This is a story of a Semal tree. It was spring when I visited my paternal aunt’s village for shooting some birds. The village is safely tucked away from the hustle-bustle of a National highway and lies along a route that is used only by the locals.
The village is situated at an approximate altitude of 800 Meters and hence one can imagine is not home to too many birds, compared to the higher Himalayas. But it was spring, so birds were migrating from plains to their home in the higher reaches and this place was, at the time full of birds.
When exploring the area around the village the second evening, I went deep into the forest and found just beside a stream a Semal tree. If you have ever seen a Semal tree in full bloom, one would know why it’s named “The flame of the Forest”. The flowers of Semal are scarlet red, and when they bloom, the full tree is just flowers, no leaves, just flowers and surrounded by green trees from all sides, the tree is a sight to behold. Also, at lower altitudes, it is the most commonly found species of a flowering tree, it attracts almost all nectar-feeding birds.
So when I stumbled upon this tree, I began looking for a spot from where I could get eye-level shots. Upon exploring, I found out that the tree was growing at a slight angle, leaning out of a mountain in between two fields. If I went to the upper field, almost all the flowers were at my eye level and the background was a valley some few 100 meters away. Also when I sat on the field, I was facing Southwest and would be perfect to shot in the morning, as the sun would rise behind me
So the next morning, before sunrise I was here. I took the most comfortable spot I could find on the field and just waited. Sun rose and with it came all the birds I was hoping for and more. A flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies, Black Bulbuls, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches, Red-vented Bulbuls, Himalayan Bulbuls, Warblers, Bar-tailed tree creeper, Green-backed tits, and each one of them spent so much time on the flowers. The weather was partially cloudy and the light so soft. I shot them to my heart’s content for hours. It was a morning well spent.
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