Even if you can’t go to the wild and soak in diverse ecosystems look around and you will find them right here in our city, says Pauline Deborah R.

Holiday plans ensure promises and perils; hopes and hypes; excitement and disappointments; good news and not-so good news. The not-so good news is that not everyone can plan a vacation to Arctic Alps or to the Amazon to observe the diverse wildlife there for obvious reasons like lack of resources or failure to obtain the necessary sanction for leave. The good news is that there is so much to eye, experience and enjoy right where you live – amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. For some, vacation is all about circus, beach, malls, movies, shopping, reading, and catching up on sleep. But for nature enthusiasts this is the time to make the best of wildlife spotting in the city.

Urban wildlife

The wildlife diversity and cities have always been treated as an oxymoron. In highly congested and thickly populated cities with myriad skyscrapers, flyovers, malls, real estate, heritage buildings and magnificent edifices, it’s incredibly amazing to see wildlife abound in their own secretive niches. The untamed birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and of course the untended plants are all over.

Bustling neighbourhood

Summer vacations render an awesome reprieve from stressful work schedule and also bestow time to enjoy pleasant surprises over a cup of morning coffee in your own neighbourhood – birds busily engaged in courtship and nesting, squirrels relishing mangoes, spotted owlets peeping out in stupor from tree holes, butterflies hovering over the peacock flower, bees visiting the yellow elders, sunbirds hovering over the fire bush.

This is the season to look out for the fiery blossoms of Indian Laburnum and Copper Pods. Indian Laburnum otherwise known as the golden shower tree produces gorgeous pendulous inflorescence and is a greatly refreshing sight to behold when the city is actually reeling under heat wave. Copper pods produce dense clusters of crinkled yellow flowers which are highly relished by the rose-ringed parakeets. The flowers fall down to the ground and truly form a magical carpet of gold that brings nostalgic memories of examinations in school and college campuses. Another tree to look for during this time is the indigenous Crepe Myrtle, also known as Pride of India, which produces upright blooms in shades of pink and purple. Also not to be missed are the Siamese and Java Sennas, African Tulip Tree, Rosy and Yellow Trumpet Flowers, to name a few.

Birds to look out for in home gardens and in the neighbourhood are magpie robins, tree pies, golden orioles, wagtails, hoopoes, sunbirds, sparrows, tailor birds, barbets, kingfishers, woodpeckers, babblers, warblers, bee-eaters, bulbuls, shrikes, shikras, koels, pipits, parakeets, rollers and sometimes even the rare paradise flycatchers and pitta. Each bird has a distinct call and it is easy to trace their presence to their sound, which is otherwise not too easy. Water bodies too nurture and sustain a lot of aquatic birds. Easily one can spot snipes, sandpipers, black-winged stilts, pelicans, painted storks, darters, purple moorhens, pond herons, lapwings, pin-tailed ducks, coots, flamingoes, avocets, godwits and shanks.

Field trips

One day trips to observe, understand and document wildlife inspire city-bred children to develop passion and concern for wildlife and instills in them the need to engage in appreciation for nature, species conservation and in the protection of our ever-shrinking natural resources from further loss or damage. Time spent outdoors is a worthy investment that gives simple pleasure but great satisfaction. Just in case, you turn into a hardcore nature enthusiast and decide to visit national parks, reserve forests and wildlife sanctuaries that come under the jurisdiction of wildlife authorities and forest department you need to take prior permission and respect rules. Be on your guard as it is really ‘wild’ there unlike the urban wildlife that has evolved to coexist with human beings.

Role ofpolicy-makers

The role of urban policy-makers and city-planners is very crucial in earmarking areas that are rich in biodiversity that support diverse life forms. These areas should never be utilized for developmental purposes otherwise it may lead to local extinction of certain species. It is highly important to make a sincere effort to protect the wild side of nature in a war-footing spree in cities, since scores of water bodies, trees and parks have already been lost to intensive urbanisation thereby painfully facilitating habitat loss for birds and animals. Also, government authorities need to ensure that these places are garbage-free, provide adequate protection to wildlife as well as to people who visit these places, being clear of anti-socials, thereby making it a pleasant experience for those who come to study, enjoy or appreciate wildlife.