I have been bird-watching for over 3 decades now. It’s one of my favourite hobbies, though I have not been able to spend as much time on it these days as I would have liked to.
India is one of the most bio-diverse countries on Earth, with a diverse range of habitat ranging from dry deserts, high mountains, to tropical rain-forests and a long coastline. And this diversity extends to the species of birds found in India as well. With over 1,200 species of birds, India ranks 9th in the list of countries by number of bird species. About 12% of the total bird species on earth can be found in India. And my guess is that I must have seen about 20 %- 22% of all the bird species in India.
Bird-watching is a very easy hobby to get into. All it needs is a good sense of observation, sight and sound. A pair of binoculars would be helpful, but not absolutely essential (to get started). But one resource that I would advise is to have a book handy to identify the birds that you see.
There are a few good birds available. One of the most commonly referred to birds for beginners is Dr. Salim Ali’s “The Book of Indian Birds“. This is the book that sparked my interest in birds and I would strongly recommend it for anyone interested in Indian birds.
I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by people with a strong passion and belief in living a more sustainable life and caring for all the other inhabitants of our planet. This has, among other things, led to my interest in bird-watching and, in general, a love for nature and outdoors.
As the world’s (human) population continues to rise, along with consumption, we all know that it is posing a huge strain on the finite resources of our planet. I believe that each one of us, in our own individual capacity, can play a role in preserving our environment. Here are a few practices that we, as a family, are trying to adopt. These are simple things that I would encourage everyone to think about.
Eat fresh and local – Not only is this the healthier option, but we can also save on food miles spent in transporting fruits and vegetables long distances.
Store and re-use overflow from RO water filters – Many households in urban India would have a RO (Reverse Osmosis) filter to purify the tap water and make it fit for consumption. These, unfortunately, waste a huge amount of vital water. A simple tactic that we have adopted is to save the overflow water in a container with a tap at the bottom and then use this for cleaning purposes.
Have a bucket bath – This was a tough one for me, especially. But I have not had a shower for over a year now. Not only am I saving water, but also time!
Carry a water bottle while traveling – Single-use plastics are a bane. And disposable water bottles are one of the largest culprits. We always carry a couple of water bottles while we are traveling and refill it from any available source. I think that we might have purchased only a couple of bottles in the past year and that was also when we were traveling to a remote location, ran out of water and could not find any source of potable water.
Carry re-usable straws – It would be ideal to avoid the use of straws altogether (it’s not impossible). But if you have to use one, please buy a non-disposable one made of bamboo or metal and carry it with you.
Carry your own take-away boxes when you are eating out – Rather than requesting the restaurant to pack your take-away food in their own containers, we carry a couple of food storage boxes with us when we visit a restaurant.
Practise home composting – My wife is passionate about gardening and composting. We have a composting set-up in our home that consumes all our food waste and provides manure to our home garden.
Use public or shared transport as much as possible – We have not owned a car in 4 years now. Yes, we do use app-based taxis, but for solo travel, we either use public transport or shared transport. Auto-rickshaws (in India) mostly run on gas which is significantly lesser polluting than petrol or diesel.
Strive for a more minimalist lifestyle – This is pretty much Work in Progress for us, but we are consciously trying to reduce wasteful consumption. Just because we can afford something should never be the reason to purchase anything. Rather, the question we should be asking is what benefit is the item going to be provided and trying hard to see if that benefit could not be obtained from existing products or human effort. Also, what do you do with items that you no longer need? Can these be reused in any way rather than just dumping as garbage?
Spend more time outdoors – This is something that I would like us to do more. For your next holiday or short weekend, can you go to a place that lets you be closer to pure, unpolluted nature? I would especially request parents of small children to try and take such nature holidays. If holidays are not possible, can you take them for nature walks near your place of residence? Most Indian towns and cities would have some nature club or passionate individuals organising nature walks. Not only would it be a different outing for the family compared to visiting a mall or movie theatre, but it can also be very educative. And hopefully, it will instill a love for nature and a desire to protect it for future generationsin the kids.
What are the different ways in which you are trying to lead a more sustainable life? Please let me know in the comments.
I recently came across an infographic about ‘State Birds of India’ on a Nature Group that I am part of. I am sure we all know that the Peacock is the National Bird of India, but did you know that each state of India (and most Union Territories) also have their own ‘State’ bird?
Here are some (hopefully interesting!) observations of the various State Birds:
The Indian Rolleris the most common State Bird across India with 3 states – Karnataka, Telengana and Odisha – having this beautiful bird as their State Bird.
The state in the extreme South West of the country – Kerala – shares its State Bird with the state in the extreme North East of the country – Arunachal Pradesh. This is the Great Hornbill. And this reflects the commonality of habitat at these two extremes of the country, separated by over 3,000 kilometres of vastly different ecological habitats in between.
The intriguingly named Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant is the State Bird of the North Eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram. The Hill Myna, an excellent mimic – is shared by Chattisgarh and Meghalaya.
Two of our more common birds – Asian Koel and House Sparrow – are shared by Jharkhand and Puducherry and Bihar and Delhi respectively.
Among more iconic species, the Sarus Crane is the State Bird of Uttar Pradesh, while the Great Indian Bustard is the State Bird of Rajasthan. An interesting anecdote relating to the Great Indian Bustard – apparently the only reason the Peacock was chosen as India’s National Bird was due to the unfortunate similarity of the Bustard’s name with another word in the Indian language… Which is a shame, because being India’s National Bird could greatly have improved the chances of this – India’s largest and one of the world’s heaviest flying – birds survival in the wild.
All Images have been sourced from Wikimedia Commons. Here are the attributions:
It’s not often that one comes across a non-fictional book that defies easy categorisation. Harini Nagendra’s ‘Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future‘ is one such book.
Yes, as the title suggests, the book is about Nature. But, unlike most books about Nature that look at Nature in a natural, untouched by human activities setting, this book is about how Nature is adopted within a highly urban area. Yes, there are quite a few books about trees in cities, but this is possibly one of the first attempts to analyse Nature as a whole within an urban setting.
As you start reading it, you realise that the book goes much beyond Nature. It looks at such varied topics as history, geography, religion, culture and entertainment within an urban setting, all keeping the context of Nature in mind.
The book draws primarily on the author’s extensive research in this space. Professor Nagendra is Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore and has authored multiple papers and books on this topic.
There is always the worry with books on such topics that it could drift into a drab, scientific exercise. It is to the author’s credit that this book avoids that trap and manages to retain a very human, familiar feel. The way the extensive material has been broken down into chapters also makes for an easy reading.
I would love to see similar books for other Indian cities as well.
Digital marketer, travel / culture / heritage enthusiast