Documenting the colourful wings of coast

Perhaps there is nobody in the world who is not attracted towards one or the other bird. At the same time, perhaps, there can hardly be any animal more beautiful than birds, which are aptly known as the ‘winged jewels’.

In fact, the total number of bird species known to science is said to be around 9,000. If subspecies or geographical races are taken into account, then the total varieties may reach almost 30,000. In such cases, trinomial nomenclature has been used and the third name refers to the subspecies of geographical races.

India harbours about 1,250 plus species of birds and the southern coastal Karnataka may have around 480 species, say Dr K Prabhakar Achar and Shivashankar, who have come out with a bi-lingual volume on the avifauna of coastal and hinterland Karnataka, entitled “Birds of Southern Coastal Karnataka.”

Dr K Prabhakar Achar (a biologist, who had also served as a research associate at IISc, Bangalore) and Shivashankar (a software engineer by profession) have taken more than two years for data collection and photo editing and they say the book is a successor to the popular, ‘Field Guide to the Birds of Dakshina Kannada’ published by Bhuvanendra Nature Club - India, which was released in the year 2000.

The book was brought out under the guidance of S A Hussain (portege of Salim Ali). Interestingly, the present book too has been dedicated to renowned Orinthologist Salim Ali and his protege S A Hussain.

What made a software engineer to write a book on birds? “I was spending my free time for bird photography, which are found in our garden and backyard in Karkala. This serious hobby resulted in an interest to know the other birds found in our area. I started exploring different habitats in South Canara.

After spending nearly 3-4 years on bird photography, I looked back at my collection and to my surprise, I had photographs of most of the birds found in our region! After a discussion with my friend Dr Bharatesh (a naturalist), we approached Dr K P Achar and decided to come out with this book,” Shivshankar goes down memorylane.

The software engineer with BE degree in Electronics & Communication and MS in Embedded Systems, who has served in various places including the US, Singapore and Malaysia, says that most of his childhood was spent in Malnad (Western Ghats region) and the rich biodiversity around him must have left an impression that led to bird photography.

Even to this day, he says that he spends most of his weekends in watching birds and photographing them. “During weekdays, I keep my eyes and ears open to know and understand the birds habit/behavior. Whenever I go out of home, I make it a point to carry my camera along with me as I don't want to miss any opportunity.”

Narrating his experience while capturing the photographs of birds, which is a challenge, literally, he said that the photography of Srilankan Frogmouth was a memorable incident as he had to wait for 15 days (nights) before he could capture it in his lens. “I had surveyed different areas of Durga Reserve Forest in Karkala to know its presence. After spending about 15 nights (as it is a nocturnal bird), I succeeded in capturing it in my lens,” he recalls.

Stating that it is very difficult to photograph the Pelagic (deep sea water) birds, he said that he has succeeded in capturing them too and some of his collections have been appeared in 'India Birds' news letter; “Rainforest Safari” (Carlton Books Ltd, UK), “Glimpses from India’s Natural World” (Broadway Publishers) and Birds of Kolkota among others.

Though the book is comprehensive and exclusive, the humble engineer says that he is yet to photograph few more endemic birds which are found only in Western Ghats. “For example, Waynaad Laughting Thrushes are not only tough to photograph, but difficult to get a glimse even in forest,” he says and adds that he would like to include those in future editions.

Regretting that the number of birds (species) are decreasing in the region, he cited an example of Barred ButtonQuail bird which were in large numbers in his backyard, but not any more. “Due to fragmentation of the forest and land, they find it difficult to survive. I get to see them only inside  some forest patches where there are not much infrastructure development.”

Prof (Dr) Arunachalam Kumar in his foreword to the book states that the book’s novelty is its adherence to accuracy of information, quality and clarity of photographs and its bilingual approach.

Terming the book as ‘harbinger of sorts,’ he says that it reaches out to all sections of the populace, bridging and spanning the gaps between illiterate and learned, amateur and ace, local and outlander. Interestingly, out of the listed 224 species, most of the people would not have heard of names of at least 200 birds, though they are very much present in our own surroundings. 

For more information, interested may refer

The biggest and the smallest
The bird with the largest wingspan is the wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), measuring 3.2 metre (10 feet, 6 inches) from wing tip to wing tip. On the other hand, the Bee Humming bird (Mellisuga herenae) has the smallest wingspan of any bird at 5.5 cms. Interestingly, more than 1,000 extinct species have been identified from fossils

What is in the book?

* The bilingual book has 3 sections - English version, Kannada version and a combination of English and Kannada versions;
* There are colour photographs depicting 224 bird species with their synopsis;
* A checklist of 389 bird species sighted in Southern Coastal Karnataka;
* The book is successor to the popular, ‘Field guide to the birds of Dakshina Kannada' published by Bhuvanendra Nature Club - India.
*  It also carries ancillary information on birdlife, birdwatching, bird migration, breeding and nesting;
* Index of common English names of bird species is provided for quick reference, besides Kannada / Tulu names of birds;

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