Articles by Arati Kumar Rao

Arati is a National Geographic Explorer, an independent environmental photographer, writer, and artist documenting the slow violence of ecological degradation.

One morning in April 2020, early in the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, I leaned over my terrace parapet of my home in Bengaluru, scanning the spreading branches of a Yekke (aak; aakdo; Calotropis gigantea) plant to spot a pale-billed flowerpecker whose trills I could distinctly hear. Eye to the viewfinder, I looked for the bird, the smallest in India at just over 3 inches.  I found something else entirely. A dark form, an obsidian body with sky-blue eyes, was perched on a flower, its head bent into the petals. Hastily focusing on it, I shot off a few frames…

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