There is a hidden natural world around us that is buzzing with birds, reptiles and a variety of insects. It opens up when we develop curiosity and a keen eye
Kishore woke up before sunrise. He felt restless. During the last few months, he watched thought-provoking natural history documentaries and learnt about conservation problems faced by India’s battered wildlife. His interest towards nature grew tremendously.
He wanted to trek in the wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats and silently observe hunting parties of birds grabbing their food while the sunrays touched the forest floor. But he couldn’t leave his work and head to a wildlife reserve. So he stepped out of his house before dawn to explore his garden with a new eye.
It had rained the previous night. His garden was still wet. Even before the first ray of light broke through, a Magpie Robin came down from a tree and grabbed a mouthful of insects from the wet grass. He saw hopping toads and crawling snails. He listened to the call of the tailorbird, which was hiding in a bush.
Armed with a notebook and a pencil, Kishore decided to explore his suburbs. He stopped at a nearby pond hoping to see birds and get a glimpse of a water snake basking on a stone in the middle of the pond. He spotted a Pond Heron, a common water bird that was waiting to catch a fish. A pied kingfisher, a black and white coloured bird, hovered very close to him oblivious of his presence. He marvelled at the intensity with which these birds caught a few fishes in split second.
Back at his garden, tiny mushrooms had sprung up after the rains. Earthworms and centipedes crawled under the leaf litter. An army of food-gathering ants rushed into their tunnel before the next rain. Bonnet Macaques and its young one slept peacefully on the neem tree that Kishore’s father had nurtured for decades.
With a new mindset about his backyard and his surroundings, Kishore came to his study room and thought about how these gentle birds, animals and various other creatures lived around us.
Whenever we think of animals, we always categorise them into domestic and wild. But have we ever thought of the creatures like ants, squirrels, geckos, beetles and butterflies and birds that live close to our homes? These creatures belong to backyard wildlife and are as fascinating as the creatures in the wild.
In the coming month we will see how Kishore attracted birds and facilitated the formation of an intricate ecosystem in his backyard.
(This article has references from the book Backyard Wildlife: A Diary Of Neighbourhood Creatures by Bikramadittya Guha Roy)
The author is an award-winning nature photographer and co-founder of the Youth for Conservation. In this monthly column he talks about his passion for nature, photography and conservation.