Birdwatchers say number of birds in city has reduced

Birdwatchers say number of birds in city has reduced

The growing birdwatchers’ community meets on the first four Sundays of every month.

The late 1980s saw a spurt in the number of birdwatchers in the city. Parks, lakes and other ecological areas in and around the city were being looked at with renewed interest and were intensely surveyed for nearly a decade after that. Birdwatching, or birding, as it is referred to, has since become a very popular pastime in Bengaluru.

Dr Joseph George is credited as the pioneer of group birdwatching efforts in Bengaluru. He had started a birdwatching community in Dehradun in the 1940s while he was working at the Forest Research Institute. When Dr George moved to the Bengaluru in 1972, he started an informal birdwatching group, here as well. This November, the Birdwatchers’ Field Club of Bangalore completes 48 years. 

They meet on the first four Sundays of every month, “come rain or shine,” says JN Prasad. A wellness coach by profession, he started birding almost 40 years ago. “I was fascinated with nature since childhood. I spent a lot of time in my backyard, giving my own names to birds that visited our garden. It was after I accidentally stumbled upon a little book in Kannada by HR Krishnamurthy on identifying common birds, that it became a serious affair for me,” he shares. 

While one can birdwatch alone, the popular choice seems to go as a group. The camaraderie, along with the joy of sharing these experiences, keeps the community tight-knit. The group is focussed on learning more, and forming new relationships while keeping their passion alive. “We don’t charge people who want to join. If you are interested, that is enough. We are a group purely based on a shared passion, and so we never bothered to make our group a formal body. We are here because we love nature,” he adds. 

While today they have WhatsApp groups to communicate with each other today, things weren’t so simple before the internet. “We used to communicate using postcards. Someone had to painstakingly sit and write to each one of us,” shares Ulhas Anand, co-founder of EcoEdu.

Earlier, birdwatching was considered as a hobby of the elderly and the retired, it is now no longer the case. “It is a hobby that breaks barriers,” explains Ulhas. With many college-going kids to young families that bring their children along, the hobby has many takers in the city. “Travelling has become so popular, and wildlife becomes a part of it. Many people pick up the interest on a holiday and then try to make it a part of their regular lives,” he adds. Many people who joined the community have gone on to become professional wildlife researchers or Ornithologists. 

What has changed

Over the past four decades, while Prasad’s passion for birds has only grown, the number of birds and hotspots in the city have drastically reduced, he says. While there are many parks around the city, the number of areas where birdwatching is possible has significantly come down over the years, as well. “The are many BBMP parks around the city, but they have been built as recreational areas or playgrounds. They are not friendly to the wildlife or nature,” he adds. The quality of lakes in the city is becoming abysmal, the paddy fields have disappeared, and the number of trees has reduced drastically, all of which has affected the birds of the city.

“There was a time when I would spot 30 different species of birds while walking from school to home. Now, if I need to spot 30 species, I have to make a trip to Lalbagh,” shares Ulhas, who has been birding for almost three decades now.

T S Srinivasan, who picked up birdwatching about 35 years ago, says that the number of individual birds has come down by at least 95 per cent. However, the changes in technology have made things easier for birders. “Field guides are available on phones. It has become so easy to communicate with each other. Someone spotted a Flamingo at Hoskote tank last Friday and the place was swarming with birdwatchers the next day. Earlier, we would have only known about such a sighting two weeks after the fact,” he adds. Digital photography has also played an important role in generating interest in wildlife, especially among youngsters. The rapid rate of development and the number of construction projects across the city have proven to be detrimental to the bird population.

“The community, however, has grown larger, and more youngsters are taking an interest, which gives us hope,” he adds.

Bengaluru Bird Day

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr Joseph George who pioneered the Group Birdwatching Initiative in Bangalore in 1972, the Birdwatchers of Bangalore has been organising an annual event 'Bengaluru Bird Day'. The sixth edition of the event will take place on September 28, from 9 am to 6 pm, at the BV Jagadeesh Science Centre Auditorium, National College, Jayanagar. 

The event will recognise the contributions of both amateurs and scientists towards wildlife studies and nature conservation in India. The lectures and demonstrations and an open quiz on birds will also form part of the event. 

The usual suspects

On average, you can find anywhere between 50-150 species of birds in and around the city. The most commonly spotted ones are:

Black Kite

Brahminy Kite

Rock Pigeon

Rose-ringed parakeet

Myna

The Indian Crow

White-cheeked barbet

Asian Koel

Hotspots

Nandi Hills

Bannerghatta National Park

Valley School, Kanakpura Road

Hoskote Tank

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