The Path to the Fire-tails

A memory sparked by an old photograph

A path in Nepal lined with worn prayer flags
A path in Nepal lined with worn prayer flags / photo by the author

“Are you the lady looking for the Fire-tailed Sunbirds?”

I look at the man asking this question — a local I’ve never seen before. My quest has become a topic of discussion. “That’s me.”

He points down a path, describes some twists and turns. The place where the cow never moves out of the road. A barn beyond that. The beginning of forest. A shrub. A tree. “Yesterday, I saw a pair working the flowers in that tree.”

“On it!” I hurry down.

The landmarks are where he said — which happens a lot less frequently than you might think. (Especially with theoretically movable objects like cows!) But I round the final turn and quickly spot the flowering tree.

And then I see them.

The most glorious flower of all is the fluttering male Fire-tailed Sunbird with his long sweep of a scarlet tail. I’m meant to look only at him, but I soon notice his quietly dressed mate hovering nearby.

If you’d enjoy longer stories about the birder’s quest, try these:

Author of “The Moldavite Message.” Seeker, traveler, birder, crystal collector.