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Kutch

6 months after the Kaziranga trip, I started reading about the birds of India. I was very surprised to learn that we had more than 1200 birds across the country. I ventured out a bit, drove around Bannerghatta National Park and Hesarghatta Lake. Photographing birds was not that easy. They were fickle. I captured several blank perches and returned home with empty memory cards.

I was 56 years and was time was not on my side. I began to list out Important Birding Areas in the country. This way, I could focus on numbers. I wished to list out at least 500 birds before I die. I chose places where I could see birds while driving. Gujarat and Uttarakhand had bird population. Winters were ideal for birding.
I decided to travel to Great Rann of Kutch during November 2012. I was in hurry to see birds and photograph them. I needed the right gear and I purchased 1D mark4 with a 500 mm f4 lens. A friend of mine drove me to Kutch. We decided to stay at home stay run by a famous conservationist and bird guide, Sri. Jugal Tiwari. The rooms were named after local birds, which was very inspiring. I chose the room which said ‘Grey Hypocolius’. Just because the name sounded exotic. All the rooms were given beautiful sounding bird names. Most special was the fact that each room had 2 books by the bedside.
My room had two books about the world famous birder ‘Phoebe Snetsinger’.

Phoebe had seen seen and documented 8400 birds around the
world. This figure was unbelievable. She held a record at that point in time, for having seen the maximum number of birds in the world. I could never imagine that such a huge number of species of birds even existed. There are aproximately 10500 birds across the globe.
The two books were’Life List’ and ‘Birding on Borrowed Time’.
I picked ‘Birding on Borrowed Time’ as it had a fascinating title and began to turn the pages. I stay put inside the room for two days. I just could not put the book down. This was very inspiring. It had certain similarities to my life. My health was on a lean patch. And I had allowed the bad health to dictate my life, when I was told that there was no further treatment pattern existed. Here was this lady, who defied a malignant melanoma, who had nothing to do with any bird, was granted 6 months to live and went on to see 8400 birds across continents.
What an epitome of grit. I could not hold back tears as I read
Phoebe’s life and times.
Without succumbing to death, Phoebe lived on to see more of the world and saw more than 8400 birds. She was the first ever human to do so. She survived a brutal assault and a rape. How in the name of God, Phoebe manage to achieve this remarkable skill, passion, knowledge and the committment? This level of persistence is baffling.

The answer was obvious. Her only choice was to let go and free fall onto the lap of nature. After admiring the tiny Blackburnian Warbler through a pair of binoculars, Phoebe chose to chase birds. And what a chase she gave.
During my Kutch trip, I saw 74 species of birds. Having started birding very late in life, I pursued them at a frenetic pace. As on date, after repeated trips to the region, I have seen most of the birds of Western India. One well planned trip will net me the remaining lot. Sometimes I am more fascinated by the names and sometimes by the rarity of the species. Birding is similar to meditation. I would like to capture the behaviour aspect. For example, If I plan to watch a ‘Crab Plover’, I would plan to lie down on the shore and watch a Crab Plover seek a crab,
select a juicy crab, run towards the ocean clutching it and drop it at the edge of sea. Wash and rinse it about 4 times, run back to the sand with it and bite it hard while watched the shell pop out and relish the prey. Birds are true fighters. Some are almost driven to extinction and at times they rise back and establish their presence. Man made disasters claim their lives more often. Serious habitat loss is a dangerous trend all over the globe. There are times when the governments or NGO’s decide to convert Grassland into forests or some eco parks.
Mindless activities must be replaced by meaningful discussion with conservationists and well meaning citizen. There is a fight going on between conservationists and the government regarding saving the grasslands of Hesarghatta, on the outskirts of Bangalore. That is an Important Area for Grassland birds and it is best to leave the grasslands intact.
There are several stories about birds that have risen like the Phoenix and some of them learn to survive after a long battle. Covid provided silent sustenance to several species of Birds and Mammal.

And like Phoebe, they learn to survive and move on.

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62 thoughts on “Kutch

  1. Ravindra says:

    Amazing narrative Guru I’m learning a lot!

  2. Padma says:

    What a narration. Hats off to you Sirji. Just keep writing and sharing as people like me look forward to your writes 🙏👍

  3. Padma says:

    What a narration. Hats off to you Sirji. Just keep writing and sharing as people like me look forward to your writes 🙏👍

  4. Padma says:

    What a narration. Hats off to you Sirji. Just keep writing and sharing as people like me look forward to your writes 🙏👍

  5. Lata Roddam says:

    Waited for you tell your amazing stories. You are so inspiring. Thank you for starting to write about your remarkable birding journey! Cant wait to read about how you got each of those magical clicks . Wishing you the very best always!

  6. Lata Roddam says:

    Waited for you tell your amazing stories. You are so inspiring. Thank you for starting to write about your remarkable birding journey! Cant wait to read about how you got each of those magical clicks . Wishing you the very best always!

  7. Lata Roddam says:

    Waited for you tell your amazing stories. You are so inspiring. Thank you for starting to write about your remarkable birding journey! Cant wait to read about how you got each of those magical clicks . Wishing you the very best always!

  8. Dhruv Tripathi says:

    This is just the 2nd blog post / story of yours I’ve read and I have to say you have opened my eyes and changed my perspective. I have a love and fascination for birds which perhaps I did not have before. I am so grateful for your ability to convey feeling with words. Thank you so much.

  9. K D Sathya Narayanan says:

    Lovely write up Guru! Remember our trip and stay with Juggal Tiwari and his nephew. Thanks for taking me there on your second trip.

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