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My hobby: Bird-watching



By Naina Bali

The time during the Covid-19-imposed lockdown was tough for us. Our school was shut down, the play areas were closed, birthday parties were on hold and most of us did not know what to do. In fact, after playing indoor games like Ludo, Uno, Spellex, Monopoly, etc. for almost everyday, we, three sisters, were bored.                                                   

One fine day, my father took out his binoculars and went to the terrace to look for birds. After spotting some common birds like crows, mynahs and red-vented bulbuls, he saw a very different bird with a brown and black body. All of us got very excited about this alluring bird.  We searched for its name. It was the Greater Coucal, a beautiful bird, bigger than a crow with a majestic flight. The sight of this new bird evoked our interest in bird-watching. For hours, with binoculars in our hands, we used to spend all our free time on the terrace in search of new species. As time passed, we identified several birds like Purple Sunbird, Tailorbird, Brown Rock Chat, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, etc.               

Our house has an adjoining wall with someone’s farmhouse. It is a huge sprawling space with several trees, herbs and shrubs. And so, it is home to all kinds of birds. One day, a huge bird visited our lawn for a few minutes. We got excited and ran outside to see it. It was a beautiful peahen who was searching for a place to lay eggs. Finding no corner in our lawn, it flew back to the farmhouse. The other day, we identified a brown bird named ‘Rufous Treepie’ hiding in our mango tree as well.                                 

As the lockdown norms were relaxed, we decided to go for a nature walk. We drove towards the wheat fields across the nearby village. We were amazed to discover several new species of birds we hadn’t even seen before. Those were White Pond Herons, White Breasted Water Hen, White Wagtails, Indian Pond Heron and many more. Little did we know that we were surrounded by so much beauty. Now, our weekends consisted of long car drives to the fields.  We also noticed that several birds were migratory. We would find them in specific seasons only.

One morning, I heard a different voice in the lawn but was unable to see the bird. I opened the Merlin bird app, a platform to identify the birds in your area. I told my father that the voice was of CopperSmith Barbet. We connected the voice of that bird on YouTube and played it. Within a few minutes, a small bird with a green body, red and yellow feathers was in front of us. We screamed out of joy at our discovery. The bird was so beautiful that we couldn’t lay our eyes off it. It was a very shy bird. Later, we got to know that it is also a rare endangered species.            

We kept identifying more and more birds and also gained a lot of knowledge about their behaviour patterns. Some birds prefer living near ground like red-wattled lapwing, red-naped Ibis, white wagtails, Eurasian hoopoe, etc. Whereas, some birds like parakeets and bulbuls lived in the trees. Others like kingfishers were mostly found on electric wires, and black kites were spotted on top of the trees. 

Birds can also be very shy and prefer to hide in the trees and bushes like Yellow-footed green Pigeons, CopperSmith Barbet, Brown-headed Barbet. And friendly ones like Mynahs communicate with humans. We observed that male species were far more colourful and attractive than their female counterparts.                                         

My younger sister told me that she saw a purple sunbird building a nest in our hibiscus plant. Soon after, it laid eggs. After a few days, two small beautiful baby sunbirds came out of those eggs. Both father and mother were very protective of their children. The father would search for food and mother would always keep an eye on them.

Next day, we saw the Greater Coucal hovering around the purple sunbird’s nest while both their parents were away. We immediately ran towards the lawn to scare them away but it had already pounced upon the baby sunbirds. When the couple returned, they were shocked to find their nest empty. The mother repeatedly looked inside the nest but the babies were gone forever. This made us sad. We realised that some birds have been made predators by nature. They had to feed on small birds and their eggs as is set by the food chain.                                          

Overall, the lockdown times brought us closer to nature. We had been so oblivious about the presence of these beautiful birds. The pandemic gave us a new vision to look towards the sky, trees and appreciate the beauty of various creatures. These unusual times shifted our focus from the monotonous, humdrum routine of life towards the bountiful nature, thereby, enlivening our spirits.

Few months ago, we visited the Corbett National Park and took our best friend, our binoculars, along. We came across the marvels of nature like Emerald dove, black-hooded yellow Orioles, Scarlet Minnivets and other varieties of birds. After these months, we realised that we could now easily identify at least 200 species of birds.

Birds ‘soar high’ and motivate us to live life. They connote both the human and the divine spirit as birds enjoy the freedom of movement and travel to different realms without any fear or doubt. I feel that they represent our souls, stand for wisdom, beauty and power. They carry a deep spiritual meaning of peace, freedom, hope and love.