What you see or don't see is a Sri Lankan Frogmouth. Its a sluggish Nocturnal bird. Looking almost like an owl. The place Thattekkadu. It was very dark almost like night, I have increased the brightness of the pictuture.
I have told you before thats its not a good idea walking into the forest without a guide. This time it was Girish and he could speak English, I did not hug him, I wanted my old guide Ipe.
Ipe is just a tracker saar, He said, I am a baird waatcharrr.
I did not like that, since time was not on my side, I said OK, settled for 100 rupees, He said he charges 1500 rupees to fooreners. I said I am not a fooreener.
He came back in just 2 minutes wearing heavy boots, looking like a professional bird watcher which he claimed he was, a big binoculars dangling down his neck, he asked me if I had one, I said no, and received the first look of contempt. There was one problem, our friend was wearing bright almost fluorescent orange t shirt, I was a bit worried about that, since he was a professional guide I did not point it out, I was wearing a dark grey t shirt( clean) and a very very dirty lee Dungrees which my friend Thomas gave me last year, almost looking brown with dirt. He looked up and down and received the second look of contempt. I Ignored. Things were not working well right from the start. Perhaps he was thinking A man who can afford to pay only 100 rupees will only look like this , not to mention my pretty shabby haggard and dreadful looks.
He was walking ahead. He would stop, flip the binoculars to his eyes in great style and look,
and say there there,
I asked in sign language what ? horn bill,
'Goan' he said (Gone)
I took my camera out, Another look of contempt, he said other people bring this big lenses, he stretched his arms to show the length of the lenses, I touched my pocket, put my finger through the hole in my t shirt. showed him in sign language that I am a poor man. He did not laugh, continued walking. another flip of binoculars he said there there, king fisher,
where ? I asked in sign language.
he said 'Goan' (gone) I opened my mouth for the first time in an hour's trek I said if its gone why are you showing me. I did not make any attempt to borrow his binoculars nor he offered it to me. I was getting bugged by his warnings, he would suddenly turn put his finger to his lips and say shssssssh ! He was the one walking thomp thomp thomp making loud noise, I was careful walking on dried leaves, last time I almost stepped on a snake, Ipe my guide warned me by touching my shoulder, I was missing him. Our friend was walking ahead right through very tall bushes, I rushed towards him and touched his shoulder.
What ? he snapped
It was my turn to silence him, I just pointed my finger towards the tall bushes. I made a sign of elephant trunk. I walked backwards,
I wanted to stay away from the bright orange t shirt.
I could hear the elephants snapping leaves and twigs.
Now I could see the spine of the elephants there were four of them brownish full of dirt. they put dirt on themselves sometimes.
Our friend was still standing on his toes and trying to look ahead. I knew if the elephants spot the orange t shirt they could charge any time, depends on their mood they could ignore too. I was looking for ways to escape, I was pretty confident that I can run faster than him. To my horror I saw the bright orange t shirt walking thomp thomp towards me. He covered the sides of his mouth about to shout but without making sound he said
just the action of his jaws going up and down
I gaped at him in total disbelief.
I just told this clown that there are elephants over there at close distance
Now he is telling me ? giving the information back to me ?
Twice he made a sign of a trunk and showed two fingers.
I shook my head and showed him four fingers meaning there are four of them out there.
Told him in signs lets get the hell out of here.
I was about to take off, he sort of ordered me to stop, raising his hand, he is short.
He came towards me pointing his finger towards elephant dung. I stared at him. He came very close raised his heels stood on his toes, obviously he wanted to share some precious piece of top secret information.
I bent my head towards his mouth made his task of reaching my ear easier, he covered the side of his mouth with his palm pointing his finger towards the elephant dung and whispered into my ears
Without a word I started walking, determined to stay away from this bright orange clad clown, he just stood there in shock, I walked quite a bit before he overtook me with another look of contempt. He was clearly looking pissed with me.
I don't know what I was expected to do on seeing fresh elephant dung, express horror or delight ? jump with joy, on finding a priceless treasure hungrily greedily grab the elephant dung with both my hands and stuff it in my camera bag in a hurry?, be ever grateful to him touch his feet and run ? I grew up in a forest with elephant dung all around the place.
I walked with my own pace, there was no sign of bright orange, perhaps he thought I would panic and wanted to teach me a lesson by leaving me alone. I didn't care I found him near a bamboo anti poaching watch tower. He was still looking pissed with me, tightly gripping his binoculars. By now he was sneezing, pretty loud, one after the other. He told me to wait, and disappeared in the tall thick bushes, lots of trees too. He appeared after sometime, I was sitting on a rock, took several swigs out of my water bottle. He waved and called me the way one calls a waiter. I entered the bushes with him leading. Suddenly he would turn put his finger on his lips and say shsssssssh !
Whats wrong with this guy ?
he is the one thomp thomping with his heavy boots, too large for his size, I was pretty light with my steps hardly making any sound. I was looking around for snakes too and slowly walking on the dried leaves. He stopped, pointing his finger in one direction. Pretty dense forest. hardly any light. I asked in sign language what ?
He whispered in my ear sriLankan Frogmouth.
Yea I could see, sitting camouflaged in dried leaves of a low branch, there were two of them, don't go near he said. I nodded my coconut. Took my camera out, but was not sure of the results as it was very dark, what you saw up there are brightened up pictures. It was almost like night.
I did not see it coming
I was too busy coping the bad light and the camera.
This was special. Complete silence. Not a sound of a leaf or a bird
The earth moved, my head hit a low branch of a tree
tha camera nearly fell off my hands.
I heard a hundred birds fly off from different directions.
and I saw our friend wiping his dripping nose.
It was a not a sneeze, it was something else, one big chunk of ice berg would have cracked in Antarctica. The sneeze was so loud. and our friend puts his fingers on his lips and says shsssssh to me. What the hell ?
I was still rubbing my head, I could feel the projection on my scalp.
To my surprise those two birds did not move a feather, they were sitting still.
But I saw this one coming, another sneeze
but this was not as earth shattering like the first one but enough to wake up kumbakarna and make him run for his life in state of total panic.
This time he did not say shssssh!
he said 'soery'
Still those birds did not move.
I was beginning to doubt, has he planted stuffed birds there ? stuck them on the branch with glue ?
I remembered a john cleese Michel palin movie 'fierce creatures'. It was possible. All the other living creatures had fled after those two sky cracking sneezes, but the trees stood on their ground. I took many shots, not happy with any one of them, then I saw one bird staring at me behind a dead leaf.
This is a nocturnal bird, doesn't fly during the day.
I told him lets go.
I spoke after a long time.
Please click to see enlarged picture. This too was very dark, had to brighten it up
In the afternoon I took off alone, no guide, did pretty well, took pictures of night heron in flight, whistling birds, wild fowl and many others. I'll post them later.