Montagu's Harrier, Coorg -
War movie buffs and air force acolytes who know their Falcons from their Nighthawks will always have a soft spot for the Harrier. In today’s world of muscular, supersonic stealth fighters, the Harrier is a gracious throwback to the age of subsonic flight. Developed as a jump-jet capable of vertical take-offs, and able to operate from garages and small clearings, the Harrier was an agile and much beloved icon of the aerospace that found its true calling in the confined spaces of aircraft carriers, and is still in use by the Indian and American forces for reconnaissance and combat duties. Far from the salty winds of the high seas, however, the inspiration for this jet still flies the flag for the tribe in the highlands of Coorg. The transcontinental Montagu’s Harrier is a regular winter visitor and is distinguished by the deceptively powerful wing beats that reek of lazy indolence, yet propel it for long distances at a much slower speed than other raptors. Far from being easy, this form of flying calls for a certain skill that isn’t always obvious. Try pedaling a bicycle at a very slow speed for a long distance without losing your balance or poise, and you’ll know what we mean. The low-flying Montagu’s Harrier manages this difficult task while still looking as graceful as a swan. This ability to literally skim the ground opens up a lot more opportunities for the larder, allowing it to surprise the most agile ground-prey, small birds and large insects. After the capture, it transfers the booty, mid-air, to its mate who flies just under and catches the offering as it’s dropped, while the male continues, unruffled and unfettered, for another low-altitude reconnaissance and capture mission that proves how slow and steady still wins the race.