by Garima Bhatia
What is it about birds that attracts us? Is it a fascination with flight, or because birds are often brightly coloured and attractive to look at? Is it because watching birds through binoculars gives us an insight into an unknown world, or is it the thrill of clicking a beautiful photo? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these, and more. Once you’re reasonably familiar with the birds in your region, going out birdwatching (birding) is like doing a quiz against your own knowledge. Can you identify that flash of blue which only showed itself for half a second? Can you tell from the sound which bird that was?
Often, identification of an unfamiliar bird involves detective work – trying to connect the features on the bird, its behaviour and its habitat to the description in the guide books, looking up distribution maps to see whether it occurs in your area, and remembering the call that you heard. And when you finally hit upon the correct identification, it is an indescribable “Eureka!” moment, no less than the feeling of achievement that a detective feels on cracking a mystery!
Another attraction of birding is the fact that birds are everywhere, and a birder can pursue her hobby practically anywhere on Earth. The rare species are usually in remote areas, far from crowded cities, and to get to them, photographers undertake difficult treks carrying kilos of camera equipment, donate considerable amounts of blood to leeches in dense forests, and wade through waist deep slush for that perfect picture. However, as a beginner, the best place to start watching birds is in your own neighbourhood – a park or lake that you visit, or even, if you are lucky enough to have some greenery around, from the comfort of your own home.
Outside my window
Observing the birds from my 7th floor balcony is a most relaxing start to my day. I routinely see Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Jungle Mynas, Spotted Doves and screeching groups of Rose-ringed Parakeets. In March/April, the Asian Koels start the morning with their crescendo calls, and the “kutroo kutroo” of the White-cheeked Barbet can be heard throughout the day. In winter several migratory birds visit our region, some from as far away as Central Asia and Europe! Among them are the brightly coloured Golden Orioles, noisy Ashy Drongos and the beautiful Verditer Flycatcher. This beauty in our backyard is often ignored as we travel the world looking for new and exotic experiences, but can be a source of immense joy every day!
Picture: From left to right – a male Paradise Flycatcher with a wonderful long ribbon-like tail (the female is brown with short tail); a male Rose-ringed Parakeet (the female doesn’t have a ring around her neck); and a female Koel (the male is jet-black).
Credit: Garima Bhatia