March 26, 2012
Bird watching, or simply birding as it is commonly known, is an activity that is considered a sport by many. Birding has been our passion and hobby for the past three decades. For the past many years, the focus was on tracking the migratory behavior of birds in Karnataka, but for a change, we had the opportunity to visit many migratory bird havens in and around Pune in January 2012, both in restricted sites as well as bird sanctuaries.
This was largely made possible by Ashley and Dr Sneha Rasquinha who are excellent photographers and avid bird watchers. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see migratory birds in thousands in restricted places like Army Lakes, Tata Motors and the more hospitable open waters in and around Bigwan. This memorable trip helped us discover the many varied landscapes and hidden treasures with respect to avian fauna. We were able to identify dozens of bird species by sight and sound and learn about their behavior and current conservation status. Our two week trip to the migratory stopover of birds was an education and adventure by itself. We had the opportunity of observing birds in the wild for a better understanding of habitats and behaviors.
This article has two dimensions of approach. First, to request Parents, Grandparents & Elders to connect children and youngsters to nature, either by sharing their knowledge on biodiversity conservation through folklore or by accompanying the kids and youngsters to nature trails, so that children learn to interact with the environment, learning and growing all the while. Bed time stories & tales from the Panchatantra are not only entertaining but serve to teach a lesson in sharing, caring, reaching out and empathizing with others in distress. Many of these stories revolve around birds and animals and the important role they play in the well being of mankind.
These touching stories and field visits also provide children with an opportunity to form a deep bond of mutual trust and friendship both with the people accompanying them as well as with nature. We have often observed that the outdoors brings out a spontaneous enthusiasm in the child, which in turn can be skillfully directed towards learning. As children grow, they will appreciate time spent outdoors. We need to help children fall in love with nature from an early age, so that they become guardians of nature for life. In our guarded opinion, even though there are many different things that are important to the future of our world, teaching children to love nature and care for wildlife should be high on the list of priorities. For in today’s tech world it is very easy for children and youngsters to get alienated from the natural world around them. In sharing our deeper thoughts and feelings, do we communicate and inspire in others, a love and respect for Mother Earth.
Bird watching is an inexpensive hobby but is very rewarding in terms of acquiring knowledge. All that one need is a pair of binoculars, digital camera and a pocket field guide. We would like to stress that amateur birders are the ones who have made noteworthy contributions to ornithology with respect to Indian birds.
We recommend the following books for beginners.
The Book of Indian Birds. By Dr Salim Ali.
Collins Hand guide to the Birds of the Indian Sub-Continent, Including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal By Martin W. Woodcock.
Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent By R.Grimmett, C. Inskipp & T. Inskipp
A beginner can easily spot birds in wooded areas or in any undisturbed lake in the neighborhood which can easily accommodate both resident and four to five different species of migratory birds. However, to get a glimpse of some of the rare species of birds, one needs to visit bird sanctuaries like the Bharatpur bird sanctuary which is home to over 300 species of birds. In South India we have the Kumarakom Bird sanctuary (Kerala), Ranganthittu Bird sanctuary (Karnataka), and the Kunthakulam Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu).
Second, for young inquisitive minds to take a leaf out of Aarav’s book and contribute towards nature conservation. This brief article of ours is to showcase the talent of a young and energetic boy named Aarav, (s/o Ashley Rasquinha), who is only seven years old and is capable of identifying most of the bird species in India. Aarav accompanies Ashley on most of his wildlife trips and has a very enquiring mind. He has a very steady hand and all the pictures in this article have been photographed by this little wonder boy Aarav. The real credit in initiating Aarav into wild life conservation, particularly Birds, goes to his grandfather, Mr. Antony Rasquinha who not only devotes time in educating his grand children on the importance of conservation but makes it a point to gift them with essential gadgets like binoculars, guide books, camera & Videos. Today, Aarav is capable of identifying birds just by giving a close ear to their calls and also by their flight pattern. Whenever in doubt, he refers to the field guide to birds.
Exotic migratory birds from the Pacific, Siberian and South East Asian Countries migrate to India during early December in large flocks in search of feeding grounds or to escape the severe winter of their native habitat. At this time of the year, the extremes of weather like freezing temperature and high velocity winds force these birds out of their habitation to move towards favorable geographical regions. Due to severe cold and freezing of lakes, the food supply is restricted. To protect themselves, these birds migrate thousands of miles to warmer regions. They stay for three to four months and then return to their original homeland. Among the popular varieties that are sighted include Brahminy ducks, Stilts, Painted storks, Chats, Ruddy Shelducks, Great Crested Grebes, Gadwalls, Coots, Tufted Pochards ,Bar-Headed Geese, Greater Flamingo, Ruff, Black winged Stilt, Common Teal, Common Greenshank, Northern Pintail, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Rosy Pelican, Gadwall, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Black tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Starling, Bluethroat and Long billed Pipit.
The Indian sub continent with its diverse habitat provides migratory birds with the much needed stop over stops or refueling stops, which are of critical importance for successful bird migrations. These strategically located wetlands, aquatic and semi aquatic habitats, wooded and heavily forested ecosystems provide a food chain that is essential for the survival of these birds.
Most importantly, India’s bird migratory belt is located in the sensitive biological hotspot of the Western Ghats. This hot spot is arguably the top mega biodiversity hotspot & provides the natural breeding grounds both for resident as well as migratory birds and other wildlife. These Ghats are home to a large number of rare threatened and endangered bird species found nowhere else on earth. The fact of the matter is that there are only twenty-five known biological hotspots on planet Earth occupying 1.4 % of earth’s land surface, but are home to 35 % of the world’s vertebrate species and 44 % of the worlds plant species. Today a major portion of the Western Ghats is under threat from timber logging, mining and habitat destruction. Wild spaces are being squeezed out, leaving behind fragments of a once pristine forest. The time has come to have a relook at our conservation strategies, especially in hot spot areas rich in biological diversity. Each of us can make a difference in restoring the health of our natural habitats and ecosystems.
Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira - Archives
- Pioneering Innovative, Energy Efficient Sprinkler Systems
- Birds of Prey - How Many Can You Identify?
- Spectacled Indian Cobra
- Conservation of Forests - a Guide to Carbon Credits
- The Value of Forests
- The World of Pelicans
- Impact of Climate Change on Wildlife
- The Winged Wonders...
- Rare Leopard Cat
- Mushrooms and Health...
- Bird Biodiversity
- A Walk Through the Wilderness
- Coffee Forests - a Gateway to Wild Life
- Bird Paradise of Western Ghats
- Amazing Slender Loris..
- Coffee - The Amazing Elixir for Young and Old
- Butterflies - The Flying Jewels of the Western Ghats
- The Fascinating World of Mushrooms
- Rare Aquatic Bird Species of Western Ghats
- Human - Elephant Conflict