An Eurasian Spoonbill stands on the banks of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, in Karnataka, India.
Spain isn’t hot – at least, not Singapore hot (though it doesn’t take much to not be Singapore hot) – but in the mid-afternoon sun, the much-familiar heatwaves abound nevertheless. It was through those that we spotted this hoopoe, some hundred metres in front of us, hopping about on the path. The last time I saw one was halfway across the world, in the Lodhi Gardens in Delhi – proving that hoopoes, like heatwaves, are a truly global phenomena.
Now, the golden rule of life is that to make something cute, you make it fluffy. You only need to look at a panda and the crowd of people surrounding it to prove that. (Pandas are a debatable topic with me. I’ll address that later.) Other examples include but are not limited to kittens (Internet, why you so obsessed with them?!), bunnies, and teddy bears.
Basically, fluffy baby=cute. So when I heard that the Spotted Wood Owls at Pasir Ris Park (a bird I’d been wanting to see for ages!) had had a chick, I was determined to get there. This meant driving a whole 40 km there and back, which is a LOT in Singaporean terms.
As soon as I got there, I was greeted by a group of photographers clustered around a Coppersmith Barbet, an absolutely stunningly beautiful bird that I’ll talk about in more detail in a later post. Repeated interrogation (the silver rule is never distract a birder from his/her object) revealed that to find the owls, I would have to walk further inside and look for the second group of photographers. Which I did.
However, I also found a grown man telling a tree, “Baby.”
Seriously. He was repeating, over and over, “Baby, baby, baby!” and making clucking sounds with his tongue. However, examination of his viewfinder showed that he was not addressing the tree, or the leaves, or the grass, or even the other photographers, but instead the Spotted Wood Owl chick, who I had nearly walked right past– because it was right over my head.
I’m not going to say anything more. Here’s the picture.
Wait a moment. I am. (Going to say something more, that is. Thank you if you had the decency not to laugh at that frankly terrible joke.)
The chick was behaving like a baby, and in the manner of all babies, it was restless. It stretched its wings a few times (no good pictures unfortunately!), looked up and down and here and there and right at me, too, as the above picture demonstrates, leaned up and down, and basically did everything except sleep like a normal owl. And then there was its coat of fluff.
In other words, it was adorable.
I should like to interrupt this broadcast, though, to say a few words on respecting nature. The photographer I mentioned earlier, the one who was “baby”ing the owl: well, he was doing that so the owl looked at him and he had a good picture to post on Facebook. Yay. Except it’s not. By doing that, any possibility of rest for the already restless baby disappeared. For the sensitive hearing of owls, I’m sure it was like having a bulldozer blaring in their ears. Please don’t do that. Stay quiet. Be respectful. Take a few pictures and go. Let them rest. They need it.