The Ruby-throated female Hummingbird (Photo: Yashesh Chhaya)
Birds are a source of permanent exultation for Yashesh Chhaya. I do not know of anyone who talks about birds with as much unhidden joy and unbounded optimism as Yashesh. He always has ever since I first met him in 1991. The late Dr. Salim Ali, India’s preeminent ornithologist, is Yashesh’s icon.
A couple of years ago he had told me that it was one of his dreams to photograph the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. It is rather hard to find this bird that can be photographed in an urban setting unless one puts in considerable effort. The first requirement is to be able to tell the Ruby-throated Hummingbird from, say for instance, a hawk. You might say that’s a foolish comparison, but trust me there are many who could not tell the difference. I file them under the “not-knowing-arse-from-the-elbow” category.
Yashesh’s dream came true yesterday morning when in the backyard of his Villa Park home he spotted this vivacious bird. He says he first spotted it at 9 a.m. and knew that it would come back. The summer is the time when this particular migratory species is found across the eastern and and middle United States. By fall, they are headed for Central America. It is said that many members of this tiny species can cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. That is a distance of 400-plus miles. Those who know such things say it could take more than 20 hours of non-stop flying.
Coming back Yashesh’s encounter with the bird, as soon as he saw it, he set up a curtain door to hide behind. He then waited. He was rewarded an hour and quarter later as the smallest member of the hummingbird family returned to collect nectar. That’s when Yashesh took several photographs. Having been a passionate photographer his fingers were ready for the right frame and he got it. The one above is perfect. The light was great and the maroon red backdrop of the fence with trees casting various shadows made the frame even more telling. It is almost as if this particular bird knew that Yashesh had waited for a long time and it was time to reward him.
“It took five years of my effort. The key is the habitat. Birds need shelter, food and safe haven,” he says.
Now that he has fulfilled one of his longstanding dreams, perhaps it is time for him to pursue another—that of creating a wildlife corridor in his native Kutch in Gujarat with a particular focus on the grasslands.