Sunday, October 08, 2006

Songsters of the sky

Verditer Flycatcher
Photo courtesy Kolkata Birds

As a kid, around 8/9 years of age I found a couple of magazines in my Dad’s small library of magazines and books, which he had collected while in the Gulf. The magazine was titled ‘Outdoors’. I think it was a Canadian magazine. The colorful pictures of sprawling blue mountains, snow covered slopes, rivers winding through snow and the sheer beauty of the landscape had me hooked. In the same section of the library I found books by Jim Corbett, and E P Gee and some other authors. I was a voracious reader then and these books were devoured in a trice. ’Outdoors’ was a magazine for hunters and I soon developed distaste for it. My Dad had apparently picked it up at the Airport Book Shop.

However chancing upon this magazine and these books on Wildlife was a life changing moment for me. I had found my calling, my passion…perhaps it was the genes…perhaps not as my Dad was an accomplished hunter in his younger days… or maybe yes, because he changed after he read Jim Corbett, E P Gee and Rudyard Kipling. Till today my Dad cannot explain how or why he purchased these books as he had no inclination or interest towards environmental issues then. But these books somehow landed in his possession as though placed there by fate for me to chance upon. I of course expanded this library. My Dad gladly let me take the books for my collection and these books were the first ‘serious’ books among my Golden Key comics, Enid Blyton, Asterix, Tin Tin and Kiddy Encyclopedia collection.

It was the book, The Wild Life of India by EP Gee that influenced me the most. It’s simple narration and helpless tone over the fast vanishing wild life of India was just the thing to ignite and interest in wild life conservation. I must confess that one cannot just read a book on wildlife and get enthusiastic about conservation. The matter has to take root in your heart and in your mind. As a kid I was fascinated by birds, I have been through the ‘jumping from the table flapping my arms trying to fly routine’ several times. I have spent hours watching birds fly in formation is sheer joy and free abandon from the terrace. The sheer color of their plumage and absolute freedom to swim in the air held me in thrall. E P Gee talked at length about Salim Ali in his book, a man he admired a lot. So it was no wonder that my interest in Birds took a firmer root when my parents presented me with a book on Indian birds by Salim Ali.

Salim Ali pioneered ornithology in India and made it a serious pursuit. It is because of him that ‘Birding’ and bird conservation has become a passion for several individuals and organizations who are now working doggedly to save India’s birds from extinction. Salim Ali died in 1987 when I was a few years old. I wish he had been born a little later so that I could get to meet him and shake hands with him. He is a living proof of the existence of God. Who else but God could have put him in our midst to remind us of these tiny and gentle creatures that form a vital link in the cycle of Nature. Besides delighting us with their color, wonderful plumage and sweet songs.

I am by no means a professional birder or ‘twitchers’ as they are called. My support for the various organization working for conservation is monetary, besides the regular birding outings with our amateur group and awareness camps in college and now in office. However birds are my life long passion and I cannot imagine a world without them. Spotting a rare bird is like a ray of hope that all is not lost. I cannot describe the delight of spotting a bird, recognizing it and following it with your binoculars. It is an addiction and like an addiction there is always one more spot you must try …and you keep walking and tracking through calls or a flash of color or movement in the foliage …till you realize it is sunset and you got to head home.

Nov 12th is Dr Salim Ali’s birthday. God bless you Dr Salim Ali!

( I am travelling from tomorow. Hope to log in and reply to comments. See you guys next week. Poomanam too will be updated only next week. Caio!)


Alexis Leon said...

You call Asterix non-serious!!! That is sacrilegious :-)

I cannot describe the delight of spotting a bird, recognizing it and following it with your binoculars. It is an addiction... Me too. But the birds that I watch don't fly :-) Just kidding...

God bless the birds, Silverine and yes Dr. Salim Ali.

Ganja Turtle said...

Caio to you too!

"I have been through the ‘jumping from the table flapping my arms trying to fly routine’ several times" can almost jumped from the 2nd floor with an umbrella hoping to gently sway to the ground...had a group of kids ready to follow me...but my bro squealed! ;-(

Your passion comes through in your language..."The sheer color of their plumage and absolute freedom to swim in the air held me in thrall"

The one bird you should catch while you are travelling is chikn....gunya...ha no?....I know, I know...its the end of the weekend,what else do you expect!!

Vaya con dios,woman!

silverine said...

Alexis: "You call Asterix non-serious!!! That is sacrilegious" Guilty :(
LOL :))
Thank you alexis :)

GT: GT Dearest(:p)I have been through the umbrella routine too :))And Chikungunya? I am not heading towards Kochi. When I saw your latest post I heaved a sigh of relief that you had not become a statistic :p Ciao and take care :)

Ajith Prasad said...

Wish u a Happy Journey ...and yeah..happy bird-watching too..:)

Mind Curry said...

so our favorite bird is hibernating..ahh..blogosphere gonna be shut for a week. :)

i havent been much of a bird guy i guess..though i did my bit of conservation..and freed an owl that got lost inside my house long ago :) dunno if it was the rare types..but the owl was goodlooking.

Fleiger said...

I am an amteur bird watcher at best. But the best memories I have till now are watching a Lammergeier Vulture flying high over our heads in Manali (among many other birds which we tried to identify later), and going in Sinhgad valley near Pune for about a whole day for bird watching. Watching birds soar you forget that you are still rooted on the ground...

Oh, and I guess that explains the post about camera, right?

Jagan said...

yeah..i too watch birds ..but at the brigade road ;-)

der Bergwind said...

never cud really name the wing-ers, as they looped arnd.. never stopped to watch 'em in flight also. but then ya... just the speck high above with the stationary wings playing with the concepts of aerodynamics makes me feel enchanted!
i guess therez magic up there in the ionosphere (wohi.. higher levels of atmosphere:)
just sad that certain beauties of life are outta reach!

Praveen said...

happy journey and birdwatching :). i liked the title "songsters of the sky", nice one :)

Ganja Turtle said...

lol at mindcurry and his good looking owls! U sure it was an owl??

silverine said...

Ajith: Thank you, no birding am travelling on work :)

fleiger: True watching them soar is such a joy :)

Jagan: As long as you don't try bird photography you will be fine ;)

mind curry: So sweet of you to do that, it's little feats like that, that will go a long way to conserve birds and animals :) A *hug* for that :) It must have been a Scops Owl.

Praveen : Thank you and no bird watching as I am travelling on work :)

der bergwind: There indeed will be magic in the air as long as there are birds in the sky :)

G said...

Bon Voyage, Auf Weidersehen and please remember to pack well. I cannot comment about this post because the only birds (feathered variety)I can identify are hawks, crows and sparrows!

As for the other species of birds, I could be a walking, talking encyclopedia on the subject.

Have a good trip and be safe!

mathew said...

matildaSo now i guess you are more aware of the male version of bird watching..It is a skilled art and thankfully the species is are not dwindling..they are increasing exponentially..neways bon voyage!!!

Fleiger said...

Oh, just read you are going on a voyage... it will be boring week now I guess :(
Anyways, bon voyage, and may you sight a lot of birds (of flying kind)...

b v n said...

Thats something really great to know,my ideal picture of nature comes from some random books we had at home *i cudnt read until ten* so must be those vivid glossy images. I always have this curiosity round where they get these colours and as you said how they make those perfect flying patterns in sky. But then i like elephants more :)*sure they cant fly*

now that you said, i noticed a very rare bird yesterday was like flapping across the lake to our side. morning turns out its a duck..i didnt know ducks could fly :) *seriously*

silverine said...

G: Thank you :)

mathew: Wow, you are so lucky!!! lol

fleiger: I sat and wrote a post at the conference and posted at Poomanam and the hotel has uninterupted broadband connection so I am still connected :)

bvn: hey lots of ducks fly, do take some live near a lake, you are so lucky!!!

Fleiger said...

Great... and that post... great...

But you said you were going to write somethiing about what boys do when they are in love, remember?

silverine said...

fleiger: Yes, as soon as I am free I will write that post! Watch this space :p