The colors of the juvenile – while spectacular by most birds’ standards – are only lackluster for this variegated avian. Without the long tail feathers of their older counterparts, they aren’t as appealing as the multi-hued sight we saw just disappearing from telephone wires and the tops of trees countless times.
Did I photograph the adult? Did I almost photograph it? Was it another disappointment? Find out in ‘The Lilac Saga, Part 2’, coming soon to a blog near you.
(Hey, that rhymes!)
Whether or not you’re interested in hearing about the adult roller, have you got a caption for the above photograph? What do you think it’d say if it could speak? Comment and tell me!
Plumbeous Redstarts are the other species of the two I found on the banks of the Tirthan River. While initially they appear to be a dull black, in proper lighting their glistening slate blue coat is revealed. Though I usually found them perched precariously on a rock dangerously close to the rushing river, this one flew into one of the trees by the riverbank for a moment. These birds are very protective of their habitat and behave aggressively towards any trespasser on their territory. Perhaps that’s the reason why they were less abundant than their relative, with only one or two on the stretch of the river I birded on at the time.