Escaping from the load noises of crackers, a small group of guys from MCC, as part of a program by OSLE India went into the woods nearby Medavakam Kootu Road (Chennai) to explore and experience the company of birds, on this Diwali. I joined the journey because of my good friends Rayson, Susan and Sachin who belongs to the OSLE India team, and trust me it just became a memorable day in my life. What I have seen only in Animal Planet, (in fact that’s probably one among the very few channels I am in craze of) I experienced the same in the company of our own Steve Irvin, Hopeland from Zoology department Madras Christian College.
I always liked listening to the birds, in fact I had 2 pigeons and quite a few lovebirds at home back in Kerala. There used to be a cage in common for rabbits and love birds. But this time it was way different. Watching a being in its own habitat is quite a joy. They talks to you in the language of freedom. I guess my love birds might have also sounded different in their own habitat. At the forest we came across only a few rare specis, in fact other birds were familiar ones. But I don’t think I have ever watched or understood any of them this clear before…. even our very on Cookoo, Maina, Crow or Kingfisher. Hopeland clearly ‘re-introduced’ each of those species to all of us that each of them gained a different status in our minds. I and Sachin went around taking videos of all of them and the group while Hopeland took his breaks and kept explaining things. Whenever he heard a familiar or unfamiliar call of a bird he would stop immediately and get hold of his binoculars. What fascinated us was his knowledge of other beings too along with the birds. He knew every butterfly in the area and their mode of living. On the way he showed us an agonizing Skelton of a dog, but now it is the home of a colorful beetle. He came out and looked at his guests explaining silently the tyranny and irony of life.
I had a great time videographing a rare Brahminical Maina following it quietly keeping my slippers away, and of course the adventure in the pond further inside the forest. As soon as we reached the pond side, Hopeland asked us to be quite so that he can get an Owl in his binoculars. Sad... he was hiding somewhere. But yet the pond kept us happy with a vivid view. We saw a few water snakes and two rare species of Kingfishers. Hopeland was so excited watching the snakes and he said that he can try catching one and examine it close. In no time three of us went down to the pond. Hopeland was on one side of the pond and I was trying to focus my camera on him standing on the other side. Hearing our footsteps, quite a few frogs busy in their sun-bath did a quick plunge into the water… it was a great show. I slowly stepped into the water from one side and Hopeland from the opposite side. I guess the water at that side got disturbed and I saw a snake approaching me. It was really fast reached almost my legs. I got the shock of my life and tried to move out. I guess the sounds and the ripples made it equally scared. Sensing the presence of a foreign body, in few seconds it took a U-turn and went in a different direction. Meanwhile Hopeland’s leg caught in the mud which he finally struggled his way out and then cautioning me to carry a stick to identify the depth at each level. He tried his best to catch one snake. Guess the whole noise made them too cautious that they smartly hid themselves in the muddy bottom. So we too came out.
On the way back we saw few other birds and some interesting plants. Nirmal sir (English department, MCC) was guiding us in the whole trip, explaining each species and plant with their actual literature connection. He showed as ‘Kunni-mani’ seeds and said that even a few decades back people used it for weighing gold. Rayson kept recording the whole conversations on his phone and others made short notes. We entered the forest land around 8 AM and it took almost 3 hours to just make one small circle of excavation. All thanks to Hopeland who guided us and described the beauty of the bird's kingdom. Though, I don’t really remember the names of all the species he showed us, we are planning to make it a shot docu film with the details ...of course with the help of our own ‘Steve Irvin’.