A New Hobby
When you hear “Shh!”, it takes a couple of seconds to find the source of the noise. You look around the forest you’re walking in, swerving your head quickly from left to right. Nobody. You shrug it off and continue walking, then you hear it again. An urgent, low whisper “Please - you’ll scare them away!”
You hear a rustle and a white kacheek emerges from some bushes.
“Oh! Hello!” you exclaim. The white kacheek grimaces and you suddenly remember you’re meant to be quiet. “Sorry…” you say, quieter now.
You look around, a little perturbed by the kacheek and their insistence on being quiet, despite not being able to see anything that would warrant keeping conversation to a whisper.
“No, no,” the kacheek replies, “I’m sorry, I get a little enthusiastic.”
“It’s ok,” you respond softly. You look around again, puzzled. “Enthusiastic about what exactly?”
The kacheek gestures to some nearby branches above. The fresh spring leaves are dotted with white shapes. At first, you think they are flowers, then you hear a faint “wee...woo” coming from that direction.
The kacheek smiles and nods. “Yes!” He says, “Quite a find. I heard they had been nesting here in Meridell but I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself! Normally in these woods, you would find all manner of Albats and sometimes a Crokabek, but White Weewoos are incredibly uncommon here. You’re very lucky to see them, I’ve been coming here every day for a week and not a single white feather to be found, nevermind a whole flock!”
The kacheek pulls out some binoculars and a notebook out of his satchel. “Take a closer look,” the kacheek suggests, proffering the binoculars to you. You accept them, and put the binoculars to your eyes. You’ve never paid much attention to birds, much less taken the time to stop and look up when walking, but you do feel a sense of excitement in seeing something supposedly so rare. You lower the binoculars and the kacheek is sitting on the floor, scribbling notes in his battered notebook. “How many were there?” The kacheek asks.
“10? More?” You suggest, handing the binoculars back.
The kacheek takes them, looking at the branches through the binoculars, mouthing numbers quickly. He lowers them and carries on scribbling. “Yup, 11” he says under his breath.
“So you were just out here looking for birds?”
“Yup,” the kacheek says again, “you can see a lot of interesting stuff with a little patience. A lot of people don’t understand the appeal, but I can’t think of anything better! Being out in nature, the quiet, and then sometimes you get to see, well, that!”
You feel slightly sheepish when you realise you were walking through the forest only to get from Brightvale to Meridell. You don’t normally enjoy the walk very much, but must make the trip if you want to go to Meri Acres Farm for some berries.
The kacheek continues, “So many places in Neopia are fast-paced and busy, I can barely keep up, but out here I can sit quietly, waiting and enjoying the peace, and sometimes you’re rewarded for that patience.”
You’re beginning to see the appeal. “How did you get started?” you ask.
“I’ve always been interested in birds, I was teased when I was a younger kacheek about it. I nursed a Beekadoodle back to health when it fell from its nest. When I released that Beekadoodle back into a forest in Neopia Central, I looked up and saw a Tuceet! Do you know how uncommon they are? They’re only native to the dark forests of Geraptiku, to this day I have no idea how it found its home there. From that point onwards, I was hooked. You don’t need anything, that’s the beauty of it all. Just a bit of determination, and willingness to sit very still and quietly - easier said than done for some people. Sometimes you just get absurdly lucky and you see something amazing, like me with the Tuceet - or us right now with this flock of White Weewoos. The memories make it great. Personally, I like to use a notebook to keep track of it all.” He offers the notebook to you. “But that’s not necessary, some just take themselves and a flask of borovan.”
You open the notebook and flick through, the book is almost full of scribbled notes, some pages are thicker due to a rainbow of feathers taped down to the pages.
“That’s a Naleap feather,” the kacheek says, pointing to a bright blue feather. “I found it at the base of a Shenkuu mountain, unfortunately I didn’t see one - worst luck - but I could hear their call, it’s very distinct. Oh! Wait!”
The kacheek turns to his satchel, and rummages around inside. He pulls out a cylindrical object, copper metal at one end, green painted wood at the other. He offers it to you. You take it, turning it over in your hands. Upon closer inspection, it has a bird painted on the green wood.
“What is it?” you ask.
“An Albat call! Albat are native to Meridell and Brightvale, so you won’t have much trouble finding one. If you put your mouth to the wooden bit and blow it like a whistle, it will mimic their call! If you’re lucky, it might attract one to follow the noise and you’ll see one - Albats are quite curious, you see. I’m afraid I don’t have any spare binoculars, but you’ll probably get close enough to see a very cool feature.” The kacheek takes a small book out of his satchel and flicks through it. “Ah! Yes, here, listen: ‘Albats have two large fake eyes on their head, so try to get a look! They supposedly do this to confuse any potential predators.’ That’s from a birdwatching guide, you can take that too!”
You take the Albat call and blow into the mouthpiece, ‘Whoooot’ cries the call. The White Weewoos scatter from the branches in all directions into the azure sky.
“Whoops! I suppose the one unavoidable rule for bird watching is trying to be quiet in the presence of more skittish birds...ah well, no harm done” The kacheek says.
You pocket the Whoot call and put the guide into your bag. “I’d best be on my way,” you say, “Thank you for this!”
“Not at all, have a good day,” the kacheek replies, waving shyly.
On your journey back from Meri Acres Farm, you take a short break, sitting in a woody clearing, snaffling a couple of berries from your basket. You pull out the bird call given to you by the white kacheek, raise it to your mouth and blow it. The sound fills the air. You swivel from left to right, expecting a Whoot to materialise. You then remember what the kacheek told you about patience, and you pop another berry into your mouth, enjoying the stillness of the clearing.
You continue on your journey, the dappled sunlight shining through the trees, everything it reaches is tinted with a golden luminescence. ‘Whoooot,’ you hear in the distance, just along the path. You stop in your tracks, pull out the call, ‘Whooot,’ you respond with the call.