Sanctuary Asia
THE QUEST FOR THE SPIRIT DUCK Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia
THE QUEST FOR THE SPIRIT DUCK Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia

The Quest For The Spirit Duck

Dew drops descending from the sky-high canopies of giant Hollong trees refreshed us as we moved deeper into the rainforests of Dehing-Patkai.

Keshab Gogoi

The forest was cloaked in darkness even at 7:30 a.m. We walked cautiously as Phukan, the forest guard accompanying us had warned, “Walk like the tiger, do not make any noise.” Phukan and Vijay Panikar, a local tracker, were leading us to a forest pool where they believed the spirits come down to forage. The canopy concealed the blue sky above us. There was no sign of human presence. The wet undulating terrain made it hard to move without holding on to nearby vegetation. Suddenly, a strange call, followed by a soft splash about 30 m. away placed us on high alert. “We just might be lucky today!” Vijay whispered. Through rising mists and dense vegetation, Vijay pointed at something in the water through a pinhole opening in the dense undergrowth. A whitish head, with amber eyes above a dark brown, heavy, streamlined body was swimming in the murky water. Two blue patches on either side with white primary feathers shining bright had Vijay whispering, “Deo Hanh!” (It’s a pair!).

Our search for the White-winged Wood Duck had actually started on a cold, evening in January 2017, in the Doon Valley. Inspired by Dr. Rashid Raza and Dr. Hafiz Shaeque Ahmad Yahya who had undertaken a survey in 1993 and Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar who had completed his Ph.D. on the bird in 1995, we felt


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