Sunday, May 8, 2011

Birds and Bird Watching

Birds are beautiful and very lively. The reason they interest many people is because of the dynamism they bring to the natural life. Yes, they are the easiest observable moving, and feeling creatures in the natural world. You need not dive into water or venture into the wild to see a bird fly. Although they are very shy, probably because they don't wear a thing, they meed to be very active to survive. For most birds, camouflage is the biggest defense while perseverance is their biggest weapon. Their features of adaptation are much older than us and their behavior primitive - making them a beautiful piece of living history.

To appreciate birds, we must be able to take interest in them. After a few days of looking at them as an illiterate, I wanted to know the name of the bird along with which I read some of its behavior. This started with a very common bird, the Cattle Egret, as it started gaining breeding plumage. I am sure that if you stopped looking around and actually start observing things, at one point you'll start observing birds and enter a new world from where you are now. You will be surprised at how many birds you can see around a small pond or a lake - i didn't know that I was looking at 40+ around a small lake near my house till I brought my first book.

As visual identification increases, it becomes a kind of KBC questionnaire where every question rises a lot of doubts. You never know whether you can freeze in on that or not, specially with the Warblers and Ducks. A female Purple Sunbird looks identical to the Purple-rumped Sunbird except for a black patch from its beak to the eye which is barely noticeable - you will dislike the entire female brand of birds (they are usually boring and frustrating, although you don't need to shop with them!). Now, you'll enjoy birding groups a lot as we guess, name and argue a lot. I had great joy at every capture in the camera and for the first time I could see the world around me in a great lot of detail - to the point of the size of a Warbler's eye. up to the wing span of a Purple Heron.

As we enter the forests and the woods more, visual identification gives way to vocal identification. The voices are mixed - there are alarms, mating calls, breeding calls, communication calls and some more, but the spectrum isn't large. The eyes that have widened to see the larger world now shut to let the ears grasp a distant call better. I can hear a bird's sound haunt me because I couldn't identify it - what more, we have very little apparatus/books to accurately decipher bird sounds. That means that although we are able to hear a lot of the language from a bird brain, we are still dumb at it.

Along with visual identification and vocal identification, behavioral interests grow. Some birds like the Red-vented Bulbul are so common that we tend to neglect them but we know very little of their behavior though. For example, I haven't yet seen it hunt a garden lizard although it is surely possible - wouldn't that be a sight!! I want to count the eggs in a Red-wattled Lapwing's nest to determine the duration of the monsoon this year and see how a Black Kite reacts to a Black Drongo chasing it ( We've seen it being chased away by Parrots, Treepies, and Crows).

The curiosity continues, so does our wandering. New avenues are open, but fascination remains the same - it may need a little sunbath to activate again but then I can't stop looking around and smiling a lot after I started birding. With some birding, I started enjoying morning walks, treks and free time more. I don't know if my birding is going to save the world, solve global warming etc but it surely makes me enjoy the nature that is left around me in a better way, without disturbing it of course. 

- Article by Arun Vasireddy

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