Of Dancing flames and Geese
How a photography trip ended as a lesson on what to avoid in farming
I once happened to visit Dighal wetlands, Haryana for Bird Photography. After spending the entire day on-field, it was late when I started to return. Darkness was slowly spreading over the skies as the sun was setting down on the horizon. Only a few rays were prevailing through the sky, a very pleasant sight to see.
There were small wetlands on the left side of the road. I was settling myself into a peaceful state, feeling the breeze through the car window, when I saw a flock of Bar Headed Geese in a pond within a few meters. Since it was getting dark, there was no point taking out my camera. I dropped the idea to photograph, instead thought of scanning this geese habited spot next morning. I assumed that the flock would be still around, and I would be able to click them in the morning light. In the middle of my thoughts, my car took a turn and from a particular angle, I saw the orange shade of clouds reflected exactly on the flock of geese in the wetland. These type of eye-catching silhouettes are favorite of most of the photographers.
I immediately asked my driver to park the car on the roadside, deciding to click some images from there. But I was unable to get the feeling I was aspiring to have in my image. I soon learnt that in photography angle makes a big difference, and decided to get myself to the level of the geese in the wetland, quickly implementing the thought with action.
Happy with the outcome, I suddenly noticed some activity in the background of where the geese were present with my camera’s view-finder. No sooner had I tried to look up and make out the disturbance, that the field was set ablaze on the other side of the pond by some farmers, who soon became invisible as the flames and smoke reached heights.
This sudden change got the geese uneasy too. They started giving out calls of turmoil and got alert and panicked. I was completely blank and could not understand what to do in such a situation. But quickly I realized that this perspective must be documented. I struggled with my camera lenses, pushing up the ISO and clicking as much as I could since it was getting very dark. In no time the dry field caught fire on a large scale and the geese flew away suddenly, disappearing into the horizon. This pond was in complete solitude now.
If we analyze this incident, it verily draws our attention to the bird’s migration habits. The Bar Headed Geese are known for their awe-inspiring capacity to fly over clouds and cross the seas during migration. They come to India for the winters. Their main food comprises of paddy from fields, like the ones which went up in flames. They prefer wetlands which are near the fields. And here I see examples of their food source is almost destroyed in the fire I witnessed. We never know if they ever return to this wetland again or look for better promising places.
I have a slight idea about farming. For the purpose of cleaning the field completely, in a gap of two crop harvestings, villagers burn the left outs as a common practice.
But when we are already facing the adverse effect of climate change on migration, this kind of scenario also play a vital role, in my humble opinion. In few more subsequent disturbances similar to the one I witnessed, these birds may never turn up here ever. I was sad to realize this as well as happy that I stopped by that evening and could document this.
Next day, these birds would not be here I guessed and to confirm, I visited the place in the morning, noon and evening but they were not to be seen.
Bar Headed Geese are famous for their regular visiting spots at a particular time. As they were here last evening, they had to be here next day generally and at the same time, too. But Alas…
THE FIRE PLAYED A GAME.
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