Still waters

In October 2015, Flightpathproject revisited India.

Migrants in Madhya Pradesh

Flightpathproject spent a morning birding at the 600-acre Sirpur Lake, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Winter migrants are late this year, waiting for the weather to cool down, but some early birds, including cotton teal, have just arrived.

cotton pygmy

Cotton teal (Nettapus coromandelianus, aka Cotton pygmy-geese) among lily pads.

Image at

Still waters at Sirpur

Reed beds line the lakeshore: a filter system for water and feeding ground for birds.









More of these extraordinary images of Sirpur’s reed beds at

More information about conserving Sirpur at

Words about wetlands

Flightpathproject was again tracking the movements of poet Laurence Hope. The 1895-1900 diaries of Scottish writer and painter Violet Jacob, who was in central India at the same time as and spent time with Laurence Hope, brought Flightpathproject to the lake. The lilies of Sirpur – then known as Sherepore – had the same effect now as then.

20 July 1896: I heard the other day that the great pink lotus was to be seen in flower at a place called Sherepore tank a few miles from Indore…the creek was full of lovely rose-coloured flowers standing with their heads raised above the thick masses of leaves…it was most wonderful to me who have only seen it in pictures.’

Violet Jacob Diaries and Letters from India 1895- 1900, Canongate Publishing, 1990

violet jacob



Flight bite

Flightpathproject has recently returned from India, where birds are not the only flying creatures to watch – or to watch out for.

Fragile in flight; fierce when feeding


Dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti feeding

Dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti feeding

 Image at

‘India suffers particularly from dengue, especially at this time of year, after the end of its summer monsoon, when puddles of still water in cities become breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito, the vector responsible for spreading the illness.’

 Read full article at

Flying in circles


The sound of fever

  Listen to Peggy Lee sing ‘Fever’ at


Fever 103̊

Pure? What does it mean?

The tongues of hell

Are dull, dull as the triple


Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus

Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable

Of licking clean


The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.

The tinder cries.

The indelible smell


Of a snuffed candle!

Love, love, the low smokes roll

From me like Isadora’s scarves, I’m in a fright


One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel,

Such yellow sullen smokes

Make their own element. They will not rise,


But trundle round the globe

Choking the aged and the meek,

The weak


Hothouse baby in its crib,

The ghastly orchid

Hanging its hanging garden in the air,


Devilish leopard!

Radiation turned it white

And killed it in an hour.


Greasing the bodies of adulterers

Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.

The sin. The sin.


Darling, all night

I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.

The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.


Three days. Three nights.

Lemon water, chicken

Water, water make me retch.


I am too pure for you or anyone.

Your body

Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern——


My head a moon

Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin

Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.


Does not my heat astound you! And my light!

All by myself I am a huge camellia

Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.


I think I am going up,

I think I may rise——

The beads of hot metal fly, and I love, I


Am a pure acetylene


Attended by roses,


By kisses, by cherubim,

By whatever these pink things mean!

Not you, nor him


Nor him, nor him

(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats)——

To Paradise.

 by Sylvia Plath

Fly-bys flock to India

Feeding birds in Kerala

Lesser Sand Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Whimbrel seen at Ezhara Beach, Kerala 21 November 2014

Grey Plover, Kerala

Grey Plover, Kerala

‘You’ve probably seen the Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and not paid it any attention. Singly or in little flocks, these little birds stroll on sandy beaches looking for tiny nibbles in the sand. Every winter, they arrive in droves to the coast of Kerala…’

 Text and image at


Ringed plover by a water’s edge

They sprint eight feet and –

stop. Like that. They

sprintayard (like that) and


They have no acceleration

and no brakes.

Top speed’s their only one.

They’re alive – put life

through a burning-glass, they’re

its focus – but they share

the world of delicate clockwork.

In spasmodic

Indian file

they parallel the parallel ripples.

When they stop

they, suddenly,

are gravel.

by Norman MacCaig

Fishing people in Kerala


 Image at

Watch traditional fishing in Kerala


Flightpaths in the foothills

Flightpathproject is in India, heading up into the foothills of the Himalayas as winter altitudinal migrants head down:

transcend topography

by Nawang Norbu & Sherub; see


Early birds:

Maroon oriole

Maroon oriole

In early November, an early Maroon oriole in Landour, Uttarakhand.

Image at

Even earlier birds:

Hume's Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds

Hume’s Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds, 2nd edition, 1889

For more about this extraordinary Victorian ornithologist:

Image of the volumes is courtesy of the equally extraordinary Maria Brothers, booksellers since 1946 in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Maria Brothers Booksellers

Maria Brothers Booksellers

To hear an Oriole sing

To hear an Oriole sing
May be a common thing—
Or only a divine.

It is not of the Bird
Who sings the same, unheard,
As unto Crowd—

The Fashion of the Ear
Attireth that it hear
In Dun, or fair—

So whether it be Rune,
Or whether it be none
Is of within.

The “Tune is in the Tree—”
The Skeptic—showeth me—
“No Sir! In Thee!”

by Emily Dickinson

Wintering in India

Central Asian Flyway is open for business:


Cranes on the way:


Demoiselle cranes in Khichan, Rajasthan

Demoiselle cranes in Khichan, Rajasthan


Birder alert:

E-note from Prathamesh Desai to members of Delhibird, 6 October 2014. More info at

‘The migration season has arrived and so the birds…

Following are birds sighted at Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Agra ,UP  from
July – October 2014

Eurasian Hobby
Great White Pelican
Northern Pintail
Common Teal
Common Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Common Redshank
**Blyth’s Reed Warbler **
Greenish Warbler
Black Redstart

Waiting for Demoiselle Crane migration and flycatchers…’

**Blyth’s Reed Warbler**:

Listen to and watch at

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher

To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering –
In this the poet finds his moral proved,
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.

The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart’s dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.

by Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004)

Migration, place and memory

‘I cast the net of memory…’

from The Net of Memory in Last Poems, by Laurence Hope,

In October Flightpathproject will wing its way to India, staying until December.

It will trace the trajectory of poet Laurence Hope — aka Adela Florence Cory, aka Violet Nicolson – who died in what was then Madras, in 1904.  Her exotic, erotic poems set hearts fluttering in drawing rooms across Victorian England.

At the same time it will follow the footsteps of John Jealous, who died in England in 2006. His letters and notes from trips to India reveal a growing obsession with her.

LH photo from Lilac-bleeding Star

Image in Under a Lilac-Bleeding Star by Lesley Blanch, Atheneum 1964 (note LH’s name, misspelled)

Writing places

Mirroring the movements of LH and JJ, Flightpathproject will arrive in north India as high-altitude birds migrate to the foothills of the Himalayas. Writing on the way, Flightpathproject will move to south India at the same time that migratory birds escaping the European winter flock to sanctuaries like Vedanthangal.


Image at

News from 2013


Was it worth while to forego our wings

To gain these dextrous hands?

Truly they fashion us wonderful things

As the fancy of man demands.

But – to fly! to sail through the lucid air

From crest to violet crest

Of these great grey mountains, quartz-veined and bare,

Where the white clouds gather and rest.

Even to flutter from flower to flower, –

To skim the tops of the trees, –

In the roseate light of a sun-setting hour

To drift on a sea-going breeze.

Ay, the hands have marvellous skill

To create us curious things, –

Baubles, playthings, weapons to kill, –

But – I would we had chosen wings!

from Last Poems by Laurence Hope

Still waiting

Waders that stay

white egret nla

White Egret (Egreta alba) 1938

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, Australian naturalist and artist (1867-1944)

From the collection of the National Library of Australia:



Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading –
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.

Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.

 From Birds: Poems by Judith Wright, National Library of Australia, 2003


Egrets in another country, in another century

Egrets are one of several species commonly called ‘rice birds’: these are cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis). The title of the poem below refers to Feroke, a small city surrounded by rivers and wetlands in Kerala, India.

 egret in paddy webImage at

The rice-birds fly so white, so silver white,
The velvet rice-flats lie so emerald green,
My heart inhales, with sorrowful delight,
The sweet and poignant sadness of the scene.

The swollen tawny river seeks the sea,
Its hungry waters, never satisfied,
Beflecked with fallen log and torn-up tree,
Engulph the fisher-huts on either side.

The current brought a stranger yesterday,
And laid him on the sand beneath a palm,
His worn young face was partly torn away,
His eyes, that saw the world no more, were calm

We could not close his eyelids, stiff with blood,–
But, oh, my brother, I had changed with thee
For I am still tormented in the flood,
Whilst thou hast done thy work, and reached the sea.

From Last Poems by Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1905; also in Selected Poems from The Indian Love Lyrics of Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1922