The dark side of birding

The dark side of birding

The dark side of birding

The rustic and slow-paced atmosphere of Naguvanahalli in Mandya district becomes abuzz with birdwatchers and nature photographers from April to June every year when hundreds of blue-tailed bee-eater birds gather here for their annual breeding. Located at about 3 km from the historical town of Srirangapatna, this tiny village becomes a beehive of activities as the season begins.

A spectacle

The blue-tailed bee-eater (Merops philippinus), which is one of the several species of bee-eaters, is predominantly green in colour with a yellow brown throat and a black stripe along the eyes. The tail is blue, which gives it the name, with two distinctly long feathers. The main food for these birds are insects like bees, wasps and hornets, which other insectivorous birds do not relish. Dragonflies, grasshoppers and butterflies also form a large part of their diet.

The birds fly down all the way from North Pakistan and Himalayan region to warmer climates like Naguvanahalli for breeding. A passerine land bird, it needs small bushy plants with stalks and twigs for perching. The nests are long burrows dug in the ground and they do nesting in soft earth like farm fields, river banks and near the water bodies. As the mating season arrives, loud calls of searching mates fill the air. Once paired up, the birds make numerous burrows in the field and about 7 eggs are laid in each burrow. The breeding cycle completes by June and the birds fly back to their original habitat with the young ones.

During the breeding season, the place becomes a hub of activities with hundreds of bee-eaters flitting around all over the place. And to see this spectacle, bird watchers, nature enthusiasts and photographers make a beeline to Naguvanahalli. Of late, over enthusiasm of humans is posing a threat to the survival of birds. A visitor there invariably wonders, how the eagerness of human beings to click unique pictures has affected the privacy and life-cycle of these birds. People who come there for bird watching and photography have caused destruction to the nests and burrows and even local people don’t seem to care for the well-being of these creatures. The nests in the ground are vulnerable to damage by animals and humans walking around the place.

Also, one can find many wildlife photography enthusiasts who aspire to capture these birds in action here. It is unfortunate that there are instances of some directly disturbing the cycle of activity by getting closer to the nests or even closing them so that the disturbed bird flies haphazardly, providing an opportunity for a prize photograph! According to Kalgundi Naveen, a keen birder, photography and birding should be done with etiquette and  maintaining a safe distance. “Use binoculars to observe; hides and long lenses to photograph,” he urges.

Though the population of blue-tailed bee-eaters has luckily been stable so far, we need to keep up the trend. Birdwatching should be organised and regulated properly. It is time authorities concerned fence the area, post a watcher and monitor the visits so that birds thrive in the area and we can safely transfer this legacy to our future generations.

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