How did I manage to get published? I’m clueless. I only know that The Hindu-Open Page editor’s click of approval transported me to a new level of thrilled. All those zillion rewrites, years of rejections and no replies from other publications finally paid off. This piece was way shorter, the timing was right perhaps–around Salim Ali’s birth anniversary–and I think my writing struck a chord with nature-loving folk who are missing the ‘wild’ connect. Reading their appreciative emails brought me as much joy as writing. There is no greater reward. Will I get published again? I can’t tell but you will know if I do.:) Why don’t you read the article (via The Hindu link below) and tell me what you think of it in the comments space?
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, or Life in the Woods
To say I am surprised by the size and length of this caterpillar is an understatement. It’s about the same length as a pen and thrice as thick. Appearance wise, it would do very well in a creepy sci-fi movie.
I was pottering around my flowers beds when I noticed some movement. What I mistook for a rather limp looking piece of a bamboo trellis, turned out to be the fattest and longest caterpillar I have ever set my eyes on. It was gnawing away at a leaf and would freeze if I went up too close. After a few fuzzy takes and some patience, I caught it make a slow move.
Much to my disappointment, it had disappeared the next morning. It might have camouflaged itself a little better after its encounter with a giant creature -meaning me! I would have loved the chance to document it spin itself into a silky cocoon and watch the complete metamorphosis. I was told by Peter Smetacek, India’s leading lepidopterist, that this one will turn into a spectacular large Hawk-moth.
Watch out for my video. With the local internet speeds pretty much as slow as my caterpillar, it will reach you in a week or two.
For the past month or so, every time I leave the house, I’ve been hearing a rapid flutter of wings accompanied by a slightly high-pitched screech, followed by gentle tapping. I spent weeks looking for what I recognized to be a woodpecker but never caught it perching in one place for too long. It seemed strange; I kept hearing it in the middle of the afternoon when sane birds take cover. So what was this pesky little bird up to? It was doing nothing but distracting me and probably warning its mate of imminent danger.
Be conscious of your surroundings.
Blame it on the fact that I am a wildlife enthusiast of sorts and curious enough to spend the better part of my day looking for anything that I can digitally capture. Luckily, I do not have the distractions of employment interfering with my rambles; and so it came to be I noticed an old hollow with fresh drilling marks.
Be ready for contingencies.
Feeling like a photojournalist about to enter the NG hall of fame, I started by keeping my camera cleaned and charged, my SD card empty, played my music real low and kept an ear out for any tapping throughout the day.
Keep your house clean.
In the meanwhile we were expecting houseguests and as is the norm at our home, just before their arrival we conducted a monumental clean-up effort. As you can guess, this included wiping our windows clean. And we have a lot of them! As I drew the curtains to proceed, I realised I was standing four feet away from the tree hollow. And lo and beyond there was the brown fronted woodpecker sticking its little head out.
Always work in good light.
Whilst spying on the woodpeckers, I noticed they were most active when the sun lit up the inside of their hollow. They were using natural light to their advantage and mine. Though I was photographing them from behind a dark glass window, they were perfectly lit up as I captured their activities.
Share responsibilities as a team.
Though the pair worked together I rarely saw them both at the hollow at the same time. One of them would spend a few minutes inside the hollow carving out the nest and then would take time clearing out the wood chips before starting again. Reminded me of me cooking while my spouse did dishes later. An arrangement that always works out well!
I also noticed the woodpecker pick up wood chips and with a quick shake of the head and bill, disperse it to the wind instead of just dropping it off like dead weight. They left no trace of their nest building that way.
Use all the resources you can.
In my enthusiasm, I shot a lot of shaky movie clips at different times of the day before I realized I could just as well have planted my tripod in place. I found better use of ankle weights (which I never use) for weighing down the tripod in the hope my mountain dogs wouldn’t topple it over. They have the uncanny knack of snuggling up by my feet just when I don’t want them to!
Whatever you do, give it your best shot.
These minuscule woodpeckers have been drilling out their home to perfection for a few weeks now.
I tried to get a glimpse of the inside of the nest but it was deep and cleverly spiralled out. Making it relatively safe from larger predators! They had functionality and safety all figured out! Makes you wonder why the word birdbrain has such negative connotations. Seriously!
As you can see, I was rewarded with a private viewing of the secret life of the yellow-crowned woodpecker.
Woodpecker chicks are hopefully on their way soon. Their intelligent parents are bound to teach them more than 8 life skills to survive. I have seen timber martens claw away at a woodpecker nest before and I’m hoping they never sniff this one out. Hope you enjoy the photos. All of them were shot through my (recently cleaned) window.
Before I pour myself a coffee in the morning, I sometimes find myself grabbing my camera as I just can’t ignore the latest arrival atop the Deodar tree outside my porch. Over the past couple of years, I have seen and heard multiple species of birds creating a ruckus with langurs sometimes foraging in the surrounding oaks or yellow throated pine martens scrambling up pines in search of bird eggs and fledglings. Hope you enjoy the photographs. They’re not the best quality because I’m way slower than my flighty subjects. While the majority of shots are taken from my porch I have also included photographs of birds from surrounding areas. Do let me know if I got the names wrong. I’m no expert!