On a wing and a song Mahesh Yamoji with his diary. Photo: Vinayak Bhat tondekereBird watcher par excellence

Yet, his knowledge about birds, Indian as well as migratory, gives you an impression that he has studied ornithology at a higher degree level. His understanding of 200 birds visiting Attiveri every year is so authentic and interesting that many ornithologists envy him. This humble bird watcher has studied only up to Pre-University and he could not continue his studies because of poverty.

Mahesh joined as a forest guard on daily wages at the Attiveri Bird Sanctuary. Considering his interest in watching birds and studying their behaviour, officers appointed him as a bird watcher after four years.

He made full use of a library in the sanctuary to broaden his knowledge. He read books written by famous ornithologists, including authors of international acclaim such as Salim Ali, Poornachandra Tejasvi and others. As he became popular among tourists visiting the sanctuary, Assistant Conservator of Forest Obedulla Khan, other ACFs S Kumarswamy, P K Choudhary and present ACF G K Singh encouraged him to continue his research on birds.

Database of birds

A committed nature lover, he has collected details of each and every bird visiting the sanctuary. Their local and scientific name, their behaviour and migration patterns are all available in his systematically maintained diary and albums. He has even collected photographs and feathers to make spotting the birds an easy task.

One can find photos and sample feathers of painted stork, snakebird, darter, white ibis, spoonbill, greater spotted eagle, Indian spotted eagle, paradise fly catcher, Malabar pied hornbill, lesser adjutant stork and many more birds in his collection. Even newspaper cuttings about birds and nature-related issues occupy prime space in his collection.
Writing about Mahesh in the visitor’s book, senior IFS officer Rakesh Kumar Dogra has said “he is an asset for Attiveri.”

His love for birds does not end in spotting and recording them, but goes beyond it. He expresses serious concern about environmental degradation that has posed an imminent danger to the survival of several bird species. He has been creating awareness among villagers about the need to protect birds, and thereby conserve bio-diversity. “Rare birds visiting Attiveri lake go to nearby fields in search of food. But excessive use of chemicals and fertilisers in agriculture has posed a threat to the life of the birds,” he says.