Birdwatching

Many years ago I had to write an article about a new housing project. I began my copy with the words: ‘Imagine waking up to the chirping of birds outside your window…Imagine after-dinner walks in acres of greenery with the scent of flowers in the night air for company. And all of this in urban India.’

Now, I was as far away from urban India as I could get. To be precise, I was 8,221 miles away – in Lexington, the second largest city in the state of Kentucky, also known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’.  Americans, as you will discover if you travel around the country (or click here), love to define their city or town as the greatest, the first, the best… For example, Bardstown in Kentucky calls itself the ‘Bourbon Capital of the World’; Savannah in Georgia is ‘Turf Grass Capital of the World’; New York and San Francisco have many slogans, among them ‘The Capital of the World’ and ‘Everybody’s Favorite City’, respectively. I need to devote a whole blog to State nicknames and City slogans, but here I will talk about birds.

And so it was in Lexington that I finally got to experience ‘waking up to bird calls outside my window’. And I heard them through the day as well: as I lazed in bed (most mornings); as I had my banana and blueberry smoothie for breakfast; as I sat out in the garden near a honeysuckle bush reading a book or chatting with my sister-in-law; as I enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun goes down… it was a wonderful experience.

A few years ago some friends who are avid birders and trekkers introduced me to the pleasures of nature walks. The first one I have to admit was more pain than pleasure as it involved a hike up a hill at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary (25 miles from Bombay, India). I had never hiked and was not much of a walker so naturally my muscles were sore for the next week. But it was a great introduction to the birds and insects that inhabit planet Earth. Subsequent walks in the Borivali National Park and at Elephanta Caves in Bombay fueled my interest, and now I had the opportunity of getting to know some American birds.

The first bird I spotted was brown with an orange chest and the second looked like a pigeon3 (except it was beige and not blue-grey like the ones I am familiar with). Thanks to Google Images, I was able to identify them as the American Robin and the Mourning Dove. I spent considerable time chasing them to capture them on my phone camera but of course as soon as I got a little close off they flew and I was constrained by gravity in not being able to follow them. One morning I did manage to capture one little American Robin following, I presume, the mama bird!

On walks around the neighborhood, I would spot blackbirds, sparrows, and starlings. One evening as we were sitting out in the garden having our dinner, we heard a loud honking and looking around were rewarded by the sight of 13the classical V formation of migrating Canadian geese. They were so close that I could see their white necks. I actually managed to capture their flight on my phone camera which for once, cooperated and unlocked in one swipe (usually one has to swipe up, down, sideways and all around for it to understand that I want to actually use it and am not just petting it!).

When visiting family in Seattle, a few weeks later, I was absolutely thrilled to see hummingbirds! 6The first morning as I ate my breakfast I spotted an Anna’s Hummingbird fluttering and humming as it sucked the nectar from the honeysuckle plant out on the deck. Click…click…click… went my phone as I strove to capture its flight around the plant. 7A couple of times when it hovered I could see a flash of bright red color around its neck. It looked stunning, but I just was not quick enough to capture that. I did get some great photographs of a hummingbird as it visited the bird feeder.Later, I read that

Later, I read that hummingbirds “can beat their wings at about 70 times per second in normal flight and about 200 times per second during a high-speed dive; they can fly at an average speed of 25-30 miles per hour and can do a fast dive at up to 60 miles per hour; and can consume nectar between half to eight times their body weight in one day.” 

I visited many beautiful national parks and as a city dweller it was a wonderful experience to see birds in their natural habitat. I also merrily chased butterflies, and at a Fourth of July neighborhood party saw fireflies for the first time ever! It was simply amazing to see these ‘flying lanterns’ appearing and disappearing. And when a bunch of them ‘switched on’ for the briefest of seconds, the area looked like a fairytale garden!

In Buffalo, my cousin had put up a bird feeder and I spent many wonderful hours every morning standing by the window and watching birds of different hues drop by to have some breakfast!

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