Thursday, 15 March 2012

A well-travelled T-shirt

My waiting's almost done now. Harish arrives this morning and our Tadoba extension clients this afternoon. Tomorrow we enter the forest. Harish is, of all the Asian naturalists I've met, one of the most instinctive, knowledgeable and observant. He's also a kind, selfless tour leader and with it compulsively modest. I love to work with him.

A couple of years ago, at the end of a wonderful long tour through the Gangetic Plain and the Himalayan foothills, I gave him a T-shirt. Three of these were given to me in Ecuador by Byron Palacios, who now works for Naturetrek but then worked for our Ecuador and Bolivia ground agents Neblina Forest. These jolly Neblina T-shirts have a beautiful medley of neotropical birds on their backs - torrent duck, sword-billed hummingbird, wire-tailed manakin and others - and I was pleased to give the first away in turn to my Bolivian driver and conspirator Leo, beside whom I sat and gossipped through hours, days, and weeks of journeys through the Andes and the Brazilian Shield. One T-shirt I kept for myself and, now worn out, it happens that I'm wearing it as I write. The third, in green, I gave to Harish.

A few months later my sister was in India. She wrote to me from Kanha to say she'd seen an Indian man wearing my T-shirt, definitely my T-shirt. She had, I said: it was Harish. I shall be glad to see him today.

News comes from my parents in North Norfolk. The buzzard's shift from absent to commonplace in Norfolk has been nothing short of staggering. Now several pairs breed in the woods around the house where I grew up:

We saw six buzzards on the airfield this afternoon; at least we think they were buzzards. They looked rather like aircraft stacking before being given permission to land, but I don’t think they did. The cloud was pretty low and they seemed to disappear. We also had a small hedgehog in the yard a night or two ago. I had to carry him into the front garden and I don’t know what has become of him. I hope he’s ok.  

And more news comes of warblers from Chris in Cape May:

Here pine warblers are trickling around, which is kind of cool. It’s one thing to have the singing male appear as if by magic back on his patch of pines; causes one to involuntarily smile. But it is another to see one land in the pines at Land’s End, all full of Zugunruhe, and it is yet another to see a pair in completely inappropriate habitat foraging on the ground with butterbutts who are still sporting winter dingy. In another month their yellow will seem rather dull and un-jolly, sort of earthy like hobbit yellow when compared to wild tropical yellows like yellow warbler and prothonotary and Cape May and magnolia, but for now, for March, their yellow is something extravagant and quite extraordinary.

Harish arrives as I write and I am very happy to see my Rajasthani friend. A journey begins tomorrow: extravagant and quite extraordinary, I hope.

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