All of the peacocks were on the opposite side of the river from our camp where the jungle was thickest. On the first morning my wife and I floated down the river on the raft for half a mile and landed to stalk a peacock which had called frequently from a rocky point near the water’s edge. We picked our way through the jungle with the utmost caution but the wary old cock either saw or heard us before we were within range, and I caught just a glimpse of a brilliant green neck as he disappeared into the bushes. A second bird called on a point a half mile farther on, but it refused to come into the open and as we started to stalk it in the jungle we heard a patter of feet among the dry leaves followed by a roar of wings, and saw the bird sail over the tree tops and alight on the summit of a bush-clad hill.
This was the only peacock which we were ever able to flush when it had already gained cover. Usually the birds depend entirely upon their ability to hide or run through the bushes. After several attempts we learned that it was impossible to stalk the peacocks successfully. The jungle was so crisp and parched that the dry leaves crackled at every step and even small birds made a loud noise while scratching on the ground.
The only way to get the peacocks was to watch for them at the river when they came to drink in the early morning and evening. Between two rocky points where we had first seen the birds there was a long curved beach of fine white sand. One morning Heller waited on the point nearest camp while my wife and I posted ourselves under a bush farther down the river. We had been sitting quietly for half an hour when we heard a scratching in the jungle. Thinking it was a peacock feeding we turned our backs to the water and sat motionless peering beneath the bushes. Meanwhile, Heller witnessed an interesting little drama enacted behind us.
An old male peacock with a splendid train stole around the point close to the water, jumped to a high stone within thirty yards of us and stood for a full minute craning its beautiful green neck to get a better view as we kneeled in front of him totally unconscious of his presence. After he had satisfied his curiosity he hopped off the observation pinnacle and, with his body flattened close to the ground, slipped quietly away. It was an excellent example of the stalker being stalked and had Heller not witnessed the scene we should never have known how the clever old bird had fooled us.
The following morning we got a peahen at the same place. Heller had concealed himself in the bushes on one side of the point while I watched the other. Shortly after daylight an old female sailed out of the jungle on set wings and alighted at the water’s edge. She saw Heller almost instantly, although he was completely covered by the vines, and started to fly, but he dropped her with a broken wing. Recovering herself, she darted around the rocky point only to meet a charge of B.B.’s from my gun. She was a beautiful bird with a delicate crown of slender feathers, a yellow and blue face patch and a green neck and back, but her plumes were short and inconspicuous when compared with those of the male.