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’.
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.