Long-legged Tchaikovskys

BlackwingedStilt_ProcessedLogo.jpg

insufferable delicacy

infused into the bend

of knee, turn of head:

a water-borne ballet,

beat kept by still water,

reflecting this moment

then, now, forevermore.

This will – finally – be the last of the birds from my trip to the Llobregat Delta in Spain, almost eight months on. (What can I say. I procrastinate.) And it’s the bird I treasured most from my trip there – one that, to me, embodies everything there is to love about shorebirds: the black-winged stilt. When I saw it, just below the hide, I may have squealed a little.

Part of it is the number of times the name has casually been dropped when reading birding blogs, and till Llobregat, I have had to contend with the knowledge that I have never seen it; another part of it is – well, it. Come on. There is nothing to hate about such a paragon of utter loveliness. Observe its thin, pencil-like beak, beautiful in its ergonomicity; the perfect roundness of its head; the ridiculously and delightfully disproportionate legs that offer its name to us very easily. (Unlike *cough cough* some birds.)

Sometimes I wonder how such birds can exist without the world imploding twice-over.

Advertisements

The Blossoming

CherryBlossoms_ProcessedLogo

I have some very, very exciting news to share, but that will have to wait till Tuesday, unfortunately.

Till then, have some details of what I am tentatively labelling apple blossoms, spotted at the ever-fruitful (I AM FUNNY AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME OTHERWISE) Llobregat Delta.

Duck Days

UDGeese_ProcessedLogo

My adventures at the Llobregat Delta continue. One of the things that fascinated me about the area was the sheer density of waterfowl – specifically, ducks and geese. Of course, I’ve been witness to the hundreds of shorebirds at a time at Sungei Buloh, and long-legged waders are hardly new to me – but ducks? Not so much. In fact, I do believe I haven’t seen a single wild duck in Singapore. (When you consider the fact only one duck species is resident, and that too is extremely rare, this feat becomes decidedly less reputation-ruining.)

This was one of the four or five species we saw that day. I haven’t got the faintest clue what it is, or even where to start in identification – and to be honest, that’s the most exciting part.

Swamphen Days

Swamphen_ProcessedLogo

Barcelona’s Llobregat Delta proved to be a fruitful trip for me. However, birds I could identify were in a minority – which, thankfully, included this Purple Swamphen. I can now profess myself to be intimately familiar with this species, after having documented them in the Sandpit Swamphens, based on observations of them in Bangalore this summer.

Looking back on this European individual with a summer’s worth of observations under my belt, these pictures become doubly fascinating. Not only was I afforded a very good glimpse of its exceptionally long toes – which aid in gripping hard-to-balance reeds – but also its foraging behavior, as it brings a nice tender shoot to its mouth. Both of these are characteristics I didn’t see in India, perhaps due to the different habitat – that was deep water with a mat of water plants over it, whereas Llobregat is shallow water.

I think it’s safe to say even after hours and hours of observation, I’ve only scratched the surface of these undoubtedly fascinating birds.

Birding the Chaff

Chiffchaff_processedLogo

Put it simply, I do not know European birds.

Which is why I saw this one and sighed. Its vagueish eyebrow indicated its membership of that hated family: leaf warblers. A brief history – I have seen several in the Himalayas, probably some in the Western Ghats, and a total of nil have been identified. Their song is beautiful, but their bodies themselves are far from as colorful as it might make them out to be. All are the same oliveish tinge and the glances I get are usually not enough to figure out is the venting yellow-olive or more creamish?

That’s why it’s always nice to go somewhere new with someone who knows the area. When travelling, however, that luxury is ill-afforded; the next best thing – research. Research, research, research.

And that is how we ended up wandering down a road in the middle of (semi)rural Spain in the middle of the morning, searching for birds. A series of coincidences had led us there – some happy and some not so, but the end result was our arrival at a place knows as the Llobregat Delta. Every site I had visited had pointed newbie birders to Barcelona there, citing its proximity to the airport and diversity of waterfowl and, well, I rarely turn down an opportunity to bird, even if what I end up birding are birds I haven’t the faintest clue what they are, because all the field guides are in Spanish. My most likely chance of any identification was to meet a fellow birder.

Unfortunately, all the birders were also Spanish – and extremely apologetic about it, too. Through a series of hand-gestures and monosyllabic phrases that are the stock of any tourist in a foreign land, however, I managed to communicate my sighting of the above bird, at which point frantic nodding ensued and this (Spanish) field guide opened to the appropriate page. I backed up five meters to photograph it with my long lens, having forgot, as usual, to bring a notebook.

Then I went home to Singapore, because that was our second-to-last day there, and when processing my images, I stumbled across the picture of the field guide.

IMG_4341

I duly googled the scientific name, and I duly realized how little I know European birds.

It was a chiffchaff – as in a common chiffchaff, as in resident/migrant to most of Afro-Eurasia, as in not some obscure species of leaf warbler I had no chance of identifying.

And I suppose my severe overestimation of the bird is simply just the unbearable optimism any birder possesses – that any day might be the ‘lucky’ one, the thrill you get when leafing through a field guide. And I suppose that’s the reason I bird in the first place – for that optimism, and for the chance to encounter new species, common or not, for the thrill, and for the hoping, and for the song of a warbler on a sweet, sweet afternoon.