The Birds (1963) by Alfred Hitchcock
The Birds (2011) by Sukanya Ramanujan
This unfortunately is not a story about a young socialite who gets attacked to death by crazy birds in a town on the West Coast of the USA. Yes! I am still narrating my adventure at Hampi. My apologies to those of you who are by now sick and tired of my incessant blog posts about my visit to the town. I feel I have generated enough content to fit into a mini-novella.
I will, however, not address complaints from those who think I haven’t written enough. I may set some of the birds from Hampi on you. Kidding!
So we made our way back from the Vittala Temple Complex on that Sunday morning. Back to the resort where we had a wholesome breakfast. Breakfast counter had actually been closed as we returned terribly late but the staff were nice enough to prepare some tiffin for us. We decided that we would meet after 2 hours to have a session on landscape photography before lunch. I went back to my room expecting the worst (we were still on the bad toilet karma day you see!) but the problem had indeed been sorted out and I was more relieved than I could describe- shifting rooms midway through the stay wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I was even beginning to get used to the spider on the AC unit (who incidentally was still there!).
Landscape photography is a fascinating subject and Arun went through a presentation that gave us broad guidelines about what rules to follow to get good shots, the techniques of good composition (interesting how the same vista can be composed in different ways in a photograph and no this is not about writing essays in school!), the best times of the day to make good photographs and so on. It was hoped that we would be able to apply these rules for the sunrise shots we were planning for the monday morning. Eep! All that pressure!
However it was soon time for lunch and any worries about having to take good photographs because of being on a photography tour were quickly forgotten. We had a small break after lunch when we decided that we would go for a birding session around 4 pm and then end it with a quick visit of the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary and hopefully get to see some bears. I went back to my room and took some random shots of the common sparrow from my balcony where the landscape was absolutely fascinating.
The resort also organised tours to the bear sanctuary in parallel for other guests and on Sunday evening they were trying to squeeze in an impossible number of passengers into one car to take them to the sanctuary. One of the guests smartly tried to sneak into the car organised for us and we had to wave him off saying he would be happier getting squeezed in the other car than having his brains squeezed out through the boredom of birding (for a non wildlife/ photograph enthusiast). Of course there was the remote chance he loved birds- but too bad he wasn’t on the Many Worlds of Hampi Tour.
So we set off happily in our car to follow the path along one of the canals of the Tungabadhra where there was a high likelihood of spotting birds. Tharangini had her agenda- she wanted to photograph Francolins and the Painted Sand Grouse. I was happy to photograph crows if I could get good shots. Soon we were off and the first birds we encountered were the friendly Red-Wattled Lapwing. They soon became my favourites as they were gorgeous and weren’t shy of being photographed.
Not that it meant you could take liberties and get close to them.
We did spot a few Francolins but they were too quick for us. I was just content to weave stories around photographs of Laughing Doves.
The next treat I was in store for was a sighting of a majestic black cormorant.
Apparently in birding parlance the first sighting of a new bird is called a lifer. I lost count of the number of lifers I had over just that afternoon.
I also managed to get a bonus shot of the green bee-eater perched on a branch.
No bird was too common or too popular for my camera and I swallowed them all with equal greed.
Next to come was the elusive painted sand grouse. This was supposed to be a rare sighting and I was quite amazed at home both Arun and Tharangini almost crept on the road to get a closer shot of the bird. I was too afraid of being clumsy and scaring the bird away before they could get a shot and so I took my shots from the car.
We kept driving through lovely side paths bordering the canal and I could have just spent an entire week there. But we were running against time and sunset. We still had the bear park to go (at this stage I must say that we witnessed the return of the over-packed car from the park when we were still crawling along the canal to get shots of the birds).
However rushed we may have been, we always had the time to stop and get shots of the beauties adorning the canal. Our guide Mahesh would do a great job of spotting birds. We were not always lucky enough to get photographs of them but I have images of seeing beautiful kingfishers, even a massive owl (I don’t remember the name) across the gorge. I did manage to get shots of a curious pond heron and a quirky sand piper.
At this point we were seriously over-running our agenda and had to drive like maniacs before we could get to Daroji park. Once there were made to climb stairs on a small hill on the top of which was a view-point. Now from this view-point you could see (or not see) the bears which were approximately at a distance of about 1.4 light years. Even my super cool 26X zoom was powerless against the distance and we had to be content with blurry images of bears and the park warden (who was in a jeep about 2 feet away from the bears) yelling at us from across the valley (amazingly the sounds carried across the distance- I wished it had been the light of the bears!) asking us to get out of the park as it was late. We soon obliged. We spent a moment pondering the fates of those poor souls who spent an entire crushed car ride contemplating exciting sights of bears only to be treated to the terrestrial equivalent of the Ursa Major (Great Bear/ Big Dipper) constellation.
We had an uneventful return- except when Arun who was sitting on the back seat with me non-chalantly remarked- ‘Oh there is a big insect on my t-shirt!’