Adventures of the Big Bird Day
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The team at Okhla, led by Atul Jain, a 47-year-old who works at a French IT company in the capital, comprised 35 to 40 bird enthusiasts from various walks of life -- army officials, IPS officers, IT professional and children with special abilities . Armed with binoculars, spotting scopes and birding books, the group had arrived at the venue at 6.30am. Says Jain, "We have the bird day every year in February or sometimes even twice a year in February and October. We were afraid that the weather might rain on our parade, but fortunately, we woke up to a glorious Sunday morning." They spotted around 80 to 85 different birds species including the colourful northern shoveler duck, the Eurasian Teal, the greylag goose, the magnificently large greater flamingo, the spotted owlet, the petite black redstart, the red-breasted flycatcher and the steppe gull. Says Jain, "The greater flamingos, which have migrated from Europe were a treat for all the bird-lovers."
Neelanjana Sengupta, who works at a designing firm is a bird enthusiast who took up birding as a hobby a few years ago. "I was in Bandhavgarh with a friend and really wanted to see a tiger, but in vain. That's when my friend pointed out the vibrant Indian roller and I was hooked." She now goes birding with her two daughters and their friends every week. "I have always been a 'nature person' and I encourage my daughters to go out instead of sitting home and watching TV." For Sengupta, spotting the peregrine falcon was the highlight of the day, "It's not easily spotted in Delhi, we chanced upon it," she gushed.
Sanjay Tiwari, who came to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary with his specially-abled daughter, has been a bird enthusiast since the mid-'90s. He was introduced to birding when he went to the Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary and a rickshaw-wallah pointed out birds to him. "The rickshaw guy gave a proper tour as he was familiar with the various species of birds, and when I returned to Delhi, I started noticing the variety of birds that are there, but people fail to notice them because they are so caught up in their busy lives." Tiwari owns a business of his own, and was leading a group of specially-abled children at Okhla at the bird watch. "The aim was to introduce and encourage children to go birding and appreciate nature by spending time outdoors. It's healthier," he said. Spotting the long tailed nightjar was the highlight of his day.
He pointed out that the variety of birds are slowly and steadily decreasing in the capital due to the loss of greenery and weather conditions. Says Jain, "Birding is one indicator of the environment. We document the number of species of birds spotted in an area in a day (the annual bird day) every year. If the variation is five to ten per cent, then it's not a big deal, but if the margin is more, then it's an indicator of changes in the environment."
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