One early morning in May, my friend and I set out for Khonoma. We had to leave early because the wee hours of the morning are the best time for bird watching, since they forage for food at this part of the day and are very active. The sky was still hazy and grey, after a heavy downpour the previous night.
The road that leads to the village was bumpy and muddy, but it did not bother us because the view was extremely exquisite and enjoyable. The lofty mountains and luxuriant vegetation, tinted in different shades of green were alluring and the cool morning breeze was refreshing.
It was also a pleasant sight to see white fluffy clouds nestling among the valleys and hills. By the time we reached the forest the fog was all gone and the sun was already above the mountains, promising a warm, sunny day. As we mutely walked into the forest, the jungle came alive.
There were countless birds chirping, cooing and hovering around us. To an inexperienced birder like me all birds sound and move alike, but my friend, an avid bird watcher paid heed to all the details such as their colours, movements, shapes and even their calls and was able to differentiate them.
The first bird we came across was a hawk flying high up in the sky, probably looking for prey to feed her young. As we moved further and higher, we saw a tiny squirrel with yellow stripe markings on its back, digging through fallen leaves.
The little creature was such a beauty and was not disturbed by our presence. We saw another squirrel on a tree. This one was slightly bigger with a dark grey fur and happily tweeting as it gathered nuts and fruits. On the other side of the valley we saw a herd of mithuns grazing leisurely; they looked up and around apprehensively every time we whistled at them.
The forest of Khonoma is now home to many birds and mammals. Thanks to all those people who toiled hard to keep their forest green and rich. We are told that in recent years the numbers of birds and mammals have increased. Villagers have also spotted some rare birds in the area and birds that have disappeared for years are now back in the forest.
Today it is home to many endangered species. Bulbuls, Yellow Throated Barbed, and Great Barbed are in abundance in this forest. We heard the beautiful twittering of a Great Barbed. Using our binoculars we tried to spot this bird, but it was nowhere to be seen. These birds are swift in their movement hence to take a photograph of them is extremely difficult for an amateur photographer like me. Besides, one needs a good camera in order to get the shot. Anyhow to even have a glimpse of these beautiful birds was more than enough and I do not ask for more for I have them in my memory.
As we moved further, we encountered a Verditer Fly Catcher searching for food. We also spotted a tiny bird sucking nectar from a flower. The Drongo Cuckoo and the Oriental Cuckoo serenaded us with their enchanting music.
We wanted to see the Tragopans but since we could not walk any further we decided to go back. While returning back to the village, we spotted two Scarlet Minivets, flying back and forth, collecting twigs and leaves to build their nest. The male had a yellow front and the female, a red chest. As we got nearer to the village, we spotted the last bird which was a Red Stark busily picking worms and insects by the side of a small stream.
God was truly gracious to us that morning. Not only was the weather favourable but we were also able to classify around twenty different birds and a few mammals. It started to drizzle as we made our way back home and by the time we reached the guest house it started to rain heavily. Our host served us a delicious hot meal. After lunch, we sat down on the sofa and listened to the sound of the rain drops tapping on the roofs and window panes. We talked about birds and their incredible ways as we slowly sipped our tea. I am forever grateful to my friend for inspiring me and instilling in me a love for bird watching.
I have learned that bird watching is not only an educational hobby, but it is also a hobby that gives you immense joy and serenity. It keeps you off the couch as well as keeps you physically and mentally fit. Many a times we take our wild friends at face value but they are amazing animals that can teach us so much about life. One of the things that I learnt from our wild friends that day is their simplicity and purity.
They are happy anywhere and are so free from worldly burdens. They live in the ‘now’ and never seem to worry about the future. They taught me about the importance of simplifying our life, taking one day at a time and living a contented life without many of the things that seem so necessary.
Besides teaching great values of life, God has created them to dot the sky and forest and this world would be too monotonous a place without these wonderful creatures around us. Let us learn to appreciate and approach them with love and respect.
Akhrieno Savi, Kohima.