Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bird Watching

It starts with the initial human enthrallment for the winged creature. The winged creature’s ability to soar up in the sky on it’s own seems magical to the child who is unable to achieve it even after reaching adult age. While advancement in science and mechanics has allowed homo sapiens to overcome the impossibility of flying, this is also thanks to the availability of material resource from Mother Nature. Thus the small innocent child looks in wonder as the winged creature flutters around him escaping his vain and puny attempts to grasp it.

The budding relation of humans and their fascination for birds, when nurtured; slowly grows into a passion for all natural resource and reverence the rich abundance that mother nature lavishes on it’s dependents. For the slow learner like me, whose curiosity and fascination for birds was ignored till adulthood, it is sudden dawning to be inducted into a magical realm that was lost in the rat race.

The simple hobby of bird watching is not simple, as it seems. While binoculars are a handy tool, it takes internal resource like patience, perseverance, stillness, stealth-ness, keen eyesight and focus to be able to follow the movement of a bird and be able to identify it correctly. Again, bird-watching can involve staying away for days from civilization & modern luxuries sometimes in open plains, sometimes in tents and caves. One has to trek and discard all amenities for a keener outlook into the world of birds. With doggedness of pursuit, the budding ornithologist is incited to the vast arena that surrounds the habitat and movement of birds.

To his satisfaction, the Indian enthusiast can take pride in the statistics that determine 13% of world’s birds to be present in Indian subcontinent. Owing to it’s wide altitudinal range extending from sea level up to summit of Himalayas, as well as the region’s highly varied climate and diversity of vegetation, the Indian subcontinent is very rich in bird species.

Delving deeper into this riveting study, the hobbyist soon confronts the threat that affects his hobby. He comprehends that habitat loss and deterioration are detrimental to the threat and even extinction of birds. Contributing factors to exploitation of habitat and natural resource include poverty, over-population, government, national debts, international policies and a high demand from first world countries for forest resource of third world. The increasing hydroelectric development alters dynamics of the entire river eco-system of the region while drainage, siltation of wetland, sewage and industrial effluent add to the misery. Use of pesticide in agriculture has proved to be particularly poisonous to the birds. Pesticide getting trickled from land to the river soon contaminates the river thereby affecting fish and fish eating birds. While hunting of birds for food is not a major threat everywhere, illegal bird trading within the continent and for exports can traumatize the avid ornithologist.

For the passive onlooker who is not inducted into the fascinating world of bird watching and who is trapped in the rat race the entire threat is dismissed as hogwash. Indeed, I have myself dismissed stories of environmental threats on the assumption that it does not concern me now as an individual. Yet, as my relations with birds improve, looking at each bird, I’m subtly reminded of the role that I play in denying myself of paradise. After all the paradise notion that was cultivated in every mortal brain was always depicted as a land of abundant trees and birds!!

Innocent as it may seem, there is certainly more to the seemingly insignificant act of bird-watching than the eye can behold (literally also).

You would like a holiday,
You do not have to go far away.
Watch the birds chirp and fly;
Watch your spirits soar high.

You would like to be in paradise
“Preserve Forest”, heed the bird’s cries.
Let the forest grow and expand
Behold paradise in this land.

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