What’s Your Reason To Watch Birds? If You Don’t Have a Reason Find One Here

Bird-watching needs no introduction. Bird-watching (or Birding as we like to call it) is a wonderful way to step outdoors. Not only does it give you a chance to experience some of Earth’s greatest flying wonders but also to show compassion for nature. Just like any other happy drug, birding is super addictive! I have also observed that it is equally enjoyed by children, youth as well as the old. Did you know it is listed among the most pleasurable and well liked hobbies in the world?

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I have come up with a list of reasons why people get addicted to watching these bright, astonishing winged creatures:

Because You Are An Adventurer: You are among those crazy people who find excitement in danger. You love putting yourself in trouble and mostly use the ‘try it out’ way of learning. Yes, bird-watching involves a lot of adventure. It definitely isn’t for the fainthearted. Many times it involves trekking up and down through rocky terrains, climbing trees, walking miles through dark evergreen forests and open lands, experiencing ticks and leech bites and sometimes even walking through slush teeming with snakes and crabs!

But you enjoy it all, and that’s what makes you a successful bird-watcher.

Walk through the misty rainforest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!
Walk through the misty forest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!

To Show Your Love for Mother Earth: You get to go closer to mother nature and enjoy every season. Your love for nature can only be expressed through bird-watching. You often feel like hugging a tree or living in a tree house.  You love the mixed fragrance of poisonous herbs, jungle berries, various other trees and plantations found in the forests. And all of this complements your love to watch these colourful beauties take to the air.

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I often hug a tree and thank her for being so good to birds!

Because You Love Your Camera: Photography is a fancy hobby. When clubbed with exciting adventure, amusing nature and unmanned beautiful green surroundings, many jump in the field with their cameras and choose birds as their subjects. Although they are super difficult subjects, the satisfaction of capturing a great “bird photograph” is boundless. Tagging along with an experienced bird photographer is a great option for starters. Else just read about birding ethics and you are good to get out to explore the avian world with your lens!

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Make New Friends: Bird-watching is a social activity and is best enjoyed with people of similar interests. By means of different online bird-watching groups and forums you tend to meet several exciting people who possess vast knowledge about birds and nature. Each new person you meet, might amaze you. Considering similar interests and likes, the bond of friendship grows forever.

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Get a Little Famous: Bird watching makes you famous among your friends, extended families, work-groups etc. Mostly birding is combined with great photographs. These days when social media is all pervasive, the photographs go straight on your Facebook timeline. Birds, natural habitats, your travel joys and places fetch you too many LIKES (Y). Whichever platform you choose, your bird photographs help you stand out from the boring study crowd.

Oh yes!
Oh yes!

To Fight Boredom: On a Sunday Morning you are dragged by a bird-watcher friend into a new world.  You always wanted to know the “twee twee” in your garden so you’re out on a birding excursion. Once you experience the birds up close, it wouldn’t take you long to get addicted.

And when you are addicted, you’ve taken care of your boredom!  😉

To Get Into Serious Research: You are the next bird-man/woman of India. You’re not only familiar with names of different birds but also with climate change, different habitats, behavior, songs, various species, etc. You know it all! Mostly associated with some wildlife NGO or other organisation, you are this generation’s Dr Salim Ali in making!

Did you know- we can all get a little scientific by helping this brilliant Citizen Science Project called Bird Count India!

Just upload all your records on EBird and participate in their monthly contests! This is also a great way to keep all your bird sightings organised and in one place.  🙂

More research, anyone?
More research, anyone?

For The Unbeatable Surprise Element: With birding you start exploring more and more forests. The forest in itself is the greatest unsolved mystery. It becomes routine to come across unrecognized birds but sometimes there’s more than just that. Leopards, scorpions, deadly snakes and other small creatures share their territory with birds. WOW!

I clicked the following photo of Soldier Crabs (Dotilla mycteroids) when I went out to an undisturbed beach on the coasts of Karnataka in search of waders. Aren’t they gorgeous?

My favorite army of soldier crabs!

And how about something more interesting and creepy?

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This Green Vine Snake swallows down a whole Calotes; while the birds chirped behind!

To Travel on Budget: Bird-watching involves a lot of traveling. It becomes an obsession for you to want to spend more and more time with birds. You might also like to travel to different destinations to watch different birds. In your unique bird watcher gang, there is always a little space for you in someone’s SUV!

Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend's SUV
Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend’s SUV

Because Birding Is Healthy: Believe it or not, being close to nature has several health benefits. Walking on natural non-cemented paths is great for your joints and muscles. It reduces the ground reaction force exerted on your joints (the physiotherapist me is talking here). Also trekking/walking in itself can help you fight several diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and depression. Talking more about depression and stress – Birding is a great stress buster. Not only does it allow you to go to faraway places but also helps you spent some time with yourself. For me it is equivalent to meditation. We all are aware about the benefits of meditation, if not, read more here!

Photo Credits: Rishi Gupta
Start walking while you’re birding!

Just for Fun Folks: You smile ear to ear when you see a bird. You feel relaxed in the lap of nature and in the company of chirping creatures. You follow many Facebook groups about birds and wildlife. You go out for bird-watching trips and travel to different bird sanctuaries. You just enjoy this outdoor activity and believe me, there is no greater reason than this one!

No matter whatever be the reason for you to be close to nature or watch birds. It is the duty of every individual to prioritize the environment and its well being. Developing a feeling of compassion and love for species other than man is beautiful and enlightening. It isn’t late to protect the only habitable planet. Start today and appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature, she is the biggest and the strongest. You do your bit and she will protect you!

Dr Jane Goodall rightly said- “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference”

Take a step! Start appreciating nature today.

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10 Most Astonishing Birds In The Indian Subcontinent! How many have you seen?


The
Himalayan Griffon Vulture

Catch a glimpse- At Spiti Valley
When- All year round on the mountains of Himalayas

Seen mainly at an elevation of 4000 meters and above.

 

Malabar Whistling Thrush
Catch a glimpse- Tea/coffee plantations of Valparai

When- Winters are usually a good time

Otherwise called as the whistling school boy! The bird’s song will terrify you and please you at the same time.


European Roller
Catch a Glimpse- Belgaum (Yellur Fort)

When- A winter migrant in India, can be seen on open farms and sparse woody habitats

The rare migratory bird for the Indian subcontinent!

 

The White Wagtail
Catch a glimpse- in your garden

When- Winters, from October to February

This bird’s constant tail bobbing gait will make you forget the first walk of Ms Philippines as Miss Universe 😉


Ceylon Frog mouth
Get a glimpse- At Thattekad Bird Sanctuary

When- All year around

This elusive and bizarre nocturnal bird rests in the darkest woods within the western ghats of India!

 

Spot billed Pelican
Get a glimpse- At Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

When- Winters, December to January

The near threatened Pelecanus carries live fish in it’s the huge gular pouch!

 

The Small Pratincole
Get a glimpse- Any water bodies, Malyadi bird Sanctuary

When- Winters

This wadding bird is so small that it can be compared to a swift when seen in flight! 🙂


Grey headed Bulbul

Get a glimpse- At Silent Valley National Park
When- December to January

Yet another near threatened bird of the western ghats!
 

Lesser Flamingos
Get a Glimpse- At Mumbai (Bhandup Pumping Station)

When- February to March

The brackish sea looks gorgeous with a flock of flirting ping flamingos!


Malabar Pied Hornbill

Catch a glimpse- At Belgaum, Gokarna and Dandeli forest range
When- Winters, from October to February

It helps disperse seeds and grow new trees in the most natural way. Everything about this bird is just spectacular!
 
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My 9 Incredible Eco-Tour Moments

I make sure I go on at least one nature tour every week to keep my brain and body vitalized. I suggest you try my mantra of happiness as well. I visited Pollachi and Valparai for my monthly dose of rejuvenation. I was astonished by the beauty of this forest. In this holiday season I urge you to go and visit at least one of the green and beautiful hill-stations in India. In fact, if I were a Santa Claus, I would make sure I gift you a trip to Anamalai hills.

But till then I will let you enjoy these remarkable hills virtually through my photo-story:

1. Experience the rich forest closely by trekking in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve

I have been a trekker and a hiker by body, mind and soul. I am thrilled by the idea of exploring new places on foot. All I need is a pair of good shoes. My Quechua waterproof hiking boots help me to be ready for an adventure at all times. I explored the hills with a group of six nature enthusiasts along with one local guide.

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2. Sighting of Nilgiri tahr when we drove up-hill to Valparai

The Nilgiri tahr is a large mammal. It is a close relative of sheep and shares common ancestors with cattle and horses. The animal is protected under section I of the Wildlife Protection Act in India. It was indeed a breath-taking experience to watch the tahr take a stroll where no humans could dare to climb!

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3. Spending time within the lush green tea plantations at a local home-stay


A walk within the green tea plantations reminded me of the romantic songs in the 1990s. These mountain farms have been a famous tourist attraction for years. Even today the beauty of these gardens remains and gives a unique picturesque serenity- attracting tourists from all over India.

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4. Climbing up an old broken shaky watchtower in search of tigers and leopards


These days with the decreasing population and increased poaching, tigers and leopards are no easy animals to watch in the wild. Although in an attempt to try our luck we took the risk of climbing a shaky, rickety watch-tower. Unfortunately, no cats showed up. As the stars took to the sky, we all had to rush back to our tents. But I must admit that the thrill of climbing the tower was an unforgettable experience!

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5. Face to face with a family of Elephants

Watching an animal as huge as an elephant, in the wild, was an awestricking experience. While we were driving up to our home-stay, our local expert pointed out to a family of three elephants feeding and bathing. The bond between the mother Elephant and the baby is possibly the most magnificent wonder of mother nature. To see it right in front of you is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I got, owing to my eco-travels.

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6. Spending time pondering with Nilgiri Langoors and thoughts on human evolution


I love langoors for the strange fact that they communicate within their groups by various vocalization skills that most primates exhibit, though the langoor communication skills are not as advanced as that of Chimpanzees. By simple observation one can easily point out the similarities between man and langoors. Langoors show similar habits to that of a group of homo sapiens

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7. Listening to the loud, haunting calls of the huge Great Hornbill


These majestic giant birds with a yellow bill and black and white body are simply astonishing to witness within the forests. They usually live in pairs. Their population has now been decreasing and this has put them in a ‘near-threatened’ category by International Union for Conservation of Nature.  We were lucky to get a glimpse of this flying giant.

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8. When we all sat down with our freshly prepared tea to enjoy a long tete-a-tete with the Malabar Whistling Thrush


When chotu served us tea with the freshness I cannot possibly explain in words, this little beautiful bluebird came in whistling at us. The Malabar thrush are known to live in dense canopies in evergreen forests but here in the Anamalai tea gardens the scenario is a little bit different. Possibly the cutest animal on this list!

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9. The last click where we all stood together ‘for nature within nature’- nurturing bonds that would last forever


Traveling not only connects you with Nature but gives you a chance to meet like minded people of all ages. This is when one can truly reflect on the true meaning of friendship- giving it a new sense and new boundaries every single time 🙂

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PS: This article was first published in January 2016 in Pollachi Papyrus, a magazine aiming to promote responsible tourism.

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The Eagle Says It All


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I look down to see the world so tiny

I see buildings, dams and trees cut bluntly.

Every little move I make, my vision blurred

Am I seeing so many humans absurd?

 

I go ahead searching with my tawny eyes

To pick some careless mice,

My little ones are waiting for me

I hope the food I provide make them healthy.

 

Oh these humans crowd us out

Are we important, I doubt?

Every tree you destroy for your selfish need

I curse you, you will never succeed.

 

Although there are a few watching us

With their cameras, traps and compass

I think there is still hope, to be honest

Thanks to this little group of nature activist!

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