The Milanese Nightingale

I have written about this before – how some images trigger unexpected associations. This one somehow just reminds me of Bianca Castafiore, the Milanese Nightingale from Herge’s Tintin series.

The long beak of the Dalmatian Pelican reminds me of the long curvy nose of the character, the way the wings are folded is like her bent arms as she lets loose with a burst of shrill operatic aria. And the curvy neck of the pelican leaves me with the impression of a thrown-back head. You get the picture.

This was shot on an unforgettable morning in Bharatpur about 4-and-a-half years back when I was learning how to use a DSLR.  As is usual early in February, there is always a chance of a fogged out morning and it looked as if we would have one of those when we woke up. We decided to press on ahead into the park and get to the water bodies near the temple at the heart of the sanctuary. For the first hour or so, there wasn’t much happening here. There was a light fog and the sun was waging a losing battle trying to impose its presence over the veil. There were several cormorants in the water fishing and competing for their catch.

Suddenly, a couple of Dalmatian Pelicans made their way into this patch of water. Around the same time, some rays of the sun started muscling their way through the mist and fog. At first, there was calm with the pelicans and cormorants fishing separately. Eventually their paths had to invariably collide and we saw them starting to compete for the same fish. By now, the fog had started to lift and the golden rays of the morning sun lit up the algae-covered waters with a brilliant glow. When this bounced off the enormous, white, wide-spread wings of the pelican (they are birds with one of the largest wingspans) the effect was surreal.

I think we had a good 40-45 mins session with the pelicans and the cormorants that morning. I have been to Bharatpur a few times after that but haven’t really had that kind of an experience again. I hope that there is a similar one around the corner soon.

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