It has been an eventful year for me in terms of birding. This was the year in which I went from being an occassional birder to an obsessive one, the year in which birding started as an enjoyable and exciting hobby and developed into what I am sure is a lifelong addiction, albeit one that I have no intention of trying to kick! In this year, I got well and truly bitten by the birding bug, and have no qualms at all in admitting that I have joined the tribe of what R, M and I have often disparagingly referred to as “bird nazis”.
This has also been an interesting year in terms of travel. In the space of little over a year, I have travelled to Thattekad (Kerala), Goa, Hampi-Daroji (North Karnataka), Coorg, Mysore-Ranganathittu, Kalimpong (North Bengal) and Sunderbans for birding. I have also managed to do some birding during official trips to the US, and on a sight-seeing trip to Singapore. I’ve been lucky in finding some like-minded companions in Bangalore, and have gone birding around Bangalore practically every weekend that I’ve been in town, with numerous trips to Valley school, Turahalli, Nandi Hills, Galibore, Hebbal lake, Manchinabele.
I’ve been asked often, by colleagues and friends, what it is about birding that attracts me. Is it a fascination with flight, or the fact that birds are often brightly coloured and quite pretty to look at, or the hunter’s thrill of “shooting” it on camera and capturing the image for posterity? Perhaps a combination of all of the above, and more. Once you’re reasonably familiar with the birds in your region, being out in the field is like doing a pop quiz, only you’re competing with your own knowledge. Can you identify that flash of blue which only showed itself for half a second? Can you tell from the call which bird that was? Did you get a glimpse of its feet to tell whether it was a little or median egret? Often, identification of an unfamiliar bird involves detective work – zooming into that blurry image to check the telltale features of its plumage, poring over guide books to look up distribution maps, behaviour and relate the call to what one heard in the field. And when you finally hit upon the correct ID, it is an indescribable “Eureka!” moment, no less than the feeling of achievement that a detective no doubt feels on cracking a murder mystery. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point.
Birding also gives me the opportunity to get out into the open, and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings without the pressure of hiking to a destination, climbing that hill or running to that finish line. One can just be, and revel in all the little things that go along with birdwatching – the opportunity to observe that wood spider building its gigantic web, the pretty butterflies fluttering around one’s feet, the wild flowers and trees. After 5 days of being cooped up in an air-conditioned, sterile environment, I really need this connection with planet earth over the weekends.
I have been taking pictures for a while, sharing them with friends, and also (most of the time) writing up a trip report to post on bngbirds (the Bangalore birdwatching group). One of my friends sent me a comment that it would be nice to see the pictures and the text together, and thus was planted the seed in my head that I need to start a blog.
So here we are. Hope I can convey some of the excitement of birding to you through this blog.