We need to learn to go into our backyards, for real healing is all around us.Tweet
Nature makes me feel alive and joyful; there is an inexplicable connection that I feel with it. The camera is my soul buddy and together we have great fun turning moments into memories.
In the beginning of the year I noticed a flurry of activities on the Semal tree or the Red Silk-Cotton Tree from my home’s balcony. To my delight I spotted the Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon and I picked up my camera to click it. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a magical journey with my feathered friends and that this was going to be boon for me!
Just to give you an idea, I can see a Semal tree which is at ~20 meters from where I stand on my third floor apartment. I also have a view of the sky between towers, with some ‘wired’ interruption. I have still not ventured around the society on foot so it is purely bird watching from the balcony.
I am an early riser, so I did not have to work on this bit. After some usual basic things-to-do I would step out into the world of nature. Then, for a fixed time I would simply indulge my soul; I still do. However, with winters setting in now and smoggy-foggy sky reducing visibility, the sightings are lesser and so is the time window for my birding.
In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.Tweet
The early morning hours were just perfect for me. There was this much needed serenity and the weather just like I love, cool and gently breezy. The only hitch being the poor light and haze (Jan end) that did not allow the depth and clarity required for photography. I also did not have the desired lens to shoot them from a distance. Yet, I indulged out of sheer joy and excitement of birding.
In those couple of hours of birdwatching I am transported into another world. Silence and solitude are the best ingredients needed for it; thankfully I enjoy both in my own way. The quietude also enhances one’s senses to feel the presence of a bird around.
You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.Tweet
As a practice I consciously take out time for my spirit’s joy. Life is all about carving out your space and living in it, even if it is for just 10 minutes in the whole day. My thoughts resonate with what Virginia Woolf had to say about me-time: “If you are losing your leisure, look out! It may be you are losing your soul.”
I have been living in this apartment for more than 8 years and it is strange that I became ‘aware’ of the birds (other than the regulars) around my home for the first time. I have had many encounters with birds and also photographed them during my travels but I was never ‘mindful’ of them.
When time is right, it will happen.Tweet
This birding episode reiterated few lessons of life. Things happens only when it’s time; Mindfulness is way of befriending ourselves and our experience; God’s plan for us is far larger and better than any plan we can imagine.
Earlier when I saw a bird I would be happy clicking it but there was neither any inquisitiveness to identify it nor an urge to know more about it. It’s funny but true, I don’t even have any memory of those sightings. I remember telling a blogger friend that I am yet to see a Koel or Grey Hornbill. Later, I was dumbstruck when I found a pair of male Asian Koels & the Hornbill photographed at Pataudi Palace nearly a decade ago. There was a photograph of a Red-Naped Ibis too. I was thrilled when I spotted one in Lodhi Garden in January this year, thinking it’s my first. Digging into the archive was fun and full of surprises! I discovered many such OMG instances. Of course, the photographs are very basic in quality and mostly shot on un-smart mobiles and simple cameras but, they are priceless.
Wake up every morning with the thought that something wonderful is about to happen.Tweet
Every night I would go to bed dreaming of birds that I might get to see, more precisely wish to see. Next day, I would stand patiently waiting for a surprise in form of a new species or a bird perching within my lens range. My eyes would remain glued to the Semal tree and I cannot describe what joy it brought me. I saw many species of birds flocking on it; the parakeets, barbets, shikra, starlings /mynas, doves, woodpecker, sunbirds, herons and many more.
Some I could recognize easily and for some I looked up the internet for identification. Bird watching sublimely became a part of my life. I always enjoyed observing birds and now I was getting introduced to so many different species. I was privy to their lives and day to day activities. This added so much learning and joy to my life in return.
The future has a way of arriving unannounced.Tweet
Then pandemic March’d in and we found ourselves locked within the four walls of our homes. I am someone who does not like boundaries; the sense of freedom keeps me alive. So this “stay at home” bit seemed difficult.
The household scenario changed. The usual daily regime went for a toss. Work from home became the new norm. Helps were no longer there to ease our life. My biggest challenge was spending most of the awake-hours in the kitchen and that too in heat & humidity. I managed it all in my stride and for that I have a lot to thank my better half, God and his beautiful creation, the avifauna.
My day still began on a chirpy note. I think all this while God was preparing me to sail through lockdown with these ‘wings of joy’; and they did not fail me. The bird is an inspiring animal that symbolizes freedom and spiritual growth to some people. Some consider birds as divine messengers . They mean all this to me and more.
The birds, the moon and the clouds have an important mission; to make mankind turn their eyes towards the skies! And so man can leave his own little local world and focus on something bigger, the universe!Tweet
The pandemic lockdown was a blessing for the environment. The sky and air were much cleaner; seasons were happening properly; nature thrived, be it plants, birds, animals; and there was a calming quietude due to reduction in sound pollution.
To me it also meant fantastic sightings of birds, spectacular views of sunrise and sunset, peaceful blue skies with puffy white clouds and much more…. all from my home’s balcony.
Since I was birding from my balcony, the only green in range was a lone Semal tree, which by the time lock down began had stopped blooming. Hence, the birds in the sky were my major sightings. In fact, most of the photographs are of birds in flight. Along with the birds, I photographed the sky, the rising and setting sun & moon and how could I resist those plump clouds!
Standing for long with the camera in hand, continuously looking up at the sky and spanning it back & forth strained my eyes, back and neck. With the sun in its prime it was but obvious that I would have to brave the heat, sweat and tan. Yet none of this deterred me. Why? That was the time I felt ‘alive’, happy and it was my daily dose of positivity that helped me sail peacefully through the day.
Sometimes I think that the point of bird watching is not the actual seeing of the birds, but the cultivation of patience. Of course, each time we set out, there’s a certain amount of expectation we’ll see something, maybe even a species we have never seen before, and that it will fill us with light. But even if we don’t see anything remarkable, and sometimes that happens, we come home filled with light anyway.Tweet
There were days that offered no new sighting (besides the usual ones always around) and yet some days were miraculous with interesting new species showing up. The day I would see a new bird, my joy would know no bound. As for the rest of the days, they kept me hopeful. In short, whatever the day, I never forgot to thank God for the blessings. Standing continuously, for hours at times, with a camera in hand and spanning the sky & ground may sound a cake walk but it isn’t. Bird watching has this ‘blink and you miss it’ moments too and trust me I had plenty of them.
Once I spotted these wire tailed swallows sitting pretty far away. It took me months, not days, of patiently waiting for them to come close enough for me to click them. Photographing the swallows & the little swifts was another challenge altogether. Super fast and tiny they just zipped across in a flash. They made me push my limits and trust that all this toil would pay one fine day. I had my constraints; the wires hanging across apartment towers and limited range within which I could get a decent capture and of course the buildings around. But I hung on, with ‘winged hope’.
The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.Tweet
Bird watching teaches and gives you a lot. You learn how to enjoy solitude; you learn the benefits of silence; you become mentally alert as it strengthens your attention span and improves the powers of observation; you develop the art of patience; you learn how to accept things as is; you learn so much about unpredictability and how to handle misses; it teaches you to be hopeful; you witness miracles and manifestation; you feel the benefits of self love or me time; it brings you close to nature’s treasures; it heals you by raising your auric vibrations; it helps relieve stress and promotes well-being; it makes you feel alive. For me it was all these but above all a Zen state of mind.
My first exposure, in true sense, to bird watching was in June 2019 at my school friend’s hill home around Pangoot (Nainital). I was just carrying my Sony Cyber Shot and had no clue of the surprise that awaited me. I would say the birds and I got formally introduced to each other then. I saw 30+ different species around the verandah and I had not even explored the entire property!
I started looking up the internet to identify the birds I saw. I would also read a bit about them. Around that time, I upgraded my existing DSLR camera. However, the first lens upgrade happened after a year, that too post lockdown. I am trying to get a hang of Field guide books on birds, though I must admit I land up googling more often than not. I am also working on getting the right gears gradually but surely. . My life now has new ‘wings‘!
I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes.Tweet
There were other trips that year but none related to birding as such. Then came 2020 with ‘winged’ hope — the semal was in bloom. Since then there was no looking back. The balcony continues to be my favorite spot where I hang out with my friends – the camera, the birds, the sky and serenity.
With the entry of feathered friends in my life I got came across eBird, a portal for birders to enter their bird sighting details and also some bird(ing) related groups on Facebook. The avifauna helped me better my photography skills, though I have a long way to go. I am more driven by aesthetics and the emotions behind a photo than the tech specs. I am sure you all will agree that the creativity streak within us kept most of us ‘alive’ and ‘well’ in the year of pandemic.
When you surrender, stop resisting & stop trying to change that which you can’t. When you are in the moment, fully open to the blessings you’ve already received & that is yet to come. When you stand in that space of gratitude & look at where you are & how far you’ve come & what you’ve accomplished. When you can claim that & see that, the literal vibration of your life will change.OPRAH WINFREY
As I write, I have seen 65 species (including the regulars like crow, myna, pigeons) or maybe more, from my balcony and I know the count will grow (fingers crossed). I hope my flighty friends & I continue this never ending journey of friendship.
The year 2020 was a roller coaster ride for all. Life had come to a standstill and caught each one of us unaware. Slowing down and re-connecting with our immediate surroundings (environment) was much needed. People looked within and discovered so much more about themselves. I did my fair share of grumbling yet I chose to live in the moment, thank God for everything and let things flow as is. This made life easy during these trying times. The birds were /are a blessing for me and I am deeply grateful for this. I can see God’s hand in my bird watching journey. Similarly, if you stop for a moment and reflect, you too will find how things have moved in or out of your life under his big, beautiful plan.
With migratory birds arriving and winters setting in, it’s euphoric to see some flying across the sky above my home. I have now slowly started birding within the city too. I realize I am so used to birds in flight or sitting on a leafless tree, that ones perching hidden in the trees are a bit of challenge for me. I am enjoying all of it while learning the trick to photograph them. These nature walks are a super-duper delight as we have not yet started travelling and avoiding closed-crowded spaces. Of late I have started compiling my overall bird sightings, along with those from my balcony, and I can say it’s good fun. There are so many species out there and one realizes they have seen but a speck.
I spent 2020 with ‘wings’ of hope & joy and I now look forward to a fabulous 2021 with super ‘wings’.
Here’s wishing you all a year that unfolds beautifully and keeps the mind, body & soul healthy!
….. time to make the magic happen
The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy!
Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe
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