They made for a matchless pair: a dazzling little kingfisher with wings of calm-sea blue and a self-taught wildlife photographer possessed with a pair of keen blue eyes.
Just two years into her pursuit of weekend wildlife photography, Sophie Luby, 29, had snuggled into a kingfisher hide at Kirkcudbright in Scotland when the bird landed on her camouflaged head. Luby was floored. The next day, she put another camera focused on her in the hope that the bird would alight again. The bird obliged, brought a fish and beat it on her head to stun it before gobbling it. The video caught the kingfisher’s jaunty actions along with the soft pitter-patter of its small feet on Luby’s concealed head. All this while, Luby was laughing, her face melting into all manner of indulgent smiles, like a mother mooning over her newborn. She was also trying very hard not to quiver at the surreal avian odyssey taking place just above her. Luby did not want to frighten the unsuspecting kingfisher.
The bird graced Luby with “lady luck” and she was instantly crowned the “Princess of Good Times”. Luby’s reel of the kingfisher prancing on her head secured viral success with more than a million views since she posted it on Instagram on August 3, 2023, fetched her 1,33,872 likes and accounted for the overnight growth of her followers to 30,400.
Apart from the kingfisher inveigled so artfully by the hide, it was Luby’s personal charm radiating from the smiles gracing her salmon-pink lips and “eyes of clear skies” that exerted a magical draw on viewers. Would a kingfisher draw such attraction were it to alight on the world’s best wildlife photographer but one saddled with sagging white-grey moustaches, weather-beaten skin, a paunch arising from long, sedentary hours in hides, squinty eyes and a dour ‘seen it all’ expression? Never!
Unwanted, whiffs of Chanel
Could a male leopard find himself imprisoned in a tree situated in the sprawling openness of the Maasai Mara (Kenya) with “noxious fumes” of expensive perfumes drifting up the big cat’s nostrils? Well, Chandigarh-based wealth management consultant and passionate photographer, Tarun Kakar, has quite a tale to narrate. His startling picture of the leopard on a thorn tree with his kill, a Thomson’s gazelle, impaled on the branches was on display at the recent TPAS Drishti Photo Exhibition at Punjab Kala Bhawan.
At first glance, Kakar’s frame captures the essence of leopard behaviour: to fetch the kill up a tree and safeguard it from lions, hyenas, wild dogs and other scavengers. But not humans, there’s much more to that supposedly natural exposition of behaviour. “I was on a game drive when I saw a jam of tourist vehicles around a tree in the far distance. Just as flocking, circling vultures send a visual signal of a carcass to other creatures, I also made for the tree. I had to wait an hour in the queue as there were so many vehicles. Tourists were clicking and ogling at the leopard with its kill. Some were sporting perfumes and the wild air was thick with artificial scents. Perfumes disrupt the receptive and sensory abilities of wild creatures. When our turn came, I spent about 2.5 hours taking pictures. I was myself a culprit, of tourist invasion of habitat and disruption of wild animals’ behaviour,” Kakar told this writer.
Kakar’s frames captured the bamboozled expression in the eyes of the leopard. It was restlessly traversing the branches from one end to another in a vain effort to spot an opening in the tourist vehicle cordon and flee the tree. The cat had been reduced to a prisoner pacing the cell, albeit, in the vast openness of his Masai Mara home.
“The leopard had killed the gazelle at night and must have been thirsty by now. But its movement from the tree to the waterhole was blocked,” Kakar added.