Sunday mornings at Bengaluru’s Lalbagh Botanical Garden are usually filled with fitness enthusiasts, yogis, fruit hawkers, and a group of inquisitive people staring up at trees with great enthusiasm. Some of these people have cameras as well, the shutters clicking non-stop.
For many years now, Bengaluru has been host to a very healthy community of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, some of who have been in the field for decades and some who only saw turned up for their first session last week.
The city’s salubrious climate, its lakes and gardens provide ample opportunity for birds to find food and shelter, and so the community has been able to spot many a species within the city and on the outskirts. With awareness regarding the natural world spreading on social media, it was only natural that the brigade of city residents find each other and bond over their mutual love for flora and fauna.
The News Minute spoke to a few of the community’s members, both experienced and new alike. Deepa Mohan, an active birder from the city, says she always used to observe the natural world since she was a child, but only started focussing on birdwatching after her daughter grew up and left home.
Sumeet, an IT employee and more recently turned nature lover, had this to say: “It’s only been a month since I started birding. I’m more of a photographer and nature is something I enjoy photographing. I took a larger interest in bird photography after a naturalist friend once accompanied me on a nature outing.”
Birdwatchers patiently wait for birds flying around in the canopy | Photo by Deepa Mohan
Satish Iyer, an academic who teaches animation, modelling and designing, says, “As a person who works with references from the outside world a lot, I was introduced to birding when I had to create a few sketches of birds for an assignment. I wasn’t interested in birdwatching prior to this, although I did have an inclination towards the natural world. It began with seeing the more common species, of course, and my interest was piqued when I began observing their behaviour more closely.”
From there on, Satish began documenting the various bird life and other fauna he encountered around his neighbourhood, and now runs a blog where his images are neatly categorised.
It’s not just individuals who participate in activities. “Bengaluru is blessed in having an umbrella birding/nature group called Bngbirds, which organises walks (open to everyone) to different birding hotspots and other locations on the first four Sundays of every month. This has been a major help to me, and I now conduct the fourth Sunday walk. Joining these walks would be a great way to improve one’s birding knowledge,” says Deepa.
The group, which recently completed 21 years, has over 1,900 members now, and moved from a mailing list on Yahoo to Facebook.
Birdwatching also offers immense scope for citizen science. City enthusiasts regularly upload data to E-Bird, a platform to find checklists. It is especially useful to log record sightings (for instance, when a migratory bird called the Demoiselle Crane that was previously never seen in Bengaluru was sighted in the city).
A female Shikra, a bird of prey commonly found in Bengaluru | Photo by Abhilash Pavuluri
Contributors also take part in the Indian edition of the Great Background Bird Count, a day when birders prepare a checklist of birds commonly found in their areas and submit a report of sightings by the end of the day. The activity is meant to provide real time data about how these species are doing, and the year-over-year changes compared to previous data.
Regular events apart from the bird walks are also conducted: seminars, outreach programmes, and recreational activities. The HSBC Bird Race that takes place every January is a good example: the city’s birders form teams and set out to record the maximum number of birds that can be found within a 50 km radius of Bengaluru, before sunset. The fourteenth edition of this event will be held in January 2020.
But how easy is it to get into the hobby? In the author’s opinion, there is literally no equipment required to get into birdwatching. Your naked eyes and a keen sense of observation are all that are required to begin with. A lot of birders usually use little else.
From there, the equipment largely depends on what you’d like to do as a birder. Most birders prefer to have a bridge camera, a good pair of binoculars, a notepad, and that’s it.
This author too, had a similar story. He started birdwatching five years ago and now teaches newer birders the ropes, usually at his regular haunts in the Bannerghatta region.
Abhilash Pavuluri is a Bengaluru-based photographer, writer and aspiring naturalist.