Thursday, January 30, 2014

Evolution of a Birder -2: Transition from the Tiger to Trogon

From a 'tigertracker' to a 'woodcrawler', it has been a long journey. I guess it is not unusual for a normal person to fall in love with something exotic or unattainable. It is a human trait to reach for the moon even when we know that all of us will never get there. I'm a normal human being and so I think I will forgive myself for such simple mindedness.

During my initial years looking at nature with a careful eye, my attention was always drawn by the tiger. No doubt, as the apex predator in all the jungles I visit, the tiger deserved the its place in my mind and consequently all my thoughts about India's wilderness was centered around the king of the jungle. As the years passed and after many a trip into the jungle I realized that the tiger was really like a 'film star'. I saw it more on the screen than in real life!

Most trips to Bandipur and Nagarahole were in search of the elusive tiger or leopard but they were elusive as always. It was then I started noticing the birds. They were everywhere. I did not have to search for them. They just keep appearing every now and then. Crested serpent eagles, Changeable hawk eagle, hoopoes, bee eaters and woodpeckers. Creatures that I chose to ignore in the hope of laying my eyes on the tiger. Even a pug mark was celebrated back then!

The upside of these frequent trips was that I learnt to enjoy the jungle for what it is; a jungle. There would be days when we drove in and after a couple of hours or more of bouncing along the tracks we'd encounter 'nothing of any significance'. After many trips like that especially, on cold or wet mornings, I started enjoying the forest for it's wildness. My eyes took in everything; right from the bare branches in winter, the fresh growth of green leaves after a rain, the dew on the funnel web spider's web on the ground and all other little creatures.

 My first trip to Silent Valley National Park, nearly a decade back when Woodcrawler Jr was barely walking, was the turning point.  I met my first Malabar Trogon in Silent Valley and also my first Indian Pitta, Paradise flycatcher and Emerald dove. The birds were slowly clamoring for attention now.

 The tiger, if it appeared, would certainly get my attention; but the birds were there to keep me busy everywhere. It was also a period when I was learning the ropes of nature and wildlife photography.  My gear, back then, consisted of a rather old Minolta entry level SLR with just two lenses. The longest was a 70-210mm f4.5 -5.6 zoom. I also procured a 2x teleconvertor, with absolutely no idea that it would only add to my misery rather than contribute to making my photography better! It slowed my camera's reflexes so much that either my subject would have left its perch or I'd have a very shaky picture. Some of the pictures above will testify that. All of them were shot in late 2004 - early 2005 in Bandipur (the first 4 pics) and Silent Valley National Park (second 4 pics).

I've come a long way over the last decade and more. Film camera was substituted with a prosumer digital camera with an extended zoom that enhanced my reach. Then I found that inadequate and shifted to a DSLR with interchangable lenses. I don't lay any claim to being an excellent photgrapher but there has been a marked improvement. Now I speak in terms of aperture settings, ISO and shutter speed to my son, who is all of 11 years old and is well on his way to becoming a a serious Woodcrawler. Photography, for me, is about documenting nature in its myriad moods and colours.

Missing a tiger or leopard on my jungle trips don't matter anymore. I look out for my feathered friends and my son s turning out to be a good spotter. The jungle is not only about the big cats. It is also about the birds, flowers, trees reptiles and other mammals. The transition is complete.

I'm not a pure tigertracker now, I'm a WOODCRAWLER.


R Niranjan Das said...

The urge to see a tiger in the wild boils down after a couple of safaris and then slowly the urge to soak yourself amidst the wilderness is the only emotion you will have when out in the wild.

cappuccino said...

reminds me of a hoarding you see in Bandhavgarh when you exit the park , there's a hoarding which says :"You may not have seen me but I have seen you" with a pic of a tiger! that's the elusive beauty of the still go to the jungles every time, hoping against hope, that despite your luck, may be , just maybe ,THIS TIME the resident SRK will grant you an audience...That's why we' re human becoz we live in hope!!!