I walk into the cafeteria after college is over. There’s the usual crowd in deep conversation but once you have tuned yourself to the realm of birds your world suddenly turns into another Enid Blyton fantasy. And then slowly you can’t help but slowly let your gaze drift to a tiny purple-rumped sunbird flitting in and out of yellow clustered flowers above my head, along with a very irritated friend yelling, “Weren’t you listening?”. I smile and apologise for I am infected with the “Bird watchers syndrome”.
Surviving the city
I have been a bird watcher for only two-and-a-half years now and the way I look at any place I go to has certainly changed. I believe in my sixth sense. I believe that not all birds are crows. Once you care to acknowledge the small but sudden movements in the trees or the rustling in low bushes and listen for bird calls that are mere faint whispers compared to the harsh noise of what society calls “conversation”, you realise how dead you have been to the call of this entirely different yet parallel world that has been murdered and shunned by my clan the “human race” who only care to build cities and roads and things that kill the air and the drown fishes.Are there birds in Chennai? The answer is ‘yes’ (despite your strong efforts to kill everyone of them) they do manage to exist in small pockets mostly along the outskirts of Chennai and protected places like Vedanthangal, Nanmangalam, Madras Christian College, the Pallikaranai marsh lands, Guindy National Park, Indian Institute of Technology (ITT), Theosophical Society, Adyar Estuary, Pulicat backwaters and many other small water bodies.
The most common birds you will see are the crow, the koel (Cuckoo), the White-breasted Kingfisher (mostly near water bodies) and if you see an eagle-like bird with brown feathers it might be a black kite. Buy yourself a copy of Salim Ali’s “Book of Indian Birds” if you want to start bird-watching. I can’t describe each and every bird I’ve seen but I can certainly promise you that there will never be a single boring moment when you stare in boredom out of your window — you will see all the colours of the rainbow flitting like gems in and out of the trees above. The birds will exist as long as you let them live. The Pallikaranai marsh is in a pathetic state with the city using it as a garbage dump. When will we realise that like the sparrows many birds will slowly cease to exist and slowly so will we. All we have to do is to listen to the faint calls of the birds and the soft rustling in the leaves and we will come to respect these living fantasies.
To go bird watching visit: http://www.indiabirdingtours.org/chennai.html
When going bird watching…
- Wear dull green or brown clothes.
- Take a pair of binoculars.
- Take a book to write down the description of the bird and mention the time and date where you found it.
- Do not throw stones or disturb the birds in order to get a better view of them.
- And if you’re a shutter bug save up money for a telephoto lens.
Nina Simon is a IInd year student of Zoology, Madras Christian College
Photos: R.T. Sriram, Arunkumar and Hopeland
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