Last week, Birdwali Aunty went on a short trip to visit her parents. But before I go on to write about her exploits, a word about how she happened to become Birdwali Aunty. That’s the name given to her by Tiara, daughter of BlogwatiG, who has been following the bird pictures posted by Birdwali Aunty on Facebook. If you all remember Tiara is the smart girl who won the captioning contest at Shail’s Nest, some months back (link). Getting back to Birdwali Aunty, little did she know what awaited her at the other end of her short train journey. On her previous visits Birdwali Aunty had not yet graduated to a zoom lens and so was ignorant about the variety of winged population around those parts, that is other than those that she saw in passing while she went about clicking every flower worth its name in the vicinity.
This time, armed with her new lens, in her optimistic way, she was hoping to click some (to her) new birds. Yes, she had given away her older lens which weren’t old if you know what I mean, for a pittance. Not that she was feeling exceptionally Karna-ish or anything. Birdwali Aunty had realized that the 55-200mm lens though good enough, was not really good enough for those shy birds who liked to keep their distance from humans. Not that she blamed the birds. She herself likes to keep her distance from humans most times.
Anyways, Birdwali Aunty got herself a brand new 55-300mm Nikkor lens from the nearest Nikon dealer, because Flipkart, whose loyal customer she had been until then, refused to ship it to her place. Don’t be misled by that to think she resides in some Godforsaken tiny hamlet unreachable by the minions of Flipkart or their agents. In fact she is from that much talked about wealthy land where Lord Anantha Padmanabha himself reclines, in all his glory. With the new lens, Birdwali Aunty felt suitably well equipped to shoot all those Winglings as she affectionately calls them.
She already had shot hundreds of pictures of Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Loten’s Sunbirds, White-cheeked Barbets, Greater Coucals, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, White-throated Kingfishers, Orientel Magpie-Robins, Tailerbirds and of course, Crows, from in and around her house which she was systematically dumping on her unsuspecting Facebook friends. In fact there have even been rumors doing the rounds of a secret delegation going to meet Mr. Zuckerberg to seek a ban on Birdwali Aunty’s bird-pictures flooding their timeline. Be that as it may, an ‘unruffled’ Birdwali Aunty hungered for something new to add to her repertoire of Wingling photos. She recalled the picture of the lovely Green Bee-eater Hitchy had posted (link) and sighed longingly. It was such a lovely bird. Maybe she would at least encounter a Pond-Heron in the waterlogged area near her parents’ abode this time around. Something, anything new, she thought as she waited for the next day to dawn.
The next morning she woke up to the chirping of birds. Excited, Birdwali Aunty quickly ran out, waddled would be the correct term, lugging her camera, fitted with her new zoom lens. The first thing she realized on walking around the house had been that the squawks came from a parrot kept in captivity next door and the incessant chirps from the lovebirds, also in captivity in another house. Her disappointment knew no bounds. Just then two Mynas, perhaps getting wind of her disappointment came and sat on the corner of the roof opposite. Oh well, if nothing else, then a Myna. Birdwali Aunty was eager to start testing her new lens. She started clicking the Mynas who seemed to be busy trying to extract something from the area under the corner tile. To her amazement, they actually put on a show for her. That’s when Birdwali Aunty realized she had just hit Bird Bonanza Time.
A couple of Red whiskered Bulbuls flew in wanting a share of the action. The Mynas resented the intrusion. Crows, who think they own the Earth started cawing calling their kind to group, to chase the Mynas AND the Bulbuls. The Mynas, literally rose to the occasion (link). To her sudden excitement, Birdwali Aunty found a couple of Red-vented Bulbuls had also come to watch proceedings. This was a “new” bird for her. Click, click, click, she went. She saw a lone brown bird. Well well, if that wasn’t the bird (House Sparrow) that had sat itself on the cable right in front of her balcony and the jealous Luci had chased off! Now was her chance to shoot it in peace.
Then Birdwali Aunty yelped in excitement. A couple of Black Drongos had flown in and were having some sort of disagreement. A school of White-vented Munias too had joined the ranks on the electric cable. This was bird heaven! Birdwali Aunty was now in confusion. She wanted to dance, she wanted to just stand around watching them and she also wanted to click them. What was she to do? She tried to make a three-in-one of the whole affair. Purple-rumped Sunbirds were tweeting in excitement on the Jambaka tree. Though they weren’t new, she clicked away. A White-cheeked Barbet, perhaps it was a relative of the ones back at her place came to look her up too. She could see an Egret flapping wings at a distance, right on top of the coconut tree.
That’s when Birdwali Aunty spotted them in the distance. BEE-EATERS! Her excitement knew no bounds. But it was time to go for an outing. So she quickly took a few shots and hurried to get ready. Her hopes to catch them in the evening were dashed, as the rain fell in torrents. So as the next morning dawned bright and clear, she was once again ready. This time there were no shows at the roof corner. But the Blue-tailed Bee Eaters flew hither and thither daring Birdwali Aunty to frame them. Their gliding dance was such a beautiful sight that more often she was staring open-mouthed rather than clicking. They caught insects and let themselves be clicked eating them. White-vented Munias, not to be outdone sat on tender stalks and nibbled grain. A Pond Heron flew to the top of a coconut tree and sat hunched up, surveying things.
Hmm…. Did I leave out any of the other birds the Birdwali Aunty clicked? Oh yes, There were Greater Coucals, a couple of Kingfishers and some Rufous Treepies. The last were especially elusive unlike their cousins back at her place who were ever ready to pose for her. The best part was when she heard crows making a racket and looked up to find an Eagle being chased. It looked like a Booted Eagle. What a catch for her. By then the sun was beating down mercilessly and the crick in her neck that she had developed the previous day by looking up long hours only got worse. So she called it a day.
The day of her departure dawned bright and clear. And what do you think? When the Birdwali Aunty stood around hoping to get lucky and click a few last shots before she left, there was not a single bird in the vicinity. It was like they knew she’d be leaving early in the morn. Birdwali Aunty firmly believes that her fame as Shutterbug Lady had indeed preceded her and the birds had come especially for a chance to be shot by her and made famous via her blog. She may not be the best of the shutterbuggers, indeed she is NOT, but the birds, they love her and know she loves them too.
For more pictures from Birdwali Aunty’s trip, visit her photoblog (link) in the coming days.