Grey Junglefowl, Coorg -
It’s early morning in Coorg and you’re sitting back, eyes closed, enjoying a steaming mug of Sidapur coffee, when you hear a scratchy Ku-kayak-kyuk-kyuk sound interrupted by a familiar click, followed by a torrent of unprintable language. Chances are the former sound was a Grey Jungle Fowl pottering about for food, and the latter, a frustrated photographer with a blank image, grumbling about fowl play. In fact, these notoriously camera shy birds have left behind a trail of bruised egos and frustrated ambition, especially among the shutterbugs that frequent these jungles hoping to get one good crack at this elusive prey. The subject of all this photographic angst is a handsome creature, often found scavenging elephant dung or browsing through land ploughed by wild boars for berries, seeds and small insects. This black caped crusader has a finely patterned plumage on a grey base with central tail feathers that are dramatically sickle shaped. Its long, dark neck feathers with yellowish plates at the end are both its pride and sorrow. They are responsible for turning a popular proverb on its head by ensuring that the early bird, in this case, becomes the worm. The neck feathers are much in demand in fly-fishing, to be made into artificial flies used instead of worms as bait, and this industry, as much as indiscriminate hunting for food, is threatening the existence of the Grey Jungle Fowl. On a lighter note, one could be forgiven for wondering if the fly-fishing community might perhaps comprise of former wildlife photographers finally getting their own back.