I really never imagined Goa to have an other side than the ultimate beach destination. I have been to Goa countless number of times and never in my life had I even thought of or even saw birds while I had been there. And which is why, for a newbie like me, this trip was an eye-opener.
First things first – I have never really been interested in birds. I never could see the point of sighting a bird and getting excited over it and remembering its name and then going on to the next bird ad infinitum.. And which is why, my learning started right in the train when I asked Adesh Shivkar of Nature India, the fundamental question – How do I begin? I am still a newbie, but I think the points that he told me while answering the question will guide me for a long time.
Spotting a bird
- You will try to spot a bird by colour – wrong idea! First look at the form of the bird – the size and the shape and other characteristics that you can.
- Be aware of the habitat – a lot of the stuff that birds do are dictated by the habitat that they stay in.
- Try to gauge what habits the bird has – and then try to think why does it have those.
- Over years, each bird species has evolved due to considerations of habit, habitat and environment. Try to think why the particular bird has a beak like that, feathers like that, flight like that, nest like that, colours like that.
- Don’t be in a hurry to name the bird and strike it off your list – give time as various levels of understanding unfold.
BANG ON! On hindsight, it all seems very logical – but simplicity and passion always do that.
I must say that I saw a lot of bird species over the next few days. Definitely more than 100 – but I shall not name them. I have decided that unless I come to a point wherein I can positively identify a bird by myself, is when I shall really tell that I saw the bird. (I am still a newbie, and an honest one at that ;-)) I shall however share my learning and observations.
Learnings and Observations
- Rarely ever did Adesh, Mandar, Pankaj, Omkar and gang SIGHT the birds first. All of them HEARD the bird and the particular call and then turned in the direction of the call. The first rule of birdwatching is actually bird-listening!
- Each of them gave due respect to nature and ensured that everyone in the group understood the same.
- Each of them respected the habitat of the bird and made us sensitive to the facts about the critical aspect of the nesting habits and habitats of birds. We were watching birds in their natural resting places and it was an honour to do so.
- We were shown how the same bird looked different in different light (morning, afternoon and evening). Indeed, there was a difference in bird calls too at different times of the day – call for hunger, distress, mate, etc.
- Birds will have a tendency to go to a particular part of a tree for a particular function. Some will favour the top, some the middle and some around the bottom leaves, etc.
- Different habitats like jungle, jungle boundary, water, marshy land, shore, landscaped gardens, urban spaces give a way for numerous species of birds to exist in the vicinity. This is primarily due to availability of different food sources.
- The ecosystem has a very complex and intricate web of connections which balance and counterbalance various demands from the organic world. For e.g. on marshy shores, we find birds with different lengths of beak – some with quite short beaks and some quite quite long. The length of the beak determines what type of insect it eats as food. (Or maybe vice versa). The insect will get its food from the marshy shore which is again connected ecologically to the mangroves nearby. The mangroves are there because of certain climatic conditions etc.
- Taking this train of thought further – if the plastic bags that I am using end up among the roots of the mangroves as non-biodegradable garbage and start choking it, I can very well have started a chain of events. Could it lead to the death of a migratory bird that stopped at the mangrove shore for food that was not available? Which in the long run will come around and choke me as a human as I am part of the same ecosystem. Nice sobering thought…
- There is great beauty to be found in nature!
- There is great passion to be found within oneself when one does what one is truly interested in. I saw this spark in everyone in the group and everyone secretly wished that they could do what Adesh, Mandar, Pankaj, Omkar and Ramesh were doing to earn a living.
Well, it seems as if a new sense organ has opened up for me.
Now that I am back, I am aware of different bird calls that I would otherwise never hear.I stop in the middle of the street to locate the bird whose call I heard. I am slightly more aware of my surroundings.
I long for my next birding trip!