Of night-owling and fireflies

Close your eyes for a moment and try and picture this scene. You are in rural Assam (in the North-Eastern part of India) standing at a cross-road with few other people. It is about 7pm and pitch dark. So dark that you can barely see the mud tracks under your feet. And all around you are fire-flies. Flickering momentarily in one spot and then another as they fly around. Imagine a thousand fireflies all around you. And then, silently, as they are used to flying, an owl lands on a nearby tree. This one was the Oriental Scops Owl, the grey morph species with those mesmerising yellow eyes. And as the flashlight lights up the bird and you look through the viewfinder, you are transfixed. All this while, the fireflies continue to dance and flicker all around you.

If the first one to grant us an audience had those mesmerising yellow eyes, the next one that we spotted was a complete contrast. The Collared Scops Owl has a beady, dark brown eye that pierces straight and deep through to your soul. Maybe the light on it has made it much lighter than it actually looked to me and this image doesn’t really do justice to how I felt when I saw the individual. This scops owl is probably the biggest of them that one can see in the country. And this particular one picked a nice, clean perch at eye level and made it easy for us to spot him.

The third one that we encountered was a brief appearance by the the Brown Hawk Owl. And since the appearance was brief and this particular individual was more skittish, we didn’t really get great pics of the bird. As the name suggest, this one has a hawk-like appearance with a slim body, long tail and a narrow head. And those hypnotic ochre-yellow iris.

Three different owls, with 3 distinctive eyes. Fire-flies all around us. Pitch-dark. And a waning gibbous moon just making its way over the trees. Life just couldn’t get better.

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